I was an exile in Yoga Teacher Training

 Creative Commons License photo credit: lumaxart

I am a professional student when it comes to yoga teacher training. I’ve been in teacher training and gaining certifications every single year for the past 12 years, and traveled great distances to do so. I wouldn’t change that resume for the world. In that time I have been graced with some of the most extraordinary teachers and most sublime practices ever divined. This depth of devoted study, this dive into the most Sri (resplendent) of Vidyas (sciences) has blessed me, and in turn my friends, community, and students. I’ve pledged my devotion to my istha devata, been initiated into the lineage of the Himalayan Masters, and made sacred vows to live my life’s purpose to the best of my ability (over and over again, one mantra at a time). It has been a fortunate and splendid path. And yet, with all of the blessings my dedicated studies have bestowed, I may have left one huge step untaken and avoided the very thing yoga is about at its core. I did not see anyone I am related to that entire time.

During a recent trip from what is now my home, northern California to my state of birth, Florida, I saw my own flesh and blood for the first time since 2001. Like my parents, my brother and sister, their children, and most all my cousins, I was born and raised in the Sunshine State. I’ve remained single, a statistic whose double-edged sword left me with the freedom to vagabond my way through careers, and across state lines. I’ve almost made a full counterclockwise circle around the U.S. as I’ve made homes for my single self in Greensboro, North Carolina; Missoula, Montana; Sonoma CA; Helena, Montana; and now back to Sonoma. I’ve studied yoga in the south of France, on a remote island off of Vancouver Island, on the tip of Baja, and cities scattered over the U.S. I’ve had a glorious sanctity of studies. In many ways, it was a heady decade of living in Shangra-La. But, to paraphrase one of my favorite show tunes, from South Pacific,

I got sunlight on the sand (Prana del Mar, Cabo, Mexico, spring 2010, ParaYoga Kundalini Training),

I got moonlight on the sea (Hollyhock, Cortes Island, British Columa, summer 2005, ParaYoga Koshas Training),

I got mangos and bananas you can pick right off the tree (Maya Tulum, Mexico, winter 2006, ParaYoga Training)…

What ain’t I got?

I ain’t got [time with family].

I spent every last vacation day and dollar travelling all over kingdom come (albeit some fabulous kingdoms) to sit at the feet of my teachers. The teachers shifted over the first few years, but my steadfast determination to master my studies became more and more resolute. I’ve had an amazing time of my life, have met friends who’ve become fast, true, and I am humbled and awed to say I am now among those certified by Yogarupa Rod Stryker, in ParaYoga. I truly have shaped my life around this divine pursuit, and grown more than I could have ever imagined at the onset. But the time and money I directed to my studies all these years had one consequence. It’s a consequence that goes against the very grain of one of the most precious kernels of wisdom yoga has ever passed on to me:

Yoga is about relationship. 

My father, older sister, me, and our dog, Pluto, Ormond Beach, Florida, c. 1950s

If this is true, and I sense it is, what on earth have I been doing, forsaking traveling to see my own family for an entire decade? I chose to do something else rather than visit those of my relation. It has been incumbent on me to go to them, as my being the only single one meant logistics were easier for me to do the visiting. But year after year, I went elsewhere.

While I was ministering fire practices for the Divine Mother and building the digestive fire of agni, did I neglect to kindle my relations to my own kith and kin?  I have felt remorse, and during those inevitable times when life seemed to crumble around me, I ached for them. I have felt guilty, and have seen a mild shock on the faces of friends I’ve told about my Odyssey away from “home.”

Thank my lucky, vedic stars, it turns out the home fires must have been burning from afar, as during my recent visit, we picked up right where we left off. It felt like home hands down (my prodigal sister-ness notwithstanding). It was blissful to feel the innate sanctuary of family. 

I have never totalled all of my teacher training expenses, but know it is in the dozens of thousands. Was I selfish in choosing to fly around for yoga instead of to see my family? Or have those very studies informed my understanding of family in ways I would not have learned otherwise? I think so, but I’m still going to screw up my courage and ask you:

Is placing near-all importance on yoga teacher training right? If you are a teacher yourself, what sacrifices have you and your family made, and is it always worth it, in the end?

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Barbra Brady is the Art Editor at Yoga Modern. She holds an MA in Museum Exhibition Theory & Cultural Studies, which she has exercised as a museum curator of contemporary art, nationally published writer, leader of a venerated nonprofit yoga retreat foundation, and now, yoga with a slant on channeling creative energy. When not practicing or teaching yoga in the tradition of her teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker (as a Certified Level IParaYoga teacher) or as an iRest Yoga Nidra practitioner, Barbra practices the yoga of “curiosity.” The curiosity that fuels her imagination may be through writing, curating, a turn of leaf or phrase, cinema, a century ride on her road bike… She’ll be sharing her curatorial picks and original musings, as she whispers in the ear of the Yoga Modern community: “Hey, look at this!” She lives in Sonoma, California, an Eden which naturally prompts her reflections on nature, food, and yes, wine (in meaningful moderation).

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