I still remember my first yoga class about sixteen years ago. It took place at the YMCA in St. John’s, Newfoundland in an old building that housed an old room in which I practiced the sun salutations for the very first time nestled between two of my oldest and dearest friends. I vaguely remember the room; it was painted that beige colour you see in classrooms and old buildings. The paint bubbled in the nooks and crannies throughout the brick it had been brushed over. The front of the room was mirrored and mats were placed closely together. I remember my confusion and I can still feel the insecurity I felt in that moment as I looked around the room assuming everyone else knew what they were doing.
I cannot explain this in terms you will understand because I don’t fully understand it myself, but I’ve always felt a pull toward yoga. Even before I rolled out my borrowed mat on that YMCA floor, I wanted to do yoga. I wanted to fall in love with yoga.
But I didn’t. Not that day anyway, not after that class. Instead of joy and love I walked out of that room feeling annoyed and confused. What was a sun salutation and how many of those did she make us do anyway? I looked over at my friend who is still the only person I have ever met to get stressed out by a yoga class. “Be a leaf?” She said. “What the fuck am I supposed to do when the teacher tells us to be a leaf?” I laughed. We all laughed. The three of us walked away differently: I was curious, one friend was hooked, and the other still gets angry whenever yoga comes up in conversation.
I spent the next sixteen years falling in and out of love with yoga. It took many different studios, gyms, community centres and church basements to find a class that resonated with me. I wanted to love yoga and at times it felt like I was hanging on to something that would never become a part of my life. I’d sign up for an eight week session and by the end struggle to find motivation to attend and then not find my way back for months or even years.
Looking back now I can pinpoint the time in my life when my heart opened up and everything yoga flowed in unobstructed. Things lined up: the studio was close to my home, the teacher was motivating and kind of silly, the physical practice was difficult and inviting, and perhaps most importantly my timing (the beginning of the end of a short marriage) was perfect. I remember spiralling out of control and the only thing that made any sense was this need to get to a yoga class.
So I got myself to a yoga class. A 5:45am yoga bootcamp to be exact. I began going three mornings a week. Then I added an evening class. Then a weekend visit. Before I knew it I was attending at least five classes a week and if I missed one I felt it, in my body and in my mind.
One day, nearly a year later, I was on my way into class when my teacher (one of the studio owners) asked me if I thought of signing up for teacher training. The question literally stopped me in my tracks. I had never considered becoming a yoga teacher and the idea of it at that moment did not appeal to me. “No.” Was my simple answer. He told me to think about it and honestly I didn’t until months later when he brought it up again. The answer was still no, but this time I did think about it when I went home. And I thought about it for weeks and months afterwards as well. I wasn’t in a place in my life where I could make space for the intense training, but the seed had been planted and this teacher’s gentle nudging was fertilizer that helped the idea grow.
I began to ask myself why not? Why not me? Why not become a yoga teacher? The reasons I gave were straight out of BullshitVille: I’m not ready, I’m not strong enough, I’m not good enough, I’m not physically fit enough, I’m not precise enough, I’m not knowledgeable enough.
But then another question worked its way in there: why am I not enough?
That question caused a shift. I pushed my ego out of the way and followed my instinct.
I remember the day I signed up for hatha yoga teacher training. I all but skipped into the studio, smiling so wide the sides of my mouth could touch my ears. I probably looked crazed, but I tell you that is the look you get when you truly listen to yourself. As I walked back out through those doors I left my feelings of doubt and insecurity inside, ready to be swept away – I didn’t need them for where I was going.
As a fairly recent graduate of teacher training, and a new-ish teacher, yoga is even more ingrained in my world today then I’d ever imagined. I do a home practice, I go to classes, I attend workshops, watch videos and read books on the subject (though I’ve yet to rediscover that leaf posture from my very first class). I’ve given up my old profession to explore this one and in doing so continue to follow that feeling that tells me I’m on the right road. In my life yoga has always been a clear answer, I’ve just had to listen harder for the question.