Friday, January 6, 2012

One Year of the Yogi

"Resolve to Evolve" - That's the mantra I made my students repeat today as they were in my yoga class meditating. I was inspired by this "resolve to evolve" idea after seeing it in a yoga journal article and felt it went perfect with my class as, after conducting a survey last week, I found none of them had made resolutions. I told them that from now on they needed to give 110% to their poses if they wanted to see their practice evolve and if they couldn't give that then they needed to drop down to child's pose and give 100% of their attention to that.

Almost a year ago I resolved to evolve my life by signing up for yoga teacher training. It was one of the hardest and scariest decisions I have ever made because I was doing it on my own. All my life I have always made big decisions by having someone do it with me. In college, when I signed up to play lacrosse I made my best friend Casey come with me so I wouldn't be alone. We went to model open calls together, took road trips, lived together, all those fun things. After college and two years of dead end jobs, I made Casey come to an open call interview for flight attendants with me for some airline I had never even heard of. We went, got accepted and both got sent to Denver after training. So you see, I've never had to make a big move or life change on my own. But after two years of taking yoga I decided it was time to give back to the community which had given so much to me. It wasn't about making money or finding a new career path, for me it was just about giving back and spreading the joy I found in yoga.

So I paid my deposit with a big gulp and the thought, "What's the worst that could happen?"

Walking into the studio on the first day of my new adventure was liking walking into school for the first time. I had missed the first weekend due to being out of town therefor I had missed the, "getting to know you" part so I was the outsider. The new kid. But years of Miller promotions taught me that all you have to do to break the ice with anyone is smile and start up a conversation. So that's what I did.

Over the course of three months I learned a lot about yoga. A LOT. But I also learned a lot about myself. I learned that even though I am outgoing and energetic, took public speaking in college and speak every day of the work week in front of 66 passengers, I was terrified to teach. There was a voice in my head whispering, "Who are YOU to be teaching these people?" Of course we were all in the same boat but some of the people in my training were more natural at teaching than others. They got up and floated around confidently and with ease as they guided us through the flow were had broken down to learn. As for me, I felt silly and inadequate. I thought I'd never find my voice. I dreaded the teaching days as much as you'd dread having a root canal although at least at the dentist they give you laughing gas.

Once the training was over, the real test began. We had to do a Seva project to teach 6 friends and family classes THEN a 10 class internship. During my teacher training we were never taught how to really begin or end a class or how to have a Dharma talk with the students. But it's here where my creative writing kicked in and the Journalist in me took over. I began to research themes and poses that went with the themes and music that went with the poses. I spent (and still do) hours each week in my hotel rooms and at home working on my flow. Sometimes it worked and sometimes I'd get into class and throw it all out the window. I began to feel the energy in the room and sense when it was low and the students were unreceptive. My friends had been nothing but supportive during my Seva project but most fell off the map once the real teaching began. My husband, who had come to every class thus far, one Saturday proclaimed that he was taking the training wheels off and would not be coming to my yoga class with me. "It's time for you to find your own way" he said, "without me as a crutch."

And of course I did.

And I began to see what my mentors and teachers had been telling me all along, "It's JUST yoga!" Yes what I was doing mattered and was important but at the end of the day I was just teaching yoga. I wasn't performing brain surgery. No one was going to die if I couldn't perform that well on any given day. No one left the studio angry at me or sad or more importantly hurt. I was teaching and giving back and the students only cared that I was there to be their guide. Some students left and never came back....but then I noticed others WOULD come back. They would show up, maybe not every week, but they would come and I started to see that maybe they were coming for me. And I began to learn names and remember people. I would say hi when they were next to me in another class. My circle began to grow as I did and people began to recognize me.

I grew from teaching one class to two a week. I was no longer afraid to sub other teachers classes. The tipping point came Thanksgiving weekend where I subbed at one of the studios and had 23 people in class. I could barely walk around because there were so many bodies and yes I was scared and yes it was nerve wracking but I taught and I survived. I more than survived I had found, what it was I guess I was searching for all along which was my voice. My true authentic self.

So here it is almost one year from the time I started my journey. I remember thinking I would never get through the training and I would never be on the schedule to teach a real class and now here I am. What I love about yoga and teaching is that it's constantly evolving and there is always something new to learn. There's new challenges and new people every week to be faced and new flows and playlists to be created. Some weeks I teach and feel like I fell flat and sometimes I leave the studio floating on air. It's a roller coaster ride of emotions and I have learned so much about myself from teaching. Because in the end I realize that it's not me teaching the students, it's the students who are teaching me. It's them I am there for and it's their effort and outcome that shows me if I have done a good job or not.

Overall I have entered a time in my life where I am a more positive and grounded person. I feel I have a responsibility now to set an example with my life to inspire others. My goal is to encourage others to find the joy in exercise that I have and to find a reason to keep coming back. Like the flu, happiness is contagious and I intend to spread it to everyone I can. Those who have been less than receptive to my new outlook have washed away from my life. After all misery loves company and those who chose to lead a life of blame and unhappiness usually find comfort in someone else who feels the same.

So to everyone out there who is teetering on the ledge between why and why not, I say, make this the year of the "Yes." Resolve to Evolve. As Tyler Durden says in Fight club, "I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say...lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may."

Take a risk take a chance. After all, if not now in your life? When?