I always thought if I worked hard, I’d feel confident. When I started working in fitness, I did my homework, put hours into accredited training programs and practiced and practiced. As a new business owner, I read books about successful entrepreneurs, and reached out to colleagues that I admired. And I confess an addiction to Shark Tank! But none of that gave me confidence. I lay awake wondering if I had made the right decision to go into the yoga mat business. Was I crazy to leave the pilates world and move into yoga? Was I too old to make such a major life change?
Similar self-doubts crept in when I began practicing Yoga. I worked hard at it, but felt intimidated watching everyone doing their headstands and wheels. How did they make it look so easy? After all, hadn’t I danced for part of my life? Wasn’t I a “movement” person? I knew I was fit. But the harder I tried, the more I felt defeated. I kept hearing my teacher say “yoga is not a competition”. Really? “Connect to your breath to bring your mind back to the present”. Seriously?
Over time, things changed. I studied with a variety of teachers some whose words resonated with me and some not so much. This was one of my first real awakenings. Not all yoga teachers connect with all students. The teachers who really spoke to me took time at the beginning of class. They explained some of the Sanskrit concepts. They encouraged us to set an intention for our practice that day like connecting to the earth, finding balance in our lives, or reaching beyond our comfort levels. The ones that touched me on a more spiritual level, not simply giving movement directives, were the teachers who helped me begin to experience yoga differently. I finally understood that yoga was less about exercise and more about connecting with something greater. By focusing inward, I was able to stop obsessing about the outward appearance of the poses. I began to take more chances. Eventually that translated into being able to lift my toes off in Crow and having the confidence to try a handstand albeit followed by tears.
If Yoga is defined as the union of the “ego self” and the “divine self” then that is what was beginning to happen for me. I felt myself let-go in the movements. I was able to hold postures longer and found strength in my body that I could count on and not question. My flow became internal and external. Yoga continued to be strenuous work but I had attained a deeper understanding of what I was doing and why. Self- doubt no longer clouded my practice…my intentions were clear and I was able to face them head-on. I finally understood the meaning of Shanti: to remain centered in the face of obstacles.
I realize now that being perfect isn’t the goal. Yoga has taught me that if I lose my balance, there’s no shame in falling, and to rejoice when I feel my toes leave the earth.