"Shift your story, shift your reality." - Dr. Kristian H
I am no yogi. I am not flexible. I can not stand on my head. I can't do the splits. I stop in the middle of flows and take child's pose. I am not zen. I am the opposite of laid back. My personal style is classy chic (think Gabrielle Union in Being Mary Jane) and less bohemian hippie. I am not a vegetarian. I eat meat. I drink wine. I lift weights. So when I decided that I wanted to become a certified yoga teacher, I shocked myself. I mean, who did I think that I was? I was clearly not yogi enough to be a yoga teacher. But for some reason, a reason I still don't understand, I wanted to become a yoga teacher.
When I had this revelation, I was going to yoga, at best, once a week on Sunday evenings. The main goal was to get a good stretch and try to clear my mind before the work week started on Monday. But I figured, the first step to becoming a yoga teacher, would be to actually start practicing yoga regularly. So I started trying to make it to the yoga studio at least 3 times per week. After about two months of this, something strange happened. Yoga was less about stretching or physical fitness, and it became personal. It became a place I would go when I was feeling stressed, or annoyed, or if I had a tough decision to make. I was able to get some of my best thinking done on my mat in yoga. Eureka! I had a break through. This must be what the yogis feel like, so I must be ready. Ready for yoga teacher training.
So I jumped on the website of Sid Yoga, a local yoga studio chain in Baltimore, and I filled out the application. Now, how I ended up at Sid Yoga is nothing but serendipitous. Nearly four years earlier, I tried the studio, and I hated it. I absolutely hated it. I felt like all of their classes were too advanced, the teachers didn't demonstrate postures, and I left feeling frustrated, embarrassed, and vowing to never return. But when I decided that I wanted to do yoga 3 times per week, Sid's was close to my home and they had sooooo many different class times, it just made sense. So I went back. Reluctantly. But, boy am I glad that I did.
Within a few days of me submitting my application for yoga teacher training, I was accepted into the program, and I was immediately filled with doubt and fear. I am no yogi. I am not good enough. I am not flexible enough. I don't know the flow. I can't be away from work for a week. I don't know sanskrit. Twelve hours of training per day is just too much. I can't focus. I haven't practiced enough. I'll slow the class down. I am not ready. The doubt, the fear, the self judgement just kept flooding my mind. Literally, until the first day of training, I was plotting ways that I could pull out.
In the midst of my fear, I decided that I should still prepare, just in case I was crazy enough to go through with the training. I decided on a week long program, instead of weekend program. I know, intense, right? Training typically ran from 8am - 9pm and we had homework once we got out of training, so meal prepping was a must if I wanted to eat. In addition, most stores were closed before training started and after training ended, so I made sure my to do list was complete before day one, because I assumed I wouldn't have time during training. (And I was right, I didn't have time for anything else during training). We practiced yoga two times each day, so I went from doing yoga 3 times per week to 14 times. And my body could feel every downward facing down and Warrior II. Expecting for teacher training to be taxing on my body, I did light non-yoga workouts leading up to teacher training, to make sure I wasn't too fatigued. This was a good move. I also tried to get a few nights of good sleep leading up to training, to make sure I wasn't too tired. But honestly, I was so wired and nervous, sleep was difficult. But all in all, preparation was absolutely key to ensuring that I was prepared for teacher training.
So day one of teacher training came on a Sunday. I arrived about 5 minutes early, which is good for me, I am notoriously late. (Something I am working on, I promise). I found myself in a circle with 7 other future yoga teachers. The fear was still there. We went around and introduced ourselves and said why we were there. I can't remember exactly what I said, but I do remember saying, "I am super nervous about being here because I do not feel like I am good enough at yoga." There, I said it. So please please please don't judge me, is what I remember thinking. A few more people started introducing themselves, and then one of my fellow future yoga teachers started crying. It was right in that moment, I realized that I had no idea what I had signed up for. The website clearly said that "your process begins with an inward exploration" but I suppose I just mentally skipped over this part.
The next few days were the most critical introspective look that I had ever taken of myself in my entire life. I explored my values, my short comings, my desires, my natural way of being, and some dangerous patterns that I was repeating over and over and over again. I literally learned more about myself in 7 days then I had in over 7 years. How? How in the world does yoga teacher training do this?
For starters, we created an environment to talk about it. When is the last time you sat down with your friends or family, and said let's talk about resentment, listening, judgement, or emotions. I have a pretty cool circle of people in my life, and these just aren't things that we talk about. Secondly, we were given tools and exercises that helped us to open up and interrupt situations and patterns in different ways. One of my favorite exercises was called the "Game Plan" or as I like to call it "Fact or Story."
So think of something you think of as being a fact - a thing that is indisputably the case. Here is one just to get your mind working: I am not a good speller. Prior to this exercise, I would have argued with anyone that the above was indeed a fact. (You read my blog, I am sure you have encountered numerous misspelled words.) But in actuality, this isn't a fact. The fact is that I have misspelled a word before. The story I created when I was 10 years old to explain the fact, is that I am not a good speller. I was treating my story like it was a fact, which is dangerous. When you treat stories like facts, you do not give yourself room to shift or improve. If me being a bad speller is a fact, this implies that I could never shift into becoming a good speller. A lot of us our living in our stories like they are facts - I have an awful family, I am a procrastinator, I do not have any will power, I will always be overweight, or I was meant to be alone. All of these are stories.
"Shift your story, shift your reality."
One of the biggest shifts I made during training, was around my pursuit for perfection and external validation. I realized that I wanted to be perfect by any means necessary - I was an all A student that cried when I got a B, I went to an Ivy League School, I got my masters degree in one year, I will have my Doctorate degree before I am 30, and I make 6 figures - these were all the external things that created my picture of perfect. But this picture of perfect wasn't making me happy. I wasn't passion driven. I wasn't even money driven. I was perfection driven. A perfection that required external validation. A perfection that had nothing to do with what I wanted or desired. I had to let all of that go. I am learning how to validate myself, my own decisions, and my own choices. I needed to decide what happiness truly looks like for me. And instead of being perfection driven, I need to be happiness driven. I had to let go of my ego, my pride, and my desire of being right to simply be happy.
A training I thought was going to teach me how to teach yoga, actually taught me how to let go of the bull shit and actually be happy.
Be Happy. Be Healthy. Be Free.