Monday, September 24, 2018

Word of the Weekend - YTT #5

I came to training weekend 4 unprepared for Friday night's yoga sequence testing. I had planned to study and then the days slipped away, and each day that I did not study I did enjoy a break from panic. The break felt good, so I kept not studying.

That reality made Friday night really uncomfortable. For me and for my sweet classmate who had to sit there as I didn't say much as I held my head in my hands. He sat quietly, holding the awkward space for me. At one point our teacher walked up to me. She stood next to me, put her hand on my back and told me to breathe. Eventually my time was over and it was my proctor's turn. Those were the longest 20 minutes of my life.

The next morning my teacher approached me. “How are you doing?” she asked the question in a way that communicated that she'd seen how not well I was.

I had hoped to keep all of this stress and tension to myself, but her care and concern drew it out of me. I told her everything and at the end she said, “I think you are right to trust what you're hearing yourself saying. But I also want you to consider that while you've changed your mind about teaching, things could change again. Stay open to that as well.”

And so it was in that spirit that I entered weekend 5. I had studied my script, but not in the laborious way I had in weeks past. I managed to recite far more than I expected and can credit remaining calm with making that possible.

The weekend unfolded and almost as if on the universe's cue my classmates repeatedly encouraged me. “You know more than you think you do... Keep at it... Trust yourself... You are going to make an amazing teacher...You have a lot to offer your students...”

After two hours of intense yoga practice in the morning, we settled into teaching drills in the afternoon. Up until this weekend, these drills were another source of dread and panic, but this weekend, I turned a corner. When I 'fessed up that I didn't have the set of poses we were working on memorized, my teacher let me use a book of photographs to teach from. While I didn't have the script down, she also didn't let me use it as a crutch. And in the process of the exercise, I demonstrated to myself and my classmates that I could vocalize how to get a student into the poses. With confidence in this hidden ability, I can spend the next two weeks studying new poses with the knowledge that my efforts are sinking in.

At the end of Sunday's class, we were asked to share a nugget that we would take away from the weekend. I opened my mouth, and immediately got choked up. “This weekend is teaching me about the unpredictable nature of this journey. Last weekend, I accepted that taking teaching of my plate was the right decision. After this weekend, I'm not so sure. It may not be something I immediately jump into, but I'm no longer ruling out teaching yoga after all.”

I have had such a tenuous relationship with the future and the unknown in recent years. This training is reflecting back to me how far I have come in living in the moment, doing the work, and trusting that life will meet me where I am and that no matter what happens, I will experience joy and contentment. It's also teaching me how fun it can be to not know what's around the corner. It's helping me embrace the surprise and adventure of the unknown.

Yoga never ceases to amaze me. It has become a powerful tool for living life with deeper understanding and joy.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Dream Inventory aka What Happened When I Asked Myself the Hard Question

I do not want to be a yoga teacher.

This is the unexpected thing I have learned in four weekends of intensive yoga teacher training.

I know what you might be thinking:

  • You don't mean that. 
  • You're tired. 
  • Don't make any decisions prematurely. 
  • Yes, it's hard, but you'll get through it. 
I have thought all of these things and more. But I have also had more panic attacks in the past three months than I care to have in a lifetime. Each time I pull out my study materials I feel seized with panic. After days of studying, I will test myself and the words do not come. Living with that sort of pressure and tension is not sustainable. Not for myself or for my daughter as she witnesses all of this.

So, I decided to ask myself the hard question: What would it look like if you didn't teach yoga after all?

I have some practice asking myself the hard questions. I am so glad I decided to do it this time because it has opened up places and spaces in me that I couldn't have accessed in any other way.

The immediate answer was RELIEF. I would feel relief if I removed teaching from the experience. I was surprised by this, but I kept listening. I wasn't done answering. I would also feel disappointment, sadness, embarrassment, and humiliation, but those big feelings combined paled in comparison to the relief.

This was not the answer I expected, but it's the answer I must listen to.

When it came time to begin studying for this month's poses, I recorded the entire script and then the first few individual poses. I listened a few times and did the poses while I listened to the recording.

Then I started writing. I anticipated the full few months ahead and how much less stress I would feel if I got to work on my writing projects that had deadlines. I started, and like Forrest Gump who started running, I kept writing and writing. As I wrote, I was keenly aware of the time I was not spending studying yoga poses. It was all right because I had three weeks left to study, and then two weeks remaining. And then the days continued slipping away. I wrote the majority of one writing project, came to a natural stopping point, and started and finished another. As I wrote, I also examined what it meant for me to not be studying.

At some point, it became a conscious choice. I needed a break from the panic, pressure, and tension, so I did not prepare for the pose recitation.

What I discovered by asking the hard question and listening to my gut is that not every dream I dream for myself has to be achieved or pursued, but I won't know it until I explore.

I love yoga so much that I assumed that teaching it would be the natural next step for me. I grew up wanting to be a teacher and when I didn't make that career choice, it seemed that teaching yoga would be an alternative way of pursuing that old dream. What I know now is how much time it takes to do it well. I have a new reverence for my teachers now that I've had a look behind the curtain. When I was dreaming about teaching yoga, there were so many things I didn't know about what it requires.

Yoga training has reinforced how much I love writing and that IT is the dream I want to pursue. Having a day job is a necessity for the foreseeable future, which means that the time I have to devote to my dreams is limited. I do not have time to both pursue my writing career and put in the time required to prepare meaningful, enjoyable yoga classes.

This decision is not an impulsive one. It is not about quitting when things get hard. I am not a quitter, and I am not quitting yoga training. There is too much richness and deep exploration to consider not seeing it through because my focus has shifted.

In making this decision, I am also keeping my head and heart open to the possibility that this is a dream deferred. Perhaps I have come to a “Not Now” intersection on my life's path. I certainly never expected to find myself changing my mind partway through, so I'm open to changing my mind again.

But that openness does not change where I stand now. I am prioritizing one dream over another. This decision feels right. It frees me up to keep showing up at the mat and the training, and to learn all I can about yoga and myself without the paralyzing pressure of reciting the poses.

It took some time to make peace with all of this. I spent a lot of money to take this training. I am giving up ten weekends over six months to complete the training. I am spending a lot of time studying. As I have sat quietly with all of this, I know implicitly that this training is not a waste of time or money. I will be a better human and a better yoga student when I complete the training.

I have soaked my sore muscles in epsom salts. I have napped. I am tired but content. I cannot put a price tag on that kind of peace, and it is this peace that will carry me through the next three months of training.

And when I return to working on my novel this winter, I will have a new appreciation for what doing something hard looks and feels like, and writing my story will in some ways feel like a breeze.