This past weekend I began my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training. Perhaps I should have written this sooner, because perhaps then it would have been a more cheerful, exuberant post. Now I have so many thoughts streaming through my brain, so many emotions flowing through my body, and I feel as though I have no idea how I can possibly express them all in a cohesive, brief and meaningful way. My teacher stressed the importance of watching the language we use with ourselves, and if possible, to avoid the word “try”, instead replacing it with, “do your best.” Well, right here, right now, I will do my best.
It all began with a ceremonial Puja, a ritual honoring teachers and students past, asking for them to be with us as we move through the next nine months, and invoking and setting our intentions for the course. Walking into the temple, wafts of calming nag champa swirling through the air, the beautiful altar so thoughtfully and intentionally laid out, I felt an overwhelming excitement swell from my very core. We chanted, we visualized, and we connected to a higher power, stepping into the flames one by one, yet always together. For the first time in an extremely long time, I felt like I was home.
As we sat in meditation, tears softly formed behind my closed eyelids, a windswept montage, blurry in its composition, played itself out. It was remarkable; I could so clearly see the many moments, lessons, and choices which lead me to this very place.
There’s my Jewish upbringing. The religious aspect of it never quite resonated and I am no longer observant, but the ritual and ceremonial sides which I was always drawn to, helped me to confidently embrace and make sense of not just the Puja, but of the chanting in an ancient and foreign language different to my own. It felt familiar, and unexpectedly comforting.
There’s the years of wanting to do a teacher training, but never feeling like it was the right time. I was too inflexible. There wasn’t enough money for it. I was traveling or settling in a new country. There weren’t any courses that fit what I was looking for. I was utterly and hopelessly depressed. But most of all, I lacked the confidence and the belief that I was capable of doing it. Now, though, I was as ready as I’d ever be. Now, I had put in so much hard work over the years to get myself in a steady, happy, and peaceful headspace where I could walk into a life changing course such as this, and not completely crumble at the first challenge.
There’s me living my life as close to the way I want to, not abandoning my beliefs, and staying true to myself even when it hasn’t been easy, as much as possible. I’m still a long way away from where I ultimately envision myself, but I know I’m on the right road to get me there.
The point of the matter here is that going into, during, and leaving that Puja, my soul felt at home. It’s such a difficult, intangible thing to put in words, and try as I might, my words can never do such a strong feeling any justice. I went home that night and felt that maybe, finally, I had found my tribe.
Two days later, the actual course itself began.
Day 1 was indestructible in my mind. A forever perfect moment in time, a bird could have crapped all over my head and I’d still have felt as though I were surrounded by sweet smelling rose covered rainbows. We introduced ourselves, spoke in depth about yoga philosophy and spirituality, flowed through asana (postures), talked teaching, drank so much tea, and were guided through Yoga Nidra (aka Yogic Sleep). Oh my heavens, do I absolutely love Yoga Nidra and wholly intend to study it fervently.
Every moment felt like it was meant to be, every lesson a divine song being sung. Midway through the day, another woman and myself discovered we were both big fan-girls of Yoga with Adriene, and had been to the same class she taught here in London last October. She had the sense slowly come over her that there may have been a chance we had met, or that she had seen me there as she had been sitting near an American. I initially thought that would be a wild coincidence and was fairly unlikely given how many hundreds of people were there, but hey, you never know. When we worked out that we had been sitting in the same section of the event space, I decided to flip through my photos of that night to see if by some miracle we could confirm our suspicions. Low and behold, in the background of a selfie, there was Emily sitting behind us, gazing off into the distance. I looked at the picture, looked at her, and couldn’t believe the synchronicity of it all (although, really, I totally believed it as events such as this are not so uncommon in my life). Gobsmacked and doing my best to not make a huge deal of this for the sake of the other students around us, I knew that yes, 100% for sure I was in the right place, exactly where I was meant to end up.
There was so much that was covered in that first day that my head could have exploded and you would’ve seen little Om symbols pouring out of my skull. I slept like an absolute log that night.
Day 2 was more of the same, and I initially was just as enthusiastic as the day before. When we began our physical practice, though, the atmosphere, at least my atmosphere, began to sour. I make no secret about my extraordinarily tight and unmovable hamstrings, and like to think I have come to more or less accept them for what they are. I go into a practice expecting them to be stiff and uncomfortable, knowing I will have to work that much harder because there are very few poses that ever actually feel good for me. If I am having a good day, they will give a little, and I will feel hopeful for a future with ease of movement. On day 2, however, my entire body felt tighter than it has in a long time, and not only that, it felt heavier. Where was my body, and what have you done with it?!
I have been practicing for about eight years now, admittedly on and off, but consistently for about three years at this point. I know this is a challenge that I am constantly learning and often growing from, but I have to admit that it through me for a loop that day in class. I have to admit that as much as I practice Ahimsa (non-harming in thoughts, actions, and words), sometimes I just want to cry and scream at my body for not progressing. When you put your heart into something and practice regularly, and very rarely see any results, and then start seeing a regression, let’s just say it sucks. Big time. Let’s just say I crumbled. Not in class. Oh, hell no. There was no way I was going to be ‘that girl’ ever again in my life. But later on, in the car during our lunch break, I let the emotions come and flow through me (sidenote: at least something in me flows with ease!).
Getting it all out, I managed to get it all together again for the second half of the afternoon, which with my re-opened, ‘beginners mind’ back in place, I was able to thoroughly enjoy again. It just goes to show the importance of never thinking you know it all, even when it comes to thinking you know your physical limitations. It has definitely taught me the importance of dropping any and all expectations each and every time you come to the mat (or any situation in life), and above all, always speaking to and treating yourself with loving kindness, no matter how hard your ego tries to make you crack. I know most people reading this will probably think they already know this fact as well, but again, drop your expectations because I thought I knew to treat myself lovingly, and still got caught out. These lessons are always hard learned.
It was such a strange thing, saying goodbye to all these beautiful people I had met and spent such an intense amount of time and energy with over those two days. I knew I’d see them again in a month, but would that be enough to keep the momentum rolling? Am I the only one who felt that way?
Nearly a week on from it now, and I am still feeling it. I am so fully in love with the material we are exploring, and know this is what I was put on this planet to learn about and share with the world. But I find myself feeling somewhat alone in it. I learn best by interaction, and being able to talk about it with others who also ‘get it’. I’m practicing the physical elements at home mostly, but am still feeling so tight and stuck and confused as to why I have suddenly started to move backwards in this area. I suppose this goes with any school-like-course, but I am spending so much time reading on my computer and taking notes, that I feel it is taking away some of the magic. I also don’t just suppose, but know that is why I was never a good student in school for most of my life. Unless I am actively engaging in something, I don’t properly absorb the information, and even then it is a slow consumption. Hopefully as the months go by I will find a better way to make this part of the course work for me so it doesn’t always feel like a Sisyphean task.
I’m still just as excited about this new chapter in the journey, emotional swings and roundabouts be dammed (or better yet, be felt). I knew this would be exhilarating, educational, fun, full on and challenging all at the same time, so am not really all that surprised that it has started off with such a glittering intensity. It’s been a lot like a Homecoming dance, filled with the extreme highs and extreme lows of returning to the place you’ve always been from. Except instead of a high school gymnasium where I grew up and never felt like I fit in, it’s in a yoga studio, and more so in a philosophy and holistic practice where my soul can finally expand and shine its light through the blue skies and the stormy nights. I am enough, and I am capable.