A Dream Come True for This TTC Graduate
Janet Henderson, an attorney who had chosen to give up her career in order to raise her two sons, was drawn to a spiritual path following their difficult births coupled with several years of depression. "I'm the kind of person who gets things done, who worked as a lawyer in England, yet here I was in my home in Provence and I was having such a stressful time."
Seeking to regain her equilibrium, Janet realized that her painful depression was also a lesson in awareness — one that would eventually lead to her transformation. "I had to work out how to piece myself back together, and one day I was on the internet and found Amy Weintraub's book, Yoga for Depression. I didn't know anything about yoga but then, in 2008, that book saved me."
Janet began a daily practice and, she says, "I felt something shifting inside me. And there were so many little signposts — I paid a lot of attention to them. Then there was something in Amy's book about a breathing course in London, and after I did that I had some amazing spiritual experiences that dispelled any doubt that I might have had about a divine presence."
She became committed to all aspects of the practice — yoga, meditation, spirituality —although she worried that her lack of flexibility would be a barrier. "I was trying to figure out how to square these things. I've always had a desire to share and teach and to inspire people, and felt very held back."
Then, last year, another "signpost" appeared in the form of an email from Amy Weintraub offering a course at the ashram in the Bahamas. "I said to my husband, 'I have to do that.' I knew nothing but because it was a long way to come, I decided to come for a month with my husband and my two little boys — who in a way, were behind all of this. They loved it."
Janet took Amy’s course, Yoga for Mood Management, all the while watching the students in the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course (TTC). "I want to help people with anxiety and depression, kids, older people," she says. "I felt I needed this qualification. Then, when we got back from our family Christmas holiday in Scotland, an email came from the ashram saying, 'Challenge Yourself,’ and my husband booked my ticket!”
She was pleased to be back at the ashram on Paradise Island, but nervous about what was to come. "I had this overwhelming sense of 'Oh my God,'" she says. Many of her fears were dispelled during the inauguration when Swami Brahmananda touched her forehead. "The energy he gave me carried me through the first days of the TTC. I came here determined, but it was an intellectual determination. After he had done this, it was an anchored determination. I felt quite euphoric, actually, after the first week."
Because Janet had already spent several years immersed in the yogic experience before coming to the ashram, she was drinking up the lectures and the Bhagavad Gita. "It was like coming home; the spiritual connection that I felt intuitively, now I was able to receive it intellectually. And I found the group lovely, I was delighted they were serious about the course."
But the challenges were there nonetheless, as they are for every teacher trainee. By week two and three, Janet was struggling with emotional baggage which, although cleansing, seemed to awaken old insecurities, she says. "It was very demanding, you feel quite vulnerable at the same time you're being really tested."
When the TTC students started to practice teaching yoga, she used her French to guide the entire group through the Sun Salutation, and then, later, bigger segments of the class. "I was very daunted by this," Janet says. "I'm not very bendy so I needed to know I could do it. The first one went really well, I got great feedback and that carried me through the next chunk of the course. Then fatigue set in during the third week; we started to feel the relentlessness of the day, wishing for a moment to come up for air."
She kept going with the yoga and pranayama, she says, with the help of her teachers. "Mahadev, who taught the hatha yoga, was the one I needed to get me through the course. He's so skillful and gentle; he was the interface between my doubting self and this intense program. He was always without judgment, always understanding."
All the teachers, she says, delivered the TTC material with freshness and enthusiasm. She was grateful to Swami Brahmananda, who taught philosophy, for his equanimity and calm; Rukmini, who taught the Bhagavad Gita, for her patience and gentle humor; and for Swami Hridyananda's gentle, reassuring presence.
Nevertheless, Janet found it hard to keep her determination, and wondered if she could physically make it through to the end. "I'm a bit of a perfectionist, feeling the need to absorb and retain the information although I didn't have the time to do that," she says. "Then I realized I was taking the slightly wrong approach, and at the moment I started to feel negative, I decided with faith, I can get to the end of this. So I stopped trying to control stuff, just went with the flow."
Just days before the final exam, there was a second teaching evaluation. Janet was nervous and put herself under a lot of pressure, which was the reason, she felt, that it didn't go as well as the previous one. "But the perception of my group was that it had gone better! They said, 'You were like a real teacher; we learned something in your class.' I thought, 'Wow, I'm actually teaching.' That was profound for me, people saying unprompted that I'm calm and caring. That has been really affirming for me."
The day before the exam, the mantra initiation — when the student chooses and is ceremoniously initiated with a mantra — took precedence over her nerves. "I felt great. Something magical happened in the initiation. I went into the exam feeling that various things seem to have settled, and the exam went like a dream,” Janet says.
After spending two years dreaming of becoming a yoga teacher, Janet now has that certificate in hand and is ready to return to her home and family. "It's amazing because none of this was planned; it fell from the heavens," she says. "I decided I want to be a yoga teacher and made the intention that I would do it before I'm 50. So yesterday I qualified — and in five days, I'm going to be 50!"
Ready to challenge yourself? Sign up: Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course (TTC).