It has been just over a week since I left for my Yoga Teacher Training adventure in Costa Rica and WOW what a journey it has already been. I feel that just by getting here, I overcame so many hurdles. Flying by myself on a long haul flight was a huge deal for me. Arriving in a new country to be greeted by someone who I had never me before (I will never forget the relief of seeing her face amongst a crowd of shrieking teenage girls waiting for a boy band to come through), travelling to a random AirBnB for a night and then being woken up with a start by mangoes falling from the trees on to our roof. Praying that the taxi we had booked would turn up to take us to our destination, travelling in a shuttle with a group of strangers, carrying a 30kg (yup packed way to many things) suitcase up and down some precarious metal stairs on a ferry, avoiding travel sickness in the back of a mini bus while a guy who was clearly high on cannabis chatted away to us. And all this was before we even set foot on a yoga mat!
I am very proud of myself for daring to make this trip, and now, one week in, I am starting to really see how strong and powerful I can be. There have already been highs and lows, but each experience has made me stronger and more appreciative of what I am doing.
On our first day we had a beautiful yoga flow taught to us by our teacher Lauren Rudick and as she started to play her ukulele and sing to us, the tears started streaming down my face. It felt safe because everyone had their eyes closed, but I was comforted by Lauren softly laying a hand on my shoulder. No words were necessary. They were not tears of sadness – they were almost of relief. Of pure joy and pride that I had made it there. I looked around the room and I saw a group of people all ‘dancing’ beautifully to the sound of her singing voice. It was a magical moment and felt like a weight had been lifted. It was like coming home to myself.
On day two we were asked to teach Sun Salutation A and my first instinct was to run away! Not because I can’t do this particular flow myself, but because teaching someone I didn’t know, using Sanskrit words that I couldn’t pronounce, remembering when to tell someone to inhale and exhale, and what postures to take… was so overwhelming. My brain hasn’t had to learn something for such a long time and it was hard to adjust. My instant response was to default to trying to make it ‘perfect’ and when I couldn’t achieve that I felt like giving up. But with the support from other people – I learned an important lesson in being imperfectly perfect! And as the week progressed I started to feel more and more confident in my teaching practice.
Adjusting to the time zone (we are 7 hours behind the UK), the humidity, the food (all vegetarian), sharing a room with two strangers (gorgeous girls I have to add), dealing with a billion insect bites (they just love my blood) and getting used to the sound of howler monkeys as an alarm clock is all pretty challenging. If anything is going to teach me how to adapt to change it will be this experience.
My own yoga practice has already progressed hugely, in just a few days. We have been lead by some incredible teachers and my body has felt strong and reliable. I am not the most bendy, or the bravest when it comes to arm balances and headstands, but I am honouring where my body is taking me each and every day and that to me is what this journey is all about.
On Friday, after five days of learning and practicing, I felt the familiar triggers of comparison set it. I looked at a photo and the familiar critical self-talk began. ‘look how bad your downward dog is Lauren’, ‘look how big you look,’ ‘you can’t possibly wear shorts to do yoga’, ‘look at the size of your thighs compared to the others’… I have to admit I let these thoughts run with me for a short while.
But then I took a step back. I took out my pen and journal and I wrote. I looked at all of the thoughts running through my head and I re-read my notes from a wonderful lecture from an amazing teacher called Nancy. What I took from her words was that we are always our true divine self – the ‘see’er’ – but what changes are the things that we see. Our emotions, our thoughts… they are what we see but they do not make us who we are and they are choices that we make.
We can choose to suffer in this body, or accept it as something to be grateful for. In shifting this mindset I realised how absolutely amazing my body has been to me this week. Yet, all I could do was speak badly of her?
She has taken me through god knows how many sun salutations, held me powerfully in plank and chaturanga. She has rooted me to the ground in my warrior sequences and given me the energy needed to keep going and going even when fatigue sets in. She has allowed me to be quiet and still during meditation and given me the strength to walk along the beach under the most incredible skies. What possible reason could I have to be critical of her?
Sometimes we feel like we are the only person who is struggling – we are great at hiding things from each other for the sake of saving face or not making other people feel awkward. But the truth is every single person on this training has his or her own struggles. One brave soul voiced her concerns at the end of a class and we were totally shocked by her feelings. The judgement she thought was upon her could not have been further form the truth. She gave me, and others, the courage to acknowledge that sometimes we create and get carried away with our own stories. Spinning them out of control until they hurt only ourselves.
These new connections – with both other people, and myself – makes me think about the familiar word that is used at the end of every yoga class, Namaste.
I believe this word has slightly different meanings to every individual but the definition we were given last week was…
“The light within me honours, appreciates and recognises the light within you. When I am in that place inside of me, and you are in that place inside of you. We are one.”
To me it is about acknowledging the unity and connection between us. It is respect, compassion, love.
And then we were asked how we honour the light in ourselves?
This is a question I would have previously struggled to answer. I couldn’t really see light in myself – only the ‘bad’ bits. But now I know that the way I honour the light in myself is to honour the darkness. Without the low points and the darker shades – there would be no light.
So as I head into week two of my yoga teacher training, I am taking a new found respect for my light and darkness. I am honouring my body, my mind, I am grateful, I am open and I am showing up consistently in whatever way feels right for me at that present moment.
And so the adventure continues…