Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Taking a leap

Right after the first of the year I heard about an intensive, 6 month training course to become a yoga instructor.  I love yoga and have seriously practiced it for the last three years.  And although teaching is not something I had ever considered,  for some reason the idea really resonated with me.  I'm not usually an impulsive person but suddenly I found myself signed up and preparing for my first weekend seminar.

Can I tell you how much of a stretch this is for me??  Going to that first class, I was scared on so many levels.  Not nervous, scared.  The ONLY thing that made me go was the small, non-refundable fortune I paid for my tuition.

But, truthfully one of the deeper aspects of yoga is facing your fears so I guess it's appropriate that I had to face many of them before I even started.

What was I scared of?  I had too many fears to name.  But as I examined them all I realized that at their core, they had one common thread, "Am I too old?"

I made up excuses that ran the gamut from, "My body might not be able to handle the work." to "My brain won't be able to retain everything I'll be required to know."  And the granddaddy of all reasons why people of a certain age fear to start something new, "I'll never be able to compete with the younger people."

So I walked into the first day already feeling stupid and expecting to fail, with an inner voice screaming at me that I was a fool.  Worse, I was an old fool.

Then something wonderful happened.  Before we even introduced ourselves, the instructor showed this video.

Arthur's Incredible Transformation! from Dallas Page on Vimeo.

Maybe some of you have seen it before, but I hadn't.  It gave me chills.  This video not only validated my desire to teach yoga, but it helped me realize that I could do it.

Watching Arthur struggle, fall and still get back up every time gave me hope. And, it made me remember a passage from a book I read many years ago:

"Give yourself permission to be a beginner.  By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to actually be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one...When I make this point in teaching, I am met by instant, defensive hostility: 'But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?'  Yes...the same age you will be if you don't.  So get started."
                                                                                    Julia Cameron, The Artists Way
And, while that quote may be about developing artist creativity, I think there is much that can be applied to my current situation. I mean teaching anything is pretty much a creative endeavor. Also, yoga is kind of like dancing, so it requires a fair amount of artistry.

I've also realized something else.  Even though my fear appeared to be centered around my age, when I dig even deeper it's really fear of failure.  And, that strikes people of all ages.

Another helpful quote from the book says:
"The artist must begin by crawling.  Baby steps will follow and there will be falls...Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves."

So how did I do that first weekend of classes?

Well, I did okay.  By the end of the first day, we were actually teaching in small groups and yes, I sucked pretty badly.  I went home and had a good cry over how bad I was.  But, when I remembered Arthur and Julia, I gained the courage to go back the next day and the next.  By the end of the weekend I felt like I hadn't made a huge mistake after all.

Giving myself permission to be bad at teaching yoga for a little while has given me the freedom to actually start teaching.  

So, tomorrow night I start teaching a 10 week Basic Yoga Session.  And today I agreed to substitute a class on Friday teaching chair yoga for seniors.

Am I nervous?  Heck, yeah.  Will I suck?  Probably, but not as bad as I did that first weekend.  I've been practicing every day.  And, the more I do it, the better I'll get.  I'll keep you posted.

So what do I want you to come away with from this post?

If there's something you are stopping yourself from doing because you feel too old, or too stupid or too (insert adjective here), realize that these are lies you're telling yourself because you're afraid to fail.

So, give yourself permission to fail.  At least for a while.  Once you do, your paralysis will disappear and you'll be able to start your journey.  So, what are you going to do now?

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