Admittedly, August is usually one of my favorite months; it is filled with anniversary and birthday celebrations. I typically plot out my year and infuse all the good hopes, fortunes, and intentions I'd like for my next adventure around the sun. I set up lunch dates and connect with family and friends. This August was not that. I had an ominous dream on August 5, preparing me to receive some difficult news. I was ready to take a bit of a break this August and refresh in between a challenging end-of-year semester and before heading into my second year in clinical.
Unfortunately, as I write this, just days before I am hopeful of boarding a plane to begin my 4th semester of school, I am not sure if I have my place held for me in my program. You see, at my school, we have a pass/fail grading system, and this was true for my end-of-year comprehensive exam taken at the end of July. So, anything below 80% is a fail. I missed passing by a few points. Two days before my birthday, three days before my sweetie and I were going to take a short vacation, I learned that I either was out of my program or had to take an additional case study and redo my final comprehensive exam. So, no vacation, no break. I was devastated.
One of the main reasons I am interested in becoming a Yoga Therapist is because one of our primary (and an oversimplified explanation) focus is learning our suffering and focusing on returning to our finding joy. I am a Gen X'er through and through, so if you read that last sentence and rolled your eyes, I get it. Finding authentic joy is not about false positivity or bypassing what you suffer and struggle with. It is weeding out the clutter of pains to find the gems already there.
Like in a Yoga practice it is not about being perfect but about progress. It's about showing up on your mat, even when you don't feel like it. It's about listening to your body, honoring its limitations, and pushing it to its edge. It's about confronting your fears and insecurities and learning to let go of them.
The truth is that most Yogis have struggled with their lives and practice at some point. They have experienced physical limitations, mental blocks, and emotional breakdowns. They have faced the frustration of not being able to do a pose, the fear of falling out of it, and the disappointment of not progressing as fast as they wanted to and failing a comp exam.
But what gets them through is their determination and resilience. They don't give up when things get tough, they don't compare themselves to others, and they don't let their ego get in the way. They keep showing up, they keep practicing, and they keep learning.
Knowing I had no time to hibernate to process and heal this awful situation, I faced this difficulty head-on. Some days it was writing a paper through sobs and snot; some days, writing and researching moved forward with piss and vinegar. So, I'd like to share a few ways I made it through the efforts.
My husband had to call this out, but once I realized it was one of the gems that brought a slow and less painful way forward. I had to let go of my judgments of myself for what it was; failing wasn't a zero in this case; it was below what the university accepted to move forward. While I had moments where I continually felt like I didn't know anything and called myself some hurtful names, I had to bring myself back to what I knew and understood. There was no way to not accept this reality; I was in it, but I could choose how to be in it.
The struggle is what makes yoga so transformative. We grow the most in moments of discomfort, challenge, and resistance. When we face our inner demons, limiting beliefs, and negative patterns, we can break free from them. When we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, we discover new levels of strength, flexibility, and awareness.
Next, I acknowledged that I needed to improve to move forward, but I didn't have much time for that growth, so I refocused my energy from what went wrong to noticing spaces for improvement. I broke down the enormity of the project into more bite-sized actions and religiously studied my APA formatting book like I was trying to fly in crow pose.
With all my hurt and frustration around my situation, I had to acknowledge that help was offered if needed. As I was offered a second chance to complete this, I was also offered guidance for the process. I had a couple of opportunities for help with direction and refinement, and I took advantage of the provided resources. It was humbling and rewarding at the same time. In addition to the guidance offered, encouragement and support from peers and friends made all the difference; I was surrounded by incredible humans who cared and checked in on me. My school is not some weird competitive place that is thinning the heard; they genuinely want us as students to shine, and I felt that through our department chair and peer support through my cohort.
When I had moments of being stuck and feeling a collapse, I did everything to try and pull from my toolbox- find my breath, be in the present, cry some more if I needed to, write one sentence at a time, and find an ear that will hear me.
Even though I had to dedicate most of my time to this project to get it right, I gave myself mini breaks, one of which was to read for pleasure. The perfect book for the ideal time I started "The Storyteller" by David Grohl. I am no rockstar, but the thing I needed to remember came from this book. The person you may think had a straightforward track in life or made something happen so easily usually has several stories or years of struggle toward success. If it were easy, everyone would do it, and no one would appreciate it. I also had to take dance breaks; if a song popped into my head, it needed to be played, and I had to get up and dance. I don’t know if David Grohl practices yoga, but I have practiced yoga listening to Everlong, and that was an experience. It is the struggles that make the stories.
- Practice self-compassion (Ahimsa): Treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. Don't beat yourself up for not being perfect or making mistakes. Instead, focus on what you're doing well and what you can improve.
- Set realistic goals (Shila): Don't compare yourself to others or set high expectations. Instead, focus on your progress and set small, achievable goals to keep you motivated.
- Listen to your body (Satya): Pay attention to how you feel and adjust your practice or mission accordingly. Don't push yourself too hard or ignore pain or discomfort. Instead, respect your and your body's limits and work with them.
- Find a supportive community (Sangha): Surround yourself with people who inspire and encourage you. Join a yoga class, read a book, or an online group to connect with like-minded individuals.
- Practice gratitude (Dhyana): Focus on what you have, not your lack. Be grateful for your body, mind, practice, and the people who support you. Cultivate a positive mindset and a sense of appreciation for life.
The struggle is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. It's what makes you human. Embrace it, learn from it, and let it transform you. I often come back to the word strong- The root of Valerie “valens” means strength, bravery and powerful. If you are struggling with anything, I hope my strength and determination can support you. I share this for my own mental health and processing what is next for me, and I know your future success (Sankalpa) is also out there.
Five days before I board a plane to meet with my cohort and finish my second year, I am still waiting to hear a final decision, and I wonder if my second attempt was successful or if I passed. I am hopeful and moving forward. I have begun reviewing my fall syllabus and what I need to do in case all goes well. I have also prepared myself for what I will do if the result differs from what I hope.
Stay well –
“Send Somebody” Collin Hay
“Charriots Rise” Lizzie West
“What about us” Pink
“Don’t Break” September 67
“Learn it all again tomorrow” Ben Harper
“I won’t back down” Tom Petty
“Best of you” Foo Fighters
“People Everyday” Arrested Development
“Rolling’” Better than Ezra
“Greatest Day” Bowling for Soup
“Ca Plane Pour Moi” Plastic Bertrand
“Move Along” All American Rejects
“In the Middle” Jimmy Eats World
“I am enough” Heather Mae
“Don’t stop Believin” Journey
“I’m Alive” Michael Franti
“Good Day” Nappy Roots
“Let it Be” Beatles
I'm Valerie, Yoga Teacher and following my Sankalpa!