In a regrettable moment of over-sharing, I admitted that I’d considered yoga teacher training to the women I take daily yoga with. Last week when our yoga teacher was on a pilgrimage to New Mexico, I was called upon to substitute. I had said I was thinking about the training. I had not said I was signed up for teacher training.
When my daughter was born, 14 years ago, July 2nd, I looked up and saw she was a girl and shut my eyes. I had wanted her and she had come. She made me the mother of two children. A two-year old boy and an infant daughter. My marriage had become an unappealing side dish to an otherwise enormous feast. A feast I felt responsible for keeping fresh and stocked at all times. Overwhelmed, I found a yoga class. That was 14 years ago. It was before yoga was in fashion again. The last time people trotted around saying Sat Nam–hello and goodbye, yogi style–was 1970.
So, people said, “Yoga? really?” when I told them about my new passion. I didn’t tell them it was making me a better parent. I don’t think I knew that. I just knew going felt good. When I came home from class my mind had stopped chasing shadows of unformed thoughts. We all know, chasing unformed or blindingly clear thoughts, at warp speed through one’s mind, does not make for “present” parenting.
Back then I was more cynical and doubting than most. I scoffed, internally of course, when the chanting began in yoga class. I refused to listen to any of the teacher’s messages of self-love and acceptance. I was sure her reminders were the luxury of the privileged. And thus, I should not participate. I grew up in a house where internal gazing was frowned upon because there were hungry people in the world. And wars were ravaging lands far away. When all the problems of the world had been solved, then and only then, would self-analysis be appropriate. I had bought that philosophy enough so that I felt guilty whenever I engaged in activities like meditation or yoga. Yes, I was a walking contradiction. On one hand, I was a doubter. On the other, “it” felt good. Whatever “it” was that occurred in the yoga studio. Some people had shame about sex from their childhoods, I had shame about all things pleasurable. Because somebody else, somewhere, was suffering.
Fast forward 13 years, through a painful divorce, the taping together of my children, the formation of a new home for my children and myself, an altered identity excavated from the rubble and the two former babies, now rollicking teenagers. The yoga studio, a corner room in a sprawling Victorian house, remained constant while the earth shifted. A place I could crawl the stairs to, join a circle and shut my eyes upon the outer world. It was a gift.
So, with the acknowledgement that I had benefited (despite my resistance and jokes about joining a cult and not to drink the Kool-Aid), I had begun to think about teacher training. And then I let that fact slip to the women I take yoga class with.
And the next thing I knew I was the substitute yoga teacher.
I sat before my yoga buddies and they stared expectantly at me. At 4:45 A.M., I thought I knew what I was doing until I tried to “tune in” with a chant I had said for 14 years. Suddenly, without our teacher, I felt all the other voices scrambling after mine. I felt extraordinarily inept. Yet I had a class to teach to a group of women who had hauled their asses out of bed. I took a deep breath and tried again. That time I remembered.
Next, we began a series of postures. I demonstrated some of the postures. The trouble occurred with my right and left. When I got divorced my wedding ring’s removal caused a directional crisis. For twelve years I had been able to feel solid about my left and right. But in class that morning, I goofed again for, like, the millionth time, since the wedding ring’s removal. The women were kind. Even though I’d messed up their rhythm, they stayed.
The most shocking thing about being the substitute teacher was having a room of people doing what I told them to do. I don’t know what I thought teaching was going to be like. It’s not as if our teacher had to cajole us into cooperation every day. After the left/right issue, I felt I should resign as the substitute. While they relaxed on their backs, I practiced my resignation speech.
But, I could not quit. I knew that. Out of self-preservation alone. How would I ever go back to class if I resigned? No matter how many times I had thought our yoga teacher was over the top with her aphorism-filled pep rallies, I needed a hit. I dug deep and pulled up a few doozies; one about faking it until you make it and another about applying grit to your life. I shelved my speech and finished my stint as the substitute. And by the end of the week, I felt competent-ish. I had my left and right solidly learned.
This doesn’t mean that I am now an enlightened, stress-free yogi. No. For years–particularly around the time of my divorce–I was uncommitted, distracted and terrified. But I moved through it, as we say in yoga. Time does heal and applying grit works. And remembering to breathe makes all the difference in the world.