Kathryn E. Livingston
Did you ever feel, as the saying goes, as if you had bitten off “more than you could chew?” That happened to me recently when I signed up for Kundalini Yoga teacher training. I committed to the yearlong training at a time in my life when my plate was already overflowing with career and family responsibilities. And I know I’m not the only one in our group of trainees who is on overload—there are people in my training group with young children, full time jobs, and aging parents they must care for. How can we do it all?
How in the world, I wondered, was I going to pull this off without totally stressing out (which would be the exact opposite of what Kundalini yoga is supposed to do!)? How could I keep up with all my responsibilities and still manage to complete the papers, read all the chapters, practice a daily sadhana or kriya, go to White Tantric yoga, attend five early morning group sadhanas and twenty classes, prepare a practice and final practicum and attend a weekend intensive every month for an entire year?
Just to think about all I had to do made me feel like I was doomed to fail! It was beginning to feel like I was going to need to do Kundalini yoga to cope with Kundalini yoga! Had I made a giant mistake? My head was spinning. And that’s when I realized that I’d better dip into one of the sutras of the Aquarian Age: “When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off.” So I sat down with a map of what needed to be done and when, and I began.
My first task was to pick a 40-day sadhana that worked for me (this is one of the teacher training requirements). I chose Nabhi Kriya paired with Kirtan Kriya; Nabhi Kriya strengthens the navel center and pumps up our power chakra. After the first week of doing this daily kriya I felt energized and physically as if no one could mess with me (even my weight-lifting son!).
Kirtan Kriya helped to balance my mental state. Instead of “freaking out” when I looked at the pile of work on my desk, I’d practice the mantra sa, ta, na, ma. It brought me a sense of peace, and made me feel as if my life wasn’t quite as chaotic as it seemed. I was grateful that I’d received the guidance to choose this sadhana, and I’m quite certain that every trainee will be given the inspiration to choose the sadhana that is just what he or she needs. During training, daily sadhana really serves as an effective support to keep us grounded.
Another method that helped was to make sure I kept up with the readings, homework, and other assignments instead of saving them all up for the end. Even if I couldn’t finish an entire assignment in a given week, I made certain that I did something toward its completion. I knew the stress of leaving everything until the end would have been worse than taking baby steps along the way. For me, reading a homework assignment five pages at a time worked better than cramming in thirty pages the night before training weekend.
I also made time for days off to spend with my family. It’s easy to get so engrossed in yoga that it seems that the rest of the world doesn’t exist (especially during teacher training). In the long run, however, I knew that I needed time now and then to step away from it all. A year is a long time to commit to training, and the knowledge that I could take a day here and there to forget about yoga was important. Yes, there were books I needed to read, questions to answer, and mantras to learn. But there was also a family that needed dinner and a me that needed to take a walk or a nap. Yoga teaches us to be patient and wait, and sometimes yoga must be patient and wait for us. As one of our trainees said, she needed to be gentle with herself. Sometimes that is the way to go!
It’s quite likely that plenty of people who sign up for teacher training feel overwhelmed now and then. Everyone must find his or her own way to deal with the time demands and figure out a way to get the work done. But it’s also important, I realize, to be fully in the moment and enjoy the experience. Though I’ve made it sound like a lot of hard work, teacher training is–first and foremost–fascinating and fun! If you spend the whole time worrying about whether you’ll get your paper done, pass the exam, or be a “good” teacher, you’ll miss out on the joy of sharing these amazing teachings with your trainee group and your incredible teacher trainers. I have a tendency to try to get to the end and not enjoy the ride—but during my training I’ve tried to remind myself that it’s not just about receiving that certificate at the end—it’s about soaking up this extraordinary learning experience as it happens. We won’t pass this way again (at least, not in Level 1!).
I will admit that I’m not exactly Ms. Organized, but for the most part I do manage to “keep up.” And as we all know, when we keep up we will be kept up! It may seem daunting, but we can make teacher training balance with life in general by using the very tools that we are learning to teach: Stay centered, stay focused, be patient, trust, set an intention, have compassion, finish strong…and don’t forget to breathe!