I’ve been teaching yoga for about two months now, isn’t that crazy?
Anyway, teaching has been going really well. I work at an awesome community center at 5:45am on Fridays, which is very early, but it’s a wonderful way to start the day. The women I teach leave feeling empowered and I leave feeling energized. Serving as a yoga instructor is all that I thought it would be, and more. I’m so grateful to be able to teach, especially because yoga job opportunities seemed bleak when I graduated.
While I love teaching yoga, I’ve come across a few challenges in the last two months that I want to explore. I’d like to find some solutions so if any of you have suggestions, please comment below!
Some Challenges of Being a New Yoga Instructor
1. Engaging with students
I feel hypocritical to acknowledge this yet also self-aware, but I have somehow fallen into the trap of doing what I’ve criticized yoga teachers for doing, which you can read in this previous post. To summarize, I don’t know my students’ names and lately, I haven’t been offering individualized modifications.
I learned to teach yoga without using my own mat so I would do minimal demonstrations. Now, I bring my mat with me and I tend to find myself hovering on it rather than walking around and looking at my students’ bodies. Last week I left my mat at home to hinder me from demonstrating, but I still had a difficult time engaging with my students.
Perhaps I feel dissuaded from offering individualized modifications since the last few times I did it, one student, in particular, was resistant to it and basically ignored me. This isn’t an excuse not to offer modifications to other students though. This week I aspire to look at bodies more closely so I can make recommendations.
In regards to not knowing my students’ names…I just need to learn them. I excused myself for a while for not knowing their names because the class is so early in the morning and people aren’t particularly talkative or because nobody seemed to be a regular. Now, I finally have a group of regulars and there are only four peoples’ names I don’t know. I will learn them this week.
2. Connecting to the local yoga community
I’m unsure how to resolve this other than getting a membership at a local studio. To be honest, I don’t want to do that because yoga memberships are expensive and I don’t know how much I’d use it since my schedule is so volatile these days. I have a membership at the community center I work at and I barely go as it is!
I’d love to connect with the yoga community where I work but it’s difficult to do so because I teach so early in the AM so no other teachers or students are present. Most of the yoga classes at the community center are later in the morning, which so far has been when I’m working. They also don’t have classes later than 7pm and during my last job, I was still working at that time. Once I have a regular schedule I can probably figure out how to attend yoga classes at the center regularly. Until then, I think I have to rely on an online yoga community and the community I create with my students.
3. Integrating spirituality into classes
Since I’m not working at a yoga studio, there isn’t much spiritual integration in yoga classes I’ve attended at the community center. This is a little frustrating since I’ve become more interested in the spiritual nature of Yoga rather than the physical practice. Currently, I don’t even “Om” in class. I hope to integrate this by the end of the year and then teach classes that incorporate the chakras. More research is necessary to do this but I think it’d be awesome!
4. Maintaining a strong personal practice
As a result of limited community class availability, as well as dealing with my own hectic schedule, it has become difficult to maintain my own daily practice.
Oh, an injury has discouraged me from maintaining a daily practice too. I somehow injured my right hip flexor about two weeks ago, which was extremely painful and debilitating for over a week. The pain woke me up in the middle of the night and I had to pick up my leg to get into the car…it was horrible. The pain is minimal now, but the muscle is still tender and healing, so I have to be extra cognizant of how I feel during my practice.
I would be less upset by the sudden inconsistency of my practice if I at least meditated and/or journaled instead, but I find that if I don’t do the Asana, I rarely take the initiative to do the more spiritual work.
A yoga community would help foster a regular and strong yoga practice, which is super important to have as a teacher. The classes I take from others, whether that be via YouTube, an app, or in the presence of a teacher, inspire the classes that I teach. Due to the weakening of my yoga practice, I have not been as inspired as I’d like to be. I’ve actually become a little jaded with the classes that I do teach because I struggle with switching classes up. Since I’m not working now, I need to carve out time weekly to take yoga classes from others. Whenever I do resume working, I will have to determine how to continue a strong practice.
5. Continuing the study of Yoga
I believe that continuing to study Yoga, and by that I mean the Eight Limbs of Yoga, excluding Asana, is the most important activity a yoga teacher should do. Yes, I can learn more about the other limbs by taking classes, but I think learning is done more effectively when you’re studying traditionally, ie reading lots of books.
I have at least two Yoga books I want to finish reading, one of which is all about the chakras so that would be useful for the chakra series I want to teach. I have other Yogic books I want to read when I finish those two books too…it’s just a matter of carving out the time to read them.
It’d also be helpful if I had a yoga mentor to sit and talk with too. One of the yoga teachers that ran the training is local to me so maybe I’ll reach out to her to talk about the Sutras or something.
So…I suppose that even when you “graduate” from yoga teacher training, or from University, or from anything…there is always more learning to do. Being an expert in anything is a lot of work because the world is always changing thus there is always more to learn about the present in addition to the past.
It’s helpful that I spent some time to write about the challenges I have as a teacher because this helps to hold myself accountable. Again, I’d love any suggestions anyone has to offer too!
I made another video, and this time I edited it! This is the first time I have edited a video in about eight years and I think it came out pretty good. I’ve really been enjoying playing with visual media a bit, and I’d like to continue to practice with it so I can improve.
I hope you enjoy the video and comment your thoughts below!
Today I tried something a little different by making a video to update you all on my meditation experience! Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed a video format or if you prefer blog posts.
Here are some of the links I promised to include in the video:
Do you meditate? What style do you do?
I had never been a member of a yoga studio until I finished my yoga teacher training, thus, my impression of all yoga studios, up until a month ago, was that they were all like the teacher training I attended: inclusive, positive environments that value the “capital-Y Yoga,” or the Yoga practice off of the mat.
While this may be true of many or even most places, I don’t believe that it was true of the first yoga studio I went to to try to get a yoga job. (Which they did not offer me because they never even gave me a chance to audition, but they were doing me a favor. I just didn’t realize it was a favor initially).
I bought a new membership pass at a local yoga studio, and the first class I took was taught by the owner of the studio. As a new teacher trying to get a teaching job, I understood that you have to take a class with the owner before asking about a sub-list.
Well, I felt like the owner didn’t take interest in me as a new student. I believe it was the front-desk woman who asked me if I’ve done yoga before and asked me a little bit about myself. During the class, the instructor did not make any corrections, verbal or otherwise, to any of the students. I feel like there wasn’t an excuse to not do this, especially considering that the class was small, with about four people aside from myself, so there was an opportunity for the class to be personable.
Another aspect of the class that I did not like was how she incorporated “yogic” things. She used the harmonium, chanting, and a gong, which I love, but if I was a new student who was not very familiar with Yoga, it may have been very uncomfortable. The only reason I was familiar with the harmonium and the chant was because I had undergone 200 hours of training, but the gong was off-putting to listen to for the first time (although now I love it), especially because there was no introduction to it.
Despite my ill-feelings about the class, I had the pass so I took advantage of by attending different styles of yoga with different teachers. Unfortunately, I found all of the instructors to be similar in their teaching style (probably because most of them were trained by the owner) in that they don’t make any effort to get to know new yoga students in their classes and they didn’t make any corrections during the physical practice. Due to the lack of student-engagement, I feel like the instructors were more focused on themselves than on the students, which does not align with how I interpret the “capital-Y Yoga.”
From my yoga teacher training experience as well as my own pedagogy, I believe the purpose of teaching Yoga is to help, guide, and support students. In other words, it is about the students. It is about inspiring them, encouaging them, and helping them find their confidence. It’s about challenging their bodies, mind, and spirit. It’s about sharing with them how Yoga is more than just the physical practice, and it’s about introducing them to the spiritual and philosophical side. It is about creating a community and it’s about creating leaders.
There are more definitions of what a Yoga teacher’s purpose is, but these are the ones that stand out to me in this moment. Regardless, as you can note, all of these definitions are about the students. None of the definitions have anything to do with the teacher.
Unfortunately, I do not feel like the yoga teachers at the studio I was attending were creating leaders, though. I feel like they were keeping their distance from students by not engaging with them, which then reinforced their position on the hierarchy as a teacher.
After a month of attending yoga classes at the studio, I had the opportunity to pay a reduced rate for a regular monthly membership. I considered it for a while, but then, when I talked to my girlfriend, real shit came up. After my surprisingly explosive rant to her, I realized this yoga studio was not for me. Their pedagogy does not align with mine, and I would be better off finding a different studio.
So, how do you find the right studio for you?
Tip 1. Look at the styles of yoga that a studio offers.
If you want to take vinyasa classes, you probably don’t want to go to a studio that only offers Kundalini yoga, which is awesome but entirely different.
Tip 2. Check Out the Studio’s New Membership Packages.
Yoga studios draw you into becoming a member with new membership deals. The prices of these deals vary, so they may or may not be pretty comparable to paying for one class.
For example, one class at the yoga studio I attended cost $20, and the new membership cost $39. The new membership was unlimited for the month too, thus, it was worth paying an extra $19 for unlimited classes. I attended classes nearly every day, and it served a greater purpose in my life by exposing me to my local yoga community as well as providing structure in my otherwise structureless summer.
Some new membership packages, however, are a five or ten class pack, or the unlimited month is pricier. Regardless of what the packages are though, I feel like they are a great way to become acquainted with a studio to see if you want to stick with it. If I had attended only one class, I may not have realized that the studio wasn’t for me. If I wanted to continue to attend that studio after paying for once class, I would’ve had to pay the regular membership price instead, which is a lot more expensive. Thus, I recommend doing new membership deals if it feels right to you.
If, after a month, you don’t feel connected to the studio, try another studio and take advantage of their new membership deal! On the other hand, if you do feel connected to the studio, become a regular member if that makes sense to you.
Bonus tip: Most studios seem to use the company MINDBODY for scheduling, prices, class descriptions, and more. You can download the app and do your research there if you like!
Tip 3. When you attend a class at a new studio, ask these questions:
When you arrive:
- First, how do the front-desk people treat you? Are they pleasant, welcoming, and helpful?
- If you meet the owner, do they introduce themselves to you? Do they welcome you?
The yoga class:
- Does the yoga teacher introduce themself to you before class starts, or at the beginning of the class?
- Does the yoga teacher take an interest in you?
- Do they offer modifications based on your physical abilities?
- Do they make verbal corrections and/or hands-on corrections? (The hands-on corrections should be made with your consent and they should be combined with verbal cues. They should also be necessary for either your safety or to come into the true form of the pose. Basically, they should not be touching you just to touch you).
- Do they care about the “capital-Y Yoga,” or the Yoga beyond the physical practice, and do they incorporate it into their classes?
The studio overall:
- Is the studio clean?
- Is there water?
- Is there a bathroom?
These questions are the most important to me as a new yoga teacher who wants to find a welcoming environment to share and learn more about my passion for Yoga.
If you’re a member of a yoga studio, please share any other tips you have in the comments below!
If you’re not a member of a yoga studio, what are your thoughts on yoga studios? Do you practice yoga, and if so, where?
I used to practice yoga by myself in my living room, which I still do, especially when I’m practicing the classes I make. I really love the energy from doing yoga with others though.
I’m finally resting my head on my pillow after a long day in the city. It was a great day, don’t get me wrong, but it was also long.
I went to the city to teach a community class at the studio I graduated from. I wasn’t very nervous; in fact, I was calm and I felt prepared, unlike how I felt when I auditioned to sub at a studio local to me. Because I was auditioning at that time, I was so nervous about how the studio owners were going to like my class. I had also not taught people aside from my mom in a month.
Well, that audition went well and I’m now on their sub list. My community class in the city went well too, but something happened that inspired me to write this post.
The community class I led consisted of five people, one of them being my darling girlfriend. All of the students were engaged and connecting their breath to their movements, which was awesome. I made adjustments, offered props, and I provided a ton of verbal support. Everyone seemed to enjoy the class, especially because they were all smiling at the end and thanked me several times. Well, everyone except for one student who had spent a majority of the class disregarding my instruction.
First of all, one does not have to do every single thing a teacher says to do. If you are tired, you are welcome to rest. If something hurts, which it shouldn’t, but if it does, you can get out of a pose. You don’t have to do the hardest version of a pose either, you can do modifications that are offered.
I feel like these are the general guidelines for how students act in a class. One student in my community class, as I said before, did not behave in this manner.
I offered her a prop to more safely do a pose, but she quickly moved it away from her the second I took a step back. I then said that there is nothing wrong with probs, I use them all of the time. I should have added that the props are there to support you and to allow you to come into the true form of pose that is right for your body. Even if I did say that though, I don’t know if it would have made a difference. She hardly touched the props.
For the inversion, I instructed everyone to put their legs up the wall and to release their hands by their sides. She had her arms crossed the entire time, which to me is an uptight gesture.
During the entire class, she added some of her own poses that made things a little more challenging. Some of them were minor while others were a little more noticeable, such as doing dancer when that was not part of the class. Her decision to add her own poses was most notable during the final stretches and savasana though. She did her own stretches, completely disregarding my instruction, and she never took savasana. At one point I thought she was going to do an inversion. The old camp counselor/tennis instructor in me walked up to her and advised her not to go upside down. She claimed she was stretching so I moved on and focused on the people who were participating in my class, but it was so unexpected. I felt like I was chastising a kid rather than an adult in her twenties, or possibly even older.
This experience caused me to remember what the “capital-Y Yoga” is really about.
Yoga is not about pushing yourself during every class to go the deepest in a pose. Yoga is also not about being able to do the hardest poses.
I’m a teacher, although a new one, but I’m not flexible nor can I do most advanced poses. I don’t really enjoy inversions and the tendinitis in my elbow from my tennis-playing days makes arm balances really uncomfortable. I don’t do chaturanga because it requires a ton of arm strength I don’t yet have, and it also flares up my tendinitis.
Basically, I’m not the typical example of a yoga teacher because I can’t or I don’t do the “fancy” poses. You won’t see me post a photo of myself doing a deep backbend or an arm balance right now, but I’m okay with that. That mentality is part of the true, “capital-Y Yoga.”
On the first day of my yoga training, one of my instructors said:
Yoga is about getting with what is.
In the case of what my body is capable of, I am content with what my body can do during a yoga practice. I focus on what I can do, rather what I cannot. Besides, I don’t have to be able to do all of the hard poses to be able to teach them. Plus, I am grateful that I’m even able to do the asana yoga practice because I’m able-bodied.
It is worth noting, however, that the asana practice is only the third limb from the bottom of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. In other words, the asana practice is not the most important part of the “capital-Y Yoga.”
Lastly, and maybe most importantly about the practice of Yoga, if you can do all of the hardest asanas but you are a jerk, you are not doing the real Yoga. You’re just doing gymnastics.
The student in my community class, while she was or wasn’t doing the real Yoga is besides the point…what I think is important though is whether I was doing the real Yoga.
I feel like I did practice the real Yoga because I was patient and accepting of her and I ensured that she was safe. I taught her what I knew and I supported her to the best of my abilities. As a new teacher who does not have a rapport with the students because this was the only time I taught them, I believe I did all that I could do.
Plus, I don’t know her situation. As my girlfriend pointed out, maybe she can’t afford more challenging classes, or maybe she doesn’t want to pay for it. Perhaps she has an inability to relax and surrender. It’s possible her yoga practice is the only area of her life where she feels competent, so by me offering props, she felt I was insulting her. On the other hand, maybe she is a perfectionist and believes she is a failure if she uses props.
Basically, there are tons of possibilities as to why someone would focus so much on doing poses how they think they should look as well as not participating in the relaxing and surrendering portion of the class. That is not my business though. If she was a regular, I would definitely spend a little more time with her to get to know her, but that is not the case unfortunately.
This student also reminded me that everyone comes to Yoga from a different place. For me, I was attracted to Yoga as another form of exercise, but one that provides coping mechanisms for anxiety and grief. For others, it may be because their partner is doing it, because it’s trendy, because they want to lose weight, because they want to become more flexible, etc. I don’t know what that student’s reason for doing yoga, but it seemed that she was interested more moving rather than staying still. People come to yoga for all different reasons, but they may fall in love with the philosophy and spirituality of Yoga, as I did.
So…I hope that the student I had eventually finds the “capital-Y Yoga.” I also hope that you learned a little bit of what Yoga is, and perhaps you can take some of this knowledge into your own lives by honoring and getting with what is.
My second week of yoga has come and gone, and now I only have three weeks left! The fourth week consists of only two days of training and the final week is testing. So technically, tomorrow begins the last full week of training!
I’ve made improvements in my confidence since last week! For example, I haven’t cried this past week and I have changed my perspective in my class by honoring where my body is at rather than criticizing myself. I have also come out of my comfort zone a bit by talking more with my peers and now I eat lunch and talk with some of them.
Last Wednesday we went into the city and we did acro-yoga which is acrobatics combined with yoga. It requires serious trust in your partners in order to execute the poses safely. I challenged myself by trying things I otherwise would have never done, but I like that about this experience because I’ve been challenging myself constantly. By doing so, I surprise myself with what I am capable of. It’s quite satisfying.
My latest surprise was when I did a forearm stand. So far, I’ve only been able to do it with an assist and I haven’t been able to hold it, but I hope to be able to improve next week. I’ve realized that not only do these challenging poses require confidence, but they also require trust, whether that be in yourself or whoever/whatever is supporting you.
Evidently, this training has allowed me to learn more than just yoga, and it’s fantastic. I’m excited to graduate and to see where my new certificate will take me. Where will I teach what I’ve learned? What will I do to continue to learn?
If I could do anything with my life…I would want to teach and write, whether that be for my own business, for research, or for a book. I would like to travel internationally and domestically to teach and to learn from other people and cultures too.
I can do anything with my life though so it’s just a matter of how I want to make this happen and what opportunities will arise that will shape my life. I often feel a little skeptical of how the universe unfolds but I know I have to trust that I will be where I need to be.
How was this past week for you? What are you looking forward to this week? What are your intentions for this week?
While I usually eat pretty well, I’ve refined my diet more to benefit my skin, ovulation cycle, and my body! The meals I’ve been eating have been filling and delicious, so I wanted to share them. I only included breakfast and lunch because my lunch is usually leftovers from dinner.
This isn’t just any toast- it’s toast with goat cheese! I don’t regularly eat goat cheese but since I’ve eliminated dairy from my diet to benefit my skit and ovulation, I’ve chosen not to consume cheese from cows. Thus, goat cheese has come into my life and it’s quite good! I purchased a small, spreadable one from the grocery store and it helps keep me satisfied until I finally eat lunch at noon. Goat cheese and toast was a recommended breakfast in the book I’ve been reading, Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, because goat cheese has some protein and the toast provides carbs. I eat some berries (and take some to go!) to make things a little more tasty.
By the way: If you don’t already, you should follow me on Goodreads and I’ll follow you back!
I also make some chai in the morning in lieu of coffee so I avoid the caffeine-jitters. The chai I make is from an Indian store and my girlfriend taught me how to make it. It is my absolute favorite morning beverage, aside from coffee, because it is spicy and flavorful. Lately I’ve been adding almond milk to it and a teaspoon of honey. Sometimes I add a teaspoon this rose syrup too, also from an Indian store. It has a flowery taste and it’s quite delicious! I find it important to note that any form of corn syrup is not an ingredient in this syrup, instead, the main ingredient is sugar.
Lunch at Noon:
Most of this stuff were leftovers from the dinner my mom had made the night before. Not all of my food is visible but inside this container is salmon, cod, fried eggplant, potatoes, arugala salad, green peppers, and tomatoes. It all can be eaten cold, which makes things more convenient.
To ensure I get sufficient carbs in my diet, I also bring rice that I make.
This is the rice that I prepared the night before to bring for lunch. It is a recipe my girlfriend taught me and it is my favorite food. It’s soooo good because it’s so flavorful and satisfying! I didn’t have all the necessary ingredients to make it correctly so I had to improvise a bit, but it is still delicious and easy to make.
For this version of my girlfriend’s recipe, I sauteed some chopped yellow onions and cumin powder in a pan of hot olive oil. Then I added the soaked and rinsed Basmati rice and water. After that, you just let the rice boil and the water evaporate!
These meals are satisfying and delicious, which has been great since I’ve been expending a lot of physical energy during my training.
What do y’all eat when you are working out or you spend a whole day adventuring/traveling?
I wrapped up my first week of yoga teacher training on Friday, and tomorrow I am beginning week two. Thus far, the training has been an emotional experience because I keep having to confront my low-confidence. The areas where my confidence has been challenged the most are 1) inversions, or poses where your head is below your heart, and 2) teaching.
I’ve noticed just in my first week of training how most of the time, whether it be in asanas (poses) or in teaching, confidence is essential to success. While physical ability and knowledge are important too, confidence is mandatory. I think this holds true in most areas of life.
This theme of “confidence” became apparent on the second day of training when I was trying to do an L-handstand. First of all, I did not expect myself to do any types of handstands throughout this training, but I surprised myself by trying it and successfully doing it on the first day with the guidance of the instructor. On Thursday, I attempted to get into the inversion on my own, considering that I’ve been executing it everyday with the help of someone. Unfortunately, when everyone was doing inversions easily, I became nervous and afraid to do it on my own. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was strong enough, I just didn’t feel confident. Eventually, the instructor helped me but I spent the remainder of the class silently crying. I was upset that I was too afraid to do something I know how to do on my own. On the last day of training that week, during the inversion portion, I had the instructor help me the first time and the second time I got into the inversion on my own!
The doubt I have in my abilities is probably a combination of the unfamiliarity I have with the poses as well as the intimidation I feel toward the challenging postures. A majority of the class consists of dance students, so they are probably more comfortable with contorting their bodies into different shapes and they are also more comfortable with physical challenges. Although I’ve been practicing yoga daily, I haven’t even been doing it for a year yet and aside from yoga, I have not had to be this in-tune with my body. I spent most of college not doing any physical activity. Before college, I played and taught tennis, but that type of physical exertion is so different from dance and yoga.
The second time my confidence was challenged was when I taught my first mini class on sun salutations. Once I thought I messed up in my instruction, my lack of confidence consumed me, causing the rest of my instruction to be quiet and full of uncertainty. I know from my experience with my thesis, job, and public speaking courses that I gain confidence from being an expert and with tons of practice. By the end of the training, I expect to be a confident and loud-spoken teacher.
For my first week of training, I recognize how everything I’m doing is out of my comfort zone, but I am doing it anyway. That in itself is admirable, and I need to give myself more credit. In fact, on the first day of training, one of the dancers found out I wasn’t a dancer so she asked me why I was doing the yoga training. I don’t know if she was asking from a place of cruelty like…why bother doing yoga if you aren’t a dancer? Or if she was asking simply because she just wanted to know how I found out about it and what drew me in but…it’s cool that I don’t have a dance background because I bring something unique to the group as well as to future classes I teach.
I am proud of myself for continuing to try things I’m scared of and for having an adventurous spirit. I’ve never followed an expected path such as being a dancer with a side gig as a yoga instructor or studying economics with a math/finance/stat/accounting/business minor. I studied economics and women’s and gender studies, and I’ve never met anyone else with that combination before. I’m also a “normal” person (a non-dancer) that is aspiring to be a yoga instructor because I wanted to learn more and deepen my own practice that has transformed my life and continues to transform my life. That’s amazing.
Anyway…I want to write a blog at the end of every week to reflect and to set an intention for the upcoming week. I’m doing this specifically for the yoga training to ensure that I gain the most from my experience, but perhaps I’ll continue to do it afterward too.
My intention for the second week is to practice confidence and to meditate on the confidence I want to cultivate. I also want to practice teaching sun salutations and study the asanas so I feel more comfortable with them from a teacher’s perspective.
Do you have any reflections for this past week? What are your intentions for this week?
Despite how heavy my foot was on the gas, it felt like we were driving in slow-motion. I was weaving around the cars in my way and tailgating them as my dad clutched his side and dry heaved into a plastic bag. I had never driven so recklessly and aggressively.
I pulled to the front of the emergency room and he pulled himself out, hobbling toward the door. I quickly parked in the deck and with shaky hands, I put on my sweatshirt and sprinted to the ER after him. He was already inside, sitting in a wheelchair and checking himself in when I arrived. He had stopped shouting in pain and was relatively calm as he sat there.
They told him a room would be available in a few minutes as they wheeled him to the side to wait. Suddenly, his calm expression broke into one of agony and his mouth opened wide to verbally release the torture his body was causing him. I rubbed his back and reminded him to breathe deeply, hoping it would pacify him. It did not. He continued to cry and shout in the waiting room while people checked in. Then he started vomiting into a plastic bag. I got him tissues to wipe his face and I asked the administrator when the room would be ready. I was impatient at this point.
Fifteen minutes later, a nurse slowly meandered over and wheeled him to the room he would spend the next six hours in. Ironically, it was the same room he had spent nine hours in, the same time last year. That time was for a different emergency though.
After several hours, multiple doses of pain medication, and many tests, the doctor diagnosed him with kidney stones. He was able to pass it in the hospital and be released the same day.
Life is obviously uncertain, but it didn’t use to scare me as much as it does now. My cousin’s death has completely transformed the way I perceive the world and it has caused me to raise questions that I otherwise wouldn’t have asked or even considered. While I feel like I have more compassion and gratitude for life, I have also come to recognize as life as being very fragile. This has caused me to develop fears that I did not use to have. Some of the fears are silly while others make more sense but… I haven’t seemed to overcome them all yet.
The terrifying experience I had with my dad on Monday as well as the volcanic tragedy in Guatemala, among many other tragedies that people experience, has caused me to reexamine the reality that life is fragile.
I had shared this realization with the grief group I used to attend about two years ago now. Many of my peers had solemnly nodded their heads in agreement as I shared my concerns and worries about this fact. The therapist, however, raised the question: how do you deal with uncertainty?
One method for coping that my peers came up with included acknowledging the challenges we had faced previously and that anything that comes next can be overcome too. Another idea was to focus on the present rather than worrying about what might never occur.
Since I’ve been learning more about yoga philosophy for my yoga training, I’ve learned another effective method for challenging my fears is to be in a state of mind that is described in the Yoga Sutras, which is upeksha, or “indifference.” I learned about this idea in an article from The Yoga Journal written by Frank Jude Boccio titled, “Calm within.”
Boccio deems it is more apt to regard upeksha as “equanimity” rather than “indifference.” He defines equanimity as “a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response born of reactivity or emotion.” He adds that it is a balanced state of mind and heart. It allows one to experience pleasure and pain without clinging to it or condemning it. In other words, equanimity is about experiencing life and different situations without judging it as good or bad and therefore, maintaining an emotional detachment from it.
For example, my dad had kidney stones and needed to be hospitalized. It’s not good or bad, it just happened. He was able to get the care he needed to alleviate his pain through hospitalization, and he was working from home that day which enabled me to drive him there. So..while it may seem unfortunate that he had to be hospitalized for this condition, it was actually perfect timing and everything panned out well. In the moment, however, it was scary and awful but it needed to happen this way. If he was at work, he would’ve been taken to a hospital that was further away and it would, therefore, take the rest of my family longer to get to him.
Equanimity is also about realizing that while you can’t be responsible for nor can you control what happens in life, you can control your reactions. I controlled my reaction by driving him to the hospital, and I let the doctors take control of the situation.
The last aspect of equanimity as Boccio describes it is that you have to open your heart while simultaneously letting go of expectations and attachment to results. This aligns with what I’ve been reading in the Bhagavad Gita, which is Hindu scripture traditionally written in Sanskrit. It is part of several books of epic poetry.
The god, Krishna, tells a warrior, Arjuna, that it is important to act for the action’s sake, and not for the results, whether that be success or failure. This equanimity is yoga. (The physical aspect of yoga that is the most popularized is only one limb of yoga philosophy. Yoga is actually a more comprehensive philosophy with eight limbs).
I believe this type of mindset and state of being would be beneficial to me and it is something that I would like to practice in both my asana practice as well as in meditation. This way I can keep a level head when difficult situations emerge and I can also live with less fear than what I live with now.
How do y’all feel about equanimity? How do you live with uncertainty?
Meditation is a buzzword right now, and understandably so because it is a great practice for a variety of reasons. I’m not going to go into depth about the benefits of meditation because, as evident in the title of this post, I’ve only been meditating for more or less, 30 days. Instead of me discussing meditation at length, I’ll just link y’all with some great posts to check out if you want to learn more about it at the end of this post.
I was inspired to meditate because I’ve been deepening my yoga practice and I am going to train to become a teacher in about three months, and meditation is critical to the yoga practice, especially if I anticipate teaching at some point. So I decided to attempt a 40-day mantra meditation challenge, hosted by the Journey Junkie.
You are supposed to do 40 consecutive days of meditation to ensure you build a habit of meditation, and for mantra meditation, you have to say the mantra 108 times. People hypothesize that 108 is significant because 1= God or a Higher Power, 0= Emptiness or Completeness, 8= Infinity. 108 is significant for other reasons, but you can read more about that on the Journey Junkie’s post that I linked above.
In order to ensure that you are repeating your mantra 108 times, it is helpful to have a mala necklace. Mala necklaces have 108 beads, plus the guru bead (which you don’t use for the meditation) and tassel (not all malas have tassels though). When you use the mala to do a mantra meditation, it is called japa mala meditation, because japa means repetition.