Someday this will all be a funny story, I told myself as I sat there, doing my best to hold it together as the minutes and seconds slowly descended toward 5:15 pm. I shouldn’t have taken it personally, but I did. As soon as it was 5:16, I rolled up my yoga mat, put it away, dashed out the door, locked it, and then burst into tears as I ran across the street. No one came to my first yoga class. In my head, I’d seen it differently. In my head, I’d imagined being delightfully surprised by all the people that took interest and decided to come.
It never got much better. Despite switching class times and days, and despite the creation and distribution of some seriously-beautiful (in my opinion) promotional cards, I never had a “real” student. My boyfriend came regularly (and was often my only student), once my incredibly generous sister drove up from Buffalo, and then one time another instructor came in for a free class. That was it. It would be easy to call my first session of yoga classes a total failure.
But, I’d have to disagree. I did feel bad about it for a while, I wondered if perhaps I had nothing to offer, or that maybe my class sounded boring compared to the others, or that I lacked the appeal I needed to succeed as an independent contractor (I rented out floor space at a co-op studio, with no student base, and few connections in the yoga community–maybe not the smartest idea ever, but anyway!). I did worry about those things for a while. But then I stopped. I instead redirected my attention toward studying yoga more deeply. I re-enrolled in an eight week session at my favorite studio. I cracked open a small pile of favorite books from my yoga teacher training. I took great pleasure in all there was left to learn (it’s pretty endless). Trying to teach yoga taught me two important things: good sequencing takes a lot of thought, knowledge, and planning (and it’s fun!), and, more importantly: I really love yoga. “Total failure” was not enough to deter me. And I despise failure. I’ve often run from it, avoided it all costs. Maybe I’m growing up, but somehow, “failing” my first attempt at teaching pulled me more deeply into my practice.
For much of my life, I’ve been trying to figure out what “to do” with my time here on earth, what was or were my passions, what was my purpose? How could I best contribute something to the world? I’ve vacillated between art-making, writing, and art teaching as focal points for my energy, creativity and talent… At one point, I even thought I’d travel the world my whole life, teaching English in various countries (I got exhausted after just one). But I never spent too long hovering over any singular target. As soon as I decided writing would be my “purpose”, I’d start to doubt it and my mind would wander back toward teaching or painting. How could I possibly know which one to choose or commit to? Did I have to?
I don’t think so. I’ve come to believe, actually, that your purpose chooses you. You might dance around it, or even be ignorant to it for a while, but when it does appear it becomes pretty impossible to ignore it, to suppress it, or to choose anything else. This has been my experience with yoga. Since really diving in four years ago, I’ve been pretty fascinated–by everything. Even the choice to sign up for the yoga teacher training program last year came at me like a lightning bolt out of a dark and mysterious cloud–I simply HAD to sign up for it, despite not having the money, nor adequate time. I came to appreciate that my fascination for yoga was widespread, and ever expanding. Even the topics I was initially bored by–pranayama and the Sutras–eventually enthralled me. I had not a single text book untouched or unmarked with my ravenous pink highlighter. I loved it all.
I love art, but I can easily get bored by it… making it, or learning about it. I love writing (and reading good writing), and rarely feel bored doing those things, but am not endlessly fascinated when learning about them. I enjoy teaching art, and creating fun and interesting lesson plans… but have NEVER loved learning about education, learning styles, teaching strategies, etc. Contrastingly, yoga has never bored me, but it has continually surprised me. I am surprised by my persistent interest, dedication, and growing appreciation in almost everything related to the practice of yoga. Unlike all of the books I’ve purchased about art and writing that have gone unstudied, all of my yoga books have been read, either partially or entirely.
It’s not lucrative, nor incredibly logical, but it’s the only thing in my life that continually draws me in… For someone who has always been fascinated by the workings of the body, the workings of the mind, emotions, and creative, intelligent expression, it’s the perfect cocktail. Practicing, teaching, and learning about yoga allows me to be creative, analytical, and intuitive. It allows for both self-study and working closely with others. I can teach a class focused on the body, the mind, or one’s emotions, or a combination of any or all of the above. I can continually synthesize various pieces of the puzzle into fluid understanding and application. I can experiment, learn, and create pretty endlessly. Even art, writing, and music can be integrated or used as tools for expression or learning.
I’m not exactly sure where this path is headed, or what I’ll do, exactly, with this love for learning about and teaching yoga, but I’m glad that I find myself here. I don’t mind that my first attempt at teaching yoga was a flop. I’m instead invigorated to deepen my practice as a student, teach private lessons, and seek out opportunities that are a better fit for my skill-set and ambitions. I’m excited about how unfettered I was by my apparent failure–it means my curiosity for and commitment to this practice is deep and unwavering.
Yoga and I have had some dark patches in our relationship–times when I’ve doubted it, hated it, or stopped practicing it. But I could never stay away for too long. True love (for anything, or anyone) is like that, I’m learning–as much as you might run from it (out of fear, anger, doubt, or simply feeling unprepared), it always finds you again, in time. I’ve had a lot of little idealized affairs in my life time–things I loved briefly, things that entertained my curiosity for a while, and then left. I was beginning to wonder if my life would always be like that–a series of well-intentioned but short lived affairs, never leading anywhere real or developed. I could be wrong (I always like to leave a margin for error), but this feels different. This feels like something that could last forever.