This weekend was the last weekend of my yoga teacher training and yesterday was graduation. It was both fantastic and bittersweet.
Every week for 11 weeks, my yoga teacher training class met on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-6 and Wednesday evenings from 6-8:30. In addition to the meeting times, there was also homework to complete, Sanskrit to learn, sequences and meditation scripts to write, articles and passages to read, etc… I worked part-time sporadically throughout summer, and I found the workload to be intense. Some of my colleagues worked full-time jobs (or more) in addition to “real life” happening on top of the YTT load. We went through a lot together over the past 11 weeks.
I enjoyed the training immensely, but I admit there were hard times. Towards the end I was running out of steam. So much so that I was dreading the final weekend. We were asked to find a stick to bring to the final weekend. “Why do I need to find a stick?” It was a surprise, so Kristen wouldn’t tell us. I didn’t think I’d find one since the parks are fairly manicured in downtown St. Pete. I didn’t think I’d have time to go on a stick hunt. We were also asked to bring flowers, feathers, and stones that we like or other “tools of empowerment.” I feared a fancy ritual was on the docket that I wouldn’t be in the mood for. (note: I did find a stick on the walk home after finishing writing my graduation sequence. No search needed. Funny how that happens!)
A few “fancy rituals” happened during graduation weekend. On Saturday, I came to class feeling anxious and grumpy. Anxious because I hit heavy traffic and walked into the building exactly when class was supposed to start. I felt frazzled. But I also had that sense of not really wanting to be there.
Kristen, my yoga teacher, introduced us to floral mandalas soon after starting class. Mandalas are symbols representing the universe, often circular and symmetrical. I was introduced to drawing mandalas awhile ago through a YouTube video. I’ve also made a mandala or two at the beach of random seashells and other beach findings that catch my eye. Saturday, we made them out of flowers.
Once given our assignment I went in search of flowers who seemed to be Ok with me plucking them. I was drawn to the aquatic flowers, water hyacinth and a hot pink Nymphaea (water lily), growing in the fountain outside of Jai Dee. The flowers came right off, so I guess they liked the idea of me using them in this project. (Plus water hyacinths are highly invasive in FL ecosystems.)
When I first sat down to it, I put the pieces together. I didn’t really have an intention, and I wasn’t really thinking about much. I was creating. After it was done, I sat in meditation in front of it, and tears started to fall. I realized the reason I was anxious and grumpy coming to class was because I was dreading the goodbyes that would happen that weekend.
Ah… That makes sense.
Creating the mandala and crying for a bit helped get some of that nervous tension out of my body. I felt much lighter throughout that day and into Sunday.
After mandala making, some of us led our graduation asana sequence. I went second. Overall it went Ok, but there were some hiccups. There was a Malasana (garland pose) flow in my sequence, but I wasn’t doing Malasana or the half-Malasana correctly (sit on your heels, not flat footed!!) which screwed everyone up. So there were some mistakes. It was my first time running a whole class by myself! As a friend jokingly said, no animals were harmed in this practice. I countered with no one cried and no one died. I received very constructive feedback, and most of the goals I had for the class were met. The rest will come with additional practice.
The rest of graduation weekend was sure to be a breeze. I’d already done the hard part!
Sunday I found out what the stick was for. We made prayer arrows. It was suggested that my awesome, fate-found stick should be shorter, but I gave Kristen the evil eye and my gnarly stick suddenly became perfect.
I’d gotten my curmudgeneouiness out of my system the day before, and I was more open to the experience of making this. The idea is to wrap flowers, semi-precious stones, feathers, etc… around a stick that is about 2-3 feet long with cord or string while concentrating on a prayer or intention. Per this tradition, you should start and end with a green cord and only knot the string at the very end, three times.
I used flowers the class had brought, a roseate spoonbill feather I found by Mirror Lake one day, and a number of semi-precious stones I’ve had to create my arrow. I did have an intention and prayer while creating my arrow, but I’ll keep that to myself. While I created my arrow, I began a chant of my own creation and I said it over and over in my mind as I wrapped the string around my flowers and feathers. I hummed out loud as I did it. Finally I attached my semi-precious stones, which I hung from the arrow like Christmas ornaments. The idea is that your prayer will be focused soand directed that it will become reality. Kristen also suggested we plant them in nature to return the life and gifts from the earth to the earth. Right now mine is “planted” in my garden, which is in pots. Next time I go hiking I’ll take it with me and plant it in the actual earth.
After prayer arrows, there were more graduation sequences. I practiced three hours of asana yesterday. (I’m not as sore as I thought I’d be today!) Everyone did a great job.
We exchanged gifts at the end of our class yesterday. We were asked to bring “tools of empowerment.” Basically, this means things that are special to you or make you feel strong. I included handmade gifts in mine: a leather bookmark stamped with a Way of the Peaceful Warrior quote about being in the moment, a jar of the coconut oil sugar scrub that I make, and a painting of a heart I did a few months ago. The sugar scrub leaves me feeling soft and beautiful, and I wanted to share that with someone else. The bookmark is a nice reminder of so many lessons we received during the YTT class. The painting was meant to be a reminder of loving thoughts and action as we move forward into our regular lives. The person who received them said she was going to put them on her alter.
I received jasmine green tea with a lovely infuser with a rose quartz handle and a “Path of the Hearth” elixir from Roots of the Sun. Each of these was chosen by the giver to increase the ability to give and receive love and to increase self-love. I feel pretty comfortable in my own skin these days, so I don’t think self-love is such a problem. (Sometimes it still is.) But I definitely have problems giving and receiving love. I think I’ve become too protective of myself over these last years. It’s hard for me to let people in. As I drink my tea and try out the elixir, I’ll be thinking of these things.
Kristen also got us small journals to record our prayers. I chose the one with a water theme. They were made by a student who finished her hours from the previous class, so it is extra special. It has a nice place in the front cover of my daily journal.
After the gift exchange we prepared for our graduation ceremony. We changed into nicer clothes. The families of some students came to honor the achievement of us becoming yoga teachers. There was food and laughter.
During the ceremony, Kristen said nice things about all of us without saying our names. Soon after she started describing everyone, I was able to figure out who she was talking about before she gave anything obvious away. Except when she described me. She began by saying that she appreciated this student’s vulnerability in sharing their own healing process. Then she went on to say she liked the contributions that my science background offered, so I knew it was me. But that first part was not obvious to me. I think it’s interesting that I don’t see that in myself.
Thinking back to the beginning of the class, it feels longer than 11 weeks. May 20 was our first day. Yet time also went by very quickly. I have to go back to work on Wednesday. It seems summer has slipped by.
But now, at the end of this phase I must say: huzzah! In addition to teaching biology, I can also teach yoga!
Go me! Go classmates! Everyone worked hard and grew so much during this training. It’s up to each of us to take the seed that has been planted and nurtured and share the fruit with the world in the ways we deem fit.
Today, the day after the end of YTT, I feel like I did a thing. I’m proud of myself for pursuing this goal. (I’m also proud of you for reading this far. This post is a bit long!)
Now someone shoot me if I talk about taking a training with any sort of graduation or certificate requirements for the next little while. I love learning, but I definitely need not to be in school for a bit…