Pre-Transformation Yoga Nerves Q & A

I recently received a delicious email. I loved the questions it posed so very much, and found it so insightful, that I asked for permission to share it so that we may all grow from such an authentic and vulnerable peek into the inner world of another yogi and the process of fear that often precedes growth. This person asked to remain anonymous, here is the exchange, with only details of the particular training emitted to protect privacy. With a deep bow of gratitude to the person who writes the question… here it is:

Anonymous Question: “I’m so excited to come to PYC, but I’ve also noticed new fears and doubts in me. I have fond memories of our 200-hour yoga teacher training, and remember that at the time I felt inspired, safe, and open to learn. I don’t remember ever feeling nervous or scared like I do now. Some of the fears and doubts coming up for me now are petty fears about traveling far from home, but some feel deeper than that: our YTT opened my eyes to strengths and opportunities within myself, and also made me aware of some of my vulnerabilities and weaknesses that I’d previously ignored. Maybe it’s just that returning to a place where I once had such an opening, positive experience leads me to feel pressure to live up to my own expectations from last time. (I hope I’m making sense!) I also definitely feel doubts about my intention in coming back to PYC. After my YTT, I taught—to friends, families, and community classes— for 1 year, but soon let other obligations take priority to teaching, and even abandoned my personal practice for weeks at a time. While I feel motivated to come back to PYC to learn more, I also feel ashamed that I’m not teaching yoga anymore. When I face the question “what is my intention in coming back to PYC?,” I feel that I am coming for myself more than anything else: to explore yoga further, to deepen my understanding of therapeutic possibilities in yoga, to learn more how I can integrate yoga into my “regular” life, and to experience a retreat in nature. I wonder if this intention is clear “enough” for such an incredible opportunity, or if I should work on focusing or changing my intention. I wonder, is it okay to feel trouble articulating my own intention, or should I work to clarify my intentions further before I get to PYC? I still feel like a total beginner – more of a beginner than I felt I was before my first YTT years ago.”

Indira’s response: “It is a gift to receive your questions, because they demonstrate how much you value the inner process that happens here at PYC. It’s an honor to be able to take the time to respond, and not at all burdensome. 

It seems to have two parts to be addressed separately:

Expectations/fears/doubts: The feeling of nervousness seems to be a common element that precedes the most powerful experiences in one’s life. Almost as if the psyche is gearing up to let go of one familiar way of being in the world in order to move into another more spacious and less limited point of view. At least that is how it feels to me. As for the expectation and concern that your next experience may not live up to the first one: There is the fear of traveling far from home, which may be a metaphor for the kind of “disappearance” of some outdated aspects of self (home, the familiar) that make way for the new self to emerge (the stranger, the unfamiliar). You also express the fear that you are setting up a kind of expectation based on how powerful your first experience was, a fear that this one may not be able to live up to that initial burst of power. Your nervousness is the very antidote to this: it demonstrates how deeply you are already preparing yourself, even now, for the experience. We can only grow and change to the extent that we open ourselves to receive, and also to the extent that we allow ourselves to be influenced by new experiences. The fact that you are worried only shows me just how much capacity you contain to be transformed. We just have no way of peeking into the future to see what shape will emerge — but wow, there’s a lot of power there, in all the honest depth of your current inquiry.

Intentions: The mark of true wisdom rests in this line: “I still feel like a total beginner – more of a beginner than I felt I was before my first YTT….” It reminds me of a favorite Zen quote: “In the beginner’s eyes there are many possibilities, in the expert’s eyes there are few.” It is also a sign of your capacity to remain in the mystery and the unknown. The more we walk this path the more we realize there is so much not yet known or explored. I too feel like more of a beginner in many ways — the path is long ahead of me — but this makes life all the more tantalizing, juicy, and instructive. It is absolutely ok for you to hold this intention to simply be with the material in a way that is for personal growth, perhaps not for teaching. The practice of yoga is fundamentally about learning to offer the unique quality of attention and intention that you develop as a result of your practice — to offer this as a gift to the world. That may come through helping someone carry a load of groceries out of a supermarket — it doesn’t need to manifest into the particular form of “yoga teaching” to be of deep value, even therapeutic value, to the world. Stay just where you are with your intention, without the need for it to be anything other than what it is. Trust that it is perfect and (paradoxically) if it changes between now and then, that too is perfect just as it is. 

I hope this has been helpful. I’ve truly enjoyed contemplating the inquiry questions that you present. If you are open to it, I wonder if you would consider letting me post your questions and my responses on the PYC blog. There are likely many many people out there with similar feelings who may not have been able to articulate the questions as clearly as you have, and they may find the back and forth exchange helpful… just an idea. I fully understand if you would prefer it to stay between us too 🙂 perfect either way…

Especially after reading your email, I am even more looking forward to our time together…

Enormous Day, Indira

2 thoughts on “Pre-Transformation Yoga Nerves Q & A

  1. Anneliese Meadows says:

    Thank you for sharing this. A few short weeks after leaving PYC last summer, I was setting up one of my high school (not yoga) classrooms and, being hurried and careless and maybe in denial of my own abilities, I dumped a huge bookshelf loaded with textbooks on myself. I was pinned under until a lone passerby (in a mostly vacant building) heard my yelps and released me. Five months later I am still visibly bruised, but it is the invisible bruising that has given me trouble. I had an avulsion fracture to my hip and deep bone bruising, including bone marrow edema. My muscles and tendons are torn and my foot often numb.

    Some days I can’t even stand up straight and others I do a gentle yoga practice and teach a simple, volunteer class for people in addiction recovery. In the midst of this I was offered a one night a week class teaching at a community center–for a whopping 25 bucks a class. I hesitated then, as I waited for the naproxin and turmeric to do their magic, I said yes. I work full time and at 53 am older than most of the yoga teachers in a town where yoga studios are as common as Starbucks. So this single class is the perfect fit for me. And yet, I am afraid. Because as much as Indira and my injury have taught me that yoga is ever so much more than nailing the asanas, I still fear I can’t teach a class if I can’t nail the asanas! I fear I can’t teach if I can’t balance on my bum leg and have to follow doctor’s orders and not twist my pelvis at all for a year or more. However, this has forced me to consider my intention as well. Why do I practice? What matters? Why is it important for me to take on this class? Is it a gift really so that I get off my own mat and circulate among the students which is what I should be doing anyway?

    I start next week and somehow feel more assured after reading your heartfelt email question and the beautiful response. Thank you.

    1. Pavones Yoga Center says:

      Thank you for yet another ultra-honest and real expression of the wounds we all deal with on the inside. I’ve often wondered at how easily we will share our physical scars and tell stories of broken bones and high speed accidents … yet we rarely address the inner wounds and this does just that. Thank you thank you thank you. I will pass this along to the anonymous student as well… Enormous Day, Indira

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