Looking back to one year ago, I was just about to graduate from my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program. Even after months of training, I still had NO clue what I wanted to do with this certification. You might be wondering why I even invested in such a costly program if I wasn’t dead set on teaching yoga. But for where I was in life and in my heart, I signed up just knowing that it felt like the next right step in my personal and fitness journey I had set out on 2.5 years prior. I knew how important yoga had become to my body, mind and spiritual life, and that I wanted, rather I needed to explore it deeper. What that looked like after I held that certification piece of paper - was totally up in the air.
Throughout teacher training, we had done various journal exercises visualizing where we wanted to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years. Truth be told, I often scribbled something down on the paper just so it looked like I did my homework (sorry Beth!). I will say that the one intense visualization I did have has yet to happen. I mean, it’s only been one year, so I still have hope! But, all I can tell you is that it does involve South America, beaches, mountains, private clients, and being my own boss...sigh. I’ll make it there, just you watch.
Moving on - (daydreaming aside), this first year as a certified yoga teacher has been nothing short of spectacular. All those scribbled notes I wrote down of what I thought I might do and create with this journey, have been surpassed, with the exception of teaching and living in S. America of course. But seriously, I have grown more in this last year as human being than I thought possible. My growth did not come in the form of nailing the inverted postures I so often see on Instagram, or having the most creative sequencing in the Tri-County area, which is naively what I thought being a great yoga teacher was all about very early on. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. My growth instead, came from within. It came in the form of finding ME, my voice in this practice - priceless.
Since “Finding Kate” is a very broad subject, I’ve broken it down into some relevant categories in relation to teaching yoga. Here is goes:
Finding my Niche:
This gave me anxiety at first. Coming out of teacher training in such a highly saturated yoga market (Charleston, SC), thinking of ways to make myself stand out was overwhelming. I scrambled as I watched other trainees land auditions and jobs at popular studios right away, thinking to myself, “I’m not doing enough, trying hard enough, putting myself out there enough.” It was very self defeating. I also had a full time day job, which limited my time to seek placement at studios, nor was I sure I could take on a full load of scheduled classes right away.
So, I pondered instead, of other interests in my life that I could link with yoga that other teachers might not be as knowledgeable about and I started there. Thus, the birth of “Runner’s Yoga” here in Charleston, SC. Two activities I swoon over! Perfect, I thought! It started off monthly, inviting my community to a local park for a donation based meet-up. I routed runners through the beautiful streets of historic Charleston for distances based on their pace and endurance levels, and back to the park where I would lead the group in a yoga flow focused on strength building and hip/hamstring opening stretches- great for runners. Quickly, this evolved from a monthly event to a weekly event based on demand and I established a good little following. My first gig! Sure, it didn’t look like everyone else’s but I was happy and I was offering our community something no one had before. For that, I was proud.
Shortly after this Spring/Summer event startup, I came across the opportunity for another yoga training that had Kate Moon written all over it. Y12SR, Yoga & 12-step Recovery, was offering a condensed intensive training in Boston and I knew I just had to find a way to go. My personal recovery is what brought me to a yoga mat in the first place. Getting certified as a way to offer yoga to others struggling to find a new way of life free from the throws of addiction was exactly the avenue that I knew I was called in this life to teach. So, off to Boston I went and it was hands down one of the best decisions of my life.
I currently teach Y12SR weekly here in Charleston and to say it has been rewarding is an understatement. It has changed me and how I view myself, others, and the disease of addiction. With two other Y12SR leaders in the area, there are now two meetings/classes per week, which is HUGE as some cities have never heard of this modality before. If you are interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
To summarize the “Finding my Niche” category of this blog, here is my advice to new yoga teachers: Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to have everything figured out right away. Your journey doesn’t have to look like everyone else's and more than likely, it won’t. Embrace the not knowing and be open to how it may show up in your life! Stay true to who you are and it will happen the way it is intended to happen, maybe not on your time, or when you want it to - but if we got everything as we wanted and when we wanted, this world would be scary! Am I right?!
Finding my VOICE:
This is a constant evolution for me and will always be as I continue to grow and change as a teacher and as a person. When I first began spitting out sequences of postures, I sounded a lot like the teachers I most often took classes from, and that’s OK. I took their classes because I respected them, enjoyed their flows, the message they offered, and the overall experience their classes gave me. So it is natural that my first few months of classes would come off similarly in tone and vigor.
However, I quickly felt inauthentic. It felt like I was trying too hard by guiding people through Asana that wouldn’t even come naturally to my body. It felt forced, rehearsed and uninspired. When I would take something a teacher shared in his/her yoga class, like some philosophical “A-ha!” revelation that seemed so wonderful and enlightening at the time I heard it, and then try to repeat it to my students, it was a total flop. Because it wasn’t coming from ME - from what was relevant to me that I could pass on as a message.
So, what helped me break through that? I read books and highlighted areas that spoke to me. I started journaling daily about what comes up for me off the mat. I took a gig at a small local spa and yoga studio where I didn’t feel a whole lot of pressure and started trying to speak my truth. The smaller classes made me feel less intimidated and the space felt more just a place for neighbors to gather and flow, rather than a high end studio where students pay top dollar. Now, don’t get me wrong, this small gem of a studio is not less than any other studio in town, it is still my home twice a week and the students are equal to students anywhere else. What I’m saying is, for me, having a smaller intimate space is what I, personally, needed early on as a teacher to make mistakes, try out new transitions, stumble over my words and my messages - and ultimately learn that all of that is OK and is going to happen my whole career as an instructor! Now, I do these things at bigger studios too and it is totally acceptable! I just needed to feel less pressure. That’s my journey. And it is still evolving.
To summarize “Finding my Voice”: Speak your Truth. Not anyone else’s.
Finding My Practice:
While all these amazing teaching opportunities started happening, life got busy. If ever someone needed class coverage, YES! I was your girl! The word “No” was not in my vocabulary. Ninety-nine percent of the time there wasn’t even a pause to check my schedule before committing. I was jumping through hoops to gain teaching experience and it was magical and exhausting all at once. I lost my own practice. I exhausted myself in planning and teaching my classes that when a evening arrived where I didn’t have a commitment, I just wanted to rest. I didn’t even want to smell the scent of lavender and lemongrass oils or drying yoga mats. No thank you.
What I needed was to take one less commitment per week and sign up for a yoga class somewhere around town. Hear someone else’s voice, let someone else hold space for me.
I have learned that in order for me to hold space for others, I have to allow someone to do the same for me.
Preaching to others this practice of yoga and the importance of taking time to connect with self and spirit, but not doing that for myself became hypocritical in my heart. And unhealthy for my being.
Take time to practice. Let others call the Asanas so you can just move and be present. Don’t worry about remembering what cool transition the teacher led you through to take back to your next class. Drop all that. Just breathe and move and BE yoga. When I do this, what I experience and feel and work through for myself is far more powerful to share with students than any sequence I could try my hardest to recite from memory.
To Summarize: No is a complete sentence.
Damn Y’all. This is hard. But, so very worth it.
The reason I was drawn to such a physical practice like Power Yoga outright was that I could not sit still. Literally, when you are detoxing from alcohol and drugs after so long, sitting still can be the scariest place and very self defeating when you notice your body is trembling. So, having the rigorous, physical practice took by mind off the stillness and what my body was going through on the inside. I focused on breath and movement instead of feeling physically uncomfortable, unstable and downright mentally abusive toward self for shame of who I had been as a human being for so long.
But, clouds cleared up, body softened, and I sat still. Now, it is one of my very favorite places to be. I encourage students daily to sit. To be OK with sitting. I tell them that as the mind begins to wander to the grocery list and the “I forgot to bring Ketchup to Table 19”, and the general thought of GO!, to visualize that thought in a cloud drifting by. To wave at it, acknowledge it, then let it float out of view.
It has been during meditation that I have felt the most calm, the most clear and level-headed in life. Meditation takes me to gratitude immediately as it has taught me that my mind is not such a scary place after all. It is quite lovely and open and free and inspired. That if I get quiet enough, the answers to what I seek come into my heart. And I can feel life move through me. It’s seriously groovy - only way to describe it.
As a teacher, I think it is important we educate students on the other limbs of yoga outside of Asana. Our physical practice and our physical being is just part of who we are and who we can be. We have to see and acknowledge the whole package to reap the full benefits.
In Summary: Don’t hate. Meditate.
I listened to a podcast not too long ago on my stair climber at the gym (insert no judgement here) that really got me thinking. It was the Podcast, “Goal Digger” by entrepreneur and marketing guru Jenna Kutcher, interviewing world renown yoga and author, Kathryn Budig. Definitely worth a listen.
Part of their discussion circled around the influences, both positive and negative, of social media on the yoga world. How platforms like Instagram have made yoga freely accessible to so many people who otherwise might not have found the practice and also how it connects like-minded people from all over the world, both of which are fantastic contributions, It was also expressed how this attention of beautiful physical postures in photography has dimmed the light on other limbs of yoga and daily practices outside of body. It has become more about followers and less about lineage: where your teachings derive from, what gurus and leaders you have studied under, and what you have to offer the world as a teacher of Yoga.
Truly a great conversation. One question, or thought really stuck out to me and I’ll leave you with this, what kind of teacher do you want to be? Do you want to be a GOOD teacher, or do you want to be a popular one?
I’ll keep working towards good.