A lifelong student, but also a yoga teacher trainer: A conversation with Vimala

Today I am in conversation with Vimala and am especially excited about it. Vimala is a trained florist, yoga teacher, spiritual coach and also a yoga teacher trainer. I couldn’t imagine my own yoga teacher training without her – so I can’t think of anyone better to talk about this exciting topic to! Even though she now trains yoga teachers, she is always a student herself and is constantly continuing her education, for example to become a relaxation trainer or in the area of pregnant women’s yoga. She especially enjoys teaching themed classes and workshops. When she is not on the mat, you are most likely to find her in nature, doing geo coaching or photographing. I am very happy that in the midst of all her various activities she found time to talk to me about yoga teacher training, tell me about her own yoga path and share anecdotes from her training groups.

Dear Vimala, tell us a bit about your yoga path. How did you get started with yoga?

I started yoga thanks to my best friend and my physical therapist at the time. I had work-related tension in my shoulders and neck and the physical therapist told me to do something that involves movement, like yoga. I ignored that for the time being and devoted myself to autogenic training. This did me a lot of good, but it didn’t relieve the tension. I was still of the opinion that yoga was not for me and so I didn’t bother with it any further… until my best friend suddenly started talking about nothing else but yoga. So we both decided to attend a beginners course at Yoga Vidya Frankfurt. With the firm conviction to do only this one course and that yoga is absolutely not for me, I went to our first class…

… and you were proven wrong?

Yes, it was love at first sight. I felt so good after the first class that I actually threw my preconceived notions right out the window and yoga has been an integral part of my life ever since.

What was it exactly that made you stick with it?

That the effects are so profound. Yoga works not only on the physical level, but also on the mental, emotional, spiritual, all levels. I noticed this quite quickly and I also very quickly had the feeling that asanas are only the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know where the knowledge or the certainty in me came from, but I wanted to go deeper, to get to know and understand yoga in its entirety.

I went to the yoga center almost every day and I’m still there on average three times a week, even though I no longer work right around the corner.

So yoga takes quite a big place in your life today?

Yes, yoga, or rather holistic yoga, is my approach to life, so to speak. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are my main guide and also the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures have become an important part of my life. Meditation is at the heart of everything.

How do you integrate your practice into everyday life?

The whole life is practice ­čśŐ

That’s a beautiful attitude! Did it also lead to the decision to train as a yoga teacher?

I was approached about it. One day a sevaka, an employee of the center, said to me that I should do the training. I was at the center several times a week and asked for yoga literature. My first book about yoga was the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali with commentary by Sukadev. A sevaka recommended the book to me, saying, “It’s good for a start.”

I read the book, sometimes indeed laboriously, to the end, and it awakened an inner fire within me. I truly did not understand everything, but it ignited the spark and intuitively I knew: this is my path. The classes and open hours I attended were good, but they felt like they were only scratching the surface, and so after this stimulation from the sevaka, I actually began to think seriously about doing the training.

I was still of the opinion that I needed more experience and practice first, but it germinated in me. I then met many fresh yoga teachers or trainees who all told me that the training was the best thing they could do. At some point I gave myself a jolt and signed up, half a year before the training began, that was in 2011. Then in 2012, the training finally began.

When she is not practicing or teaching yoga, Vimala can be found in nature

How did you experience your training?

On the whole, it was wonderful and very enriching. I made friends, found myself again and had great experiences. However, there were also moments that hurt or when everything was in disarray. I haven’t changed externally, but my entire outlook on life has changed and this is not always easy. The training is just so incredibly transformative, I didn’t expect it to that extent. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I felt very similar, and there were only a few exceptions throughout the entire training. Others, however, have also had “dry spells” and thought they would never make it. Do you know something like that from yourself?

Not really. In fact, I was never overcome by thoughts of ending my training prematurely, and I never really had the feeling of a lean period. But I seem to be the exception to the rule when it comes to what I experience as a trainer. As I mentioned earlier, the two years were not always easy, but the training also carried me through “difficult” times. The only thing that got on my nerves a bit was the exam preparation and the constant repeating of the questions. This is where the feeling set in that now it’s enough and it could slowly come to an end.

What happened after your training? Did you start teaching yourself straight away?

I started teaching my mother and her work colleagues in the first half of the training. Through this group I learned an incredible amount, especially being flexible and able to change the plan spontaneously, because they had all kinds of aches and pains and couldn’t do this and that.

Towards the end of the first year, I started assisting in yoga classes and from the second year, taking substitutions for classes.

I can recommend the assistance to every new yoga teacher, because you take a lot with you. 

From about the second half of the second year, I was already teaching regularly at the center, including pregnant women’s yoga and continuing to teach my mother and her colleagues.

After the training, I also began quite quickly to teach outside of Yoga Vidya and also took very many substitutions in the most diverse places. I was allowed to learn so much and am grateful for it. In the meantime, however, I hardly accept any substitutions outside of Yoga Vidya, because my schedule is quite full and there has to be time for my own practice, and I also have a part-time job as a florist.

How did it come about that you now train yoga teachers yourself?

I was simply asked if I could give the yoga class for the 6 Darshanas at the center weekend and I said yes. That was my first yoga class as part of a training and the topic is known to be one of the most complex of the training.

Then followed the question whether I could give the theme evening “Pregnant Women’s Yoga”, since I have been teaching this for some time and had also attended further training on this.

And at some point, I was asked if I could imagine giving most of the Hatha part of the training. Why I was asked, I don’t know (laughs). I said yes directly, without knowing how I could even reconcile that with my work. In 2017, I started my first training, which I accompanied completely.

As a good yoga teacher, Vimala knows: laughing is healthy!

For all those who were not lucky enough to be in one of your training groups: What are your responsibilities at Teacher Training?

I teach 90% of the practical part, but often also give the lectures and lead pranayama and meditation. In addition, I am available to the participants for questions and like to give sometimes special lessons for the training in addition. During the pandemic, things like technique preparation and technique consultation have been added. Giving good training requires some organization and intuition in the background. The lesson plans, for example, are not that easy to create and you have to pay attention to a lot of details here. My colleague and I complement and support each other very well here.

What do you like most about it?

That’s hard to say, because I enjoy almost everything. Sure, checking the lesson plans with the literature references and such isn’t quite as nice, but it also has to be done and serves the greater good.

It is simply wonderful to be able to accompany people on their way for two years and to see the developments. So it fills me with deep joy to be able to give the trainings.

Is there also something that is rather difficult for you?

Proofreading the lesson plans is not necessarily my favorite task and of course some topics are easier and others more difficult for me to teach.

How long have you been a part of Yoga Vidya now?

In the training team since 2017, but before that I have also taught one or the other topic in the yoga teacher training.

In these 6 years of training support, has one experience in particular stuck in your memory?

This year (2023) I was present for the first time at a final weekend in the Westerwald and this was very touching and beautiful.

Overall, there were many beautiful and touching, as well as many funny and exhilarating moments. For example, the son of my training colleague, he must have been 4, sat down on my seat shortly before the beginning of the hour – most of the participants were already in Savasana – and simply said “it doesn’t work like that, you’re all doing it wrong.” Last year he was there almost the whole time during the partner yoga, despite his arm being in a cast, and we all had fun, especially when he then asked completely seriously who all wanted to eat pizza after the class.

How did you experience the trainings during Corona?

I was able to learn the names of the participants much faster thanks to the name insertion in Zoom (laughs).

Oh, itÔÇÖs rather rare to hear people pointing out advantages!

That was definitely an advantage. Overall, I felt the training was even more intense in a certain way, and I can’t describe it exactly.

Suddenly, a lot of the training leaders’ work revolved around technology and optimizing it. We had to adapt many things again and again at short notice on all levels and a lot of time was spent keeping up to date with the Corona regulations. All this organization was going on in addition to the actual training, and that was quite a challenge. For example, I now know what can be used for online lessons. 

It may sound strange, but in retrospect, the crisis has been very enriching for me. Many new ideas have developed and some of them have already been implemented. Without Corona, many of them would probably not have come into being.

Nevertheless, I am very happy that the actual training now takes place exclusively on site again, which makes the training evenings much easier. Whereas purely online is also quite okay, but hybrid is really exhausting, especially when the technology or the Internet does not play along. 

A less enjoyable and extremely challenging part of the time was the division of opinion among the training participants regarding the Corona measures. We always tried to bring everyone along, to understand everyone, but unfortunately, we weren’t always able to.

What kind of classes do you give when you are not training new yoga teachers?

I often give the pregnancy class or the class at the center and teach online on Sunday mornings. The last two years I have given a lot of workshops. This year I am leading the meditation teacher training in a weekend format at my place in Bad Nauheim Steinfurth. I substitute for a class now and then or teach additional classes, gladly special classes.

Before Corona I also had a great group in Steinfurth, but unfortunately this fell victim to Corona. At the moment, however, I don’t have the feeling of wanting to set up an additional permanent class again. Let’s see what the future brings.

Where would you like to put your focus in the future?

Right now, everything is good as it is, and everything else will show up and happen.

What do you wish for future yoga teacher trainings?

Motivated and inquisitive participants and a great training team.

In closing, what tip do you have for anyone considering taking a yoga teacher training?

I would check out the center beforehand, get to know the style and tradition a bit, listen to yourself and if it fits to some extent, then just be brave and go.

Thanks a lot for your time, Vimala!

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