If you had asked me to describe myself a few years ago, I would have rattled off some choice words such as capricious, crazy, pessimistic, b*tch, lover, fighter, sadist, masochist, inexplicable, [with affection] lush, introvert, neurotic, OCD, dark, loyal, a total contradiction, etc. Hell, if you had asked me to describe myself a few months ago, my answer would have been about the same. And then I started teaching yoga…
How trite that sounds! Trust me, friends, I know. You’re probably thinking “Oh for God’s sake! Gag me! Little ‘enlightened’ twit!” But…it’s true.
I have always been a searcher; a seeker; an analyst. I’ve long been on a journey of self-discovery and self-dissection, aimed at attaining complete autonomy both to prove my strength and independence and to protect my gooey-soft center, whose very existence I vehemently denied, from being ravaged by the blows that would most certainly be inflicted upon it by my fellow man; who, no doubt, and not unlike myself, was evil at their core. I allowed a select few entry into my two-sizes-too-small, Grinch-esque heart, and looked askance upon all others with varying degrees of repugnance, derision, and apathy. My most exercised mantras included “I hate people” and “People suck”. Taking into consideration my abhorrent view of humanity, you can imagine the quizzical expressions on my friends’ faces when I told them I was going to get certified to become a yoga instructor. To a trusted few, I admitted that I hoped the process would lead me to some sort of spiritual awakening, but was quick to add with insouciance that “It’ll be a means to make some extra dough, and it’ll keep me skinny” – reassuring my friends [and myself] that I wasn’t going soft – or worse yet – becoming a dirty hippy.
So, I partook in the certification program and I was…wait for it…[I know you shiver with antici….PATION!]…UNDERWHELEMED. I did meet a lovely group of women in my fellow students, but often times I felt out of place. Not being the most gregarious child in the sandbox by nature, in addition to being a self-proclaimed misogynist who has found it difficult to forge many meaningful connections with other women, I felt awkward, strained, and struggling for authenticity at times. I became frustrated and disappointed in my inability to connect to that beautiful goddess energy when we gathered together, and I found myself smothering out my feelings of emotional and spiritual inadequacy by regarding yoga workshop weekends as being solely valuable for serving the selfish purpose of broadening the horizons of my own practice. So, I completed my certification with relief, disappointment, and resignation to the fact that I was an emotional and spiritual lost cause – I would never be that authentic, loving, open, carefree, nurturing, joyous conduit of love and light that the larger part of me so longed to become – an aspiration that the smaller part of me crucified myself for having. I yearned to feel love and acceptance and appreciation in the embraces of the other girls’ hugs, but instead the only emotional responses their touch evoked were awkwardness, withdrawal, and an overall feeling of emptiness. I had so wanted the yoga certification process to bring me some much needed spiritual nourishment and cleansing, and was bereft at the fact that I completed it feeling as deficient in the area of the higher self as I had when I enrolled.
Alas, I would soldier on as I always did. I picked up my hopeless self, dusted off the disappointment and decided I may as well make good of my wasted 9 months by getting a teaching gig and making some dough, as had been, at least in part [albeit, the lesser part], the impetus for getting certified in the first place. So I begrudgingly found a job, and I lamented what would surely be the chore of instructing the mostly disgusting masses how to pretzel themselves into some fantastic postures; reassuring them they weren’t failures [ha! Right…] if they couldn’t get their heels down in Adho Muka Svasanana. I taught my first class fairly successfully and surprisingly without much disdain. And then I taught another, and another, and another…And those who joined me on the mat (I cannot with good conscience call them students, as I still am and always will consider myself to be a student of yoga) began coming up to me after class and thanking me for a wonderful experience, with complete sincerity. Sincerity that I only noticed because I was actually able to look them in the eyes long enough to recognize it – no small feat for a girl who had learned the ‘eyes-averted, head-down’ walk in elementary school, practicing it faithfully thereafter, with no catastrophic collisions, might I add. I was touched, and at first incredulous, that hateful little old me could have played some small role in imparting a sense of peace and joy in someone else. The more I taught, the more kind words were offered to me and the more I recognized the appreciation and happiness in the eyes of those who joined me on the mat, and the more I felt all of those beautifully pure emotions we equate with love and joy bubbling up in myself. The sheer fact that I was able to, in some small way, impart joy and peace upon someone else while they were on the mat left me relishing in my own sense of inner peace, joy, and fulfillment – a feeling that in all reality should have seemed very foreign to me, and yet carried the same comfort and familiarity of a warm blanket right out of the drier.
In the book A Course In Miracles, it states “To Have Peace, Teach Peace to Learn It”. Before I started teaching yoga, I would have never been able to wrap my brain around those words– but now I can say with total sincerity that I am experiencing that very concept with every class I teach. That same book describes that our purpose on this earth is to act as healers, and thereby find healing for ourselves. Now, I invite you to recall my favorite mantras mentioned earlier in this blurb…so you can imagine that for most of my life, I was not looking to touch, let alone heal, any of the selfish, useless wastes of oxygen that I walked this earth with. Yet now, just a few months into being given the opportunity to share the practice of yoga with others, the immeasurable nourishment that my love-starved soul finds in the bright, joyful eyes of those who practice on the mat with me has proven the absolute wisdom and truth in those words to my once so cynical-self. As I am able to assist them in finding some peace and self-acceptance on the mat, I am filled with those feelings for myself,ten-fold, that I carry with me long after I leave the studio.
The below excerpt from B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga guru and author of Light on Yoga (among others), resounds fully with my teaching experience thus far:
“I experience dharana in every class I teach, and that is how I knew that teaching yoga was a healing path for me. Most of us are fortunate enough to have found activities that draw forth this deep concentration. When we are doing something we truly love, we cannot help but give ourselves to it wholeheartedly. Dharana, therefore, is a by-product of love. In the clarity of a focused mind, we find that timeless place where we connect to spirit. In this sense, dharana is our pathway to spirit.”
No words can express the deep appreciation that I now feel for the practice of yoga, for the amazing group of women who accompanied me on the journey to certification – giving me the support and love that I resisted so strongly because I was ashamed of the fact that I needed it so badly, for the incredible instructor who continues to impart her wisdom, compassion, and passion for the practice upon me, and for all those who now join me on the mat – They have led a lost and lonely little child home to a warm embrace of love, joy, and peace…an embrace that she had sorrowfully resigned herself to never experiencing only a few short months ago. To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.
So, you may be wondering, now that the Grinch’s heart has grown three sizes or so, how would she describe herself today? Well, I’ll be perfectly frank…I would probably still use many of those choice adjectives that I opened this post with – still crazy, still can be a total b*tch , still a contradiction – maybe more so now than ever, as I work through the growing pains of a transition from hateful to hopeful – but I’d swap out ‘pessimist’ for ‘optimist’ , I’d throw in nurturer, I’m fading out the fighter and even the neuroticism, and I can say with assuredness that I am making my way, slowly but surely, to remembering that authentic, loving, open, carefree, nurturing, joyous conduit of love and light that I believe each and every one of us truly is, and always has been, at our core. If you don’t share my sentiments, trust me, I can relate…but do not smother out the embers of hope that I know are glowing within you. Keep searching for your source of dharana; for your connection to your true spirit. And hey, while you’re searching, maybe give yoga a test run just for the hell of it? – At worst, you’ll get a little sweaty and sore, and at best, you may just find some peace.
NAMASTE …the Divine Light Within Me Bows to the Divine Light Within You