Prepping for a yoga class.
I can’t say that I have “improved” as a yoga teacher in the past four years. I would say that my practice, both as a student and as a teacher has languished. This is partly to do with my move to the midwest. Partly to do my primary teachers being accessible only online. And partly to do with being a mother. Partly to do with, well .. life.
It takes time to prepare.
There is a class design + the playlist + the thematic weaving + wording + cueing + timing and making space for the inevitable unpredictability of the whole experience. Despite the visual beauty and order of yoga poses, there is so much happening simultaneously. It’s challenging. There is as much hard work, awareness, cultivating of presence, letting go in the practice of teaching yoga as in the practice itself.
After years of practice, it can get tedious and tiring. Since the average person will forget what happened almost as soon as they walk out the door, it can be tempting to just show up. Rest on the skill set and knowledge. Honestly, for the most part that is all that I have been able or willing to do.
My transition to motherhood, though filled with love, has been of the most challenging experiences of my life. (I write about it here). Motherhood is all consuming. Motherhood is transformational. Motherhood is metamorphic in ways that I could have never foreseen.
I have wanted to hold on to the part of me that is dedicated to perfection through my actions. But, that perfection I once chased is a lie. It’s’ taken me 7 years and gallons of tears to come to terms with this. And to forgive myself for believing in it. I have used perfection as a distraction just to watch it all turn to chaos and madness, awkwardness and frustration. I have used perfection to keep me separate from reality.
Perfection is a lie. I think we all know that now. (Ok maybe God is perfect, but we have made a mess of what “God” means). I want to unpack this a bit ...
I played volleyball growing up. From seventh grade all the way up to college, I would put in hours upon hours of training and conditioning to play at the level I was playing. I focused on all the effort, trying to prove to myself that it mattered. Spending so much time perfecting, but not really being present to what was happening. I can attribute this behavior to my parents pushing, or culture’s view of me at the time, or the pressure placed on me by my society. But, I internalized it all. It was impressed upon me that I had to do better. Sometimes I rose up, but mostly I only felt worthless and I used betterment as a way to not feel the pain of feeling not good enough. Perfection was a distraction.
In the the netflix documentary Homecoming, venerable Beyonce speaks about this with all the grace and power of a super star. She says, “I feel like I’m just a new woman, in a new chapter of my life, and I’m not even trying to be who I was, it’s so beautiful that children do that to you.” The framing of these words is stunning.
To me, the positive, beautiful, uplifting frameing of these words also speaks to the underlying difficulty of moving from one way of being to another. Few experiences have the power to do this so potently. It is also the most natural thing in the world, But, what a human body goes through to give birth is the stuff of awe. Women, in all manner of speaking open from the inside out. In every area. Everything changes. Not just physically.
I ran the yoga studio with the same dedication, and motivation, as I did playing volleyball. Please note: during this part of the story, I didn’t realize I was doing this. I didn’t realize - fully, consciously, that I was striving for perfection - I thought I was just trying to do better, like always. Do better, make mistakes, learn, etc. Only that I wasn’t doing better, I was making mistakes but not really learning from them. I was creating a rut and the more trying, the deep the rut got, as it does. I began to feel pressure. Especially after birthing a child. In response to all this pressure I began to get irritated, agitated. I began to loose my ground, I began to lose touch with reality. I began to ignore the stress. I began to disassociate from my body so that I could keep up. Relying on effort, striving, will, coffee, bagels, wine to get my through. It wasn’t like before where I could spend the whole days practicing yoga. I had to take care of my baby; be a wife, be a business owner. I had to take care of my body.
Two months after Brendan was born. I began to get very sick. I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t getting oxygen. My heart wasn’t working well. I don’t remember this time well. I have to look at my medical history to get the details clear - I had the breathing rate of someone in their 80s with emphysema. I, a 35 year old yoga teacher, could not breathe. I feel oxygen tanks, scans, tests, consultations later - cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure. No big deal. I was given beta blockers which mitigated stress and 6 month later no more cardiomyopathy (it is reversible in some cases, like mine, but not always). That first year of B’s life was detrimental, nearly devastating, to my physical health. My husband lost his job 6 weeks after B was born. The he worked for a acupuncturist as an office assistant during this time. He took the baby while I taught my classes. In 2012 we had a big influx cash as I taught 3 YTTs that year, but we were still supported by the state. Nate came to work for the yoga studio. This influx a cash lowered our state support significantly. As I write this, I feel a tightness in my chest. I feel a deep sense of failure. And, honestly right now a feeling a betrayal. It is no wonder, my transition to motherhood has been so difficult. I was striving to fill a feeling a unworthiness. I was forced into recognition of the word “can’t” in a life dedicated to can. Can, if you work hard. Can, if you focus. Can, if you ask for help. Can, if you do better. Can, if you were better. I could not be better. I couldn’t, and it broke my heart. As I write, I’m struck at the powerlessness of this realization. The want, so desperately, for it to be different, better.
We decided to close the studio. I was in the hospital for most of that week. I had an asthma attack. The fatal kind. But, only part of me died. The cells.
Do you know what imaginal cells are? Imaginal cells are what lay dormant in the cells for say a butterfly. The imaginal cells carry the code for the butterfly’s becoming, but can not be realised until the cells for the caterpilar die. Imaginal cells hold the potential of the future. (more here) http://theviewinside.me/imaginal-cells/
Nate was accepted to residency in Portland and began his career as a hospital chaplain. Pay and insurance. I got pregnant with O. We moved. I stayed home with B and got bigger. We explored. I birthed O and it was the single most satisfying experience of my life. I have the pictures to proove it.
Then came post-partum depression.
I left the hospital before I was ready, Nate when back to work before I was ready. I was in a city, with one car, the support of family and friends far away.
My caterpillar cells were turning to mush. The imaginal cells of my future self were beginning to make their way into clusters.
I believe that I am yet to become a Mama Butterfly. That I’m in the “messy middle” that I have been for way longer than is comfortable. But, here I am choosing courage over comfort. I’m going to keep showing up, I am here, entering the arena.
BTW: go and watch Call to Courage with Brene Brown on netflix