My Teacher Training Experience

On a March day in 2015, in 105-degree Studio One at Pure Yoga in New York City, a young woman takes her first class with Kay Kay Clivio. Kay Kay works the room, meticulously keeping her eyes on all 50 students in the room with genuine dedication and guidance. She practices what she preaches. She walks with her shoulders back, head high, in a constant state of Tadasana: proud, receptive, and open. She is confident, in control, with a glitter in her eye.

The young woman in the back row notices all of this, because the young woman in the back row feels none of these things- no confidence, no control, and definitely no glitter in her eye. Life and self hatred have both been beating her down and yoga is an attempt to somehow change this. As Kay Kay walks along the back row of her class, she speaks the direction to take crow pose, and the young woman taking her first class with Kay Kay attempts crow pose for the first time and falls, limbs flailing, on her mat. The young woman is mortified. Without missing a beat, Kay Kay looks down at the young woman and says to her, “That. Was. Awesome!”

That young woman was me. That moment a little more than one year ago, one of my greatest life lessons; a transformative, inspiring moment in my life. I am now a 200-hour RYT.

Why did I do a teacher training?

The simple answer: I was guided to.

The more thought-out answer: To deepen my practice as a yogini and a psychotherapist.

The goal was, and is not, to teach asana in the traditional way.

After taking Kay Kay’s classes, I knew I wanted deeper instruction. I became her private student and found myself transforming. I had been practicing with her for about five months when I was having a conversation with my brother’s fiancé, who is a yoga instructor herself, about my newly found love of yoga. She was listening to me talk about finally nailing my crow pose with vigor, excitement, and passion, and she said, “You love yoga so much, I bet you will do a teacher training.”

I laughed at her. First of all, I didn’t realize you could do a teacher training without the goal of being a yoga teacher. Second of all, I don’t have what I thought was a thin “yoga body” nor did I think I was good enough at yoga to do a teacher training, because at the time I felt that yoga was something with which you can judge your ability. I thought it was all about asana. All about fitness. That said, as I kept practicing, I knew there was more to this. I knew the practice had the ability to change lives. I didn’t know how, but after studying with Kay Kay I knew there was something much larger than just poses on a mat.

I’ve battled depression, anxiety, addiction, and an eating disorder. I created and starred in my own MTV reality show, because I thought fame and money could fix all of these things. All it did was cause a mental disaster that drove me closer than anyone should ever come to ending one’s own life. I trapped myself in a deep well of superficiality. I didn’t know how to escape.  Checking myself into a psychiatric hospital was the first step. Making the goal to become as far away from this life I was currently living was the second. But…. how?

I subtracted many things from my life –alcohol, drugs, fame, certain toxic people, and body weight. My life became all about subtraction. If I could just get rid of all the things that were causing me so much pain, everything would be better, wouldn’t it?  And there I was again, falling into the old belief that shedding would make me happy.

I wasn’t adding things to my life.  I was empty.

So I powered through and changed the course of my life, getting a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing at Barnard. I received my Masters in Social Work at New York University and became a psychotherapist.

And then what? Stagnation. A whole lot of change and loss and educational degrees, but not a lot of positive internal gain.

I didn’t know what was next, but I know that I am my best self when I create new chapters for myself and cultivate and delve into new learning experiences. I didn’t know what that would be until it happened. Kay Kay was standing over me giving me a happy baby pose adjustment in a private session when she looked me in the eye with intensity, and said, “You’re going to do my teacher training in the spring.”

To say I was honored was an understatement. Kay Kay was seeing through all my insecurities and telling me she believed in me. Done. Sign me up.

I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I should do the training without the goal of being a yoga instructor. “You’re a healer,” Kay Kay told me.

I then realized I could use yoga in my work as a psychotherapist.

As training progressed, I learned about the 8 Limbs of Yoga. I learned that yoga means “union”. I learned that yoga is when the fluctuations of the mind cease. I learned that yoga is more about mental flexibility than it is about physical flexibility.  I learned that you have to fall a million times before you succeed in asana practice and in life.

Being a psychotherapist requires focus. It requires the cessation of the fluctuations of my own mind when I am in session with a client. It is about formulating a therapeutic relationship, rapport, and trust. It is about union between self and other. I realized that incorporating yoga into my job is not about putting my clients in downward facing dog, but about helping them find a union between mind and body, a mindful state, courage to fall, and faith they will get back up again.

I teach my clients to be mindful, to breathe properly using pranayama, and I do so using the principles of Sthira Sukham Asanam, from the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, which means steady, joyful, seat. After completing my yoga training, I sit in my therapists’ chair and on the yoga mat, with the goal of being steady and joyful, and I pass the gift of yoga on to my clients.

I can confidently say, with pride, that I am a yoga teacher. I am a psychotherapist. And, like Kay Kay, I do both with a glitter in my eye.

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