The career of teaching yoga here in the Philippines is a path still travelled by a minority. Being a yoga teacher is more than just being able to instruct poses, where to put this foot or this hand or which muscle to work or relax. It takes a whole lot of energy, love and commitment to keep studying, to keep asking questions, to keep digging, to constantly reflect about oneself, and to take the journey inwards to be able to authentically affect others. The life of a yoga teacher is a life of learning, re-learning, un-learning and non-stop sharing.
Urban Yogi caught up with Cebu-based teacher, Bernadette Wan Pacana, to ask her about her journey as a yoga teacher and why this is the life she has chosen.
Urban Yogi: Hi Bernadette! You’ve been a teacher for two years now. What were your biggest takeaways from your YogaWorks teacher training? Give us a short background on what life was like for you and what made you decide to take on this path?
Bernadette: Yoga came to me as a physical practice. For someone who loves dancing and cardio exercise, it was very challenging to hold poses, to form my body into weird shapes and be still. All along I thought I was “in shape” and yoga will just be another workout. Little did I now that I was drawn to it more than its physical benefits…
I felt really good after each practice. Blame it on the savasana! Whatever it was, it kept me coming back. I wanted to learn more so I asked my teacher, who got her certification with YogaWorks, how I can deepen my practice. The path led me to YogaWorks TT in Urban Ashram in 2012. I wanted to deepen my practice. I was not sure if I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I did know that I want other people to experience the “good feeling” that I got out of it. David encouraged me to teach… And so I did. And here I am.
The teacher training taught me these:
- Doing the poses is different from teaching them.
- There is a science behind the poses – understanding anatomy and why we do the poses that way is important.
- It takes a lot of patience to teach beginners. But it so rewarding.
- It is more than just a physical practice; It is mind, body, spirit connection. “Yoga is the journey, of the self, through the self, to the self”
- There is so much to learn.
- I am my best teacher. And I will always be a student.
UY: What sort of impact has your teacher trainer, David Kim, had in your life as a yoga teacher and as a practitioner?
Bernadette: I am very blessed to have David as my Sensei, my teacher. If he did not encourage me to teach, I would not start teaching. He saw it in me when I doubted myself. Even after the training, I asked for his advice and guidance about the trainings/certifications I wanted to take to deepen my practice and further my yoga education. His words of wisdom have always helped me get more clarity when the path got blurry. He never stopped encouraging me to pursue the passion that I found in teaching. He has been a source of inspiration, from the start. I will always be grateful for his support and teachings.
Bernadette with her co-teacher trainees at Urban Ashram, 2012
UY: Being a yoga teacher is generally a new career option, what would you say were your challenges teaching in a place where you had to pave the way for creating a yoga community in Cebu?
Bernadette: Coming from the corporate world where I was used to have a more comfortable monthly salary and where my travel expenses were covered by the company, shifting to become a full time yoga teacher was indeed a very big leap. I have to admit that it was hard, and it still is. It has been 2 years. I had to make a lot of adjustments and sacrifices… I started accepting so many classes and private clients to earn as much I earned in my corporate job (an illusion!). And since yoga was relatively new in Cebu, I could not really charge a good rate for private classes. (Even until now.) I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. I would start to doubt if I should go back to the corporate world and stare at numbers again. But I kept teaching because it was rewarding and fulfilling. I am happy and I love every bit of it. My students make me smile. I knew that it was something that I want to continue doing – sharing my yoga, wherever I go.
To be part owner of YogaHub Philippines, the best yoga studio in Cebu, is indeed one of the greatest blessings. The yoga community we have built since we started 3 years ago is continuously growing. We are very happy to be spreading health and wellness in Cebu through the yoga practice.
UY: What do you think is special about the YogaWorks training program and why would you recommend it?
Bernadette: I have 7 reasons why I keep coming back to YogaWorks.
- They teach me How to Teach, not just how to do the poses properly. Because doing is definitely different from teaching.
- It’s not just about Asana (poses), but I learn Anatomy, Philosophy (which is a lot about how to be good to myself and others – to be the best version of me), Teaching Techniques, and Life!
- Alignment is not to make the pose look pretty but for safety, accessibility, and to “avoid future suffering”.
- I love the science and art of sequencing.
- They’ve been holding teacher trainings for a long time that their system of training has been proven to be effective and efficient. They keep up with changing times!
- The manuals are comprehensive and very well thought of. I still continue to use them.
- The teachers are awesome – well educated, experienced, with hearts full of compassion and sense of service. I love David and Heather. I am so blessed to be continuously learning from them!
UY: What is it that you love about teaching yoga?
Bernadette: I teach because it is my way of giving back, to others and to God.
I have been blessed to have learned from so many great teachers who have inspired me to continue on with this journey. The practice has transformed me in so many ways that make my life more meaningful and beautiful. To share my yoga, to make it reachable to many (thus the BeYoga campaign – Yoga Within Reach) so others may also enjoy the benefits of the practice, is my passion, my purpose.
My students inspire me, every day. They make me smile, they fill my heart with all sorts of love… And that is enough to make this journey worthwhile.
UY: Now that you’re travelling and teaching alongside your teachers in YogaWorks , please share your thoughts, experience, realisations, takeaways from this experience of being away from your hometown.
Bernadette: God has led to where I am now.
This has not been an easy journey, especially coming from Asia where the opportunity to be part of YogaWorks is so slim (or non-existent). I had to create opportunities for myself, reached out to people who believed in me and surrounded myself with people who support me.
When I was told “No…”, “Sorry, there is no opportunity for you…”, We cannot…”, I felt frustrated, disappointed, and not enough. But then again, I know in my heart that this is what I want to do. So with God’s guidance, I kept going. I continued to study and polish my craft, continued to teach and learn. Then doors started to open for me – YogaWorks saw my dedication to the path. I was able to assist Teacher Trainings in Saigon,Vietnam and New York City, and will be assisting in Manila. (I just took my YogaWorks certification, and I passed! I am now officially a YogaWorks certified teacher! I did not let rejection stop me from pursuing my passion, I used it to motivate me to stay hungry and curious.
I have always loved traveling – I travel to explore and learn. So I embrace every opportunity that YogaWorks provides me to share my yoga outside of Cebu or Philippines. Also, being able to teach and learn in other countries/places allow me to observe different bodies; see how the practice affects them (or like what draws them to it); and simply learn from how they practice. Its amazing how unique each place is. The more I learn, the more I have to share.
I am grateful for this path that I am taking. Its definitely been a roller coaster ride, but thats what makes this journey exciting! I know that if I keep my heart open and trust in His plans, blessings will continue to flow.
Do what you love. Love what you do.
If you’re interested in becoming a yoga teacher, join the 200HR YogaWorks Teacher Training happening this October, only at Urban Ashram Manila.
Follow Bernadette on her BeYoga Facebook Page. Click here.