I completed my first 200-hour yoga teacher training five years ago this month. When I graduated from the program, I felt like I knew even less about yoga than when I began. I lacked faith in my abilities as a practitioner and decided I simply wasn’t cut out for teaching. Other classmates went off to teach public and private classes in various disciplines and one person in my cohort even started a yoga studio, despite the fact that she had been practicing yoga for less than a year prior to the training.
I felt defeated and insecure; feelings I know are deep rooted from my childhood. From an early age, I battled with self-confidence – I never trusted in my competence, despite my high levels of achievement in the classroom, on tests, and in intellectual competition. Years later, having not only graduated with Highest Honors as an undergraduate, but earning a Master of Arts degree, I still had the underlying feeling that I just wasn’t good enough, I needed to work a little harder, do a little more to prove to the world that I was worthy.
I went on from that experience to start anew in a two year 500-hour teacher training at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. There I met an entirely new crew of folks who shared my interest in and enthusiasm for the subject of yoga. It was exhilarating (and sometimes exhausting) to be so completely immersed in the practice, philosophy and path of yoga. Throughout the program, I battled the inner voice I’ve carried with me ever since I can remember; the voice that questions my judgement, my depth and breadth of knowledge and ability, whether people will care about me, or like me, or trust me, or respect me. Even though I may not have let on to others about my self-doubt, it was there inside of me the entire time
As part of this training, I was expected to teach small groups of students in order to fulfill the program requirements. At first, I hated teaching. Slowly I started to become more comfortable with it, but it took me quite some time to actually enjoy being in front of a class. I put the work in, though, and pushed that nagging voice into a little box in my head so that I could move on with my teaching, as I have in other areas of my life. Every time it popped out of the box, I struggled to put the lid back on, until it got quieter and quieter, more easy to quell. Even now, some days it is more restless than others, but most of the time I can take a deep breath and simply let those negative thoughts go.
Today, I thank my students for giving me the fortitude to show up and share the practice of yoga with them every week; each and every one of them has shown me that we all have more strength within us than we give ourselves credit for. I thank them for teaching me that showing up itself is at least half the battle. I thank them for inspiring me to want to be a better teacher and, by extension, a better human being. Their presence has given me an understanding of myself that I would never have if I didn’t have the space to learn and grow as a teacher. They teach me consistently that we need to be brave enough to have confidence in ourselves to go into the unknown and to be compassionate with ourselves as we explore what it means to live this life.