After my accident I chose to change career as it became apparent that even regaining full executive function of my brain, I could not maintain the stamina of being a lawyer mostly due to the stress of deadlines and full-time nature of the work. Choices you make about teacher training have a huge impact on recovery and wellbeing.
Pilates Intensive teacher training
Before I was a lawyer I taught dance and fitness, I had always intended to return to this as my ‘retirement plan’, so I decided to bring my retirement forward. 13 months post-accident I took my STOTT PILATES® training as an intensive 8 day training in London of days 10:30am to 16:30pm with homework in the evenings.
I only did this course – no social life, no added work or studies – I took the bus in London to save the overwhelm of the tube and was a ‘quiet’ person not interacting too much with my peers on breaks. I spent 3 months preparing for the course, with already 8 years of training in the form and 7 years at the centre I was training – I knew my theory, practical and teachers well. This reduced new information or cognitive demand during this training, which massively helped my experience. However, I did have a ‘PCS hangover’ for about 10 days after the training completed, which thankfully I had nothing to do but rest at that time.
I then took 9 months to complete my components for the exam, building stamina for teaching days over this time. The exam itself was hard. The volume of information, accuracy of knowledge, intensity of 60 minutes on the spot questioning – I knew I used to love this as a lawyer and could feel how much slower my brain was, and how much more exhausting the experience was from my pre-injury days.
Since that training I have done several of these Pilates trainings in London. Always intensive and slowly I built more stamina around them, being able to teach before and after study days, and work in between. These are intellectual and physically demanding trainings on the mind and body, but the ‘teaching’ element is self-evaluated in your preparation for your exam reducing some of the intensity during the course.
Yoga Intensive teacher training
Similar to Pilates, I have studied yoga for 10 years before taking a teacher training. I have the alignment, anatomy and teaching skills from teaching Pilates and dance – so there is little stress for these skills in the training. I was eager to learn about the philosophy behind yoga and deepen my spiritual journey with the support of the experience around me. I carefully chose a teacher who worked with brain injuries and was a certified yoga therapist to ensure I had a quality I could trust.
What I underestimated was the emotional intensity of living with 26 other students 24/7 for 18 days in a hot country, where there is an emphasis on your spiritual self-growth. One area of change has been my susceptibility to others’ emotions and in this situation, that was a lot, and like me there were many others seeking a change or deeper spiritual connection in their life path.
Meditations and classes designed to help open us to the experience, meant that there were often tears of release during and after class. The support of the group was beautiful, such loving and kind people sharing in each other’s unique awakening or grief of their souls. Long days of 6am through 9pm with only 3 hours off each day and physical practice in heat of 35 Celsius, meant we were physically and mentally tired.
The emotional intensity is not to be underestimated. Sadness and joy both drain the brain. This required a great deal of alone time – missing group activities, sleep and walks in nature. Watching the beauty around, finding quiet and contentment in present moment. The training brought me back to my passion for meditation and peace.
Meditation has been a continual key to my recovery. This is not emphasised in Pilates training where the focus of the mind can be a huge benefit to executive brain function recovery, but is a huge part of yoga training. Yoga training is more about the self-journey and is less preparation about being a movement teacher than Pilates, which focuses on teaching the physical body safely and effectively. Both are hugely beneficial as a path of recovery, if you can manage the intensity of the trainings. Maybe start with a retreat and build from there?