Learning to Teach Yoga: Three TTC Students Share Their Experiences
Among the 32 graduates who spent a month in the ashram's intensive Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course (TTC) are three students who shared their experience of a demanding and rewarding month on Paradise Island: Rocky Vega, Stuart Bishop, and Robin Hunter.
Rocky Vega, 29, is an artist, actor, singer, and musician from New York City with a buoyant personality and wide smile. Rocky had visited the ashram before and knew about the TTC. One week into the program, she is feeling happy and hopeful. "I love it. I like the more spiritual life and moving the body is cool,” she says. “I like the lectures, stuff I would ask questions about in the past and had no guide, no teacher. Now, it's nice to be around that and people who want the same thing.
"And my energy is moderate, but it has been increasing each day,” she adds. “The hours are long, I do find myself nodding off at times but it's not easy. Biggest challenge in the morning satsang is sitting a lot on the floor. I have a mild discomfort."
By the time she is a few days away from graduating, Rocky is figuring out how to take on the challenges of the course. "I'm most challenged trying to prioritize things, to figure out whether I'm going to eat or take a shower. The schedule is so packed I have a lot to do. I've managed — I'm still alive! But it's still a struggle. I've learned to accept that this is the way it's going to happen and I'm focusing on being present."
And the future? "After last week’s practice teaching in a very supportive and compassionate environment, I'm excited to be teaching at home with friends. I found this more a jumping off point, more as the beginning of something else. I have so much more to learn."
Stuart Bishop, 29, from Orlando, Florida, has been practicing Ashtanga yoga for about four years and embodies a certain quiet intensity. Having just completed a masters degree in instructional design and technology, his goal is to become a teacher.
After the first week: "The schedule is somewhat intense for me, though it started out slowly and now it's getting interesting. The sitting is the biggest challenge. But lack of sleep is working for me: I get about four to five hours sleep since I've often stayed late doing homework. I adapted quickly.
"The program is surprisingly spiritual and that's interesting to me. I like the philosophy, the chanting and that it encompasses all of the religions. I really like the group of people."
By the time TTC graduation is close, Stuart has experienced a few highs and lows: "I would say the biggest challenge is conquering my fear of success, and because of the schedule there's no time to sit and reflect. My spiritual breakthrough came last week when I cried through a workshop and Swami Hridyananda talked about how suppressed stuff comes up and to examine and move past it. Everyone does it in their own time. Mine lasted a day — and it was a lot for that day. I think now I've found my own confidence about it so it feels more foundational.
"Also, our group has really bonded. One of the best birthdays of my entire life I had here. Rocky wrote me a song! I cried — in a good way."
Even though he has lived all over the world — Thailand, Japan, Papua New Guinea — Robin Hunter was disconnected from yoga until his early 20s. Then he decided he wanted to practice yoga with more spiritual depth, took a leave from his job in Calgary, Alberta, and came to the ashram with his wife, who is expecting their first child.
"I want to see how my life will unfold,” Robin says. “It's challenging to be here with my wife because we don't have much time together and sitting is hard. Because I came a few days earlier and slept, it helped me adjust to being in a different place, although my energy flags at night. During the days I have a higher energy than at home.
"The hatha teacher, Mahadev Chattanya, is my favorite; he makes it a light and friendly environment. And my favorite is two hours with Swami Brahmananda, who teaches us philosophy of yoga."
Four days before graduation, Robin is feeling the need to complete the program. "By now, it's challenging to stay completely in it, although in the last week the course has been the most interesting: the material is completely captivating, especially the advanced pranayama and topics like chakras and astral bodies.
"I didn't see myself as a teacher when I came, but after completing it I don't know if I cannot teach yoga. Making the transition from student to teacher is incredibly difficult, the amount of focus required. Now I see the reward you can get. This program has fixed parts of my body that had been a problem for so long. It's incredibly healing, physically and energetically."