After you’ve been practicing for a while, what’s the next step?
By Kyle Gati
I have hit the one-year mark of practicing yoga. The initial benefits are mainly physical: muscle strength, increased flexibility and some realignment of my spine. I have also felt better off the mat, using my yoga practice as a tool to focus on the basics of being human.
My girlfriend, Becky, a fellow newbie yogi, and I encourage each other to go to classes consistently, especially those at 6:15 a.m. We share personal thoughts and reflections of the practice and of a new teacher. What did we learn? What didn’t we like? How does it compare to what we are used to?
Looking ahead, I wonder: is there more to this practice than what I am getting out of it already? As a beginner, I probably know less than 1 percent of yoga, the history, the different styles and so on. As I seek to deepen my practice and understanding of yoga, I find myself returning to my roots of where I have learned yoga: my teachers and classmates.
The owner of my studio harbors a space for students to come to class and expect to play, attempt challenging poses, topple over without feeling judged by others and share achievements and frustrations. After class, students and the staff often hang around and chat.
It is easy for me to simply attend a class, do what the instructor says and call it day; however, curiosity has driven me to wonder why we do some of the things in practice. Why do twists follow backbends? When do I want to do a series of open hip poses versus closed hip poses? I feel like I would get more of a benefit out of the practice if I fully understood what some poses are working towards.
Recently, a small group of students, including myself, have been encouraged by the studio owner to take her teacher training and eventually teach at the studio. Sometimes you need that extra push to jump in and get your feet wet. It is something I welcome and am working toward. At the very least, a teacher training program is a good way for me to deepen my own practice. It will keep me on a schedule and encourage me to actively learn about yoga, the history and how I might share the practice with others some day.
The thought of teaching is inspiring. I have not yet begun training, but it already has me thinking differently in my classes. I am more closely watching the teacher and how he or she carries the class. I follow how and when the teacher is correcting students. I notice how music affects the class; the different styles, the absence of music, and the volume. I listen to the stories they share at the introduction, how it connects with what we do during class, and how they conclude practice. I start to think of what kind of things I would share with my students.
As I deepen my yoga practice, I continue to feel more connected and aware of the world around me. I am motivated by the challenge of a teacher-training program and avidly await what else I might discover through yoga.