Breaking Down the Barriers We Unknowingly Build Around Ourselves - 5 Questions with Chelsea Belfer, Graduate of Yoga 4 Change's First Teacher Training Program

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26-year-old Chelsea Belfer grew up an hour-and-a-half south of Jacksonville, in Ormond Beach, Florida. Chelsea maintained an active life during her adolescent years, finding enjoyment in playing soccer and surfing. In fact, soccer played a central role in Chelsea's life.  She played competitively, starting in elementary school and continuing through college. Chelsea received her Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a minor in Sustainability from Florida Institute of Technology.  

During Chelsea's junior year of college, her soccer coach required the team to participate in a yoga class, which was offered once a week through the school. This is when she began to see the benefits of including yoga as part of her weekly routine. Chelsea had previously incurred a groin injury and she noticed that when practicing yoga the injury bothered her less; she wasn't experiencing her usual soreness or tightness. 

Like many other young adults, Chelsea didn't know what direction she wanted to venture after graduating college.  She did, however, know that she wanted to focus on sustainability. She simply didn't know where to start.  She spent some time traveling immediately following her graduation, and eventually began working at Trader Joe's. The company provided a flexible schedule that allowed her to continue pursuing her interests and travel.

Eventually, Chelsea started to feel dejected after searching out, applying to, and interviewing for jobs that utilized her education.  She began to doubt herself, not knowing what she wanted to do or if she was even qualified for the jobs she was applying for.  This led to Chelsea feeling stuck.

In midst of searching for her next opportunity, Chelsea applied to be a volunteer intern for Yoga 4 Change. This is when she met Yoga 4 Change's founder, Kathryn Thomas. "When I learned more about Yoga 4 Change I was so impressed. I wanted to be involved and help in any way that I could." As a volunteer, Chelsea helped with events and social media, amongst other things. 

Chelsea and Alan Calkins were the first two individuals to participate in Yoga 4 Change's teacher training program.  Both Chelsea and Alan completed their training in December 2017 and are now teaching community classes through Yoga 4 Change.  

5 Questions with Chelsea Belfer

What initially attracted you to become a yoga practitioner and why did you choose to pursue teacher training?  Additionally, what was the deciding factor in you enrolling in Yoga 4 Change's training program opposed to other training programs offered? 

In the beginning, I was very interested in learning more about the practice of yoga and the effects on the body and mind.  I had witnessed the positive impacts in my own life.  After volunteering for Yoga 4 Change, my interest deepened further when I learned more about the mental and physical health benefits because of the data the organization collected.  I saw firsthand how yoga can change a person's life.

After attending every Trauma Informed Workshop that Yoga 4 Change offered, I knew that there was no other training program through which I would gain as much information and then be able to implement what I learned in my everyday life. The workshops gave me a different perspective on how impactful our words are and how to empower those who have experienced trauma in their lives. At that point, I knew I wanted to become a teacher for Yoga 4 Change and help to create a positive change in our community. 

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What were some expectations or assumptions that you had prior to starting the training program and how do those expectations and assumptions compare to your experience now that you've completed your training?

When starting the training, I thought that I might be in over my head. I so badly wanted to be good. I didn't want to let anyone down, especially myself. I expected that it would be hard work, but I didn't realize that the hardest part would be self-inquiry and the journey of looking further inward.

I knew I would learn a lot about yoga and the body in this training.  But, I didn't anticipate how much I would learn about myself. I had no idea the challenges I'd face when breaking down the barriers we unknowingly build around ourselves. I think that is what made this training so special. I was able to be open, real, honest, and present, without judgment.  Now I can pass that same level of trust on to my future students. 

What have you learned about yourself as a result of attending and completing Yoga 4 Change's teacher training program?

I have learned that I am very hard on myself. I am my own worst critic.  I know I'm not alone in this and that others also feel this way towards themselves too. I have learned that I let my fears stand in the way of accomplishing my goals. But, I have also been given the tools to overcome those feelings.

I have also learned that I can teach an awesome yoga class, and that is probably one of the best feelings in the world.

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How has practicing yoga positively impacted your life?  How do you feel being a teacher will further enrich your experience or impact your life?

Practicing yoga has given me the ability to be happy in my own body. Yoga is a chance for me to come back to my body instead of always being in my head. Yoga has given me gratitude for my breath. I feel I am more in tune with my body and that I am able to clear my mind and focus on the present moment. 

I feel that being a teacher, I can share what I have learned with others and encourage them to get on their mats and out of their heads. Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. I believe that through teaching I will learn even more about myself, which I am excited about!

What was a specific moment during the teacher training program that you felt you experienced a breakthrough or achieved a great accomplishment?

There were many times during the training when I felt accomplished.  But, I would have to say that the very first community class at Hotel Palms that Alan and I taught was a huge moment for me.

I was so incredibly nervous. I could feel the nerves in my stomach, my throat, my chest, almost all over my entire body. It was my first time teaching to a large group of people, outside, and for people other than Kathryn, Angela, Alan, and a few close friends.

I had a few small hiccups during the class, but nothing that I couldn't overcome. After teaching that class I knew I could do this. I felt so much more confident in myself and comfortable in front of people. I will never forget that day.  It gave me the confidence I needed to complete the training. 

Are you interested in understanding what 'Trauma Informed Yoga' is and how it benefits various populations?  Please join Yoga 4 Change on Saturday, January 27, 2018 for our Intro to Trauma Informed Yoga workshop.  The workshop is designed to offer a physiological framework of what trauma is and how trauma manifests in the body and mind.

Additionally, Yoga 4 Change is offering our second round of 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) training, starting on January 27, 2018.  This training is ideal for anyone interested in becoming a Yoga Teacher or focused on incorporating Trauma Informed Techniques into their teaching.

Patrick Fisher