My first yoga teacher training was a YogaFit level one certification weekend at my college’s fitness center. A total gym rat, I felt yoga wasn’t much of a stand-alone workout, unless you were really into stretching. Hyper-flexible, I was not. I really loved yoga, though. When I went to class, I could sense there was something more going on than just exercise.

I could do that, I thought.

My teacher at the training made it very clear to us that after we completed this weekend certification we would not be real yoga teachers. We would be “teachers with a certificate to teach yoga-style classes.” This was my introduction to the who’s and what’s and where’s and how’s of (pause for dramatic effect) Yoga Alliance.

In addition to being a gym rat, I was also the poster child for a Type A personality. Thus I decided, without having even completed that first training weekend, much less actually taught a class, I would not be satisfied until I was a 500 hour registered yoga teacher.

Am I being set up?

Even though I was driven by ego, ambition, and need of a second part-time job, I was also compelled by something I couldn’t see at the time but that now seems obvious. It was not out of left field that I determined so early that I would be a 500 hour RYT. In fact, it felt as natural as if it had already happened.

I have never really experienced difficulty finding a place to teach yoga. Believe it or not, four years into my career, before having found Eternal Health Yoga, I tried everything I could do to get away from teaching Yoga! As job after job, interview after interview fell through, opportunities to teach and share Yoga with my community fell at my feet.

Around this time it dawned on me that maybe- just maybe- teaching yoga was something I was supposed to do. A calling, of sorts. Except I was depressed and nihilistic and I didn’t believe in callings…. Especially callings that involved a job that nobody around me considered to be real job.

Since I couldn’t seem to get away from teaching yoga, and still very much wanting to be the Best, or at least Better than those I considered to be competition, I thought, I really should do something about that yoga teacher registration thing. Then people would take me seriously when I told them I was a yoga teacher. Then they would know that I meant business.

Shellie meet Shelli

This led to my first conversation with Shelli Carpenter, owner and founder of Eternal Health Yoga in Louisville. When we say at EHY, “Transform your life, awaken your spirit”, we are not kidding around. When I began the 200 hour teacher training program, my beliefs about the universe rivaled that of Richard Dawkin’s. However, unlike Dawkins, those beliefs were slowly killing me. I couldn’t shake the hope that there was more. As I studied at EHY I was able to begin to reconcile my beliefs about science and spirituality. It is no exaggeration to say that my studies at EHY, and the community of which Shelli and D’Arci and so many of the students invited me to be a part, very well may have saved my life.

I also learned there is a name for the trajectory that I had been on. It is called dharma. Dharma is the idea that there is a cosmic order to the universe. When I followed dharma, things just seemed to work out. I would meet the right people, at the right time, and under the right circumstances. Opportunities came about without my having to force things. When I fought against dharma, I was depressed and anxiety ridden. I hated myself and believed I was a failure for not having what I thought a real job should look like. Being a yoga teacher is great, if you are successful. I was not at a point where I could see myself as such.

I would be right about that, but not for the reasons I thought at the time. Success is not defined by how much money we make and if we have a job with benefits. It isn’t having a nine-to-five. Indeed, those things are important, but how they come about may not be in the way that we were taught they would.

 An introduction to sanity

Despite my insecurity around my career, I have always been very good at what I do. I put a lot of love into teaching yoga. Not a fluffy, saccharine type of love either. Teaching is in part a devotional practice. We are devoted to the students we are there to serve, and the Divine Light that resides in each of them and ourselves. Nevertheless, when people would tell me that the work I was doing made a difference in their lives, I could only cognitively receive it. It is ironic that until we value ourselves, it doesn’t matter how other people see us. We will never think we are enough.

The world offers us a vision that plays into our fears and insecurities. There is another way. First we must stop asking the world what it would have us do and who it would have us be in order to be okay. Then we can ask the Universe. As we begin to hear the answer ever more clearly, we realize we are more than merely okay. We are vessels of Divine Light. Our daily task- no matter our occupation- is nothing less than to love and heal the world.