Where the Wild Things Are — in Yoga Teacher Training

Graphic: cover of Where the Wild Things Are
With apologies to Maurice Sendak for ripping off his title and contorting his plot, I have my own monsters.

I battled monsters on the yoga mat this afternoon when I did my first practice teaching in the Thrive Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). But these monsters were of my own making. I spent the weekend planning and practicing my assigned sequences, but I also created some hairy, over-sized, unruly beings that captured my mind when I needed to be centered and grounded. I acknowledge that I was afraid of them, but I battled “bravely” to get through my demo

So what allowed these creatures to commandeer my head? I lost sight of what I really should have been doing — not practice teaching, but conveying the joy of yoga as authentically as possible. Here’s how it happened:

  1. Life got in the way: After 12 consecutive days in YTT, things at home start adding up: grocery shopping, son leaving for UC-Berkley (School of Fine Arts) in three weeks, bills needing to be paid, etc.
  2. Too much freedom: a free weekend without YTT or yoga class looks like an eternity on Friday evening, but it ends in 48 hours.
  3. Hard to get over the hump: it took longer than expected to create something I could work with, too many diversions to investigate secondary elements in the task. Reciting a script was boring and I felt the revulsion of hearing my own recorded voice.
  4. Aversion: as I became more uncomfortable with the task, I gave in to other distractions and let things slide until late on Sunday.
  5. Panic buttons: As I realized that my window of opportunity was shrinking, I started blindly cutting back on what I wanted accomplish, but shortchanged my opening and closing sequences.
  6. No yoga: my body needed downtime from yoga class, but my body and mind also needed maintenance (pranayama, meditation, restorative routnes) to keep me sane and whole. I did some breath work on Sunday PM, but my mind was already operating in deficit.
  7. No journaling or blogging: I told myself that I needed to focus on the practicum so I did not do my “brain dump” to get “stuff” out of my head and on paper. Usually, I can spot shortcomings and holes in my thinking when I see them in writing.
  8. Bad night’s sleep: once the negative feedback loops in the head get lit up by worry, it’s hard to turn them off. I got to bed late, and woke up several times during the night, but not early enough to get to YTT on time.
  9. Forgot the basics: breathe, laugh, be mindful, listen to my own body and the students in front of me, acknowledge to others my humanity.

I numbed myself while taking the two-hour written test in the morning, but I felt the muscles between my shoulder blades knotting up, pain stabbing like a dagger. I knew that whatever I had planned to do for the practicum was shredded by my monsters and decided that I just had to wing it as best I could. I felt the fear quivering just under my skin, ready to erupt. I wanted to bolt from the room, from my classmates and teachers who only wished the best for me, from the Godzillas that I had created out of thin air, despite all the yogic attributes I’ve been trying to cultivate for 10 years.

Happy Ending

Photo: hands in prayer
Anjali mudra in prepration for another vinyasa

I gave a brave and strong performance because I did not give in to the monsters: I practiced with them and muscled through the 15 minutes. It’s over and done, and tomorrow I get to start working on improving the sequence (cat/cow, Sun Salutation B, Breath of Fire) for next week.

I’ve just woven a narrative about my personal horror story. A lot is just junk, trivia, framed to justify the outcome and rescue some strands of truth. Why do I tell all this junk? Because probably all YTT students, certainly my classmates who tackled the same assignment with courage and touches of grace, go through something similar and can recognize part of their struggle in my story. We dare to take ownership of our practice, our bodies, our minds, our spirit, and share the lessons of yoga with others. The leap to the front of class is huge and humbling.

It’s easier to tell the junk than dig deeper into my samskaras.