As the beat rocked and the candle flickered in the fading light, before my own mat a full class naturally unfolded. It probably lasted an hour, from all three Warriors to Dolphin to Hanuma to Wheel with plenty of Downward Dog pose in between. Through my free style, I learned that I like long sequences on one side before switching to the other and that I prefer to move slowly (but powerfully) through the poses as well as the flows. (Doing so helps me slow down my breath and feel everything more deeply.) I also learned that I really need to do more outer-hip openers or I'll never come close to Full Lotus (which is supposed to be the best position for meditating). But most importantly, I learned that I can trust myself. Completely.
It's my 24th birthday tomorrow. If we assume a life expectancy of 96 (just go with it), now would be an appropriate time to entertain a quarter life crisis. Thanks to yoga teacher training, it's already happening and somehow I never saw it coming.
Now I'm four weeks in and questioning everything in my life from the way I choose to I spend my time and the people I choose to spend it with to the books I read and shows I watch.
It's exhausting, this thorough introspection and self re-evaluation. Not that I had a full grip on the affairs of my soul (let alone the universe at large) before I kicked off my 200 hours of yoga teacher training - which, by the way, I'm so happy I get to stretch over six full months. But now I have no choice but to deal with myself, my baggage, etc., because a lot of the principles we're being taught directly contradict the way I've lived my life so far.
Who knew yoga could be so therapeutical beyond the physical realm? (Not I.) But you know what they say about therapy: before it gets better it usually gets a lot worse. And that's what's going on right now with all the questioning. It ain't comfortable. And it ain't pretty.
Questions I've asked myself in the past week: Why did my parents have to raise me to be so damn competitive? Why does our need for validation so often outweigh our desire for happiness? What if I were to jump off the corporate ladder and teach yoga full-time? Why don't I have the balls to do that? Why do we have to suffocate kids' creativity? Why is my ego so out-of-control? Why can't I stop being so hard on myself? Do I have to be Vegan?? Is yoga completely bogus? Who am I, even?!
The below story will shed some light on where I've turned for answers.
Everyone ("everyone" being the YTTT program teachers as well as the authors of our required yoga books) keeps harping on the importance for teachers to have a daily practice not only of their own but on their own. Just you and your body.
"Practice what you teach" seems obvious enough, but the idea of practicing it alone has always freaked me out. I love going to class, yet there are days scheduling and logistics won't allow it. And other days I'm just too lazy to leave my house. Specifically for these days, I've adopted yogaglo.com, a Netflix for yoga, if you will, that, for a monthly fee, allows you to watch unlimited yoga class videos with the option to filter classes by duration, teacher, level and style. It's quite addicting, actually.
Yes, alone with a video I can definitely do. But alone, calling the shots myself as I go? That, to me, has never sounded comfortable or effective in the slightest - instead, painfully awkward and frustrating.
But I thought I should give it a shot regardless. After all, if I can't teach myself without someone telling me what to do and when to do it, how can I expect to teach a room full of people? So Friday evening before our lecture on the ancient yoga texts, I re-arranged some furniture in my room, unrolled my bubblegum pink mat in the space created, lit a candle, put on some new trance-y jams, resisted the urge to pull up yogaglo, took a deep breath, and dove into sun-salutations, not knowing what would happen next. And that's when I learned we're each equipped with all the knowledge of all the universe within our very cells. All we have to do is learn how to listen.