I remember when my drivers test appointment was booked. My mother told me, don't tell anyone that you're going to take your test. I was puzzled by her request because I was so excited to be able to envision driving all alone, and she said well if you fail, no one will know either way. Although that may sound harsh about the prospects of my success as a newly minted driver, I believe I've approached many things in my life in this way, careful to share or express excitement around something that may not pan out. Well, let me just say that for the past couple years and the preparations of the past 6 months on my path to completing my advanced yoga teacher training, I had forgotten this advice. well partially that, and partially I was so joyful about my path, I'll talk about yoga and my passions within the practice to anyone who shows interest, and because of this excitement - overlooked the stakes of being approved in one more step towards certification.
My workshop date was set during a training weekend and all plans were in place to present. I also got to invite a few students to attend outside of the teacher training and invited my very close friends and students to attend. I was nervous, excited, and loved the process and challenge of preparing and putting together presentation materials (which included a button!), sequencing, adding in our advanced themeing elements and also just got a big joy out of telling people about my workshop. "What the Prop?" ways to incorporate yoga props into your practice.
I was feeling as ready as I was going to be for the night. Everything that I could possibly have done to be prepared I had done. It was the strangest day that held a half hour long blizzard in the middle of October which knocked many of the beautiful fall colors and leaves out of the season right at the time that I had to unload all of my props and materials for the presentation. No snow accumulated but it was enough to pause and think of how truly unpredictable mother nature can be. I set up the room, and then it was time to start. I was bit too nervous at first but eventually found my groove and taught my workshop. I received wonderful feedback. One of my attendees brought me flowers. It felt great to be teaching! I felt fantastic and that I really shared some new insights for everyone that evening, and since I was so nervous the few nights before I also got the best night sleep afterward.
The following week I presented again because a few friends who couldn't attend my initial workshop wanted to see what I shared. I was tired, I hadn't really caught my breathe from the previous weeks experience but I also enjoyed presenting it again.
Than on Halloween (Wednesday) we had our feedback session it was me and 3 of my peers who also presented phenomenal workshops that weekend, meeting to discuss our feedback and be reviewed by our mentor. I received much positive feedback about my workshop, but overall, I didn't quite make the mark for adding in all our advanced training elements. I think it's unfortunate sometimes how our human minds work, because despite all of the positive feedback - I came away from that meeting feeling a failure. (not in actuality mind you, but my mind and heart just went there). as many of you have or maybe you can imagine, have since asked how my presentation went, I'm so grateful for you and to have thought of me, because I'm still processing not meeting my mark of the event, It was been some very heartbroken sad days for me. I have very teary eyed had to explain my failure even though I haven't fully comprehended how to meet those marks in the future.
So how do you comeback from failure? Well after a couple of days of once again little sleep and lot of distress, I reached out to my mentor just to explain my interior experience of it all. I have maintained to be honest about not reaching the marks that I so dearly had wished to reach even if it means I will have a few tears explaining that in conversation. I have already decided what I want to offer in a new workshop down the road, and I have chosen to share this experience with you.
I've been reading Brene' Browns latest book and have been focusing on the rumblings with my own vulnerability. And if you are in need for a few ways to find your way through failure, here is what I have been working with:
1.Compassion: a fellow teacher of mine said you give so much compassion in your teaching - it's time to find some for yourself. what would be the compassionate thing for you? For me it will be taking a yoga class, and having coffee with a friend this week.
2. Connection :your square squad. One of my favorite tips in Brene's book is to write down my square squad. get a one inch by one inch piece of paper. it needs to be small because it forces you to edit, write down the names of people whose opinions of you matter. fold it and put it in your wallet. then take 10 minutes to reach out to those people - your square squad- and share a little gratitude. send a simple note or message their way.
3. Create: Crumble/Construct - I think we put so much attention on the need to say everything is fine and perfect. but to be honest a day and a half of sadness, crying and being with those emotions really allowed me to emerge from the internal crumble as opposed to carrying it with me for a long time. I than started to make my new plans for how to proceed- I started to think of new workshop ideas and I reached out to my mentor to just express my dismay over it all, it was so helpful to hear a different perspective on the outcome. It also has lead me to believe that this will make me a better human/and yoga teacher in the end. I just needed this process on the way to get there.
Thoughts on mindful moment images and a little tech help from a photographer:
I have been taking a lot more yoga pose "selfie's" these days, more on that in a bit.
With this development, I have realized that there is about 2 decades of my life that barley have any photographic evidence with me in it. Wedding photos exist during this time and an occasional image of me in the furthest background of family holiday pictures and some office gathering photos too.
From a very young age, I always enjoyed taking photos - of family, friends, animals, nature and things that were new to my eyes. But I have shied away from being in front of the camera as long as I can remember. I even based a profession on being behind the scenes.
Enter Yoga in my life and further self study, I imagine for me part of it was worthiness part of it was/ is being more introverted but most of it lied in not wanting to see my image. I don't consider myself a conventional beauty and didn't imagine others would want to see all the flaws that I noticed. However these days I realize putting images of myself out there is exactly what others need to see. Maybe to feel alive themselves or possibly to inspire adding in a yoga practice or some passion into their own life or to even just challenge a perception out there that more of the American population looks like I do than what magazine advertisements do. I also do know and appreciate that sometimes what I "feel" a pose looks like isn't the same image in my mind's eye so it's sometimes a surprise to see what inner openness, space and expansion shows up as in a picture.
I have read about and sometimes felt taking and posting tons of selfie's could be narcissistic, or even some articles have pointed out there is a mental disorder with selfie addiction. Closer to my perspective and an inspiring blog post about Yoga Pose Photography posted by one of my inspirations is here:
So carefully, I have been thinking about this process myself. And have given an intention to this activity. When I take a photo I don't want to remove the mindfulness from my practice, yes I am aware of the camera, but I also am aware of my breath and my inner landscape. I take images to show what poses that you may be used to seeing in a much smaller body, looks like in a larger body. Both are amazing and brilliant. I also take these mindful moment images to invite in further practice time in my life.
And so I invite you that even if you don't share them,(although I think you should) to try out taking some yoga pose pics. if you do share, please #mindfulmomentimages
Here are my professional photography tips to taking mindful moment images with your cell phone.
1st - Be safe and respectful to yourself and your surroundings. A memorial monument might not be not be the most appropriate place to express your pose. Same with busy streets and unfamiliar surroundings. Do poses that you regularly practice and that you have warmed up your body enough to not injure yourself.
2nd - Simple and natural spaces work best for the background. Find places that you don't need permission (most public spaces) or that you have permission to take an image in. Yoga studios are wonderful, but make sure you have approval by desk staff, the teacher or the studio owner and that you are not disruptive to others. (don't turn on lights or make noise moving things around if others are in earshot), and certainly not during a class. Nature photos are a fun way to get in a walk and find perfect natural areas to practice and take pics.
3rd- The phone should not be a distraction- find a way to prop up your phone and take the image hands free. a few ways to do this: if you are in a studio, multiple yoga blocks can add the right height/ angle for your shot. If in other places, maybe a friend might be willing to take the image or see what is around you to prop up or rest your phone on- you can get rather creative here. If you are considering investing a little in some equipment here are my suggestions: a Cell phone mount and tripod or mini-tripod, a blu-tooth remote, and clip on lens. If you use android there is a voice activation option on the in camera phone and you won't need to purchase a remote.
4th- Maybe not so Insta-I think it's ok if you don't post your photo on social media immediately. Discover and notice your thoughts about the image first- if what comes up for you is judgments find as many non-judgmental things to also say to yourself- even if it feels awkward at first- make it as much a part of the experience it will start to feel more fluid after a few times.
5th- Post and share your image with love and kindness- to others but mostly to yourself.
---------please share your experiences and tips in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you.
sending you love-
Milestones are these places where I usually find reflection. So today I am on the eve of a milestone and this has been on my mind. Although the more I think about it the less I'm really sure it means what I had thought it would. Today, I reached 999.5 teaching hours as a RYT, meaning I can add a few letters to my accreditation tomorrow after I teach my next class. E-RYT is to denote Experienced teacher but even after almost a 1,000 teaching hours for over 2 years- I don't feel expert at anything. I am totally at peace with this. too.
I have felt lonely as a teacher, I have felt a fraud, I have felt strong, I have felt empowered, I have felt unskilled and I've felt loved.
I have learned that the best part of my teaching doesn't come with creating flyers or posting on social media or doing much "business" like things to cultivate my teaching. neither do these things feel deeply fulfilling when I put them out there in the world. These things are external and to me are easy to create, excruciatingly vulnerable to share but realistically it really isn't why or how or who practices with me. The best part of my teaching usually comes from sharing me- the real me- and noticing my students.
Even mid-life I am still trying to figure out me. for a while, I thought it was mostly being a novice at teaching and that is partially true but ultimately, when I feel anything that is unsettling or off it usually is more about an imbalance I haven't examined(or ignored for awhile) or fully discovered in my life more than my teaching. I am a novice at life! and to that I say Whew, what a relief - I have so much else to explore!!!
I have been feeling lonely and I appreciate that while once my response to loneliness was to cry and curl up in a ball forever in bed..... or at least until the next day to open my eyes and maybe come out. Now when that loneliness settles in I honor and recognize its presence, I find the sweetest friends, the most compassionate partner, the practice I want or the support I need.
Feeling like a fraud used to also make me cry and curl up in a small non-existent ball in bed too, but now when that feeling happens I have so many good tools to pull from and I acknowledge that it usually is a place of growth that is either trying to happen or is happening- I see/experience that thing and wish I was somewhere in that realm and understand that I am not there.......YET. The experience is now more of a beautiful dance with dissonance.
Feeling strong for me used to always come from feedback from students, peers, mentors and it seemed like the only lifeline I had to feeling strength. Gladly, I still appreciate and sometimes long for this external information, but now I seek and find it from a little flame ignited. It still is small and fragile but continues to fuel me and glow from within. I feel most strength when I practice, although I have to remind myself to nourish this fuel frequently. Always be a practitioner, always be a student. NO MATTER WHAT is going on in your life, make the time - you deserve it.
I have felt unskilled as a teacher but never afraid to express this. Sometimes it has arrived as an unanswered question in front of my students or peers. (know and use your safety net) This is also the place I have found empowerment. Teach lots - you will not know everything always- actually probably never. Teaching does get easier with time. Simply teach, guest teach, teach something you didn't think you could teach. Lots and lots and lots- share your heart- it only grows with being put out there.
I have also greatly felt loved. I have felt loved by so many that support me, fellow teachers, my husband, my mentor, my students and the scariest biggest experience is to find love within. Embracing Love had to happen with the intensity of a fire hose of water into my being it was not a the experience of gentle trickling stream flowing in. When I taught my first few classes, I was SOOOOOOOO F'ing nervous. And I just wanted to teach. I just wanted to be a yoga teacher. period. Early on the "thing" I was unique and noticed for was daring to teach as a bigger bodied being. I intentionally hid behind my fat for a looooong time. It was no longer a shield it was the FIRST thing everyone experienced in my class. mostly in a way that brought comfort and ease to their being in the class. but I wasn't whole heartedly embracing what I was. that thing. What felt like quickly, but realistically happened over a few months, I read about, learned from other trailblazin' teachers, created mantras, started wearing it like a misfit garment, than ultimately tailored it to wrap my body my brain and my heart, finally it became a comfortable skin and then soaked in even deeper. loving my body as it is today and the phenomenal things it allows me to do as a yoga practitioner, and a teacher. So my "E" will stand for Embrace. I embrace all of these things with whole hearted gratitude.
I'm Valerie, Yoga Teacher and following my Sankalpa!