It’s Monday after 3 days of grounding 17 grown ups in the art and design of teaching kids yoga Grounded style. I lean back in my chair at lunch, unable to carry on a conversation, and say to Sedef “I’m drained.” Instantly, my body recognized this as untrue.
My training with the grounded program started over a year ago and has truly been a journey (that I am still on) of literally and figuratively finding my voice. First, I want it to be clear exactly what I mean by that. I hear a lot of teachers say when they start teaching that they struggle with imitating their teachers. And I want to make it clear that that is not what I mean when I talk about ‘finding my voice’. I don’t mean ‘my teaching voice’ as compared to imitating someone else. First and foremost I mean- literally, I needed to find my actual vocal ability- I need to be physically able to speak in front of a crowd. Secondly, and it turns out, more difficultly but just as importantly, – I needed to find the strand of myself that I could cling to when I was feeling overwhelmed, overexposed, and lost and point to and say- This! THIS! This is my voice- I need to listen to this! This is what’s important!
Let me start at the beginning. I went into the first Kids Grounded Training Module with no real teaching goals. I signed up for Module 1 because I wanted to do yoga with my kids in what I felt was the right and complete way. I wanted to always be safe, and I truly believe in the power of the whole practice. I think the Grounded methodology is real; I’d seen the classes and their effect on my daughters. I believed that if I was going to do yoga with my kids I should know exactly I was doing. I didn’t have any grand dreams to be a yoga teacher one day, not for kids or adults or anything. I just wanted to learn safe ways to teach poses and flows and class design. I simply believed in yoga and wanted to facilitate my kids practicing it.
Very early into Module 1 we had to practice-teach to each other. Simple? No. Immediate panic. I know lots of people say they get nervous when public speaking. Butterflies, they say. That’s such an understatement it doesn’t even qualify as an understatement anymore. I was sick with the anxiety. I was overwhelmed with the anxiety and I could barely think straight- “They’ll all be looking at me! I’m not a yoga teacher! What am I doing here!? They are all looking at me. Oh my god. They are all looking at me.” I looked around and the room looked the same, but I was lightheaded. I was dizzy. I literally COULD NOT SPEAK. I wanted to. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t make words come out of my mouth.
I know people say they understand, and they get nervous too- but no one else in that room burst into tears just walking up to the front of the classroom. No one else started to hyperventilate. No one else needed to be replaced by another teacher and literally physically calmed down. That was my first teaching experience. Even just typing this, and every time I reread it, I can feel my heart rate rise and my eyes tear up. And I know what this is. This is not news for me. This is my disorder. This is what kept me out of a gym for years. This is what stops me going to dinners with friends and going to parties and meeting up in groups. This is Social Phobia (Also sometimes called Social Anxiety Disorder, although technically it’s not quite the same thing). This is what it feels like to be literally paralyzed by fear of what others think of you. And it’s not because “I care too much what other people think” because I’m so vain or self-centered. Believe me when I say it’s almost the opposite. This condition at its worst has me chained to my house and stuck on my floor in tears. At its best I have to remind myself daily that my paranoia is unfounded. That people aren’t thinking those terrible things about me. That it can’t possibly be that bad. That everyone isn’t looking at me. Even typing this it sounds ridiculous, I know. But this is the condition, every day. Some good days. Some harder days.
Eventually I found my voice that first teaching day in that room- I had good people there with me and they encouraged me and believed in me (even when I didn’t) and I got up and I made myself do it. And since then that experience has served as a stepping stone for the experiences that have followed- walking to the edge- feeling the fear- facing the anxiety and the panic. And ultimately what that day taught me is this: Sometimes, sometimes, when you are feeling completely lost, you can look deep inside, and you can listen for the voice- and you close your eyes and make a decision. What is MOST IMPORTANT? And you move from that voice. Stepping right into the fear and the anxiety and the panic. You decide what is more important- the love, or the fear?
Since taking Module 1, I went back and forth and fought myself and struggled and finally- nearly sick with the decision- I decided to pursue a YTT 200 hour program. The first night of the program’s immersion week we introduced ourselves and had to say what we were hoping to get out of it. I didn’t want to become a great teacher or learn fancy poses or teach 8 classes a week. I said “I want to find my confidence”. I just wanted to find my voice.
When I started teaching I once again felt so super exposed. I felt like I was walking around with my insides on the outside of my body. It was a constant state of feeling like I couldn’t breathe deep enough, like I couldn’t quite concentrate with all the thoughts that were running through my head. Panic. Anxiety. Paranoia. I had to somehow find my way back to my private self. My first desire was- of course- to quit. I don’t know how many weeks it was of every night in a row I said I want to quit- I’m too out there- I’m too exposed- I can’t take this. I felt like I was suffocating.
It’s not a coincidence that the feelings here are all tied to the 5th chakra. I felt like I couldn’t breathe or speak through the exposure, until I realized that if I was going to find “me”- I actually had to LISTEN. It’s all Vishuddha- 5th Chakra. I had to listen. I started to make lists of what was important to me. What I needed most in my life. My family- yes! My husband and kids. My personal meditation, asana and pranayama practice. I realized I had to turn inside and listen to that voice deep deep down. What did I believe to be TRUE? What did I value? Why was I doing what I was doing? What was important to me? And the voice was loud and clear- teaching advanced asana- yes, teaching meditation and pranayama- yes, teaching kids- yes- all these things- I BELIEVE in them. I believe in the power of them. That’s why I was doing this. That was where my voice was. This is my yoga. This is the yoga that I believe in. This is where the truth was. I could hold on to that.
And so here I am. On the journey. I’m not saying it was an instant fix. It’s still hard, and anxiety is still a constant, but it’s grip is a little less tight. I completed my 200RYT, and am so excited to be about to complete 100RCYT. I teach arm balances and inversions at my favorite yoga studio once a week. I teach private lessons every week. I have a weekly kids’ class. I use my voice- my beliefs and my values- to do what I believe in. I am my own true authentic self, and I teach. And it is hard, every time. Because it is real and honest and true. Moving from love, not from fear. Listening to the wisdom of the true inner voice
Hi, my name is Keira and I have been doing yoga for 4 years. It has been a great experience. Yoga has helped me calm down when I’m mad. Yoga makes me feel peaceful. Practicing yoga has helped me a lot by calming me down and making me more flexible. It’s fun learning new poses and helping others earn their bandanas. I wish I had started earlier. I had fun earning my bandanas, and if you do yoga, I hope that you’ll have fun earning yours.
Hi! My name is Kendall, I’m 12 years old, and I have been doing yoga for four years. In these four short years, yoga has become a huge part of my life. From taking a deep breath before yelling at my mom or sister, teaching friends for my green bandana, to even making up flows of my own, I love every part of yoga. I especially enjoy the way I feel after class and the feeling I get from helping younger kids earn their own bandanas. Yoga has been a steady part of my life, always helping me through a difficult week, a bad grade, or friend and family problems. I hope to continue to practice and learn as I get older.