Meet Johanna, one of our beloved teacher training graduates!
Read on to hear Johanna’s story of compassion and healing through yoga.
As Little As Possible
“As little as possible,” he said to me when I asked what I should do. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Is he even allowed to say that, I wondered? I was speaking to my MBA professor about my upcoming semester abroad. Do I take difficult classes in English or easy classes in French? Or maybe some of each. I needed advice on what to do. Those four words – ‘as little as possible’ – would become a cornerstone of my existence, though they did not make sense at the time.
“Excuse me?” was most likely what my face said, as I am doubtful words could be formed.
He went on to say, “The experience of being in Paris is far greater than anything you’ll learn in a classroom.”
As long as I can remember, education – what I learned and everything I knew – had become part of my identity. I convinced myself one day I would be complete with all the knowledge required for perfection. Prestigious graduate schools revered shark-like attitudes. Yet, there was a department head telling me I had it all wrong.
Admittedly, I am stubborn. I did take a full load of classes (in English), but my perception of the curriculum’s value changed. Living in a foreign country was truly life-changing. However, it took several more years of trials and tribulations and healing to reverse the outside-in approach that I had taken to this experience called life. I wish I could say that wisdom stayed with me always but, as happens when misfortune strikes, our embedded defaults rear their heads.
What Teacher Training Taught Me
During my yoga teacher training, I finally acknowledged the physical pain I had denied for so long. This prodded me to shed some emotional weight and make a huge geographical move. Still, six months later I was officially diagnosed with Lupus. My brain went into overdrive about how to reverse this debilitating condition. I started with a comprehensive list of everything I needed to “do” to take back control of my health: researching autoimmune disease, making dietary changes, going to physical therapy, sunrise yoga, support groups, and on and on. While a sense of empowerment may have staved off the inevitable depression, I found what I really needed to do was… as little as possible.
I needed to make peace with my physical body – not keep procrastinating or ignoring reality. I needed to give myself a break. To understand how my programming fostered a state of tension my body could no longer absorb. My treatment did not list acceptance or self-forgiveness, but that is exactly what my intuition prescribed when I got quiet enough to hear its message.
I initially intended Yoga Teacher Training to fill my reservoir of qualifications. But, what I learned became necessary for my own healing and wellness so that I may help others with the same. For this, I am immeasurably grateful. While I gained a particular fondness for pranayama (also known as breathwork), the real takeaway was not something that could be outlined or predicted: enhanced compassion, ego provocation (and depletion), and lifelong friendship.
As for those old words of wisdom, “as little as possible” is almost always the answer.