Forgive me readers, for I have a confession… a couple of them. I have some truths I want to share with you now that I have so boldly told you all about how to develop a complete yoga practice.
- I drink coffee.
- I drink alcohol, mostly only wine, but only because the hard stuff gives me a headache.
- I HATE getting up early, and it is unlikely I will ever rise early to practice and to meditate on a regular basis.
- I swear. I drop F-bombs regularly and I honk my horn when I drive, which I do very fast. I am just as aggressive when I bike commute.
- I don’t love everyone.*
There. Now you know the truth. My name is Monica, and I am not a perfect yogini.
I am kidding, of course. 🙂
No, I mean I TOTALLY do all of those things, I am just kidding about the idea that they make me a bad person or a bad yogini. What the hell would a “perfect yogi or yogini” be? It is NOT about perfection. It is soooooo easy to judge ourselves and to be our own worst critics. It would also be easy for you to judge me. Here I am sharing my stories, my ideas, my journey, my knowledge, my opinions, my, my, my….with all the world and yet, I am not some enlightened being. I am not someone who meditates for hours a day. I am not someone in total control of her ego and her emotions. I can’t sit in lotus posture. Who am I to tell you anything?!?!? Right? I totally get that.
You would be within your right if you wanted to judge me, I suppose. I cannot control what you think about me just as none of us can control what anyone else thinks, feels or does. All we can do is work on ourselves and be the best we can be for ourselves, for our family, for our friends and loved ones, for our co-workers and clients, and for the rest of humanity. So instead, I would ask you to listen to me with an open heart and mind.
In this post, I want to talk about pulling together my previous posts about yoga (postures, breath and meditation) and talk about how I am working make it a part of my life with the hopes that it will inspire you precisely because I am not a monk nor one of those people that is all chilled and peace and love all the time. I am just a normal person. I saw a t-shirt once that said “Peace, Love and little bit of go F%*$ yourself.” That resonated with me. LOL. I am just doing the best that I can, which is all any of us can hope to do. I am trying to talk the talk and walk the walk, but sometimes I stumble or trip, and sometimes I just stand still.
My hope is that each of us can spread a little bit of light and
that light can spread and spread until we are all basking in it.
I have two yoga teaching stories that I want to share to illustrate the beauty of my imperfection.
The first story is about when I was starting out at a new studio, but I was not a new teacher. To ‘interview,’ they had me teach a couple of classes, and someone attended who then provided feedback to the owner– like a secret shopper. The feedback was then shared with me. It was actually quite positive and constructive for me as a teacher. The only “negative” comment one of the people made was that I should be “more Zen and less peppy.” I had to laugh when I read that. I get it! I am not one of those people or teachers that you get around and are like, “Wow, she is sooooo chill.” I am high energy. I am emotional. I talk loud and fast. I have a huge laugh. I mix up my left from right and knee from elbow when I teach all the time, and I make jokes about it. I encourage my students that while yoga is important and focus is important, we should not take ourselves too seriously; we should still have fun!
Whenever someone came to my class and it was their first yoga class, I would try to check in with them afterwards. I would always tell them that if they didn’t like the class, it was okay, and I would encourage them to try a different class and a different teacher because maybe it was me, and that was okay. I am not for everyone. None of us are. I have teachers I love, and I have gone to classes once and never gone back because I didn’t connect with the teacher, the style, the vibe. That isn’t because the teacher was “bad;” they just didn’t click with me.
I once subbed a class and one of the students REALLY didn’t like my class and told me so after. I actually took her criticism on board, and adjusted the next time I taught the class because it was a format I was not used to teaching. While I could have lived without her negativity, her criticism was actually helpful, and frankly, others were probably just “too nice” to tell me! However, the next time I subbed that class, she came to the doorway, saw me and turned on her heel and left. She wanted nothing to do with me. A couple of the students who knew her sort of laughed and rolled their eyes and said she was “just like that.” They told me that they appreciated my style and the changes I had made. I was okay. I got it. I wasn’t her favorite teacher. I sort of wish she had given me a chance to make the changes she suggested, but that was her choice. You know what? THAT IS OKAY! I could have absorbed her comments and gotten down on myself and judged myself, but what would that have achieved? I didn’t need to adjust because of her comments, but I chose to see their value and to use them as an opportunity to grow. How she then responded was on her, not me.
My point is that I know that I am a “good” teacher in the sense that I care about my students; I teach safely in a way that reduces risk of injury and keeps students physically healthy; I create a positive environment that is emotionally safe; I love teaching. However, just because I am a “good” teacher does not mean that my brand of teaching is for everyone. It also does not mean that there is no space for growth for me as a person, practitioner or teacher. I am a better teacher now than when I taught my first class five years ago because since I taught that class, I have studied over 500-hours with multiple masters, and I have taught over 1,000 hours to hundreds of students. A previous student of mine recently took one of the classes I have been offering LIVE during #COVID-19 #socialdistancing and commented that I have become an “even better teacher.” He wasn’t saying that I was “bad” before or that I was not previously “good enough.” He was just noticing my growth, and I took that as a huge compliment.
That was actually a few stories rolled into one. Oops.
The “second” story isn’t really a story, but goes back to my list of “sins.” I once agreed to teach an 8:45 Sunday morning class once. I said I would do it for a month and see how it went. I had to be there by 8:30, so I had to leave my house by 8:00 am. That was REALLY early on a Sunday for me after a full week of work! I used to teach that class with an insulated coffee cup in my hand (full of black coffee with sugar!), and I would joke about that fact to my students who were mostly over 50 and thought it was hilarious: the high-test yoga teacher! I taught that class for 18 months. It was my favorite class all week, and it had an almost cult-like following. It is the only class I have ever had to turn people away from because after 25 people, it was just too crowded! I told that class about the “Zen” comment, which came from another studio, and they laughed about that too. I overcame a personal challenge of rising early, but I chose to embrace the fact that in order to do this, I was not willing to give up my morning cup of coffee, and I didn’t need to. I didn’t need to be hard on myself and feel like I was less valid as a teacher because I “needed” this “vice.” It became a point of entertainment and the class brought me great joy.
My point is that while I have been on my particular yoga path now for about eight years or so, I am still learning and growing and working on being the best version of myself that I can be, and I don’t need to be some “perfect” ideal that I may hold in my mind of a “yogini.” I am still a work in progress, but yoga is a part of that work. Anytime I get down on myself or criticize myself, I have to remind myself, “You are enough.” Enough as a human; enough as a woman; enough as a friend; enough as a teacher; enough as an employee. I can always grown and improve and evolve, but there is no reason to think that at any moment I am not enough.
The same guy I mentioned in a recent post about taking advantage of this unusual period in our history was actually the one to remind me about being enough. He pondered, “When did saying something was ‘good enough’ become a bad thing?” Think about it. If you ask, “How is this?” and someone replies, “It’s good enough,” that somehow connotes that it is not actually good at all. Why is that? He was actually the one who got me thinking about this notion that “I AM ENOUGH.”
We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to be good enough, and at any given moment, we need to remind ourselves that we are enough.
One morning when we were together, I was trying to read his mood and to respond appropriately, something I realize now I needed to not be working so hard to do. I just needed to be me and let him be him. Anyway, unfortunately for both of us, certain things are still triggering for me , and my ex used to blame me for everything. It was ALWAYS my fault, even when it was his fault, so I got used to being to blame and to apologizing. Something that morning set me off on a negative thought pattern, and as he sat next to me stroking my face and listening to me, I said, through tears, “I am just so afraid that I am going to fuck this up.” He questioned why I would say or think that, and I didn’t have a good answer except that I was slipping into the habit of self-blame and self-doubt. I really cared for him, and the fear of losing him because of an action on my part was very real to me. In that moment, he listened to me and heard me and comforted me, but he also firmly reminded me that thinking that way was neither helpful nor productive. One action on my part was not going to be our demise. I also reminded myself that he was not my ex and just as it was not fair to be down on myself, it was not fair to assign attributes of my ex to him.
That moment was difficult, but in such moments, we can choose to spiral backwards or to grow. I am learning to recognize when I am slipping into a negative thought pattern because of someone else’s actions and how I choose to respond to them, and I am working on responding differently in a more positive way that is kinder and gentler to myself. Yoga helps me with that.
I texted him the other day and asked if he would like to video chat sometime soon, which we have been done a few times, and he replied that it wasn’t a place for that right now. I could have read a million things into that. I could have let it ruin my day and make me sad feeling like he didn’t care about me, but I didn’t. I knew that his reply had to do with him and not with me and while it makes me sad to think that he was in a dark place, I also knew it had nothing to do with me and more than that, there was nothing I could do for him in that moment. I replied, “I am holding you in the light,” which is an expression I learned from a dear aunt. It is from the Quakers, and while it refers specifically to the “light of God,” it is usually taken more broadly than that as something of a universal light. I don’t believe in “god” per se, but I do believe in an energy, the power of the universe, a spiritual light. In some moments, that is all we can offer to one another.
We are all on our path. We all have our journey to make. Yoga will not resonate for everyone, but it has helped me. My hope is that you can read my stories about my pain, my healing and my continued growth and that something will resonate with you. There is a reason that the last one was not called “The End” or something because there is no end until I leave my body. In some ways I was behaving like I had reached some end point and I was stopping, but really all it was was that I had ended up on a treadmill and was moving in place rather than moving forward, so in these weeks, I have been working to bring all aspects of my yoga practice into my daily life again.
In addition, I humbly accept that I am not an “expert” by any stretch of the imagination, so I started reading and, in some cases, re-reading books on yoga and other topics to help me continue to expand my mind and to grow. In case you are interested, here is my list of recently read non-fiction books. (I have also read six books of fiction since this #socialdistancing started over a month ago!)
Books related to yoga:
- Bhagavad Gita as it is (Another confession: I have never read this and I have not yet started it, but I will…soon!!)
- Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith, PhD (This is less a book to read and more a reference, but I am interested in learning more about the chakras)
- Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide By David Frawley (Also more of a reference, but I have been meaning to read it.)
- Meditation and its Practice By Swami Rama (Highly recommend for its simplicity and practicality)
- Meditation: Searching for the Real You By Dada Jyotirupananda (Also easy to read and a bit more holistic than the previous one.)
- An Introduction to Zen Buddhism By D.T. Suzuki (Zen does not really resonate with me, but as books on Zen go, this was more accessible.)
- A Woman’s Practice: Healing from the Heart By Kath Meadows (Prison Yoga Project. Useful if you are new to yoga or are teaching yoga to vulnerable women.)
- A Path for Healing and Recovery By James Fox (Founder, Prison Yoga Project. This is specifically geared towards teaching in prison, but would be useful to anyone helping someone develop a simple and safe practice.)
- The Best Buddhist Writing (2008) Edited By Melvin McLeod (I have read this compilation, but I think I will re-read it.)
Some of these I had, some I have gotten on line from the public library and others I have ordered used from Better World Books. I have reserved an e-copy at the library of The Power of Now, a book by Eckhart Tolle that the guy I have been talking about swears by.
I have been reading a lot about PTSD and relationships with people who struggle with PTSD:
- The Things they Cannot Say by Kevin Sites
- Loving Someone with PTSD by Aphrodite Matsakis, PhD
- PTSD A Spouse’s Perspective by Erica David
- Shock Waves by Cynthia Orange
Reading these books has helped me to understand my own trauma better, and they have helped me recognize my own responses to other people when they are reacting to something that has nothing to do with me. While I certainly don’t minimize what I went through, based on what I am reading, I don’t believe that I have PTSD. However, that is not to say that the events of the past will not impact my life in the future if I do not continue to work on myself in the present. More, the books have helped me be able to be more empathetic to other people when they are working through their own issues, so I can be a better friend and partner to someone who has suffered trauma in their own life. I am getting better at letting go of my own ego and realizing that their issues are not about me.
I mentioned before that I started, and have now completed, a 21-Day meditation journey. For me, meditation is challenging, so if you feel the same way, please be gentle on yourself! I found the topic of “hope” in this series to be incredibly relevant right now, but I don’t know that I found the overall experience transformative. There were actually 22 days in the series, and I was faithful in meditating every day. Only once did I miss the morning and do it in the afternoon instead. The other days, I did a second meditation in the evening. Confession: Today was day 23 and it is Sunday, and I did not meditate this morning. However, I plan to in the evening after a yoga practice and I plan to continue daily in the evening. That being said, if I miss a day, that is okay and I will let it go.
Once I stopped teaching as a part of my way of making a living, yoga stopped being a daily activity, but if I am honest, while I was teaching, I was not working on my own practice very much. This time has given me the opportunity to work on my own yoga practice– all aspects of it–and to make it a more meaningful part of my daily life…or almost daily.
Once we get back to “normal,” what I would like for myself is to do an evening practice every night after work followed by a relaxation, shower and meditation before I prepare dinner (which some nights will be accompanied by wine!). That is realistic and achievable, and I think it will serve me in my life. I also know that there may be days that I come home and don’t want to do that, and that will be okay, as long as that does not become the pattern. Discipline is still important even as we are being gentle to ourselves. I need to ask why I don’t feel like practicing that night and reflect on what will best serve me in that moment. I need to remember that what is best is not necessarily what we want in that moment or what is easiest. I almost always feel better after an asana practice and I think as I incorporate meditation into my daily life, the same will be true of it. That is what I hope to inspire in you.
After my recent fast, I cut back on my coffee and caffeine consumption, which was not really that much to begin with after reducing it previously, but I am now content with even less than before. I have no desire to reduce it anymore. I love my morning cup, but I think I may have reduced it enough to make me less physiologically dependent, which was what I wanted to do. I still love my glass of wine some nights, and I still “curse like a sailor,” as they say, but I think that the hope and love of my practice is working its way into my daily life little-by-little.
I may or may not ever be a person that people describe as “Zen,” but if my energy can bring a little light and love into the world, that is enough for me. Funny random story. My name as a Peace Corps Volunteer given to me by my host mother, meant “light” in the local language. I loved that, and I have plans for my next tattoo as an homage to that time in my life.
My great hope is that each of us shines a little brighter each day, and that we share that light with people who are in the darkness in that moment, and that on the days that our light is not as bright, we have people who share their light with us.
I am a yogini and I walk my own path in my own way.
I am enough.
I hold each of you in the light as you continue on your journey.
*I mentioned that “I don’t love everyone.” I am working on forgiveness in a big way right now, so it may be a future post and maybe one day I can take that off my “Confession List!” 🙂
If you like what you read, like, share, follow!
- Coping During COVID-19: An extroverted empath’s thoughts
- Coping During COVID-19: This time is a gift
- Developing a Meditation Practice…trying to anyway
- Coping During COVID-19:How can I help?
- Starting…and Continuing a Yoga (asana) Practice
- Learning to Breathe Mindfully (Pranayama)
- Exercise and other Drugs