I remember clearly the moment at teacher training (Bootcamp with Baron Baptiste) when I resolved to sit with the fear. I decided to stop pushing it down, fighting against it, running away from it, and just sit there. I saw clearly that it was time to be courageous. I had to make a commitment to stand there, vulnerable, tender, open-hearted and scared, and let others see me as I was. I resisted because there was a good chance that I would suck at this. There were no guarantees, and I didn’t like it because up until then I made choices based on what I could already do pretty well. But the practice of being uncomfortable on the mat, of being frustrated, weak, messy, sweaty and teary, had taught me something. Getting in front of people was like learning a difficult pose. You have to be disciplined and rigorous and repeat it many times, to set your intention and perform the right actions and to do it even when you’re scared. You had to let go of the result.
I had been a student of yoga for a few years when I started looking around me at the studio teachers and secretly wondered: Can I be like them? I didn’t dare speak this out loud to anyone, but it was my secret wish. As I immersed myself in yoga practice, the teachings started to penetrate beyond the physical. I was discovering my own strength and flexibility in the face of life’s challenges. I experienced, through the physical practice and under the guidance of my teachers, the separateness between my mind and my spirit, or core being. I started to get glimpses of a luminous light flickering deep inside me. I felt there was something magical happening to me. I was transforming over and over again. Even the way I looked had changed. People noticed.
When I was young I believed I would become a professional musician just like my dad, who was a professional flutist. It was going to be my life’s path and I didn’t consider an alternate plan. My dad cared deeply and took every missed note to heart, and I took after him. I was so anxious about performing that I used to take beta-blockers before any concert or audition, otherwise, the shaking would take over and I wasn’t able to steady my hands. Practice was torture because it reminded me of my shortcomings and I couldn’t put away the negative thoughts and frustration. So, when I graduated from high school I put my violin away. I told everyone, including myself that it was because I wanted to pursue other interests. This was a lie of course, I was afraid and I didn’t see a way over the fear because my fear and anxiety became who I was, my whole identity, they were what made me, me.
So it was when I realized how much I desired to teach yoga that all the old fears came back, and I was stuck.
At that moment at teacher training, I made my first step, and I stood in front of my fellow trainees (there were 150 of us!). I was shaking and sweating and my voice didn’t come out right, but I got most of the words out and I could put the first notch in my belt of ‘how many times I sucked in front of others’. It felt great. That moment was little but I remember it with so much gratitude.
My life is very different now that I am a full-time yoga teacher, and it is in part due to the choice I made then, at that particular moment, and the choices I kept making after it.
I always think of my personal emotional journey like my journey as I study poses on the mat. It started out with gross movements and big steps. Then it became more subtle. The steps weren’t so clear, the forks in the road not so visible, but now I had more tools and a trust that I was on the right path.
And this is the biggest gift I received through my practice: In 2012 my father came from Israel to visit Boston. I was so excited for his visit but once he was here something wasn’t right. He was frustrated with me, and I was not willing to hear it. We didn’t enjoy each other’s company. He went back home and after that, things weren’t right. I knew I had to call and have an honest conversation but I was scared. There were things we just didn’t say to each other. What would happen if I exposed those things? What if he didn’t understand? As a child, I felt there were a lot of secrets kept from me, and matters that were never discussed openly. Nevertheless, they had a great emotional impact, and it wasn’t clear to me whether my parents knew this. It was time to be courageous again and I knew it because of my practice. I picked up the phone and out poured everything I never dared bring up with my parents. It was the first time I felt my father talked to me not as his child, but as an adult. He thanked me and acknowledged how grateful he was for me. It is a memory so precious to me that I can still taste my relief and gratitude even years later.
I did not know that the next year my father would be gone. This single conversation helped me get through it all. He was sick for only 10 short months and for most of them I didn’t know I would lose him. After he died all I could cling to was this one conversation a year before when I told him I love you, I forgive you, please forgive me too.
I don’t think I would have ever had this interaction with my dad had it not been for my self-study through yoga. To me, the central role of self-study is always the most difficult part, yet it does bring about incredible gifts such as that one precious unforgettable moment that I will forever savor.