In the last week of May, I completed a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) with Wild Self Yoga, in the heart of Sri Lanka – tucked away in the mountains near Kandy at a gorgeous retreat center, Rukgala. Some of you know that I committed to doing this YTT back in January, after having researched and talked about it for months before that. I can’t honestly say what inspired me to do the YTT specifically – but I was drawn to it. With each successive month that I’ve been on the road, it has become more and more clear to me that I need to SLOW THE HELL DOWN! Being on the road and in the myriad of beautiful communities I have had the blessing to be a part of … I could just feel in my bones that I am no longer aligned to the way and pace of life I kept up while I was in the States. Being called to really get clear about who I am and what I stand for whenever I’ve met new people (which more and more seems to happen every day of my life now) got me questioning over and over and over again: why was I so committed to a lifestyle that was obviously hurting me?
There aren’t easy answers to that question. But without blaming or shaming myself: I honestly didn’t know any better or any different. I just didn’t know. I couldn’t see how the crushing pressure to conform was slowly killing me until I had the benefit of contrast – until I could experience an alternative. And this trip has been a relearning and rediscovering myself and who I am, what I want and what I’m about. What I want to create and build in this world. I want to build a world that is more thoughtful, aware, present. One in which we can all feel the freedom to delight in the marvel of the present moment and release ourselves from the shackles and illusions that what we think we are objectively measuring as success – literally – doesn’t matter. All that matters is living a life full of joy and purpose: which can only come from being your fully authentic self. Word.
And yoga has been my constant and awakening companion: If being in the present moment and loving the world as it is – in all its splendid and terrible wholeness – is my goal, the art of breathing and the moving meditation of asanas keeps me connected to my vision for myself and the world.
So, yeah, I can say now in hindsight it feels inevitable. But really, really, at the time that I hit send on my application I really didn’t know why I was choosing to do it except that it felt ‘right’. My logic-brain rationalized that it might be a helpful way for me to keep funding my travels … but the focus of it being a source of income has really shifted for me. Having gone through the YTT, I see it now more as just – quite simply – the way I want to BE in the world.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
What I learned
Each course out there will present their YTT material differently, but some of the biggest elements remain the same:
Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga – this was really the heart of the course you might say. It begins with “Yogas chitta vritti nirodha” – stilling the whirling vortex of the mind is yoga; sort of says it all doesn’t it. And each of the 8 Limbs are really just guides for how one might help quiet and still an overactive mind. Through personal and societal observances, through performing the physical asana postures, concentrated single-focus and meditation, this practice of yoga will help you reach samadhi – spiritual awakening. I really could write a post on each of the limbs individually, and maybe I will some day… They really offer such a wealth of wisdom.
Anatomy – Just how does the body work anyway, how do the asanas and the pranayamas (breathing techniques) help us engage our body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Philosophy – Although yoga derives from classical Hindu texts and traditions, it is fundamentally a spiritual not a religious practice. Anyone of any faith can practice yoga. And it was quite beautiful to see that the same precepts that are espoused by the major religions (“Love thy neighbor as thyself”) is the spiritual foundation for yoga. Ultimately, to fully come to grips with the philosophical system that is presented in this work, one has to grapple with and accept in the ultimate divinity of everyone and everything. We all come from and are representations of the Divine consciousness … and the material world – as we experience it with our senses – is an illusion that keeps us distracted from the truth that we are all one cosmic form of energy. Stillness, ease, peace are all available when one can surrender and let go of experiencing the world only at the level our senses can perceive.
Art of Teaching – From nearly the first day our teachers had us doing small practice lessons on our fellow students as guinea pigs; for which I will be eternally grateful. Oh man, did it push us out of our comfort zone to try to teach before we felt ‘ready’ – but it was an amazing exercise in the fact that … ready or not is really a function of our own perception and confidence level. Trying again and again and again allowed us to safely make mistakes and get feedback way before we’ll have to teach to paying clients was an amazing experience.
I find it helpful to remind myself that: The only constant is change. So, change was inevitable with the passage of time. But it is also not hard to imagine that the rigors of 4-6+ hrs a day of yoga plus hours of discussion on philosophy and anatomy, would press and challenge us…. Calling forth any number of personal demons (fears and insecurities) that we’d have to contend with in order to move forward. Compression – that’s really the best word for it. Just as the pressure of compressed earth changes coal into diamonds, the compression chamber of all this activity (mental and physical stimulation) were inviting us to similarly transform.
Each one of us came to this training with our own collection of baggage and hangups. I definitely have my fair share of mine (many of which I am only too familiar with at this point). Perfectionism. People Pleasing. Punishing Self-Doubt. Self-Limiting Beliefs. But one challenge that honestly surprised me and laid me out many times this month was the physical pain in my body that I am still experiencing as a result of that scooter accident I had in Cambodia a few months back.
I hit a divot on a dirt/gravel road and wasn’t going fast enough to get out and my bike just fell on to me and my left side. I tore up the palm of my hand, gashed up my ankle and leg … but my left shoulder took the force of my and the scooter’s weight as we went down … and the muscles are taking (what feels like) a long time to heal. Huge improvements in the last 2 months since the accident: I have nearly full range of motion again and can even support some of my body weight on my left arm … but I’m not anywhere near even my baseline, let alone the peak performance I felt I was at after so many months of yoga earlier this year.
It was embarrassing not being able to do the same poses as the rest of my 6 person class. The self-doubt was … unbearable sometimes. Who do I think I am? How could I be a yoga teacher when I can’t even do all the poses in the basic Sun Salutation sequence? How could I ever hope to teach anyone else when I can’t embody the full expressions of the poses myself? It was painful to feel like I was so far behind.
Which really was just coded language for that same “I’m not enough” conversation my small-minded Ego likes to foist on me from time to time. I would (often) just cry to myself in class when I had to just accept that a sequence of poses was beyond my body’s ability that day. Tears of frustration, shame … and then mollified acceptance and release. I would let myself be sad AND not tolerate the negative and self-critical thoughts.
Thank goodness for the philosophical discussions we were having. The reinforcement that everything changes – even your body and even what you can do from one day to the next. The only constant is change. What matters isn’t how advanced your expression of a pose is, but rather are you focused on the moving meditation of the sequence. Are you here, right now?
It was also a humorous reminder that I was here to learn how to TEACH, not to become some badass yogini – oh, the Universe has such a jocular way of teaching me life lessons. By literally making it impossible for me to lean into my own physical ability as a teaching tool I HAD to learn to rely on other modalities: I had to get better at telling, not just showing how to do poses. And to do that well, in a way that will keep my students safe, I really had to understand the mechanics of the poses. I had to take the focus off of my own physical practice and really dive head first into how I could communicate what I know to someone else. This really wasn’t about me.
Ouch, burn. I wish I could say that the lesson didn’t need to be quite so physically painful for me to have listened … but who am I kidding. The injury from the accident is probably the only thing that would have kept me from making the YTT about deepening my asana practice – as if that was the measure of a good teacher ….. rather than just learning to be a good teacher.
My very next step is to spend at least a month (possibly more) at a boutique hotel in the center of Sri Lanka’s hill country, Mamma Shanti, where I’ll be the second resident yoga teacher. Its a modest gig: room and board and some take away for every student that comes to a class, in exchange for teaching yoga classes twice a day and helping manage the small hotel.
But in terms of the larger “What am I doing with my life” next steps, I’m not really sure. And the funny (and wonderful) thing is that the uncertainty doesn’t bother me much anymore. I feel confident that my intuition is leading me on the path that is perfect for me. And each step that I’m choosing to do what I love, makes me happy, and is of service to the world, I build more and more confidence that I don’t have to know what my 5 year plan is. I trust that it is already working out as it is suppose to.
I felt as if I had had a real clearing out, an emotional and energetic spring cleaning during the YTT. When it came to an end – this beautiful and intense month long course – I felt that, not only was this contained time with these wonderful women was coming to a close, but my old life, the old way of seeing myself in the world was also ending. I’ll always and have always been myself, that hasn’t changed … but my expectations about what my life should look like and what my goals are feels so dramatically different than where they were a year ago, I don’t feel like I really fully recognize this new life I’m stepping into or the old life I’ve let go of.
Right now, I feel called to continue practicing and teaching yoga, so I’ll do that. I also feel called to do more Dream Doula work – I really should write a post on what I mean by that; but suffice it to say, I want to apply the same techniques I learned to help design great software in the service of helping creatives and entrepreneurs bring their dreams to life. I put out a call on social media about what I’m up to and have already started getting positive feedback. That feels good and feels right, but I don’t know what it will become. And I don’t have to know right now.
And that ease in not needing to know the outcome of everything is an incredible blessing.
Below is the call to action I placed out on social media: if you know of anyone who might be interested in my services, please feel free to put them in touch with me! Many thanks!
Hi, I’m Nikki Roda! Originally from New York City, I am now a citizen of the world. I’ve thrown off the yoke of working in the technology industry and have spent the last year traveling and learning from various teachers of mindfulness, meditation, and several different styles of yoga. I have recently completed my 200hr YTT with Wild Self Yoga and dedicating myself to creating and holding space for more authentic, self-compassionate, and conscious connection to the present moment. My quite colorful background enables me to provide in a number of unique services that I believe would be interesting to this community, including:
Yoga teacher: offering Hatha, Vinyasa and Slow-Flow style classes. I create space for students to connect to and find loving kindness for themselves, wherever they are in their own journey.Dream Doula: Helping coach creatives and budding entrepreneurs to bring their dreams to life. With my information design know-how, I help clients to hold space for their own creative process, find their super fans, and reinvigorate their passion to serve the world with their creations. From websites, to course materials and workbooks, to creating films, if you need help making sure your content is reaching your target audience, I can help.Working with Families: I have deep passion for helping grow resilience and inner strength in our next generations. I love working with children and want to help grown mindful and fully present families.
I’m looking for opportunities to deepen my experience of these various practices… and am open to traveling (anywhere that will have Americans) to do so.
If you would like to contact Nikki check out her website here
If you would like to learn more about Wild Self Yoga's Teacher trainings click here