There’s a thing that causes me to simultaneously feel dread and express tears of joy.
They are one and the same: the becoming of myself as a yoga teacher.
They’re two sides of the same coin. A coin that’s being heated, smelted, and forged into a new shape. Same raw material, but the qualities are shifting.
This re-working is an elemental process, creating change as a by-product of the end-result (which is really just another beginning).
But it’s not easy, just because it’s something I want. The wanting and the reality of the getting are entirely different.
The clamour of tools is distracting, and it’s tempting to not pick them up. Sort of. Actually, yeah. But then I look ahead.
Because it’s all about priorities. If I keep those in sight, then it’s easier to step back into the forge. Even if it means daily facing up to scary long-held patterns that scare me witless.
I’ve never seen you this nervous before, says the principal of my yoga school.
She says this after observing my very first effort last weekend, at leading a fellow student in a half hour impromptu yoga class (I was given fifteen minutes to construct a lesson plan).
Oh yes. Very nervous. Partly, it’s the hearing myself speak. And knowing the exact words to say, and being responsible for how other people move their bodies. Speaking emotively because that’s where we connect, that’s part of the work of yoga.
All of this has to come from a place of supreme openness and vulnerability, too. But also confidence and trust that speaking from this place will be well received and accepted.
So, there’s the confidence factor, which has never been one of my strong points. The vulnerability factor – I’ve spent the last four years or so feeling exceptionally vulnerable… and then there’s the thing with eye contact.
Dealing with PTSD and depression made me want to be invisible, unattractive, and hidden away from other people… it’s made holding eye contact very difficult…
So how is it I ended up doing a yoga teacher training course again? Oh yeah, because I love yoga. And because it was suggested.
But y’know, this wasn’t on the pamphlet – thrown in at no extra charge, this training will help you burn through your shit.
Yesterday I had my second opportunity to lead my fellow students through a series of asana. Scary!
My extreme nervousness is a little strange because it’s not like I’m new to performing – years as a theatre actor and bellydancer took care of that. And this is sort of like a performance, right?
Except it’s not, it’s different. There’s no flashy costume or make up to hide behind. I am not being someone or something else. There’s no loud music to disappear into.
I am just me. Unadulterated. No filters.
So, this week I figured if I could just pretend like it was a theatre show and ‘learn my lines’, I’d feel more comfortable.
I spent all week preparing – writing copious notes on each pose. And practicing, even til late Friday night, trying to get some flow happening between poses.
[Note to self: handstands at midnight are just a tad too exhilarating!]
And making sure I had the right words to say, and avoiding gap-fillers: ummm, okay, what we’ll do next is…
In the process, I realised – of course!! – the key here really is preparation. Which requires constant immersion.
Because with yoga, to teach it, you really need to be living it. Theoretical knowledge simply doesn’t cut it.
But sometimes, I think it’s the immersion I’ve been running from. Because I know if I don’t, this change that’s coming will be irrevocable.
Then, that’s what I want, right? But with that change comes a free-fall from what I’ve known (even if its stuff I’m not happy with) towards the unknown…
A Svasti that lives and breathes yoga with every fibre of my being. And a Svasti that knows my stuff, and can help spread the gift of yoga to others.
So, yesterday’s session went really well! Not perfectly of course. But about a 150% improvement on the previous week. And it was such a high!
Afterwards, I was trembling, close to tears, grateful, humble and just… feeling entirely like someone else: that other aforementioned Svasti.
As I’m leaving my teacher remarks: So you’re looking so much better lately. There’s something very striking in your eyes. I noticed it last week as well. What’s going on? You look so much happier.
I replied: It’s this work. It’s changing me. It’s helping me face up to myself and burn off more of the negativity that’s been in my life for so long. PTSD destroys your self-confidence and here I am finding it again.
Then I told her that as well as general yoga, and yoga for women I’m really interested in yoga for those who deal with depression and PTSD, as I have.
Seems I’ve chosen a specialty of sorts, and the Blacksmith’s fire is still burning…
**Update: The wonderful BlissChick alerted me to the existence of an article on Yoga and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PDF file, 435kb) from The Trauma Center in Brookline, MA. An excellent read!!**