Submitted by Tracy Pepper of Mount Maunganui
My yoga teacher training programme required that I spend 25 days on an ashram practicing, and this had a profound effect on me.
We happened to start these 25 days with hip opening. As we went through the various types of postures – which are grouped into these emotional releasing areas, it brought up a lot of “stuff”. Stuff I thought I dealt with through years and years of therapy. Stuff I didn’t want to deal with again. Stuff that made me feel very exposed and very vulnerable and very insecure.
It was both fascinating to see how profoundly the yoga was waking up these energy blockages, and frightening. I’m used to being quite confident and clear when I’m talking to people about anatomy and physiology and how it relates to massage, but I discovered I was afraid of being looked at and uncomfortable at watching others perform. A bit difficult when you’re trying to become a yoga teacher!
Within a week, we had to teach our first 30 minute class. Grouping asanas (postures) together was easy enough for me but I was SO nervous teaching. I couldn’t LOOK at anyone! I kept my nose buried in my notes. I was terrified to look up.
A week later we had to teach our first 1.5 hour class. I practiced, and I wrote an excellent routine, and really challenged myself by using complicated postures, adapting a few to make them a little different. I even asked to be in the room with our Swami Shantimurti observing (he’s tough) so clearly I FELT ready.
The night before, I couldn’t sleep, so I got out of bed at 4am and lit the fires in the sadana room and in the main yoga house.
Playing fire fairy wasn’t my job this week but I wanted to make the rooms nice and warm for my class. However, when people woke up, they all seemed uncharacteristically grumpy. They were pissed off at “whoever lit the fire at 4am and woke them up”. Great start to the morning. Never mind that the house and sadana room were warm. No thank you at all!
My personality naturally wants to make people feel better, so when people are grumpy, I want to make them smile. I’d structured my class around the Anahata (heart) chakra, however, I wasn’t expecting that people weren’t in that sort of mood. I taught my class, standing up at the front with a smile and looking back at a bunch of tired, grumpy faces. It threw me right off. Suddenly I got very fearful and proceeded to teach my class with absolutely no confidence.
Afterwards, in the critique, when people share what they liked and didn’t like about your teaching, people forgot to say what they liked about the class. I was told I needed to be more confident. Duh. No fricken kidding! Then Swami Shantimurt had his turn.
He told me that I needed to stop intellectualizing with the class and really learn to connect with them (yep) and that I should never apologize or explain myself (I did this a few times as I thought they were unhappy with holding some of the harder postures) and that there was no place for personality while teaching yoga (What? How do I do that?). He proceeded to emphasize some of the words I use as fillers such as “really, and, just, gonna”… and repeated them over and over.
I got it. I felt stupid enough already. Just stop please. Stop!
My anger began bubbling up and I felt I was about to burst. I didn’t have a chance to speak! I tried to open my mouth but I didn’t know what to say! My false frozen smile began to slide. I felt let down by my peers and I was disappointed and embarrassed.
Two of the major compliments that Swami Shantimurti gave me – that I will be a great yoga teacher and that one of the postures I created actually made him want to get down on the floor and try it – didn’t register. I was focused on his criticisms. So I politely excused myself to use the toilet and walked out. I threw on my gumboots and I walked to the beach, and I just kept walking!!
On the beach, I screamed and cried, I was SO upset! It was a cold day and I didn’t have a jacket but I kept walking for miles. If I could have, I would have walked home. I reached the end of the beach and I sat there for hours, sitting in the cold wind, punishing myself.
My anger and disappointment began to turn inward.
Why? Why do I allow people to think it’s okay to talk to me or treat me like this? Why do people treat me like I don’t know what I’m talking about? Because… I allow it. How can anyone respect me if I don’t respect myself?
By being openly fearful, I’m showing that I’m not confident and when I don’t appear confident, I don’t appear to know what I’m doing or talking about. If I want to achieve my goals, if I want to work with people and have them respect and feel inspired by me, I have to be very SURE of what I’m doing. Major breakthrough.
But I was still angry. My new mantra was “eff it”, I didn’t give an eff what anyone thinks. I made a promise to never say sorry again (an impossible thing to promise as I am Canadian and we say sorry often).
I walked back to the Ashram even though I really just wanted to be alone. I found it difficult to be around others while I was processing these emotions. I knew I wasn’t angry at them but I WAS angry and it’s hard as a people pleaser to be angry in the company of others.
I’m so glad they didn’t try to make me feel better. They let me be in my anger… and suddenly I became invisible. Invisibility – the thing that I hate the most, yet a place where I feel safe. It was all making so much sense.I couldn’t function very well during the afternoon so I went for a nap and I slept straight through until the next day – a 14 hour nap!
Swami Atmalokananda invited me to join the morning sadhana but I could’ve stayed in bed.
My friend Anger was still there, with me the whole night, and didn’t want me to get up. I dragged my invisible self out onto my mat and joined in the class with tears streaming down my face the whole time. How embarrassing! But I couldn’t stop and I had no energy to try. I succumbed to whatever was working through me. Although I felt uncomfortable processing these emotions openly (I don’t like others feeling uncomfortable) the women were wonderful and allowed me to be invisible.
I felt like I was shutting down entirely. My body didn’t want to move, I felt so rigid and I couldn’t get myself into the postures. I couldn’t seem to speak. I couldn’t find my voice or the words to express my feelings. I felt utterly and completely lost. I wanted to curl up in a ball and die. All I could to do was cry.
What the hell am I doing here? I don’t even WANT to teach yoga!!
One of the women on this course had become a “Journey” counselor, a powerful process which helps you overcome challenges from physical ailments to emotional trauma or shut down in relationship problems and career performance issues. So after they all ate lunch (my body didn’t want to eat), she came into my room and began to talk me through Brandon Bay’s Journey process.
I was really afraid to go through the process, but I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I was immobilized and powerless. For an hour and a half, we went through the layers of emotions that I’ve packed away in neat piles in my subconscious for so many years.
As she talked me through another emotion, I felt guilt and shame that she had to see this side of me. I thought I dealt with this stuff but I’d only folded it and tucked it away where I hoped no one could find it (more importantly where I would never find it). But it was there, with all the other folded emotions. No wonder my primary feeling was anger!
I had suppressed so much of this and never allowed myself to feel.
Layer after layer we removed the emotions and put a name to them and as we worked my memory went deeper and deeper into the past, into my subconscious.
The emotions connect themselves to memories that you long forgot, from the perspective of a child or a less evolved version of your psyche. Perspective. That’s all this is. Change the perspective, change the emotion.
In my case it went back all the way down to infancy, of being born. I know that although I was conceived from love, I was an “accident” and I know that at the time my mom was pregnant with me, she was incredibly confused and conflicted about whether she should proceed with the pregnancy. This was 1970s small town Northern Ontario, in a town that was predominantly Catholic.
My mom had 4 children and was in the middle of a rather scandalous separation. My own father was nearly a decade younger than her, a “fling” whom she fell madly in love with but knew she could never be with.
As a tiny baby, I didn’t breastfeed well and I stopped breathing spontaneously (SIDS). My mom carried me in a sling and gave me mouth to mouth when I’d stop breathing. When I was six months old, my mom sent me to live with my grandparents. I’m not sure why. As a result, I never felt wanted. I didn’t belong. I didn’t fit the mold. My birth was a burden. I changed the dynamic of my family. I was different, I looked different and I had a different personality.
I tried to become as invisible as possible in that family. I didn’t want to rock the boat or stand out.
As a kid, I wished my magic power was to have an invisible cloak or to time travel. I wished I was adopted.
My anger comes from disappointment. Disappointment in the people I love not seeing me or understanding me or wanting me.
My perspective is understanding that I have been wearing an invisible cloak around them for years. They couldn’t understand me if they couldn’t see me. How can someone want what they can’t see? I never allowed them to get to know what made me special. I hid from them. I was scared of them. As a result, whenever I feel hurt or disappointed or afraid, I disappear. I move away, I lose contact, I vanish.
At the end of the session, after I’d done the work that needed to be done, all there was left was love.
God’s love, pure and real. I wouldn’t be here if he didn’t want me to be here. No matter how hard you try to be invisible, you can’t disappear from Him. I already know that consciously, but subconsciously it never sunk in. And that changes everything.
From there, I changed. I emerged like a butterfly. I got far more out of the yoga teacher training course than I ever imagined, and now I’m so excited to teach what I learned, from my own emotional and energetic perspective.
I was given my Yogic Sanskrit name by Swami Shantimurti, based on my birth chart – Satyarupa (pronounced Sut-ya-ru-pa). Satya means Truth and Rupa means Beauty. The beautiful truth – that is who I am and that is who God made me to be.
I learned a very important lesson about ego that day. Being a yoga teacher isn’t about you, it’s about walking your students through their own journey in whatever cloak they choose.
To recognize when that cloak is a cover for what they aren’t yet ready to deal with or reveal. And being there when it comes off, with a big anahata smile (because that makes everyone feel better).
Hari Aum Tat Sat. This self realization is just beginning. AUM.