Friday, July 6, 2018

Why I teach yoga.

Hi friends.  So, there's kind of an elephant in the room here.  There are so many yoga teachers in this world, and certainly no shortage of white women in this role. Why did I choose to become one? Well, I'll tell you.

I used to believe that yoga was for Other People.

I’ve lived with chronic illness for my entire adult life. As such, over the span of about 20 years people recommended to me that I do yoga about 258,983 times. (Y’all who are in the same boat know exactly what I’m talking about.) But for all those years there was one thing I knew for sure: yoga was for Other People, and it was most definitely Not For Me.

Yoga was for skinny bendy rich ladies. I was fat, and not at all bendy. I was most definitely not rich, not by US standards anyway. Yoga was for people who didn't have trouble breathing, not for people like me who'd struggled with exercise-induced asthma since age nine. Yoga was for the pain-free - not people with Fibromyalgia. Yoga was for people with lots of extra time and money, not people who worked full time. Yoga was for hippies and kombucha drinkers and people who wore crystals and talked about "chakras." Yoga was for lots of people, but yoga was Not. For. Me. I wasn’t comfortable in a yoga class, and you couldn’t make me.

This was the story I told myself about myself. Funny thing about stories though. Sometimes, they change.

Yoga is for other people... right?

During a particularly difficult time in the Fall of 2016, I sat with a friend who knows me and my stories well, and who also happens to be a talented yoga teacher. As I rambled on about how much I was struggling physically and emotionally, she looked at me and said:

"And... tell me again... why not yoga?"

I began to rattle off my list of the thousand and one reasons that yoga was great for tons of people who were not me. But sitting there listening to myself, each one sounded more hollow than the next. These weren't reasons. They were stories. Stories that I’d made up based on a handful of bad experiences.

Why didn’t yoga feel like it was for me?

I began to think hard about why I was so damn convinced that I couldn’t do this thing that so many others could. Was it that I was fat, or was it that I had been made to feel judged for being fat? Was it that I couldn’t touch my toes, or was it that some unscrupulous instructor had ridiculed me for not being able to touch my toes? It didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that some yoga environments, and more specifically some yoga teachers, had operated in ways that made me feel inadequate.

Perhaps, I thought, I just needed thicker skin. Or maybe, just maybe, there were teachers out there who knew how to help people like me, who didn’t fit the “yoga mold”, feel comfortable?

Could yoga be for me too?

So I went back to yoga for about the dozenth time. The first class I took was terrible. But I kept trying, and at long last it happened: I stumbled into just the right class with just the right teacher. It was hard as hell, but that was OK because I didn’t feel any judgment or ridicule for the level where I was practicing. I kept exploring, and managed to find a small collection of teachers who, each in their unique ways, embraced me. They let me know that yes, I too can "do yoga" as far as moving through asanas in my body.  That yes, yoga is SO much more than physical exercise.  That yes, I too belong in a yoga class. That yes, I am welcome.

Yes! Yoga is for me too!

I kept at it. I'd found something that was helping me emotionally and physically, and I’d discovered definitively that there are teachers who can and will help fat unbendy non-rich skeptics feel welcome in a yoga space.

I quickly knew that I wanted to be such a teacher. I wanted to hold space for people who came to yoga the way I did - vulnerable, or in pain, or just seeking understanding - and meet them with support and skill and without judgment.

And maybe it’s for you, too.

In the Fall of 2017 I enrolled in Get Bent Nola Yoga Teacher Training with Tracey Duncan and Tyler St. Jean, two of the teachers who had shown me that yoga can be for me too. I began teaching in April of 2018, with the intention and desire to make yoga feel safe and comfortable for people who believe it can’t be for them for a whole huge host of reasons. (Spoiler alert: I’m willing to bet it can.)

Are you in that number?

Are you ready to change the story you’re telling yourself about yourself? Are you ready to try again? hearts, melissa b.