Lessons from a yoga teacher (that have nothing to do with postures)

Earlier this year I went to India to train as a yoga teacher. The things I learned weren't necessarily what I expected. Here's the story. 

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I went to my first proper yoga class in January 2014. Overweight, underconfident and, as a life long exercise and movement avoider, totally inflexible. Trying out yoga was one of a few goals I had set myself as part of a bigger mission to get my life on track following a pretty tough 2013. I knew yoga would be good for me because I’d heard about all the benefits, but still, it was something other people did, not me. 

Though it may seem funny to some, I was beyond nervous going into that first class. I remember the adrenalin as I walked down. However I was fortunate and the teacher leading the small group was welcoming, warm and fun so even though I was the stiffest person in the room by a mile and had zero idea what I was doing I decided to go back.

Fast forward 4 years and yoga has now become an important part of my daily life. There are so many poses and postures that I can’t do and perhaps never will. Even some that aren’t considered advanced, 4 years in and they haven’t happened for me yet. 

And you know something? I’ve given up caring about that. Not in an apathetic and defeatist way but instead in a "does it really matter?” way. In a "is it really going to improve my overall life by being able to do a perfect Crow?” way. The answer is invariably not. 

As a result I get so much more out of my practice, by seeking less. By just going with the flow and seeing what happens. By being kind, by not competing with anyone else. Most of all not competing with myself any more. 

And so last year I found myself booking flights and putting clients on hold and taking that self-kind and non-competitive spirit to the training in India.  When I was there, whilst I didn’t learn how to do a handstand or fancy twists and shapes. I learned things that will serve me every day, and that now serve my clients. 

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I learned that you can teach an old dog new tricks. I learned to do what I can do and for it to be totally enough. I learned it was ok to be at the bottom of the class (whatever that means). I learned to value the opportunity in all its forms. To stretch and challenge myself, yes, to beat myself up or grasp for more - no.  I learned don’t be pressurised or shamed by other people and don’t compare myself - other people’s journeys are theirs, mine is mine.  I learned how to meditate, how to really meditate, and that it takes more wrinkles and years off your face than botox ever could (really)!! 

I learned that I need to be and find joy in being around people and that I need and find joy in my independence too. After losing my phone for a week I learned I don’t need it as much as I think I do and I feel more connected to the world without it. I learned you're never too old or too young to make friends. I learned that when I try my best without forcing too hard, when I show up as I am and when I accept and find joy in where I am while remaining curious about what else I can learn, that’s yoga.  And I learned that applies to life too. 

As I walked into that yoga studio for the first time in 2014, I never would have thought in a billion years that I’d ever be in a position to call myself a qualified yoga teacher, but I can and do. And so more than anything I learned that I can do things I never thought I could and that I can do them my way and they’ll be imperfectly perfect. 

What do you think you can’t do and yet are willing to give it a go? 

 

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