Sunday, August 12, 2018

Reflections on Weekend Three of Yoga Teacher Training

A week before weekend three of yoga teacher training, I had a bit of a fit. My daughter enthusiastically agreed to test me on my recitation. I had been studying by various improved methods since the previous month. We sat on my bed. She gave me the sign that she was ready. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. It was a terrifying moment. Where were all the words?

My daughter encouraged me, gave me a few prompts. I can't remember which happened next. I know that she prayed for me and that I jumped off my bed in a flash of melodrama and started folding laundry.  Startled, she asked, “Mommy, do you regret spending lots of money on this training?”

Honestly, honey, I don't know right now. I'm really frustrated because I have been studying and the words just won't come.”

We all walked into the studio Friday night and there was a palpable stressed-out vibe among us all.

Our amazing teacher read the room with precision and gave us a pep talk. She explained the concept of tapas, a sanskrit word meaning a psycho-physical heat that starts an internal transformation.

She also read to us from a presentation by a Westerner named Svoboda. The words that resonated for me and that I copied down were: "The road will not get tired...choose your pace...align with your own proper gate."

After this talk and a session of round robin student teaching and yoga practice, she gave us a few minutes before our test. In savasana, I felt the tears flow. As my classmates started moving around the room, I remained on my mat. I lowered my forehead to the floor and felt the tears stream down my face. My chest heaved and I let myself sob.

The day after my anxiety tantrum with my daughter, I had asked myself the hardest question: What would it look like if I took teaching yoga off the table and simply completed the training? My answer was: I would feel relief. I would also feel disappointment, sadness, humiliation, and embarrassment, but those four big emotions together didn't match the relief. And so I spent the final days before weekend three letting go of my dream to teach. The anxiety receded and the words I'd memorized returned.

This seemed like a good, though unexpected, answer.

I performed better during this test. I didn't get to everything I wanted to cover, but I recited it with more confidence and speed than the month before.

I returned to my mat on day two and told my teacher, “If I haven't completely turned the corner, I know that I've made a strong pivot in the right direction.”

Even when I was in a fever of stress and anxiety, I knew that this process was a good one for me to go through regardless of the result. Learning the word and meaning of tapas gave me language and a framework from which to view this difficult process. It vented the steam and heat that had built up, and gave me the sense that if I trusted the process, even in the midst of the difficulties, that I could achieve what I want. Yoga presents the same lessons on and off the mat.

What I've figured out is that I actually do not want to teach the particular brand of yoga I am learning, but that I can still get certified to teach yoga. So I don't have to throw in the towel completely. I've also learned that the material I am learning is unique in yoga teacher trainings and that the material will benefit my teaching no matter what kind I teach. 

This decision still feels like the right one at the end of the weekend. More relief.

Here are the other takeaways from this weekend:

Like my writing and my newfound love of gardening, yoga is presenting me with a mirror that reflects back to me things I need to see, assess, and continue to reflect on.

Yoga is showing me in real time precisely how afraid I am to make mistakes. No matter how much I have let go of perfectionist tendencies, I still do not like making mistakes. This inclination causes me to take myself far too seriously and to take fewer risks. Yoga is teaching me to embrace a more playful approach. I can't change what I'm not aware of, so I am deeply grateful that this insight has revisited me.

Our teacher also read the following passage. 

“I suggest that you, individually, seriously consider relaxing and cultivating the skills to meet what arises as it arises without this compulsive need to have everything all planned out...The future is highly unstable, unknown and both mercurial and in fact not here yet, so why try to have it all figured out? Develop skillful means, lightness of movement, creative ways of dealing with unexpected happenstances. You may well need such abilities, such a capacity...So you'll have to dive in and move with Faith and Devotion, and a willingness to adjust to the situation as it presents itself. I know you can do it. The question is will you?”  -Lee Lozowick

Growing more comfortable with the unknown and relaxing in and through it has become a regular practice this past three years.

Over the course of the two two-plus hour yoga practices and the teaching drills that were intense in their own ways, I know that my answer to Lozowick's question is a resounding yes.

Here's to another month of more memorization, writing, gardening... with relaxation, lightness, and creativity.

...blooming where I am planted...

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