My Yoga Journey: Halfway Point Anxieties

As I approach the halfway point of yoga teacher training, I feel a bit of anxiety. It’s already been such a great experience so far but I’m worried about accomplishing everything I need to graduate.

When my mind isn’t daydreaming because my Vata dosha is dominant, it is constantly buzzing with thoughts. I do realize that all the worry in the world, can’t stop something from happening and likewise, all the willing in the world, can’t force something to happen either. But I still can’t help myself.

The reason I began my yoga journey and signed up for YTT was twofold. One was to learn the piece of yoga that isn’t about the practice, but about a state of mind: how to use pranayama to help me relax and how to open up my chakras to achieve balance in the body and mind. The other was to challenge myself and do something that always seemed interesting but I was scared of. True growth and really living life, means doing something that scares you once in a while. I’m not saying I’m adding bungee jumping or climbing Mount Everest on my to do list after teacher training, but learning to do inversions to further strengthen my asanas as a practitioner and embracing public speaking as a teacher are non-life threatening fears that seemed realistic and important to conquer.

I knew dropping into yoga classes was no longer advancing my practice. Most classes are too big for teachers to actually put your body into alignment. And whenever we would get to the part of class where they allowed us to practice crow or headstands, I would sit out and watch. In the first two and a half weeks of class, I now understand how the body should feel in proper alignment in poses – where you should feel the stretch, which part of your body is compressing, where the gazing points are, and how to deepen into the ultimate goal of the final pose. Since I am not as naturally flexible, I know there may be 2 or 3 months of work before I can do a split, compass, or bird of paradise, and that’s okay.

Inversions and arm balances are another story and fear can be debilitating. I have a huge fear of pitching forward onto the ground in a pose like crow, and also a fear of falling backwards from an inversion like headstand. I have managed to take some steps forward when I know the wall is there to catch me but I don’t know how I will fare when I move away from it.

On the other front is the teaching part. I’m not terrified of public speaking but I don’t enjoy it. I remember how nervous I would feel before any presentation or interview. I would even try not to eat or drink too much for fear that I would get sick.

Public speaking is challenging on its own, but on top of that, you need to give careful, detailed instructions while moving through the poses, keep count of breaths, maintain eye contact, and adjust students as well. How do teachers make it seem so effortless? In practice, I have already felt myself stutter, apologize, and giggle. All teaching don’ts!

Yoga was something I started to do because it helped me relax and now, as I try to hone my craft and become better in order to help others, I can start to feel the stress creeping back.

It will be interesting to see how the next three weeks go as my body becomes stronger. Can I quiet my mind and strengthen my resolve that I can do this? Perhaps focusing on grounding my root chakra will help. The root chakra or muladhara is the first of seven energy centers and is associated with earth and grounding. When this chakra is balanced, you feel calm, balanced, and secure in our place on earth. When it is unbalanced, you may have feelings of aggression, insecurity, impatience, and worries about our basic survival.

While I don’t have aggression or impatience, I definitely have insecurities and worries about my “survival” in YTT. Standing or grounding postures can help unblock and balance this chakra. I can perhaps help my anxiety by practicing poses that strengthen muladhara such as malasana, warrior II, or tadasana. In addition, I can also focus on seeing red and saying the “lam” mantra during meditation to bring awareness to this chakra.

Thankfully, YTT has been an incredibly amazing experience so far. I have two supportive, knowledgeable teachers who gently coach me through the poses. Even though I still can’t achieve many of the advanced asanas, I am never rushed or pushed into doing something. And because the class size was kept small, I have been surprised at how quickly I have bonded with the other girls. Even though it’s sometimes still scary to get up there and speak, it’s not daunting. I am amazed at how far I’ve already come in the first half of my journey and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next half of the course will bring. I can only send positive thoughts to the universe, practice my root chakra poses, and ujjayi breathe my way through it.

L. Cheng (200 Hour Hatha Vinyasa YTT)

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