I am currently enrolled in a Yoga teacher training program. I first completed a Level I 36-hour immersion course that introduced us to the concepts that are further explored in the 200-hour RYT program. To fully complete the Level I program, we were required to teach a full 60 minute class. While I have a slight fear of public speaking, I am not too plagued by stage fright. However, my fear of the teaching final was based in doubts I had about myself. Had I learned enough over the course of 2 full weekends? Would I know appropriate modifications? What if I just completely screw up? I am not a quitter by nature, so I knew I would have to push through the teaching final and I was able to do so knowing that my Yoga teacher-guide (my name for my teacher training instructor) was in the back of the room. That hour actually went a lot faster than I anticipated it would and I received lots of positive and encouraging feedback about my Yoga instruction. One woman even told me, “When you start holding classes, I will be sure to take yours! I love your style!” I felt proud. More importantly, in that moment, I felt confident.
Fast forward to a few months later, when I signed up for and began attending the 200-hour Level II class. I absolutely love being in the learning space and talking Yoga all day long. I love the asana clinics and the one-on-one attention we receive from our instructor and other classmates. But I begin to freeze when we have to practice teach each other and even though the program will not conclude until August, I am already freaking out about the 90 minute class we will have to teach as our final. “But you’ve already taught 60 minutes,” is probably what you as the reader want to say to me. Believe me, I tell that to myself. I know what’s at the root of it all, is the level of confidence and belief I have in myself.
Asana-wise, this struggle is mainly reflected in my attempt to do a handstand. As soon as I know we are going to try this particular inversion, my heart races, my palms start to sweat and I start thinking “Oh boy, I am going to flop and flail all over the place.” But in support of my classmates, and myself, I attempt to try handstands as best I can. And I have gotten all the way up – with the support of the wall and either my teacher or my classmates holding me up. I have yet to let go and do it on my own. When I think of my struggle with this, I think of what Yoga teacher-guide tells us about certain asanas being emotional locks; those poses that, when we turn the lock on them, will help us release whatever is holding us back emotionally. Since a large part of handstand is confidence in the self, I know that it is an asana that is an emotional lock for me. In my heart, I believe that once I master it, I will be well on the path of releasing self-doubts and embracing more confidence in my abilities.
As part of our training program, we are required to do three at-home practices on our own, not using DVDs or going to other studios. Some weeks can be rough due to work and me being a single mother, but I am usually pretty good about finding the time to get my home practices done. Last week was a great week for my home practice. I felt myself really connecting to and going deeper with some of the asanas. This week, not so much. I’ve been letting the “I’m tired” excuse get the best of me and as of last night, I’d only completed one home practice for the week. So before going to bed, I attempted to get a practice in, which would be the second of the day, and I planned to complete the third upon waking this morning. But last night I struggled on the mat. I was sure to do pranayama and put on my most favorite Yoga music, but I simply couldn’t connect and this was most apparent in my attempt to do Virabhadrasana I; a pose that usually comes easy for me. I couldn’t recall if the foot facing the mat should be 45 degrees or 90 degrees. I felt like I remembered hearing 45 in class, but 90 degrees felt more comfortable for me. And I know Yoga is about honoring where your body is, but I wanted to be sure I was doing it right. So I consulted my teaching manual and Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga,” but I still felt like I just wasn’t getting it. Then, for the first time, I began to question whether I was doing the right thing by engaging on this teacher training journey. If I am unable to complete a handstand or even get my Warrior I right, then who am I to be trying to teach other people? I began to think of the practice teaching sessions I set up with a co-worker for next week and I freaked out. I started telling myself that I have no business trying to teach any body Yoga. I began feeling frustrated and I stepped off my mat in a huff. That is the first time I have ever looked at my mat with any type of disdain.
Just as I was about to text a friend and tell him that I quit, did someone from my studio family text me out of the blue with the simple words of “Love and Light.” I immediately forgot about the other friend I was going to text, and responded with “You are so on time!” And I began to convey what I was feeling. Their response was loving encouragement and a reminder that I have been blessed with a gift and my light shines brightly. I believe this was a whisper from the Universe to keep going.
It is not my intention to give up on this journey, and the encouragement from that text helped, but admittedly, I woke up today still questioning myself and I did not attempt my practice as I had planned. This feeling is scary and downright makes me feel sad. It is also making me question my efforts in other areas of my life: my desire to change my career and my relationship with my mate. I am asking myself, “Who am I to be attempting any of this?” My instincts tell me this is part of the growing pains of this journey, because it’s not just about what Yoga will do for me physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.
We often hear the quote, “The moment you feel like giving up is when your breakthrough happens.” I pray that my breakthrough is happening and more so, that I am not alone in feeling this way. It’s been two weeks since our last training session and I am back at it tomorrow. Although I am afraid of the self-doubt I feel, I am also looking forward to being back in my safe and sacred space. We always open our sessions by discussing what we are working through and I most certainly plan on sharing this internal struggle. And if my breakthrough is just around the corner, who knows? Maybe I’ll end the weekend by doing a handstand on my own.
Love and Light.