I have decided to start posting diary entries to this blog, as a way to help others see yoga not as a one-time workout, but rather as a lifelong practice. I have certainly changed in the last ten years, since I started practicing yoga. Here’s a journal entry from 2008, when I was in teacher training:
“I began doing yoga about two years ago, during my student teaching [for elementary education]. My roommate, Satya, saw that I was depressed. I wasn’t enjoying teaching, and I had never ‘failed’ at anything major before, the way that I felt I was failing at student teaching. I can see now that I had never lived for my own joy before– I was doing what others expected of me and what would earn me praise.
I think some of my relationships and negative habits were tied into this lack of self-awareness, or perhaps more succinctly, lack of self-propulsion. I was attracted to either victims or smart rebels who put up the same front of wit and charm to hide their vulnerability and denial of their true selves. [My ex boyfriend] comes to mind.
Satya was working at a Portland yoga studio at the time, so she got me a discounted month-long unlimited membership. Throughout the turmoil of graduate school and the next year, working at a local school and fighting the tiny voice inside telling me that I actually hated the prospect of being a full-classroom teacher, yoga was one of the only things that consistently brought me deep, unreasonable joy.
After that year, I moved home to Reno to reassess my interests and direction–who I was without teaching [elementary school classes]. I finally had the time to do exactly what I wanted to do during the day–what I would do no matter what, just to make myself happy. Some of those things are writing, yoga, ballroom dancing, and crafts. So I started going to yoga every day at a lovely studio in downtown Reno. I loved the calm, non-competitive nature of this studio, the patient and spiritually aware teachers, etc. I discovered Kundalini and Tibetan Heart Yoga, and practiced Yin and Restorative, all of which I look forward to teaching myself someday. One of my teachers mentioned that she became a teacher because she wanted to do yoga every day, and she knew she would if she taught. ‘Hey!’ I thought, ‘That’s just like me!’ So, I started researching schools, and here I am in Portland, attending CorePower Yoga’s teacher training.
I’m surprised at how many people in the teacher training program really saw yoga as just a physical exercise. I may not be as physically fit as they are (perhaps because I’m still smoking a bit), but my spiritual understanding of yoga is more developed.
(There I go again with my competitive nature. One of my goals is to let that go–but for now it may be a stepping stone to self-confidence, which I found through others’ praise for a long time. Now I’m providing the praise, and I want to work toward an innate sense of self worth that’s not based on how I stack up to other people.)
Further, it’s interesting to see what types of people are in this CorePower training. CorePower, as a school of yoga, is more focused on Hatha Yoga, enlightenment through the physical realm, than say, Tibetan Heart or Yin or Kundalini Yoga. So I guess it’s not surprising that my classmates are really tuned into their bodies. On the other hand, when I express my joy in yin yoga, they usually say that it’s ‘torturous’ to them because they can’t quiet their minds. Humph. And I thought that was one of the most important goals of yoga– inner calm and clarity, and the ability to calm your mind. Then again, I’ve had experience with other schools of yoga as well as Buddhist philosophy through some of my favorite books, like The Joy of Living. So, I guess one of the lessons I’ve learned from this experience is to avoid judgement of others’ paths to joy. There are many paths to joy and self-awareness and compassion, and why should I assume my path is the only “right” way? Gosh, that would make for a boring world!
Another lesson: JOY is one of my primal qualities, and a gift I can constantly give to others. My housemate said I bring others to enjoy life more–I love that. I hope I can do that through yoga, writing, and tutoring.
I’m feeling good about my progress so far–I’ve been practicing a lot with friends. Yoga makes me SO HAPPY.”
Since the time of this entry I have stopped smoking all together (and at this point I’m not drinking alcohol or caffeine, either). I did continue writing–indeed, now I am a freelance copywriter. And although I never would have anticipated it when writing this diary entry, I am getting back into the schools. I was recently hired as a substitute teacher for Portland Public Schools, and I just completed a P.E. endorsement program last December.
It is very interesting to look back at my mind during teacher training. Some of the same themes in this diary entry have resonated throughout my yoga career–balancing physical fitness and mental peace, not comparing myself to others, focusing on joy. I am glad to share this entry because it tells the beginning chapters in my yoga journey.
If you practice yoga, I encourage you to keep a yoga diary too. Bring it into the room with you and jot down your thoughts before and after practice. It can help you observe your own thoughts and get to know yourself better. This self-study is a basic tenet of yoga–known as Svadyaya in Sanskrit, it is the idea that we can make compassionate choices when we know ourselves well.
Image: by Kevin B. Pixl