‘Broken, but in a wonderful way,’ reflecting on 30 days of intense yoga teacher training

(Featured image by the amazing Erika Pontes)

It started with excitement, then quickly turned to nerves, and suddenly it was my turn to introduce myself to this group of over 70 people in the opening circle of our intensive 30-day Modo Yoga teacher training.

“Hi, I’m Rachel,” I start.

“I’m here because Dina, my studio owner, has been asking me for years to take this training and I finally said, ‘yes.’ I want to learn more about the postures and everything that comes with them.”

Little did I know that the physical side of my practice would play a minuscule role in how my world would open up over the next 30 days. They told us, “you’ll fall completely in love with each other.” And we did.

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Feedback session with senior teacher, Jo, after an early morning class.

After introductions, we had our first asana. You could tell from the vibration in the room that everyone was excited to be there, all ready to perform at our best and casually observe how “advanced” our newfound classmates were — how far along they were in their practice compared to us.

Our daily schedule usually went something like this:

  • 6:30 a.m.: Meditation and asana
  • 9:30 a.m.: Lecture
  • 1 p.m.: Lecture or presentations
  • 2:30 p.m.: Asana
  • 4:30p.m.: Lecture
  • 7 p.m.: End

Let’s be real, with a schedule like that, there was no way we were going to perform at 100 per cent every asana practice. In fact, by the end of the first week, some people were flat out collapsed on their mats. I’ll admit, at one point I was so exhausted I fell asleep before class even started and didn’t wake up until the final “namaste” — oops.

Being in the hot room multiple times a day was a humbling experience. I already had a strong daily practice, so I came in feeling confident. By the fifth day, my body was tired; I had to modify the poses; I had to listen to what my muscles were telling me. I had never had to do that before.

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Having breakfast in our lecture space — featuring senior teacher, Antoine, who flew in from Paris.

My focus for the month turned from wanting to do the most expansive natarajasana — dancer’s pose — to taking care of myself: eating right, hydrating with water, introducing myself to electrolytes and realizing when I needed to rest my body and mind.

‘The most difficult thing you’ll ever do’

A lot of teachers had offered me advice in the months leading up to the training: “read the books,” “don’t read the books,” “meditate,” “go vegetarian,” “go vegan,” “don’t forget to sleep early.” One person even told me “you’re going to feel broken, but in the most wonderful way.”

That teacher was right. I learned about the history, philosophy and spirituality of yoga; I befriended 66 new people, dozens of teachers from around the world and the founders of Modo Yoga, Jess Robertson and Ted Grand. As the days went on, I started to find myself.

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Last moments with Modo Yoga founder Jess Robertson.

Have you ever not known that you were even lost? And then suddenly you look at yourself and say, “oh! There you are. I didn’t even notice you were missing.” Yeah, that was me.

I had this blinding realization that I wasn’t “living my best life” in the beginning of the second week of training. It was the last time Ted would teach us before returning home to his family in B.C. He opened the class by asking us to feel free, wild and to play.

The energy in the class was electric. You could almost touch the air, it was so thick with that invisible force; our mats just inches from the people around us; our vision becoming foggy as the temperature soared.

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Our group after our last class with Modo Yoga founder Ted Grand.

Slowly, people started sniffling, then whimpering and suddenly, like a wave, people began to cry. Not out of sadness; it felt pure and genuine, almost effortless. I, having never experienced that kind of emotion in a class before, felt the sweat drip down my face, the beads of water on my back and arms. It was only when I closed my eyes that I realized I was crying, too. I could distinguish between the tears falling from my eyes and the sweat emerging from my pores.

As we laid down in final savasana, the tears continued, but the air felt calm. It’s as if we had all together let something go from our lives. I’m still not sure what exactly it was that I let go of, but I felt immediately lighter.

Modo Yoga Level 1 graduation with my favourite girls, Erika, Juliana, Hannah and Erin.
Modo Yoga Level 1 graduation with my favourite girls, Erika, Juliana, Hannah and Erin.

We have experienced so many life-changing moments together over the last 30 days, fiercely supporting each other, despite having just met. That kind of love is what carried me through the training — broken, but in the most wonderful way.
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