Kid Yogini Beginnings
I really think it’s safe to say I’ve been doing yoga my whole life. All I would ever do after school was roll around on the carpet with my little sister, watching The Smurfs and doing yoga poses that I called “My Stretches.” I never wore jeans because I needed to wear stretchy pants so I could do “my stretches”. I often got in trouble with my mom in the parking lot of the grocery store for being barefoot and not having brought shoes.
Yoga Was Just Initially Just Stretching For Me.
I grew up, I went to high school, I gained weight eating rice crispy treats everyday for lunch. I was straight-up lazy. I liked swimming and stretching, but didn’t do it often, and I didn’t like exerting energy. After high school, I dated a guy who was into body building, and I got very into fitness and strength training. I lifted weights five days a week, and went to school for Personal Training Certification at The National Personal Training Institute of San Francisco. I did yoga as a supplement to my strength training to aid my flexibility and agility. I thought yoga people were silly with their talk of opening hearts and stuff, but it was soothing and nice to stretch. It was a challenge to slow down, and I didn’t like yoga classes that didn’t challenge me physically.
I started practicing yoga regularly, initially just to complement my strength training. The focus on breathing and the slowness of it all annoyed me at times, especially if I never ended up breaking a sweat. What was with the chakras and mandalas and Tibetan flags and Hindu deities and hippy stuff? It was all a bit weird and beyond my understanding, but I loved the isometric challenge of holding the poses, and the deep stretches made my body feel amazing. Savasana at the end was a lovely treat. Concentrating on my breath, and not what I was doing after class, was the most challenging part of my yoga practice.
Life went on, and growing challenges faced me. I left my son’s father and spent a few long years seeking comfort in relationships, only to find unsure footing. I went through a deep period of depression, anxiety and emotional drowning. I dove into yoga as life therapy, and it started to change me. During certain poses, I would feel as though I was being wrung from my pain. It would pour out of my eyes, and my throat would tighten as I breathed deeply through the emotional pain and confusion. I was NOT a spiritual person, but had always been deeply emotional. Through time, dedication, and reflection, I began to find a greater depth in my yoga practice. My meditations at the end of class started to give me feelings of bliss and euphoria, as the peaceful mental silence I had been cultivating was bringing me immense joy. It was a welcome, joyous break from the constant mental chatter and agony of insecurity and feelings of being completely lost. Yoga was a place I could cry silently in an ambient room and heal myself.
The Start of Yoga Teacher Training.
The years went on, and yoga became a huge part of my life. I enrolled for Yoga Teacher Certification Training in September of 2015. I knew the experience would be challenging, but more than anything, I expected it to be great fun. Yoga philosophy and practice all weekend every weekend for three months, although an intense time commitment, sounded completely dreamy. I had spent the summer camping, I was ready to buckle down and dedicate myself to the training.
I’m Wary of Large Groups of Women.
Yoga Teacher Training began as complete fun. There were eight of us, and although I was excited to meet other yogis, I was also weary of spending this much time every week with the same eight women. I have had many experiences with groups of women that have made me wary of spending large amounts of time with that much female energy. I’m an empath and somewhat of an introvert. I avoid gossip and negative energy as much as possible. That being said, these women seemed cool, except a couple of them seemed to be a bit judgmental of others, so I took mental note. The funny thing is, as the weeks went on, all of us became close and bonded in different individual ways. As my spiritual practices were including much self-reflection, I realized my initial judgment of some of my classmates being judgmental was pretty hypocritical! As time went on and I found much in common with these loving and ambitious women, and came to genuinely love and appreciate every one individually.
We began every Friday night with a practice, then would have a guest teacher showcase a certain aspect of yoga for the evening, from 6:30 to 9:30pm. The subject matter would be anything from Ayurveda, Anatomy, Alignment, The 8 Limbs of Yoga, Pranayama, all kinds of fascinating topics in the realm of all things yoga. Saturday and Sunday were spend learning pose alignment and teaching techniques. It was so fascinating, I couldn’t take enough notes!
School Gets Hard.
Then came when we began round robin teaching each other. My joy turned to anxiety when I had the seemingly obvious realization that teaching yoga meant everyone listening and looking at ME. I have had an intense fear of public speaking that was unfortunately exacerbated by a traumatizing experience in college. Suddenly, my dear, beloved yoga had a sharp edge: in order to teach, you can’t hide in the back of the class. You can’t wear your hood and blend in. You have to be confident and LEAD. My anxiety grew to debilitating heights as my mind went blank each time it was my turn to teach.
One day, our teacher told us that the following weekend would be all practice-teaching each other. Every day that week, I woke up with a pit in my stomach, knowing that teaching was days away. I would stand in the shower and breathe deeply, trying to calm myself. Finally the day came. I sat up on the edge of my bed, breathing deeply, and staring ahead of me, my chest heaving and my fists clenched. I felt intense energy in my hands, I kept wringing them and trying to breathe calmly while my entire body tensed and my heart raced. I started sobbing, and although I needed to take a shower and get ready, I couldn’t move. My mind knew what I needed to do, yet my body and emotions were having a breakdown, which made my mind have even more anxiety. I texted a classmate and let them know I was going to be late. When I arrived, they had waited for me, which was embarrassing. I was still hyperventilating and gritting my teeth, my body was resisting going to school with every last fiber of my being.
My teacher calmed me and got me to come inside. With the other women being so calm and understanding, I broke down and sobbed, telling my story through gritted teeth and intense body shakes. I was so embarrassed, so mad at myself for showing such intense vulnerability. Everyone was incredibly sympathetic and kind. We did a grounding meditation, and broke off into pairs to practice teaching instead of teaching the whole group. I was so relieved to be shown such compassion. In the weeks to follow, each woman in our group had a breakdown for a different reason on a different day. Yoga brings out emotional baggage, and it was so comforting to know I wasn’t the only one walking through the fire. We were learning this together.
I wish I could say I got over myself and that the rest of the training went smoothly, but this fear of public speaking and leading was a deep hole and my walls were high and mighty. I cried and continued feeling stressed until I tweaked my neck and couldn’t move it from side to side for several days. I had to get through this without giving up. I sobbed for hours daily, I kept making mistakes and forgetting things. My body felt racked with fear and cortisol. I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t stop going. I didn’t know how to stop the shaking and crying and racing thoughts day and night. Meditation was nearly impossible, I would fidget and cry while my mind raced.
You have a Choice: Fear or Love.
One night, I went on the internet and watched numerous yoga videos. I came to realize that I had two choices. One, let my fear debilitate me and continue living in this parasympathetic state until stress manifested itself into bodily illness. Or Two, face this fear and just pretend that I’m Kino McGregor. I went to school the next day, and when it was my turn, I pretended I was playing “yoga teacher”. I said all the things yoga teachers say in class. I got my head out of the way of what I knew in my heart, and just parroted all the yoga teachers’ cues that I had heard so many times practicing. After my turn, my classmates looked amazed and remarked that I seemed like a completely different person! I had turned a corner.
I finally finished Yoga Teacher Training through perseverance and an intense amount of support from my friends and family. I am so grateful for this experience, because I don’t have the best track record for finishing what I start. This is one of my worst traits, and it messes with my self-esteem. Pushing through my fear instead of avoiding it and actually finishing strong was a huge accomplishment for me, that went beyond the scope of just yoga. Finishing yoga teacher training is a milestone in my life that changed me. Growing can be painful and intense, and I’m so happy to know what I’m capable of and to be on the other side of fear. I’m also happy to have learned that I can be whoever I decide to be. That who I’ve always been, doesn’t need to be who I am, if it’s time to grow.
If you’re considering yoga teacher training, I highly recommend you go for it. Only growth and positivity can come from the experience, no matter how difficult the challenges prove to be. I’m acutely aware now that all that happens is setting me up for an even better future. Meditation and yoga bring magic into my life. If you are passionately in love with yoga, and have a regular meditation practice, I encourage you to dive in and do a teacher training! It will definitely change you, in the best ways.
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