November 28, 2011

Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Preface: In 2012, I plan to start a bi-monthly blog series entitled "Being a Yoga Teacher."  However, before I can talk about "being" a yoga teacher, I have to talk about "becoming" a yoga teacher. 
Thus, this post.

"love the life you live.  live the life you love."
- Bob Marley

This quote goes a long way in explaining why I embarked on the journey to become a yoga teacher.  In short, I wanted to wake up every day, and love. my. life. 

Now, let me take a brief pause here before I go any further.  I'm not naive (OK, maybe a little bit, but that's not the point at hand, hahaha!).  I'm not silly enough to believe that every aspect of life is going to be roses and rainbows and unicorns.  I'm not saying that at all.  What I am saying is that happiness is my birthright.  Happiness is everyone's birthright.  But a right is distinct from a privilege.  Whereas a privilege is given to you, a right must be earned.  So, what does that mean?  It means that I have to work on my happiness in order to obtain my happiness.  And when I decided that I wanted a life filled with happiness - a life that I loved - I knew that I had to go out and get it.  It wasn't going to just be given to me on a silver platter. 

In the ABC About page, I explain:

In 2008, after graduating with my M. Ed., I was offered a job in the education policy field. As a P-20 analyst, and then later as a legislative policy analyst, I performed in-depth research and even had the opportunity to write new legislation. Although I excelled professionally, I realized that research did not fulfill me like I had anticipated. So, in 2011, just two months before Bo and I's wedding, I left my career as an education policy analyst and pursued my yoga teacher certification. Surprisingly, the decision wasn’t a hard one. I knew that I was doing the right thing for me, and almost instantly, I felt less stressed and more at peace. If any decision makes you feel like that, you probably know it was the right one!  I am now a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) certified through the Yoga Alliance.
But that paragraph is just the CliffsNotes. 

This post is about the back story, the incredible journey, and the unforgettable transformation.

And it all began with my mother. 

My mother has been a dance teacher, to some extent or another, for my entire life.  She has taught ballet in small town Alabama for approximately three decades.  She wasn't a prima ballerina, she never won any huge awards, she was never given the key to a city, and her name wouldn't be recognized in well-to-do ballet society.    But, when I visit my mother's Facebook page, I see this:

Happy Birthday, best ballet teacher in the world! :-)

and this:

Happy Birthday to one of the most important people in my life! You're the best. I'll never forget your positive influence on me. Enjoy your special day.

and finally, this:

So good to find you on FB! You will forever be "that person" to me...the one who took me by the hand and led me into the amazing world of dance....believed in my potential from the beginning...pushed me to work harder than I ever knew I could. The confidence and discipline I gained in those years were worth more than I can ever put into words. It made me who I am today in so many ways. You're not only a gifted teacher, but an incredible soul. And I will forever appreciate everything you did for me.
My whole life I saw the positive influence that my mother's work had on all those she came in contact with.  She wasn't doing anything worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.  No, my mother was just living the life that she loved.

And so, at 27, when I realized that I wasn't living the life that I loved, and when I realized that I had an opportunity to change that, I did.  I took a big leap of faith, and thanks to my husband's research for the perfect yoga teacher training program, I landed at Satchindinanda Ashram-Yogaville.

I arrived at the ashram in mid-April, 2011.  In the process of obtaining my 200-hour RYT certification, I would live at the ashram for approximately five weeks.  Other than what I had read on the website, I had no idea what to expect.  I suppose to some extent I expected it to be like school.  I expected to sit in a classroom, learning about anatomy, meditation, and yoga philosophy.  In the end, I did all those things, and yet my time at the ashram was nothing like what I expected.  It was so much more.  For example:

we dressed up in funny costumes for the Kriya Cafe:

we had a dance party, and then took funny pictures while we were hot, sweaty, and red-faced(!):

we took hikes to and from meditation at LOTUS shrine every day:

we took breaks from our karma yoga duties for photo shoots with friends:

we got dressed up every Saturday evening for kirtan and satsang:

we took three-mile long weekend hikes to the top of the mountain (and then enjoyed the view):

and we performed massage trains on our fellow teacher trainees:

At the end of my training, I walked away feeling transformed physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Not only did I feel prepared to teach an Integral Yoga Hatha I class, I felt prepared to embrace the life before me.  And the biggest gift of all?!

I. felt. happy.

Swami Satchidananda described Integral Yoga as:
… a flexible combination of specific methods to develop every aspect of the individual: physical, intellectual, and spiritual. It is a system which integrates the various branches of Yoga in order to bring about a complete and harmonious development of the individual. (source)

I think Integral Yoga did all of that, and more, for me.

I have a very vivid memory of my journey leaving the ashram and returning to Albuquerque (mind you, just 12 days before my wedding to Bo).  I suppose I should have been stressed out and overwhelmed with the numerous things I had to accomplish in the days ahead, and yet, as I walked through the airport terminals, I remember feeling so joyful.  I remember thinking that people were just looking at me, smiling, and I couldn't figure out why.

Now that I think about it, I think that I was just overflowing with love and peace.  Because love and peace were full within me, I saw that in the world around me. 

At the end of every Integral Yoga Hatha class we close with a saying in Sanskrit:

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bavantu

Which, in English, means:

May the entire universe be filled with peace and joy, love and light.

On the day I left the ashram and journeyed into my new life, peace and joy and love and light were everywhere!  What's even more amazing?! 

They haven't gone anywhere...

Question of the Day:

Do you love your life?  If so, what do you love about it?

Ally and Bo


  1. I am Honored by your words and the words of others! I was/am blest to have found my passion and been able to share it with so many others. There is still Nothing like dance/music.It transcends this world. Of course it makes sense because music was mother's life. I just experience it visually. For the most part I am such a misfit.But in the dance studio I am at home. It all makes sense,and am never more alive as when I am teaching