On Becoming a Yoga Teacher

This is a guest post by Gita Loosz

As a young girl, I literally avoided all forms of exercise.  Don’t ask me to run, and if you saw me running, run, odds are that there was something chasing me,  Rest assured, it will probably catch me long before it gets to you.  I couldn’t figure it out….  And came to the natural negative conclusion (echoed by my sisters and other family members) that I was just simply lazy.  When I had a medical done, just prior to my final yoga teacher training assessment, there it was:  a heart murmur, caused by a sticky valve in one of the ventricles.  So, I told my doctor about my anathema for any form of cardio exercise, and in her infinite wisdom, she quite simply stated:  “If you had done any form of cardio exercise, even as a young child, you would have had a heart attack, because your heart cannot provide enough oxygenated blood fast enough to your muscles, due to this sticky valve!  Your body was protecting itself!”

Wow!!! Not so lazy after all.  I was just being naturally protective over my body and keeping myself safe.  Who would have guessed?  But I jump ahead of myself,  my training to become a yoga teacher was filled with angst, doubt, indecision and a LOT OF TEARS.

In my forties, and tipping the scales at 100kg, I realised; “Hey girl, if you want to have a decent old age, you’re going to have to do something”.  Because I avoided all forms of cardio, I decided that yoga was probably the best exercise for the “lazy” girl that I thought I was.  Fortunately, as a meditation teacher, I stumbled across an Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Joan Pickworth, who challenged me.  She simply asked:  When are you going to start doing Iyengar yoga in addition to all this wonderful Raja Yoga that you are practising and teaching?  Well, after about 4 excuses as to why not, including that I didn’t have the time and I was too busy working and teaching, she said, “Well, what if I come and teach classes at your centre?”   How could I refuse?  In one fell swoop, Joan removed all the excuses and my journey with Iyengar Yoga began.

We called it the Torture Chamber.  Hoping to God that it would all end soon.  Joan regularly joked that Yoga was very spiritual because everyone was praying:  Oh God, Oh God, let it end soon.  But it worked.  From 100kgs, I slimmed down within the first year to 10kgs lighter, although that was not the aim, it was a great perk. 

I loved Joan’s classes, as did the other students.  In fact, it went so well, that her classes outgrew our centre and she was forced to move to a bigger venue.  Regrettably, I couldn’t move, due to aforesaid excuses.  However there were a couple of students who wished to continue at my Centre,  they encouraged me to continue yoga sessions at my place.  I asked them, with a shrug, “But who would be our teacher?”  I recall one of them saying:  “You’re such a great teacher, you could teach anything – so you could be our teacher,”  I was shocked to the core.  However, I took up the challenge,  thankfully,  a dear resourceful friend who knew how to research the internet, we found ourselves an Iyengar Yoga teacher –  surprise!  He was going to be in St Francis Bay for a retreat the very next weekend.  So said friend and I pulled on our leggings and trekked out to St Francis for a workshop in someone’s studio.  Well, we were aghast.  It was DREADFUL.  We huffed and puffed and felt terribly out of our depth.  I felt close to tears most of the time, since we were clearly not fit enough for 8 hours of yoga and after consultation, we decided at lunch time (after 4 hours of feeling completely inadequate) that we would go home.  So I approached the teacher and informed him of our departure.  I will never forget that moment, because this very intimidating and powerful personality looked into my eyes and softly asked: “Please, don’t leave”. 

When I saw the true person in that moment, I realised that his tough and acerbic approach was masking a really sweet and soft personality.  Actually, he was like this because he had been taught by Dr Iyengar and had clearly inherited his rigorous style and method of teaching.  So I told my dear friend; “no, we are going to guts it out and finish these 8 hours, let’s chalk it up to experience.”

After that initial weekend, I made a concerted effort to continue my association with my teacher.    I invited him and his partner to Port Elizabeth and suggested that the next time they had to conduct a workshop in our city, they would be more than welcome to stay with us.

I recall when we were traveling in the car on the Saturday afternoon after another gruelling 8 hours’ workshop, I asked him if it would be possible that I could become an Iyengar Yoga instructor,  as it was benefiting me so much, and I already had a willing and keen group of students, a captive audience so to speak! Out of respect for my students, I believed that it only fitting and in the best interest of all concerned that I undertake the proper and correct training. 

My teacher, graciously and generously, said to me:

 “Gita, because of your own struggles, you will make the BEST teacher.  Those who find yoga easy are awful teachers, since they cannot understand why others can’t do as they do.  You, with your weight challenges, and perceived drawbacks, will understand your students so well, and be the best teacher of all”.

He made it happen for me in that moment.  And so, after 4 years of blood, sweat and tears (and the discovery of a heart murmur) I graduated in 2016 as a Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher – only one of 3 in Port Elizabeth.  To this day, I am grateful to both my teacher and his amazing partner for their inspiration and support.  Without them, Joan Pickworth and my wonderful best friend, I would never have made the grade.

The moral of the story?  Trust your body – it knows what you need.  And dream big.  You never know what you might achieve.

Gita Loosz is the Regional Representative for Iyengar Yoga in the Eastern Cape and currently teaches Iyengar Yoga in Port Elizabeth and surrounds.  Gita can be contacted via her Facebook page “Yogita Yoga and Lifestyle Centre

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  • Terence

    Very inspirational.
    If you aren’t living your BEST life, are you living at all?

  • Michelle

    This is such an inspiring story. I have been contemplating doing a pilates instructors course. Yes I also have a stream of excuses. It’s now time to change from Why I can’t to why I can. Thank you Gail and Gita

    • Gita Loosz

      Michelle, do not wait! Go for it! Sign up now and start your dream. You never know where it may take you. I am infinitely grateful to all on my journey and am thrilled to have inspired you too. All the best for your Pilates Instructor Course.

  • Sanette Cavallari

    Inspired !