Yoga teacher training, 3rd module. It’s a wrap.

IMG_2934
With Max Strom, my yoga teacher training teacher.
IMG_2901
Home sweet home for 28 days total..

A few weeks ago I completed the final module of my yoga teacher training, 200 hour certification. I’m feeling pretty darn proud of myself for getting to this point as I came very close to not finishing it at all.   I thought seriously about not returning for the final module and had come up with a gamut of excuses to justify what amounted to quitting, although I never could quite use that word.  It wasn’t easy for me to face the truth as to the real reason that I debated “quitting” and that was fear.  I was afraid.  Plain and simple.  I had a pretty good idea that during the 3rd and final module we would have to teach the other 24 students in the class, whether just a few postures or the worst case scenario,  an entire class.  We hadn’t been told what to expect specifically, so my mind took the worst case scenario and began to run a marathon with it.  That’s when the small seed of stage fright developed into a full-sized,  still growing, demon, who clearly thought I would have been better off just cutting my loses and quitting.

As the days passed, Max, our teacher, began to ask for volunteers to teach various postures to the class.  Looking back, my best move would have been to be the one to go first simply to get it over with, but I couldn’t quite get that hand of mine up to volunteer, so instead, I began the process of making myself “invisible” by hunkering down over my notebook with the pretense that I was taking very important and time sensitive notes.  Of course in reality I was working diligently at avoiding any kind of eye contact which could send the false signal of being volunteer ready.  This is an old trick that I learned in junior high algebra, where I seldom had the right answer, or any answer at all,  so would bury my head in my book with hopes of not being noticed.  The system must have had some success as it traveled with me to high school (history class) then onto college (anything related to math).  It’s not all that different from the child who closes his eyes to become invisible, only now I know.  I still show.  Seriously?  I’m still doing that?  What are you, nine???  Those old defense mechanisms that come into play when pushing against doing something that makes you uncomfortable, are pretty darn strong and have a good memory to boot.

Deep down, I knew full well that I could teach a posture or a series of postures after years of practicing yoga and two modules of taking that learning to a far deeper level,  but there was a whisper that kept looping through my mind that said, “Yea, you can, but do you want to??”  Again, my stage fright fears had taken control of the wheel and I just seemed to be along for the ride.

Walking seemed to be a great compliment to the long days on my yoga mat, with both note taking and practicing, and so I began the habit of an early morning walk at dawn,  then again in the evening after class.  It felt good to let go of everything, especially the yoga, and let my mind wander.  I was pretty deep into that wandering one evening when I almost stepped on a small field mouse that had come onto the sidewalk and decided to stop dead center in front of me.  Now for those of you who don’t know me well enough to know some of my personal “quirks,” I must confess…. I am afraid of mice.  Very afraid.  I’d be much happier (maybe “happy” is not the right word…) to find a snake in my basement, rather than a mouse.  That kind of afraid.  So, to see a mouse just inches from my feet was enough to get my heart beating faster! I started to slowly and most cautiously walk around him, but then hesitated and decided that that it was so odd that the lil’ fella had stopped right in front of me, that maybe he had something to teach me and so I stopped.  Seriously?  I was afraid of this tiny fella?  If it came down to fist on fist, I’d win hands down…his 1 1/2 inches of height maybe to my 65 inches, for sure.   IF he could have talked, I’m just sure he would have said, “You’ve got to be kidding…you’re afraid of ME???  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”  OK, I’m giving this mouse a lot of credit and probably far more brain cells than he actually had, but somehow, there was a message I was supposed to get that evening and the mouse seemed to be the delivery boy.  I also recognized that this was all very timely given what I was facing during the yoga and that there was a lot more going on here than my encounter with a little mouse.

The rest of my walk home I thought about the mouse and although I didn’t magically get over my whopping fear of mice, it did make me realize that so much of what I have come to fear is nothing more than a huge creation of something that may or may not exist….all taking place in my mind.  Kudos for the creativity, mind, but come on… could you slow it down just a little bit?  The fear of my getting up in front of 24 people, who I now call my friends, is the equivalent of my seeing a pack of rats wielding weapons rather than the reality of the little 1 1/2 inch tall field mouse.  My brain had become a fear-growing petri dish and I had given it just the right conditions to flourish – a constant flow of irrational thoughts.  The mouse was simply the metaphor for me to understand that.  Now, I’m still not going to say I like mice or think they’re cute or want anything to do with them, but having one stop in my path and show me his littleness to my bigness had given me a dose of reality.  Maybe the fear is not of the creature itself, but rather its method of a startling  introduction to me while dashing across the floor of a dimly lit kitchen.  Maybe my whole mouse/rodent fear needed to be re-evaluated.

And that’s when it hit me.   What was I really afraid of when it came to putting myself in front of a group of people and teaching them yoga?  I had no idea except to say that I was afraid of the unknown and until I knew what it felt like while in the throes of it, I really didn’t know.  Having made that declaration to myself, the next morning I proudly raised my hand when Max began to solicit  volunteers, and taught not only one posture, but a short series.  I needed to look that fear in the eye, embrace it, and move on.  Better yet, I needed to see that it was small, maybe 1 1/2 inches tall, just like the mouse.

I’ve been honest with my reporting thus far, so need to add that what I so quickly volunteered for was a series of postures that began while on the back, meaning that my audience was on their backs and were staring up at the ceiling rather than at me.  A whole lot easier, but I’ll take it as it still “counted.”  And surprise, surprise, it wasn’t bad at all.  In fact, it was kind of fun.

If I can tell an audience of even one reader at this point that I had a pretend conversation with a mouse while walking down a busy sidewalk then really, standing in front of 24 new friends and teaching a few postures, doesn’t seem the least bit scary or even vulnerable in comparison.  I’ve already covered my bases on that simply by sharing the absurdity of all of this.

Now that the 3rd and final training module is over, I’m feeling very grateful that I didn’t quit and decided to stick it out.  I completed the 200 hours and in the process of learning a lot about alignment, postures,  breath work and spine lengthening,  I learned a heck of a lot about myself, namely that stage fright is alive and well and is more than happy to do the steering, if allowed.  I jokingly told Max one day that yoga teacher training was making me taller, (after taking a long-shadowed photo of myself during one of my evening walks).  I’m beginning to think that there may have been a thread of truth to my joke and that maybe, just maybe,  I grew a little taller during the whole process of this training – one posture at a time.

IMG_2872
Getting tall…

 

 

One posture at a time…

 

My tendency in life with things I become passionate about, is to dive in head first then sort myself out on the details later,  often with  hopes of both wings AND a prayer to sort me out if need be.  It’s not the best way to do things, but seems to be the way I naturally lean.  Yoga was an exception to that and  I have no idea why, but I dipped myself into the experience very slowly, and with caution when I began some 20 years ago.   I loved how it made me feel post practice (at the time I was doing Bikram’s 26 poses in a heated room, which I gave up several years ago) but still only had a toe in as I wasn’t quite ready to fully commit.  It was like getting a full body massage but with my coat still on.   As time passed, I’d teeter between serious and shoot, I forgot to do yoga this week, which would roll into forgetting to do it this month and then I really wasn’t doing yoga at all and where was that darn mat anyway?  I was skeptical.  I was not hooked.  I was sampling the goods but not willing to go deep enough to remove my metaphorical coat.  I’m not sure exactly when I made the shift, but shift it did and I began to crave more and more of the goodness I was getting out of the practice.  I took my coat off.  I went deep.  I felt it not only in my body, but in my soul as well, which was another thing – body and soul had now become a team and were working well together.

When I first started yoga, l was focused on its physicality and how it was going to benefit my body in a jeans fitting better kind of way.  As I became more dedicated to the practice,  the inseams no longer rubbing when I walked paled when compared to what was really happening in my body.  I had crossed a line.  I had gone deeper.  Yoga seemed to be giving me exactly what I needed and with impeccable timing.  My kids commented on my peaceful nature and was I never going to lose my temper again??   It was as if I had been handed the road map to myself.  Or better yet, I had been handed the ability to read the road map that has been in my possession all along.  My strong flexibility and weak balance in the poses mimicked my own life during those early yoga years,  giving me insight into the areas that needed more focus and healing.  My mat had became the mirror to my life. THIS… this unrolling of my mat several times a week and moving with my breath, was what kept me upright during a time when I was constantly fighting falling into an emotional heap because it felt far more natural.  I’m no longer that person but do remember her and hold her in my heart and am continually grateful for those early lessons on my mat, namely the ones that after holding a difficult posture seemed to whisper to me that I was going to be OK because I was strong and getting stronger.

Fast forward 15 years and I decided to go deeper into my yoga practice,  and signed up for Max Strom’s yoga teacher training, held in 3 modules, 9 days each.  I just finished the 2nd module and although exhausted, I’m trying to hold onto the post-glow as long as I can, while trying to absorb and make sense of everything I just learned. Besides a lot of posture perfecting, and anatomy that extended far beyond my rudimentary knowledge of… well “the knee bone connecting to the thigh bone” song comes to mind,  I came away with a much deeper understanding of exactly who this person is that I carry around with me every day, both on and off the mat, hyper-extended joints and all.

Yoga has become my nudge to slow down, go deeper, stop and simply be, not because someone is telling me to do that, but because it simply feels better to live life that way.   I still day dream in class and more than once have come out of a thought only to find myself a few postures behind the class and oh well.  Perfection is not the goal – a thought that was reinforced when an almond fell out of my top during a down dog recently.   Reality.  I recently started following a Facebook page called “Yoga for Humans” that demystifies the practice with humor and real life stuff and reminds us of who we are…human… humans doing yoga to become better humans.  I’m a proud human doing yoga who has food drop out of her shirt, daydreams during poses, and will no doubt continue to make a fool of herself while trying to unravel out of a posture that she never should have tried in the first place.  A human doing yoga, mistakes and mishaps included  (thanks, Amy Rader, it’s brilliant).

I’d like to say that I unroll my mat every morning and do sun salutations to greet the dawn of a new day, but I don’t.  I cobble together some postures that feel right and if one or two postures hit the mark and feels like enough, then so be it.  My at home yoga always looks better in its pre-practice presentation in my mind than what actually transpires in real life.  I watched a video several months  ago that showed an accomplished yogi’s morning practice, beginning with her putting the kettle on for morning tea then proceeding to go through a lovely, while at the same time very strong practice until the kettle whistled.  She then leaves her mat and paces to the kitchen to pour the tea with such grace and elegance that it seems like a posture in its own right. That’s where my mind goes when I think about a morning practice, but instead I will spot a missing sock under the couch during a forward bend, which has to immediately be retrieved and as I make my way back to the mat, I notice a painting that is crooked.   I once rearranged my entire living room during my “yoga practice,”  which probably says more about my focus than anything else and my need to go to a class where I find my community and my focus.  The other thing that yoga has taught me is to listen to what I need at the moment, like right now for instance.  I’m in my yoga clothes, have a filled water bottle and my rolled up mat next to my feet and had every intention of going to class until an hour ago when sitting down and writing about yoga seemed more important than actually doing it.  Creativity is fleeting and often will out run me so I have to seize the opportunity when it arises.  I’m discovering the art of awareness and listening without judgment and those two combined will take me far, even if right now my far is not inching from my couch with a laptop perched on my strong, but getting stronger quads, while typing about yoga.

I’ve got 4 months until I head back to the final training module and will regroup with 24 other students under the guidance of the extraordinary teacher, Max Strom.   The people I’ve met have become one of the greatest gifts to me during this process and it has been an honor to surround myself with such gracious, open and truly lovely people, all sharing the common thread of a passion for yoga. I feel like I’m standing just a tiny bit taller and with a whole lot more joy because of them.   Until then, I will stumble my way in and out of postures, will daydream my way right off of my mat and onto mountaintops and Italian villages and will sit and type instead of going to class because I’m   learning to listen and act accordingly….one posture at a time.