A personal blog written by Lauren Fields, owner of Yoga to You PDX
This photo was taken at the Yandara Yoga Institute back in 2004, when I completed my first 200-hour yoga teacher training. In order to find this picture, I had to google myself. I remember it was taken by my Yandara teacher for a website. The concept of being on a website at the time seemed so wild. It is so different from today. There are no hidden moments in our lives anymore, unless we decide to hide them. Everything is posted, shared, and then we await our approval. These moments in time...they are no longer our own. Before we take them, they are already making our mouths water for likes and comments.
In four days, I’m going to travel to Bali, Indonesia to complete my 300-hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Simon-Borg Olivier and his company, Yoga Synergy. My first training back in 2004 and the training in Bali seem like a lifetime apart from one another. Similarly, looking back at myself at 20, feels like looking at a different human altogether. In order to complete my first 200 hour training, I took a semester off college and went to work at Atlanta Bread Company, a tanning salon, and a side gig of house cleaning. Today, I am a full-time teacher and owner of a studio and outfitter. It is because of the consistency of my students’ practice that I am able to charge this training and pay it off (fingers crossed) in the next couple years.
For my first YTT, I did zero research on the type of yoga that I was being trained in. I had no idea about the history of yoga. I had barely even practiced yoga when I decided to become a teacher. It was just something I knew I wanted to do. Yoga was not something that was common or talked about in public settings. Cell phones didn’t have social media and, as far as I knew, there were no yoga pants in existence. During my training, I wore Victoria Secret velour pajama pants (pictured above) and a pair of used dance pants that my mom’s friend gifted me. At the time, I lived in North Carolina and the training was located in Mexico. It felt like I was flying to China. On the way to the San Jose Del Cabo airport, I got off the plane in the wrong city and waited at baggage claim until the bags stopped. A nice man looked at my ticket and tried to tell me in Spanish that I had gotten off at the wrong stop. When I just stared back at him with confused eyes, he grabbed my hand and sprinted me back to the plane that was waiting for me. That’s me...the idiot American who moseyed off the plane in the wrong city. It still boggles my mind that I could be so split between making such a great decision for my life and simultaneously walking around in a space helmet, totally disconnected from everything. When I finally arrived at the correct airport, a Yandara teacher/owner was waiting for me. He looked like an angel, dressed in all white clothing and smiling while holding a sign with my name on it. We drove for what felt like forever on a dirt road. Now, I know that we were traveling on the highway from Cabo to Todos Santos. The training was located off the highway in a small town named Pescadero. I would return to this town for a visit later on in my life. On the way to the training, my driver told me a story about how a cow had walked out in the middle of the road while he was driving and how that cow had died from his injuries. That is my only memory of what was said during the drive. I don’t remember much, but I remember that he was so open and kind. I felt completely safe and comfortable with him.
When we arrived at Yandara, I was told that there were no phones. I would need to wait until the weekend to call my parents and inform them that I had arrived safely. We would take a bus to Todo Santos so that I could use the payphone in town. I met my teacher that night. His name was Victor Oppenheimer; he had the warmest smile I had ever seen on a human in my life. He was 65 years old, a senior Iyengar yoga teacher who had studied directly with B.K.S. Iyengar at his institute in Pune, India. I had no understanding of lineage or what this would mean for me as a teacher. All I knew was that Victor was the kindest person and sweetest man that I had ever met. He practiced in cozy Levi jeans. Every day at the same time, I would walk by the yoga platform and see him inside (with his jeans on) in a headstand or a shoulder stand. Life is made up of these small snapshot moments in which we sometimes experience deep emotional connection. The gratitude and kindness I felt for my first yoga teacher was something that I carried with me and tried to give back to my students. I don’t think I ever told Victor about the impact that his teaching had on my life. I didn’t really speak much in my 20’s about my emotions. I felt very, almost painfully, uncomfortable with intimacy within my friendships or any basic human interactions. Instead, I was a sponge. I took everything in and gave nothing back, unless you twisted me and rung out forced verbal expression. We would wake up at 5am every day. We were given buckets for bathroom needs because there was only a porta potty for number one and two flushing toilets for number two. Both were about a 10-minute walk away from my cabana. I remember my mother had upgraded me to a cabana. Most of the students camped in tents or teepees; she thought the cabana would be nicer. I was completely exposed to the wildlife in the area. Every night, I would wake to mice, scorpions, and so many spiders. I didn’t mind the mice. I actually kind of liked them. However, the scorpions and spiders were not my favorite sleep companions. The flushing toilets were far away and rattlesnakes liked to hang out along the sandy path on the way to them. Every morning when nature would call, I would grab my pee bucket, my flashlight, and scurry up the sandy path to the flushing toilets at the top of the little hill. While this experience might sound like torture to some people, the smell of the Mexican desert in the morning is still one of the most magical smells for me. That is what I remember from those mornings...the smell of the desert, the sound of the birds, and the cold sand and brisk air which would later become warm and wrap you up like a blanket.
I left that training with a solid understanding of alignment in yoga. However, I don’t practice all of it today as many of the cues have changed due to a better understanding of the body and needs of each individual. I also created a lifelong friendship through letters with one of the students at the training. We continue to connect, only through written letter, and have ever since we left the training in 2004. The most important part of being at Yandara was learning meditation. I remember the exact moment that I meditated for the first time. All at once it seemed so simple. Looking back, the meditation worked only because I leaned into the process. I gave up fighting it; I surrendered completely in the moment. It has become the single most important thing in my life. The funny thing about meditation is that you cannot snap a photo of it and put it on social media. You can take a photo of someone seated (possibly meditating, likely not), but it is not capturing the essence of it. The secret of yoga still remains. When the yogi closes their eyes, you can’t draw it, snap it, record it, nothing. Its proof only lives in the experience of the individual and the universal consciousness.
Meditation splits your life in two. There is the person you were before you could clear your mind and control your thoughts and there is the person afterwards. Learning to meditate, which leads to mindfulness, has brought me to my current training. I have looked for a teacher ever since my first training. I didn’t find one until I learned of Simon. After following his teachings, I knew that I would join one of his trainings one day. When that moment came, I would make it happen...somehow. Some things we just know. Each time we are sure of anything in our lives, it’s a time to celebrate. How often does this certainty happen, really? We’ve heard it over and over again. Our lives are temporary; there’s no promise of future. For some reason the expression, “this isn’t the dress rehearsal for your life, this is it” really stuck with me. As far as we know, this is it. With all the heartache that life hands us, self-inflicted regret is in the top three of painful categories in my opinion. Is this a perfect time to leave my husband, family, friends, business, animals, for a month? No, not really. Will there ever be a perfect time? No, definitely not. Will I regret it if I don’t do this training? Damn straight. Life is so not about waiting. It’s just not. It’s about listening and going with the flow, but it’s not about waiting. It’s important to not disguise putting something off because of fear as going with the flow. There is a difference. You can discover this difference by asking yourself, “what do I think about all the time?” What is always creeping into your mind, over and over again. Sometimes, the thoughts that come into our mind need to be recognized as brain garbage and tossed out. And other times, the thoughts that are repeating, need to be looked at directly in the eye and dealt with in the moment. This is the only way that life will move forward. Otherwise, stagnation will happen and your body will fall apart because of the pain in the mind. This is real. Sorry to get dark for a second, but this is what happens.
In the case of leaving for this training, it was staring me in the face. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is the teacher that I’ve been looking for to take me to the next levels of my understanding...the next levels of my practice. Does this mean that my fear of flying has gone away? No, but I’m meeting my thoughts with rational answers. I breathe slowly to bring my heart rate down, so that the true feelings can come in and the fear can dissipate. I guess the moral of this story is, for me, yoga has always been my north star. It has always been my guiding light, my passion before I knew how passion felt. It will continue on after I die. Yoga will go on forever and I’m grateful to have been a part of its existence. Knowing yoga exists in the world, along with the kindness of people, is what gives me hope that our future as a human race is not written in stone. We can and will turn it around towards love and light.
See you in a month!
Love & Light,
Lauren (in Bali)