In September 2013, I began yoga teacher training. I was 54 years old and still finding my way back to health after my lengthy illness and losing 55 pounds, much of it muscle. I didn’t have much strength left and my stamina wasn’t good but I just knew the time was right. I spoke with the trainer and she had every confidence I could do it. Actually, Kim had more confidence in me than I did!
In May 2014, we had our last training and I taught my group class – 10 days before my 55th birthday. As I look back on those months of study, practice, hair-pulling moments, fears, doubts, giggles, and OMG-what-the-hell-have-Igotten-into moments, I’m kind of in awe that I finished. LOL. Okay, I admit it; I’m surprised that I finished. I had lots of moments of wanting to quit. And honestly, I’m still not totally finished. I need to video myself teaching a class and then critique it. I keep finding reasons not to do this last step. Why?
I was ambivalent with the training for the first 3 months before I totally embraced it and fell in love with the process. It was a HUGE commitment of time and energy. At that point, I was probably walking around with my chest puffed out that I was 54 and in yoga teacher training. Then . . . yeah, then (get ready for a lot of thens), I got sick right after Christmas along with almost everyone I know and it seemed to take forever to get my energy back. THEN I got food poisoning and missed an entire training weekend. THEN my back went out a month later and I couldn’t practice much. THEN my group was assigned Bhekasana, frog pose, to create a class around. Bhekasana is a heavy-duty backbend that I couldn’t do with messed up back! THEN I went to Tucson for a Baby Loss Doula training and got sick (food poisoning again?). THEN my nephew died two days after I got home from Tucson and I was grieving all over again!
Sick of the THENs yet? Well I got sick of them. Oh yes indeed! Time to remember I’m a pick-myself-up-by the bootstraps kind of girl. Through all of the THENs, I discovered that if I simply sit on my yoga mat, I was meeting myself where I was at that moment. Sitting there for a few minutes would show me subtle nuances of change. Maybe my back felt slightly better than the day before. Maybe my gut was rumbling a little less than the day before. Maybe my mind was a little less scattered than the day before . . . if I hadn’t spent those moments on my mat everyday, I would have never noticed those subtle nuances. Sometimes I wasn’t a little better than the day before and that gave me a moment to be kind to myself. I learned the gift of gentle yoga practice, of truly listening to my body. I also learned how to listen to my heart . . .
The day after my nephew died, I hit my mat for practice and found I couldn’t stand to hear a teacher’s voice. It was too much stimulation. I also didn’t have the bandwidth to intuitively move through sun salutations (I had zero focus except for thinking of my nephew) and that made me feel stupid and frustrated. So I rested on my mat in vajrasana, hugged myself tightly and then practiced opening up my arms to open my heart. It felt vulnerable and I closed my eyes which felt like a little kid who thinks when you close your eyes nobody can see you. I asked myself, “What do I most need right here in this moment?” It was self-love. I was feeling guilty for ways I thought I’d failed my nephew. So, I wrapped my arms around myself again and reminded myself that I was wrapping myself in love, not closing myself up. I sat with that and thought about Sean. I couldn’t unwrap again and hold my arms out again but I did feel better.
The next day, I still couldn’t intuitively move through sun saluations but I found a picture with each pose in black on a white page. No sound, very plain visual. That was enough stimulation. I moved through them VERY slowly and totally focused on my breath, eyes closed. After the first round, I felt like I was floating, a dance with grief. When my heart rate started to climb, I stopped. I just couldn’t stand that stimulation, so I sat back down on my mat and tried the heart open visualization again. Same result. Even crunching food was too much stimulation.
I continued to meet myself on my mat in this way, changing things up and trying restorative poses instead of sun salutations. This worked so well because as my joints and muscles let go in the poses, so did my jumbled grieving thoughts. As my muscles relaxed, so did my heart.
At the next teacher training weekend, I shared all of this with my classmates. With their love and energy, I was able to do the practices that weekend and not feel overstimulated. I gently resumed my home practice and then amped it up a lot to work on my group’s class we needed to teach in May. My body embraced the practice and what do you know . . . I could do Bhekasana!
I graduated and now . . . it’s time to complete my student teaching, video it, and send it all in. What a ride to get to this point! All the reading, studying, practicing, classes and THENs of the last 9 months! I miss the training weekends and the focus I had. I need a big nudge to get my student teaching done (please give me one dear readers!).
I never planned to teach basic yoga classes when I finished because I want to create and teach yoga for grief but now . . . well, now that I have taught regular yoga, I find that I love it so why not? I’m not designed to teach advanced yoga to 20-somethings with tiny bendy bodies. But I have a passion to share yoga with older folks who want some gentle movement in their lives. I’m not a stereotypical yoga teacher and I’ve found lots of folks who find me comfortable like an old stretched out pair of jeans. :D Yeah, that’s me. A bit faded around the edges but still your go-to jeans.
And THEN there is that amazing realization that you’re never really too old to do something you truly want to do. You’ll find a way – YOUR way. Then doesn’t have to be an excuse. It can be an embrace.