Tonight’s post was going to be a confession of sorts. About how much I suck as a yoga teacher trainee. About how frustrated I felt with myself this weekend as YTT Week 3 started. Yeah, I know, even with all these “count your blessings” posts, I couldn’t help but feel pretty down on myself today.
It was a rough weekend for me, YTT-specifically. Saturday’s training kicked off Week 3 of 14. We spent the first three hours discussing and learning about the Yoga Sutras.
Basically, the Yoga Sutras are the Bible of Yoga. We are reading the foundational teachings, learnings, intentions, etc of our yoga practice. The sutras seek to describe why we practice yoga, the aim of yoga, and how we go about utilizing yoga as a way to eliminate or decrease mental suffering and increase joy.
This part of the day was FASCINATING. I was drinking it in. It reminded me of first year philosophy or sociology classes I took in college. It was a thought-provoking, intense educational experience.
The second part of the day did not go so well. We were discussing and practicing yoga nidra. Yoga nidra- basically- is a guided meditation (this is very much the Cliff Notes version). The aim of yoga nidra is to disengage the thought patterns that don’t serve us (Who has those? Everyone raise their hands!)
Basically you lay down, think of an intention for something you want to change in your life or visualize happening, and literally are guided through a hypnagogic state (ie: deep relaxation of which you are literally between worlds)….. Sounds great, right?
Well, unless you are me. I wanted Yoga Nidra to work for me. I had my intention all set. I had my props, I was, for all intents and purposes, ready for relaxation. I was ready to do this thing.
But I couldn’t. My teacher’s deep voice resonated in the room as we all began our yoga nidra practice. I tried to listen to his cues. But I became MORE anxious, not less. My mind was racing. 8 million thoughts were coming up. Then, I heard our teacher ask us to envision floating gently to the bottom of the ocean.
“What???” my conscious brain thought. “The bottom of the ocean? Who wants to be there???. Not me. I want to live, people! My life is pretty damn good!”
So my anxiety rose. I couldn’t breathe (frankly, who can at the bottom of the ocean?) And any state of relaxation dissipated. Of course, then came the snoring.
You know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s in final shavasnana, yoga nidra or meditation, someone starts snoring. Maybe if I was “better” at yoga, this wouldn’t serve as a distraction. But as soon as I start to hear the snoring, my mind tells me the following story:
“Do you hear that person snoring? They are soooooo über relaxed. How great would it be to be that person? Wait- what if you’re actually the person snoring and don’t even know it? Oh and by the way, did you add kale and pineapple to your grocery list? Because if you didn’t, you’ll forget and want it on Thursday and not have it in the fridge and will have to check the store hours for Whole Foods…. And then you may not have time to go to Whole Foods, but God forbid you have to get non-organic kale, because you know how many pesticides they use on conventional greens…and then you’ll die of cancer….”
(We in the mental health world call this GAD- or generalized anxiety disorder. In the yoga world, we just call this “the mind”.)
So yeah, this was my experience with yoga nidra. I didn’t relax, I got more anxious, and all I could think about was this person in the middle of the room snoring in bliss.
I packed up my mat and belongings quickly and bolted out of there ASAP. That night, I didn’t sleep. I just thought about what a failure at relaxing I was.
My problem was perpetuated this morning, when our meditation teacher (before launching in to a three hour lecture on pranayama, or breath work) asked us how our daily meditation practice was going. Gulp. Another fail. My meditation practice is non- existant unless you count the daily yoga classes I’m going to. But everyone else seemed to have these amazing “come to Jesus” moments through their own meditation practices. I slunk into my mat with embarassment.
The only thing I felt I had going for me was my physical asana practice. I have been going daily to yoga classes. But I haven’t been meditating daily. I haven’t switched my wine for Pellegrino- yet. I’ve had some fish tacos and haven’t been 100 percent vegetarian. I can’t even freakin’ relax during a guided relaxation exercise. I have been skimming my required readings as an afterthought before I go to bed.
I came home after my obligatory stop at Whole Foods to get previously mentioned kale, and decided to take advantage of the 60 degree weather by taking Gus for a long hike, during which I thought about what a YTT failure I was, and how I’d make my blog post about (sorry peeps- pity party on Vitadventure)
Then I was hit in the face with a load of bricks this evening. And by load of bricks, I mean wise friends. After a late afternoon yoga class, I met two of my favorite colleagues for a
glass of wine some sparkling water and work-ER, life- related venting. When I described what I’ve been up to lately, and then happened to mention what a YTT failure I was, my wise friends responded with the following observation.
“You can’t give 110 percent all the time. It’s not humanly possible. You give all day long at your job. You give everything to your patients. Something has to give. You’re only human”
I have a marriage, I have a dog. I have amazing friends and family. I have a full time career. I have patients that mean the world to me, whose physical and emotional health I’m very invested in. I give 100 percent in a lot of realms.
I started thinking. I would NEVER tell one of my own patients or future yogi students is that they suck because they aren’t doing everything 100 percent. So why am I doing that to myself?
Frankly, the quest for perfection is one of the most dangerous ideals in our culture. Sometimes we don’t have the time or energy to give 110 percent to every single thing in our life.
Sometimes we have to pick what area of our life gets the most energy at any given time…. whether it be our career, our family, our marriage, our pets, our bodies….and sometimes you have to skimp. Sometimes taking your dog for a walk in the park is more important than reading Chapters 3 & 4 in the Yoga Sutras.
And most of the time, laughing with dear, beloved friends (thank you Kristy and Justin) is more important than perfectionism. I could have spent my evening completing my requirements for YTT and work and been “perfect.” But if being perfect means neglecting my friends, I’m happy to do this – this life- imperfectly.