When I first met with the woman who is leading my Yoga Teacher Training (Misti- remember that name, you might hear it a lot), two things she said stuck out to me. “This is more than fancy yoga poses. I could teach a monkey to stand up and call poses, but the real work comes with connecting.”
People ask me “Why is Teacher Training hard?Aren’t you just learning how to teach yoga?” True…but the thing is, you have to start with yourself. It’s more than memorizing a sequence and all the names of the poses and the flow. Sure, it is about that, but not solely.
Yoga is about connecting. Connecting means sharing- my stories, my feelings, my struggles, my celebrations, my fears, and, and exposing myself. It means being PRESENT in my body, and aware of how I feel both physically and emotionally. That is how I will connect with my students.
My eating disorder started when I was a young teenager. I grew up learning how to disconnect myself from my body. I coped with unpleasant emotions with restriction, purging, compulsive over-exercise, dieting, etc. At this point, more of my life has been spent actively in my eating disorder than out of it. That’s a scary confession. It makes me a little ashamed. It feels pretty dang shitty.
When someone walks into a room, they bring their energy with them. If you’ve never taken a yoga class, you might not notice that, but it’s true. People bring a “vibe” with them. It’s why you meet some people and immediately feel their joy. It’s why you meet some people and get a funny feeling- their energy is telling you something. If this is sounding “yoga woo-woo” to you stay with me; I have a point.
When I am in front of people, particularly in a yoga studio, and I am the one they are focused on, I bring a few different types of energy, but the dominating one I PERSONALLY CAN FEEL is disconnection. It makes perfect sense- I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life hating my body. Trying to change it. Trying to shrink myself. Using behaviors to cope with feelings. Going inside myself when things got stressful, sad, or hard. Pair that with the perfectionist part of me that has the need to “do this RIGHT” and hopefully you can imagine my discomfort. Everyone is looking at me. They are watching me. I can’t imagine what they are thinking if I’m already ashamed of myself. UGH. Instead of relaxing, I do what I was taught to do growing up playing competitive sports: TRY HARDER. Suck it up. And then criticize my lack of confidence.
Misti reminds me to come back to my “WHY.” Why I want to teach yoga. I can sit there and give my “WHY” a pretty description, but it comes down to one thing: connection.
I believe God gave me yoga to put me on the path of healing. And through healing, connect. I have a story- we all do. But I wonder- how many of us go through life and never tell our story? If I don’t connect with the people around me, my story stays inside. And what better way to connect with people than through a yoga practice that has changed my life? I believe in it. I believe this practice works. I believe all of our pain and sorrow has a purpose. And so I have to connect- which means I answer the hard questions and say the hard things. Because at the end of the day…being a yoga teacher is not about me. It is about the people I teach. If I can come from a place where I am genuinely in touch with my body and my mind, I believe I can help others. I’m not totally sure what that looks like. But I’m finding out its has to do with a lot of soul-searching, self-compassion, and leaning into the unknown.
Yoga asks, “what is possible?” Yoga is the journey. Yoga means UNION. The message of yoga is “we are one.” Is it making a little more sense now why training isn’t just about learning yoga poses and calling them in front of a room full of people? The self-work is difficult. It looks like holding myself accountable to the group of girls I am with. We are HUMAN. We don’t like to be bombarded with the things that we avoid. But genuine connection and relationships don’t come from things we don’t say. They come from placing out the pieces of ourselves we would rather keep secret…because when we do that, maybe someone can say “Me too.”
My yoga tribe is a stand for me. We keep each other in integrity, and that doesn’t just apply to admitting we did or didn’t do our reading. It means that when we get together, for those 10 hours every week, we are real with each other. Sometimes that means dragging your butt into the studio on fumes. Sometimes it looks like telling Misti that I pretty much hate her, because she’s making me stand up in front of the group for waaaaaay longer than I’m comfortable. My tribe is teaching me to connect. And trust. And that is what’s going to make me a good yoga teacher. When I teach a class, I’ll be able to bring my “WHY” and my story, because I’m learning to to not disconnect myself from it. The story of how God has used this practice to help save my life- and all the junk that goes along with it. There is beauty in the breaking, and I’m all in.