27 Dec Learning To Love (and other things )
The biggest misconception I had about yoga teachers, or I think most people have, is that they come from a place of tranquility. The truth is, we’re all lunatic humans with chequered pasts and the odd skeleton in the closet. Well, perhaps not all but I’ve yet to meet a yogi whose life was always easy.
That’s what led me to yoga, actually. Trauma, too much partying and a need to return to who I was before I let the worst parts of this life get to me. I’d been rebuilding my life for five years and only practicing yoga for a couple. I wasn’t certain of my independence. Before I arrived in Bali I was a pressure cooker of emotions. I’d weighed up the pros and cons of doing my teacher training abroad, but one week before doubts crept in. Was I good enough? Would I like the people there? What if I couldn’t do the course? I don’t always do well in large groups of people – what if I couldn’t deal with it? I think all these fears are normal. I emailed Bernd only hours before I was due to fly and got the most reassuring reply – “Above all just bring and open mind and open heart. Open body not required […]Dive in! See what happens!”
I’d been to Desa Seni before. The reason I chose to do my training here as opposed to somewhere else is I liked the energy. There was something very healing about the place. One of the cruelties I noticed around in Bali was that people kept songbirds in cages to hear them sing. I believe if you want songbirds to come, you should create an environment they want to be in.
That summed up Desa Seni for me. When I arrived at the opening cleansing ceremony I was late. I walked up to two rows of seated people – the people I’d be spending all my time with for the next four weeks of my life, and all I could think was “they look so glamorous.” That was my first impression.
I never really considered at that point how intimately I’d know them – how much I’d love each and every one of them.
Yoga every damn day
Wake. Cycle. Practice. Eat. Study. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat. If anybody tells you yoga teacher training is easy, they haven’t done it. I thought I knew what to expect. The schedule listed in the brochure gave an idea of what the day would look like. It looked spacious and innocuous – it was really not. This was a day jam-packed with information. The practice in the morning was enjoyable and different everyday, but hard initially for someone used to cooler climes. I felt overwhelmed trying to take everything in. And I mean everything. This was surreal, like being back at university, except studying yoga instead of Russian. The immersion was immense and I wanted to throw myself into everything wholeheartedly. I was unable to socialize, really. Even though I’d done those four years of study many, many moons ago, this was information overload. And, well, I hear voices so overloaded is something I felt often. I just had to lean into it. Allow myself to be present in the classes, no matter how tired, no matter how distracted. I subscribe to the way of thinking that we do take in so much more of our surroundings than we recall initially. Every day though, with every practice I started to become more aware of the fluctuations in my concentration. Where my emotions wanted to lead me, what my voices wanted to talk about and where my distractions were. When you spend all day practicing to become more open, more sensitive, more receptive, things tend to come to the surface. I realized I needed to lean into this too.
Learning to love
My teachers were there for me. This was something they’d promised from the start. But what surprised me was that my classmates were there for me. Bali might be paradise but it was not without drama. My first accommodation I’d paid for upfront for the month, and had to leave because the living conditions were undwellable. The roof was shoddy in the bathroom which meant rats would scratch all night. My whole bathroom was constantly covered in rat droppings. When I asked the landlady to do something, she laid down traps. I came home from class one day to find a rat struggling in a glue trap. I couldn’t get it free. And I cried so much – I rang my Dad and I cried myself to sleep. And then I came into the shala the next day and shared this experience and afterwards I dissolved into gut-wrenching sobs, in the arms of one of my classmates. The sobbing was no longer about the rat, admittedly, but I could feel everything and it was wonderful and heartbreaking because I knew what that my heart wanted and that was to let go of my pain and just love. I left the accommodation that evening and for the first time, I didn’t stress about the money. I trusted that there would be more. Perhaps you’d thought I’d tell you more about what the west perceives as yoga? Asana is something you learn by doing. Meditation, again, you just have to do it. Pranayama – you’re gonna have to practice it. But yoga? Being in my body, being present, being a part of everything? In the closing circle I cried. I remember saying something like, “For five years I haven’t felt this accepted, this loved or supported.” It was true, it still is, I carry the experience I had with these beautiful souls, always.