Sometimes I have a hard time differentiating things I am actually good at from things I WISH I was good at.
If you want someone to chat and drink mimosas with all afternoon, I am your girl. When it comes to athletic endeavors, however, I am mediocre at best. I never made varsity anything, or received any accolades for my athletic prowess. I was the 4th seed in tennis, and middle of the pack in cross country. I sat the bench the majority of the time in soccer and basketball.
Being a tireless optimist, I even joined the women’s rugby team briefly in college. This was motivated by the fact that all of the girls on my dormitory floor had done so and I didn’t want to be excluded from the “drink-up” parties with the boy’s rugby teams. I went running off the field after 2 minutes in my first game once I realized how much scary physical contact with tougher ladies than me was involved.
Depressing as this all sounds, it never really bothered me. I enjoyed the camaraderie and discipline of sports, and quite frankly where I grew up, there wasn’t much else to do anyway.
After moving to California and establishing myself in a career of sorts as a Healthcare Recruiter, I grew restless and decided it was time to branch out. A friend had encouraged me to start doing Yoga to manage my stress, and I had been going to hot Vinyasa and “bikram-style” classes several times a week for a few years.
I was amazed at how the hour-long classes transformed me from a stressed-out, neurotic psycho into a Zen-like, glowing individual who was able to relax and deal with life’s ups and downs without pulling the proverbial fire alarm every time something didn’t go my way. It was liberating! I felt all spiritual and shit.
I loved the hot, sweaty rooms, the vigorous “chattaranga until you think you might throw up” work-outs, the overpriced, slutty Lululemon outfits, jostling for a good mat position, being a part of the yoga “community.” I studied the instructors, both male and female, and was smitten with their lithe, muscled bodies, their luminous skin, strategically placed Sanskrit tattoos, and their vaguely brainwashed, smiley demeanors that suggested that they would be your friend if they weren’t so far ahead of you spiritually.
I couldn’t decide if I loved them, hated them or wanted to have sex with them, so rather work through this internally, I decided I would try to be them.
One of the teachers at the popular chain of yoga studios I had been attending suggested that I might enjoy their Teacher Training program, and as I am one to rush into things with minimal research, I gladly forked over $1,250 and signed up for the 8-week session scheduled to start the next week.
The experience was a good one overall. I made new friends, got into better shape, created healthier eating and lifestyle habits (more kale, less vodka and cigarettes) and gained confidence in my ability to put myself out there and try something outside of my comfort zone.
What it did not do is turn me into a great yoga instructor, or even a decent one, although the fault for this lies solely at my own feet (or mat.)
I graduated with my “200 hour certification,” which was basically a formality that they gave to everyone who completed the paperwork and paid all their fees, then used dogged persistence and my seven years of sales training to land a job at a local studio. The young woman who hired me had recently opened the studio, and was blindly optimistic enough to give me two classes a week in my name.
This seemed very exciting –- at first.
“I am a Yoga Teacher! I teach Yoga!” I told people, enthusiastically, when they asked what I do.
Problem was, I was more excited about the idea of Teaching Yoga than I was about actually doing it. Apparently I thought if I just called myself a Yoga Teacher, I would magically turn into one of the mystical, superior creatures who I worshipped from afar during my years as a practicing student.
I was extremely nervous before each class, which is not my typical demeanor, and dreaded teaching to the point to where I was relieved if no one showed up for class because it meant I was off the hook. This created a great deal of inner conflict.
“Am I a self-involved, lazy person who can’t deliver on her promises? Should I be “good at this” by now? Is my lack of natural talent indicative of an overall greater personal shortcoming?” I wondered.
In retrospect, it reminds me of the conversations I have in my head when potential suitors, friends and family ask me about my desire to have kids.
“Does it sound like a great idea in theory?” “Yes!”
“Do I have a burning desire to have kids?” “No.”
What I failed to point out when telling people about my Yoga Teaching was that where I really spent my time was working in an office, and outside of work I mostly hung out with my friends or boyfriend. I did not meditate, I rarely “studied yoga,” and I often partied like it was 1999 even when I had a class to teach the next day. Not smart.
Needless to say, my career as a Yoga Instructor did not miraculously take off. I was not the most talented physical practitioner, to this day I still struggle with Crow pose, and I felt like a phony saying the platitudes that we are used to hearing at the beginning and end of each class.
“Focus your intention inward, just breathe, etc. etc.”
Even though I still loved practicing yoga, I felt like a total impostor as an instructor. I stumbled over my words, made things up as I went along, confused “lefts” with “rights,” and basically made every annoying mistake that a rookie teacher makes. Over and over again, for six months.
My classes did not fill up, I became less engaged and confident with each passing week, and eventually was let go by the very nice studio owner. My hands shook and I had a pit in my stomach throughout the call as I realized I was getting FIRED, and I could tell she felt just as terrible being on the other end of the conversation. I assured her that I agreed it wasn’t a fit and thanked her for the opportunity, and after a few days of licking my wounds went happily back to being a Yoga Student.
What I learned, on the grand scale of Life Lessons, is as follows:
1. Assess your natural talents realistically. If you are flexible, athletic and enjoy chanting, meditating and studying chakras, go for that yoga certification! If you prefer to write snarky articles and chat with your friends over a few glasses (bottles) of wine, own that instead. Put vanity aside, and deal in reality. It will save you a lot of trouble.
2. If you are going to branch out and try something new, COMMIT! Every week I would put an hour/day in my Outlook calendar to study, read or practice yoga, and every day I would ignore the reminder as it popped up. Consequently I did not improve, at all, as an instructor. I know that in my next endeavor, hopefully one in which I am more naturally skilled, will be an exercise in discipline with a more successful outcome.
3. It won’t kill you to fail. Although my pride was wounded when I was let go from the yoga studio, and I did not enjoy having to explain to people why I was no longer teaching after I was initially so excited about it, I knew I had it coming and quite frankly was relieved in the end. I gained valuable healthy habits and nice new friends from the teacher training courses, and can chalk “taught yoga” up on my life’s scoreboard.
4. Keep going. I will continue jumping feet first into new endeavors, because YOLO, you know? Rather than discourage me from trying to master something new, this experience actually gave more confidence and got me thinking outside of my the corporate treadmill and into more creative-minded opportunities. It showed me it’s OK to fail, totally fine, and you’ll still come out better for it. Not to mention, a little humility never hurt anyone. Namaste.