— Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
Take your shoes and socks off.
Roll out your mat quietly.
Don’t smell bad.
Don’t watch other people’s practice.
Don’t swear. It’s unbecoming.
Don’t silently hate on your teacher. That’s even more unbecoming.
Leave as quietly as you came.
How did I learn all the unspoken rules of yoga?
Well, I broke all of them.
I remember walking into my first class — I threw the mat down, chatted loudly with a neighbor, stared shamelessly at my practicing peers, and started making the kind of contorted faces that signaled a singular and exasperating pain.
It was all very unbecoming.
But little did I know, this display was the start of a journey that led me to becoming a certified Yoga instructor. Because even after a few sessions, you start to realize that yoga class is singular— it’s a place where you will bend, stretch, fold, and sweat as profusely as God will let you. And in theory, after hours of downward dog, you’ll gain the enlightenment, divine light, root chakra, inner fortress, and life purpose you deserve, all for a few hours of your sweet, limited time. And I wanted to teach it. So, packed with self-doubt and questions about my own inner harmony, I started teacher training. Was I ready to become a yoga teacher? I had no idea. But it was worth a shot.
Before I joined the rankings of the spiritually enlightened, of course, there was one rule: you had to actually complete the training program. I remember the first day. The teacher entered the room for meditation training. I adjusted my legs into a position that I thought wouldn’t kill me for 30 minutes.
Then, it was silent. I guess training, I thought, just meant attempt. But soon the seconds started counting down. And then, I got restless.
Within minutes, I couldn’t stop thinking that I had just made the greatest mistake of my life and I should probably get the hell out of this room, stat.
The truth was I was dying in there. After 30 minutes of sheer internal hell, I realized that maybe I wasn’t cut out for teaching the path to spiritual enlightenment. If today was any indication, it didn’t seem like I was much good at it myself. Because I felt like a sherpa who never reached the summit.
I was ready to quit. As the class ended, to mask my shame, I said nothing while I waited to hear the stories from my peers. But instead, I was bewildered: they admitted to similar, if not worse, experiences than my own. One woman even counted the whole time to relieve the suffering of sitting in silence. The suffering, she said. Imagine that for your yoga teacher.
I soon realized that I was not joining an enlightened group of those who have conquered fear, looked mortality in the eye, or found ever-lasting peace. These people instead felt more broken, raw, and exposed than anyone I knew. They were showing up in their humanity and it might not have been pretty. But it was real.
As I finished three months of training, I exposed my vulnerabilities. And almost as quickly as it began, I realized it was time — time to teach my first Yoga class. Continue reading >>