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How Yoga Teacher Training Changed My Life

“Shift your story, shift your reality.” – Dr. Kristian H.
I am an athlete. I ran track. I played volleyball. I lift weights. I am no yogi. I am not flexible. I am not graceful. I cannot stand on my head. I am not Zen. I love child’s pose. I am the opposite of laid back. I eat meat. I drink wine.
I took my first yoga class when I was a freshman in college and I absolutely hated it. So deciding I wanted to become a yoga teacher was a complete shock. I was clearly not ‘yogi enough’ to be a yoga teacher. But for some reason, some strange reason, I was determined to teach yoga.
Day one of yoga teacher training (YTT) came on a Sunday. I found myself in a circle with 7 other future yoga teachers. The fear was still there. We went around and introduced ourselves and said why we were there. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember saying, “I am super nervous about being here because I do not feel like I am good enough at yoga.” There, I said it. So please please please don’t judge me is what I remember thinking.
A few more people started introducing themselves, and then one of my fellow future yoga teachers started crying. It was right in that moment that it hit me: I had no idea what I had signed up for. The website clearly said that “your process begins with an inward exploration” but I suppose I mentally skipped over this part.
The next few days set forth the most critical introspective look that I had ever taken at myself in my entire life. I explored my values, my shortcomings, my desires, my natural way of being, and some dangerous patterns that I was repeating over and over and over again.

I literally learned more about myself in the first 7 days than I had in the previous 7 years. But how? How in the world does YTT do this?

For starters, we created a safe and welcoming environment to open up. When was the last time you sat down with your friends or family and talked about resentment, listening, judgment, or emotions? I have a pretty cool circle of people in my life, and these just aren’t things that we talk about.
Secondly, us yoga teacher trainees were given tools and exercises that helped us open up and begin to view situations and patterns in different ways. One of my favorite exercises was called the “Game Plan” or as I like to call it, “Fact or Story.”
“Fact or Story” goes a little something like this: think of something you view as a fact. Here’s an example to get your mind working: “I am not a good speller.” Prior to this exercise, I would have argued with anyone that the above was indeed a fact. (Yes, I went to Yale and I can’t spell.)
But in actuality, this isn’t a fact. The fact is that I have misspelled words before. The story I created when I was 10 years old to explain this fact is that I am not a good speller. Ever since, I’ve been treating my story like it was a fact, which is dangerous.
When you treat stories like facts, you do not give yourself room to shift or improve or change. If me being a bad speller is a fact, this implies that I could never shift to being a good speller. A lot of us live our stories like they are facts.
I am a procrastinator.
I do not have any will power.
I will always be overweight.

All of these are stories. None of them are facts.
One of the biggest shifts I made during my yoga teacher training was about my pursuit for perfection and external validation. I realized that I wanted to be perfect by any means necessary – I was an A student that cried when I got a B, I went to an Ivy League school, I got my Master’s degree in one year, and I make 6 figures.
These were all the external things that created my picture of perfect. But this picture of perfect wasn’t making me happy. I wasn’t passion driven. I wasn’t even money driven. I was perfection driven. A perfection that required external validation. A perfection that had nothing to do with what I wanted or desired.
I had to let all of that go. I am learning how to validate myself, my own decisions, and my own choices. I needed to decide what happiness truly looks like for me. And instead of being perfection driven, I need to be happiness driven. I had to let go of my ego, my pride, and my desire of being right in the name of simply being happy.
You may want to read: 5 Ways to Drop Your Ego in Yoga
I thought YTT was going to teach me how to teach yoga, but in actuality, it taught me how to let go of bullshit and actually BE HAPPY. And in the process, I did get better at yoga, I learned a few yoga sequences, and I still take child’s pose like a boss.
Be Happy. Be Healthy. Be Free. Be You. Authentically.

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Dr. Kristian H.

Dr. Kristian H. is a health enthusiast and fitness instructor. She is a graduate of Yale University, a DrPH candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and a hospital executive at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She started a blog designed to inspire women to live happy, healthy, and free lifestyles. Through this work she is now doing speaking engagements, hosting fitness classes, wellness retreats, and events. Her mantra: Be happy, be healthy, be free.

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