Geoffrey Prather wasn't your typical YWTT candidate. A YogaWorks employee at the corporate office who produces video content for YogaWorks.com, he first came to yoga as many people do—to get a good "workout."
"I had been practicing yoga pretty regularly since 2013," says Prather, 36, who lives in Los Angeles. "I got into the harder slow classes looking to get a workout and sweat, and transitioned into Iyengar stuff, Hatha yoga. I wanted to understand the poses a little more, the alignment."
So this past fall—with no plans to become a yoga teacher—he decided "on a whim" to sign up for a 200-hour, three-month long, every-weekend YogaWorks teacher training, which concluded in early December.
"I decided to do it because the teacher, Mia Togo, made sense for me," Prather tells Yoga Journal. "I like how she blends in philosophy with asana. It's not all about the physical practice—it makes you think about spirituality, and allows you to think about where you’re at in your life rather than just getting a burn/getting in better shape."
However, signing up for a YWTT as someone who did NOT plan to teach yoga, but just wanted it to understand it better, had him feeling pretty out of place—at first.
"A lot of people had been practicing a lot longer than I had, and knew a lot more about asana and philosophy," Prather concedes. "I felt a little bit like, 'What am I doing here?'"
He was also surprised by how challenging the course was, both physically and beyond.
"You practice 2-3 hour classes, usually both weekend days, and that's a lot. It was 12 weekends every weekend. You're also doing poses in a way that's more involved."
The YogaWorks YWTT is different from other YTTs in its specificity regarding alignment, Prather explains. "It's intensive and in-depth, and shows you what yoga can provide emotionally, mentally, and physically. You're not pushing yourself into poses, but meeting your body where it’s at and being OK with that. I realized I'd been doing a lot of the poses completely wrong, and pushing my body further than I needed to, putting myself at risk. It's amazing how much detail the YogaWorks YWTT goes into in order to let you access the poses safely, but also while building strength and greater flexibility. I had torn my rotator cuff twice while playing sports as a teenager, and a lot of poses demand a lot of the shoulders. I learned new tools and modifications to protect myself. The YWTT gives you the opportunity to digest that stuff and incorporate it into your practice."
As far as the philosophy element of the training goes, Prather says he was surprised by how "confronting" it was.
"Yoga expects you to let go of things and be present in the moment in order to live a healthy life. Non-attachment, being disciplined, being mindful of all your choices, is a hard thing for a lot of people to do."
He was also a little taken aback by how much "sharing" was expected of him in the class of 32 people.
"You share stories in Sutra circles (where you take a Yoga Sutra and talk about how it applies to your life), and some are revealing. I’m not a big sharer, and people really poured their hearts out. To a degree, this was confronting for me, because I don’t do that. It made me uncomfortable, but not in a bad way. I realized, 'Why shouldn’t I be more open?' It's a beautiful thing. It's probably going to be a long process, but I’ve definitely tried to apply a lot of the Sutras to my life."
Midway through the YWTT, Prather realized how much he looked forward to seeing his fellow trainees, who were strangers only weeks ago.
"You get to know people and look forward to seeing those people. When it's over, you're getting a big chunk of your life back, but you're also saying goodbye to people who had a big impact on your life. However, I've stayed in touch with several of them and consider them wonderful friends."
And while he still doesn't plan to become a yoga teacher, he "100 percent" recommends the training to anyone who wants to understand yoga better and learn how to practice more safely.
"You will be challenged, and you will have times when you want to bail, but if you stick with it it's rewarding in the end. You will get your money’s worth for sure."