I went through this interesting phase during the course of my teaching where I second-guessed everything. From the moment I started class until the end of it; extending insofar between classes, I was second-guessing my ability to direct intelligent and meaningful movements that would gently lead a student to hear their own inner voice. More than anything I wanted to open up the world of yoga and show everyone in the room the true value of its purpose and the possibility one opens to oneself when deeply rooted in the practice.
Basically, I was constantly worried about what was none of my business. Of course, that didn’t occur to me until just now as I was writing it. What did occur to me, how I was able to navigate my way out, was not one particular thing but multiple things combined.
For openers, if I was questioning my ability to teach, or questioning my understanding of yoga, I could do something about that (expanding my knowledge of yoga was within my realm of control). I could meet that doubt with learning as much as I could about it. So I steeped myself in all things yoga. I practiced relentlessly, consumed everything that I could that caught my attention and that I felt a connection with. I meditated on the words; I meditated on the sensations I felt in my body per asana. I connected wholeheartedly with it. Out of that birthed a passion for yoga inside of me that I’d never had before. It has been a beautiful and healing journey, incidentally.
I also started doubting the doubt. What gave this doubt so much credibility? Why did it interrupt my streams of cues derailing me from any meaningful connection I could have with my students? Why did it tell me things like, “What do you know? What makes you think they don’t already know this?”
That doubt was nasty. It was painful and hurtful and prevented me from connecting with my ability to truly translate the beauty of yoga. Or so I thought. It wasn’t the doubt that caused me to falter. It was the belief that I infused into the doubt that made it powerful.
Somehow I came across this book by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, called Presence. I don’t remember if I watched her TED talk before or after I started reading her book, but I do remember watching her TED talk and it resonating so powerfully within me. Her book is full of riveting information about various things that relate to our ability to bring our best selves to the table. To get the full impact of the message, I do recommend reading the book yourself, but to summarize the main point that hit home with me: Stop listening to the inner critic that tries to speak over the moment you’re experiencing because when it steals you of your attention, it robs you of your authentic communion with others.
Kind of like if you were sitting on the couch with your best friend and she was pouring your heart out to you, and instead of listening to her, you were scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed. She would easily deduce that you don’t care about her, you’re not really “here”, you don’t want to connect. While in that instance you really would be doing her a disservice, what a catastrophe for that message to be sent to someone when your inability to connect actually had nothing to do with a disinterest in connecting, but rather an over-interest in your voice of doubt (insert scene of me in front of a class of students).
So I stopped feeding doubt. And while it didn’t die completely (a healthy amount of doubt can be helpful, as you saw it became a catalyst for me to dive more deeply into and connect more fervently with my own asana practice), it certainly isn’t as overactive in that department of my life anymore. When I enter that room to teach, I am unplugged. I am raw, and I would have said vulnerable before, but vulnerability is only a word for something that means, “You could hurt me here, please don’t,” and I don’t really feel like that applies here anymore.
With all of that being said, doubt has not been unplugged in terms of my writing because it has been vulnerable. Over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot of things about fear and how it’s maintained. I feel like one of the main staples for its survival is this little thing called Judgment. Judgment can be another topic for another day; suffice it to say, I’ve learned how to quieten the voice of doubt while I teach so it seems reasonable to conclude that I can apply that here too.