Monday, July 16, 2018

Yoga Teacher Training - Month Two Reflection

On the yoga mat, when the poses get difficult, one can return to downward dog to catch a breath and reset before resuming the practice. Off the mat, my reset button is my writing. This weekend of yoga teacher training necessitated some writing time.

Friday night was test night when we had to recite the first ten poses of the yogahour sequence to a student proctor. Over the course of the day, I developed heart burn and stomach upset. I was agitated and so upset. I knew that the preparation I had made was not enough. Life had set up obstacles throughout the month between weekend one and weekend two. This isn't an excuse, but a reality. Plus, I was freaked by the prospect of having to memorize so much. It's not my strong suit, so a little seed of doubt planted itself inside my brain and try as I might, I couldn't weed it from the mental garden.

I delivered my recitation to a kind student named Joe, who was encouraging and put me at ease. I honestly don't know if I recited enough of each pose to constitute passing the test. But, the relief I felt after the test was over was palpable, and I decided to move forward and not get stuck on my test performance and result.

A friend reminded me that yoga is about being calm and breathing. “Julie you are literally doing the opposite,” he said. I knew he was right. I even laughed as I read his words. My reaction was absolutely ridiculous and outsized, and yet, it took so much energy to rein that mess in.

What was powerful about my pre-test reaction, and why I am ultimately glad that it happened, is the awareness I had, even in the midst of my reaction, was that I was inflicting this on myself. I wasn't catching a bug. I had worked myself into such a frenzy that my body was reacting.

The takeaway for me was that in the past, these reactions were fairly common without my awareness of exactly how I was bringing them on myself. By suffering this dramatically, I was able to see how far I have come, and was motivated again to keep working to not self-sabotage as I have in the past.

Before this weekend, I called myself a recovering perfectionist. The label recognized that while I still had tendencies for high expectations for myself and wanted things to be perfect, I was no longer dominated by that impulse.

This test and the entire weekend of teaching the “memorized” poses to my classmates proved that there was more perfectionism guiding my behavior and thoughts than I cared to confront. This was a disappointing truth to sit with.

Since I am still getting to know this beautiful group of people I am learning with, I found myself saying repeatedly, tearing up is a stress response for me and I am really close to crying. Multiple times. Each time, the people I confessed this to encouraged me and reminded me that I could do what seems impossible.

I was frustrated and overwhelmed much of the weekend. There were a few points when I heard myself say, “Well, I am not quitting this training, but perhaps I won't teach after all. I don't think I have it in me. This is too hard.”

What meditation and leaning into discomfort have taught me is to separate these thoughts from my reality. Let them pass by me and then float away without changing anything or reacting to them. As I talked and confided in other students, I realized a number of them were feeling that same sense of overwhelm. So it wasn't just me. That thought was a comfort.

Friday night's Word of the Day was 'Next', and our teacher explained that when life gets too overwhelming the best and sometimes only thing to do is simply the next thing. To not worry about getting to the end of class, but to simply do the next pose and then the next. And off the mat, to consider not the steps toward a goal that are a month or a year away, but the very next thing. During training, that meant to test my memorization as I taught my training partners. Not to worry about the outcome, but to simply start and finish the exercise before us. I did the next thing, and then the next, and so on.

Now it's late Monday evening. I survived the training weekend. I have the new sequence to learn and I am armed with new strategies, new friends who will practice with me, and a quieter schedule on my side.

This training is presenting an advanced version of practicing how to stay in the moment and to extend myself grace. No matter what I do when the training is over, I know I will be stronger—metaphorically and physically.

My starting point

Ready for Yoga Teacher Training - Saturday

The beautiful studio where weekend 2 was hosted.

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