Reflections on Teacher Training: Yoga Saved My Life by Kyle Heyesen

I grew up in a chaotic and difficult household. Both of my parents were addicts and my four sisters and I were exposed to and experienced domestic violence, physical and verbal abuse, neglect and toxic stress. As a result I didn’t have great coping skills. In fact they were terrible! I would even have violent outbursts in school and was suspended more than once for getting into fights. I struggled for years with different negative outcomes from the trauma of my childhood including depression, anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation and a general feeling of dullness and disengagement with life. Later in life came across a quote by e.e. cummings “unbeing dead isn’t being alive!” that struck me with profound clarity. 

Just because we are living, it doesn’t mean we are alive or fully awake in our lives. I became curious about what being alive could really be like. I stumbled into my first yoga class and it was there I began to understand that my life didn’t have to be ridden with the myriad of negative outcomes of unprocessed trauma I was experiencing. I, for the first time I could remember, felt moments of peace, and the layers of difficulty and trauma began to loosen and fall away. One of my sweet sisters, on a different path, became an addict and passed away from a drug overdose at only 32 years old. This being human, especially with trauma and immense stress, is life or death stuff. I know to the depths of my being that yoga saved my life!

Due to the powerful experience of yoga and impact the practice had on me personally, I was inspired to teach and began searching for a teacher training (TT). I found a 200 hour TT in Mankato, MN at Sun Moon Studios in 2001. One weekend a month for 7 months I traveled with two friends to embark on the journey of deepening my own practice and working towards sharing the gifts of yoga with others. I now have two 200 hour level teacher training certifications.

 The first one was an eclectic yoga training teaching from a variety of traditions (Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Yin Yoga, Kundilini, Hatha....) heavily focused on the asana practice.  I started teaching yoga right away but longed for more depth. The second TT I completed was at Yoga North in Duluth, which at the time was Himalayan tradition hatha yoga focused and rich in yogic philosophy.  I have also taken a variety of workshops over the years including with world renown teachers David Swensen (Ashtanga) and Desiree Rumbaugh (Anusara).  I also have a certificate in trauma-informed yoga from Firefly Yoga International.

I realized that my stance in life had been one of suffering as the rule and joy the exception. This is the definition of “unbeing dead isn’t being alive” to me, sleepwalking through life, plugged fully into unnecessary suffering. Through yoga practice, teacher training and teaching yoga, it has been revealed that joy is the rule and suffering and difficulty the exception. I once felt that almost everything was stressful and unbearable; but now, I experience that, with the tools and skills in yoga practice, I can face and bear anything life presents, even tragedy and significant loss. I have overcome my diagnoses, have weaned off of psychotropic medication I once needed to cope with day to day living, and my trauma has been transformed. Plus, I no longer have angry outbursts and fight people – which is a bonus and keeps me out of jail ☺

Each of these deeper learning immersive experiences further healed me and in the most significant and embodied way possible, re-connected me in mind, body and spirit. The term yoga means to yolk or unite. This is a daily and on-going opportunity and through my practice, my trainings and in teaching, I continue to return to my true self, the still point that exists at the center of each of our beings – the Namaste place of light, love, truth and peace…the most incredible place to discover as a pilgrim of life and return to again and again. Our true home!

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”

~  Hafiz of Shiraz   


Hilary Buckwalter Kesti