The Beginning of Being: The evolution of my yoga journey
If you’ve ever had a dream, then you’ve also had doubts.
The two go hand-in-hand despite the fact that their relationship is antagonistic. Doubt is the killer of dreams and it plagues us all.
You know the feeling: “I hope that one day I can do this…” but then doubt creeps in and squelches those little hopes and dreams flat into a pancake with a big red rubber stamp reading“NO”. There are some Pollyannas out there who can put a lid on that pessimistic voice and hold on tightly to those dreams with all their might. But for some of us, those thoughts never quite goes away. The voice of pessimism is the first voice we hear in our heads and it’s the one that we listen to the most.
I, for one, always listened to it. Until one day, I didn’t. I heard it, I recognised it, but decided to prove it wrong and become a yoga teacher.
I have great admiration for my teachers. The two whom I’ve been the most dedicated have been practising yoga almost as long as I’ve been alive. Sitting in their presence, I felt I could never achieve a level of knowledge as they had. I thought that I would never be a teacher because I will always be their student.
These were teachers who had been to India dozens of times to learn directly from their guru. How could I gain this knowledge if I was unwilling to travel to India myself? I had read so many Indian novels and it frightened the hell out of me. The novelists did not paint a pretty picture. Everyone I knew who had gone always had stories of parasites, poverty, crime, stinky streets, choking pollution and the number of hours spent sitting upon or hanging their head into the toilet.
Surely my teachers were up lighting incense at 5.00am to to chant and practise yoga? I sadly had the habit of hitting my snooze button at least twice, usually thrice. I was nowhere near as dedicated as they were.
They seemed to know everything! They knew all about my bones, muscles, and joints; and my nervous, circulatory, lymphatic, digestive, and excretory systems. They knew about my chakras, nadis, koshas, doshas and kleshas, things which sounded like creatures invented by Dr Seuss. They seemed to know more about my mental and emotional state than I did. And the amount of philosophy that they infused into a class… I couldn’t get through one page of the Bhagavad Gita without falling asleep. How on Earth would I be able to study as much study as they had. And the amount of Sanskrit they knew was dizzying. Why use it when it seems to be less useful than Latin—a dead language?
For nearly 20 years, I thought this.
And then I went to a yoga class at my gym.
“Oh. My. God.
“Is this yoga?
“Is this what people are calling yoga?
“Who is this guy?
“What is he teaching?
“Why is he calling it yoga?
“He’s not a yoga teacher.
“What is he doing there?
“Oh my God, he’s going to hurt himself.
“Oh my God, he’s going to hurt her!
“If he’s teaching yoga, then I need to be teaching yoga.
Yes, I was inspired to teach by the worst yoga teacher that I’ve ever met.
I feel bad for saying it because I hate to be so judgemental of another yoga teacher, but his language, his approach, his presentation, everything he did all seemed so un-yogic. I worried for his students. I worried that they would attend his class and leave feeling unworthy, incapable, embarrassed, or worse, injured. I very badly wanted to protect them, but didn’t know how, other than to try and teach the class myself.
And that’s when it hit me: This was my call to action.
Here, in this smelly gym, I was going to save the world (my fellow gym members) from bad yoga teachers by becoming a not-so-bad yoga teacher, thinking that although I may never be as great as my teachers, I know I can do better than that.
There, I said it. An hour in an appalling yoga class prompted me to undertake a new path in life. I decided to become a yoga teacher. I pushed doubt aside and forged ahead.
Being a teacher was actually not the hard part. I love to teach. I spent several years teaching desktop publishing in a community college, and I spent three years teaching French and Spanish a middle school. I loved teaching. Yoga was just one more thing that I could teach.
But was I good enough? Was I ready to become a teacher? Doubt crept in.
Doubt and I are old friends. Whenever someone would call the glass half full, and I’d call it half empty, they’d call me a pessimist. I would correct them by saying that I was a realist. The glass wasn’t going to refill itself. Therefore, even on an invisible molecular level, the glass was getting emptier and emptier with each passing minute. If we left it there long enough, the glass would become empty. The glass was half empty because it was in the process of emptying itself, not filling itself back up.
However, my sympathy for the students in that yoga class motivated me to overcome those doubts. I convinced myself that although at that stage I might know have the knowledge that my teachers had, at one stage they were where I was at, and so maybe one day I could make it to where they are. Plus, I had to remind myself, 20 years is a long time. At that stage, I had been practising yoga almost longer than I hadn’t been practising yoga. Surely I had enough knowledge to lead a simple class in a gym and keep people safe.
That was in 2013. I signed up to a teacher training program and I haven’t looked back with any regrets ever since. It was the best decision I have made in my professional life, and it has given me the opportunity to grow not just as a teacher, but also as a student of yoga. As a result of becoming a teacher I have delved deeper into my practice and into my studies. I know more now about the body and the mind than I did in 2013. I practise more, I study more, and I learn more. Do I know as much as my teachers? No, but I’m getting there. And I can rattle off the Sanskrit with the best of them! “Yogas chitta vrtti nirodah” man, means “Chillax your mind, dude.” (FYI, I do not speak to my students like a California Deadhead.)
I am now teaching 12 classes per week and developing an online course for beginners. I am embracing my entrepreneurial spirit and getting better at telling Doubt to “F—- off.” And although I am not earning what I would at a traditional 40-hour/week job, it is a wonderful part-time situation that allows me to be available to look after my children, a job which I cherish more than anything in the world, including being a yoga teacher.
Most importantly I feel that I have come into being. I am comfortable with where I am and confident about where I am going. I have embraced building a community of students who now look towards me for guidance, as I look towards my teachers. I have come to realise that although I am a teacher, I am also still a student and will continue to be one until my dying breath.