Day 5: Yoga Teacher Training
The perfectionist in me says I should have been writing about yoga teacher training, every day. The comic in me says I’ve barely been able to lift my arms high enough to type. The light in me says I’m exactly as I need to be. I would do better to focus less on striving and more on love, compassion, and humor.
As part of our training, every morning we focus on Pranayama (breathing exercises) + Meditation from 7–8am. On Day 1, I remember feeling high during our practice. I got into such a nice rhythm with my Ujjayi breath, it felt like I was creating a lovely whirlwind inside my entire body. I smiled as I breathed thinking about how cool it is I can create wind in myself.
Afterward, I felt powerful as I walked my dog friend, Biggie. I stood tall with my heart extended out and marveled at how the simple act of focused breathing can put you into a higher state. Later, we did our first movement practice together. As things progressed, I got confused. Wait a second here, I thought, yoga’s not supposed to be THIS HARD.
When we finished, we did a talking circle. The group sang Happy Birthday to me, and one of our teachers asked if I had any words of wisdom to share. “I’m empty,” I said. As soon as we went our separate ways (from our computer screens), I shouted to the air and myself, “I know nothing!”
Days 2 and 3 went on like that, with me realizing the extent of the nothingness of my knowing. As the nothingness of my knowing increased, so did the soreness of my muscles. By the time I woke up on Day 4, I was ready to run and hide in the forest. Not only did I know nothing, not only was my body completely sore — I had somehow lost the ability to speak up and share my thoughts. I was breaking the f down.
Then things got extra interesting. Yesterday, Day 4, we learned something called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which is alternate nostril breathing. For example, you would hold down the right nostril as you breathe in through the left, then hold down the left as you breathe out through the right.
Everything was fine as I breathed in through my left nostril and out through my right, but when we switched the direction of the flow, I had a really hard time breathing in through my right nostril. At first, I laughed it off and blew my nose, thinking I was just suffering from too-many-boogers-in-nose. When I tried again, I still couldn’t do it very well.
Air was coming in, yes, but not in a comfortable or quick enough way. I remembered that my nose has always been a little off this way, but I never knew the extent of it until that moment. I struggled through the physical pain of the moment, and then we returned to normal breathing for meditation.
As my breath stabilized, I got emotional. I thought, if something as basic as my breathing is imbalanced, how is that affecting every other part of my body and mind? Then I was triggered, and wondered how long my imbalanced breathing had been affecting every facet of my life. I thought back to my time in South Sudan and thought about trauma and wondered how my nostrils informed my experience there. And I just kept on spiraling from there, letting tears flow down my face, with my teachers watching through the screen.
Eventually, I recovered and began to soothe myself. I took a few powerful, cleansing breaths and sighed them out vigorously. I stopped crying and wiped the tears off my face. When we finished, one of my teachers asked if I had a hard time breathing. I said yes and that I had just realized how imbalanced my nose is, and started crying again.
Day 4 went on like that, getting more and more painful as the day progressed. When I had a chance to share what happened with the group, I stayed silent, and then I was disappointed in myself for it. Then as we did our yoga practice later, my body was just DEAD. While dead, I pushed myself too hard, which is never a good idea, and I was frustrated with myself for not being able to do a shoulder stand. I took a bath afterward, hoping to ease the pain in my body. And as we sat for our afternoon lecture a couple of hours later, it took everything in me to not fall asleep.
Thankfully, our teachers let us take the rest of the night off, rather than coming back together in the evening. This allowed me to get the extra rest I needed at the perfect time. And today, I woke up feeling much better, and I have maintained good energy throughout the day. It’s nearly 7pm, and we still have one more meeting, but I’m feeling good.
It wasn’t just the extra rest that got me feeling better, though. It was also ME. By some divine light, I was able to handle the pain in a healthy way. I recognized what happened in the beginning, there, with my breathing, and how it was affecting everything else. I knew after the physical practice, I was reaching overwhelm.
I knew I had been triggered around trauma stuff. I knew I was feeling insecure about my imperfections. I knew I was spent — physically, emotionally, spiritually. It was just one of those days, and maybe resting would have solved it, but I had a feeling I needed to go a little deeper than that. I decided to take certain actions to help me get through it.
About midday, I talked with my teachers and told them what was going on. But before that, I practiced talking to them with a friend who understands how I process things. And before that, I practiced talking to them to the shower head while I was submerged in bath water.
Something as simple as talking about it had become difficult for me to do. Not the first time in my life for this to happen. I am intimately familiar with the feeling of not having, or being cut off from my voice. This training is so important to me for that very reason.
I became passionate about yoga because of how it helps us become more in touch with ourselves. How it helps us return to healthy embodiment. How it helps us heal — physically and emotionally. How it helps break up chunks of trauma in our brains.
I couldn’t abandon myself. I have come too far to abandon myself now. I’m thankful I was able to listen to myself, even when things became difficult. Even when I felt like shutting down, I kept loving myself and allowing myself to be — in all of my unique ways of being.
I woke up today, Day 5, feeling refreshed. Surely the extra rest helped. The soreness in my muscles was relieved some, too. But the biggest part of feeling better has to do with my ability and willingness to show up for myself. And the biggest challenge going forward will be in continuing to show up for myself, every day.
Learning to accept myself, love myself, show compassion and gentleness toward myself — this is showing up. Continuing to value my thoughts and experiences and words — this is showing up for myself. Seeing moments of life as being inherently worthy of being lived, no matter how I classify them on the spectrum of pain and beauty — this is showing up for myself.
The scary moment of breathing on Day 4 was just as beautiful as the whimsical moment of breathing on Day 1. These moments are both beautiful because they tap into the shared human experience. They are both beautiful because they represent the fullness of life I’ve lived. They are both beautiful, simply because they’re mine.