Recently I’ve been struggling with the idea of teaching yoga. I mean, really putting myself out there and teaching yoga again. Because…

I’ll tell you a little secret. I gave up teaching for a while. I mean, a LONG while. I was, for a while, teaching full time and writing on the side. But something just didn’t feel right.

What was it? Well, then I would have told you that I didn’t feel like I knew enough. I didn’t feel like anyone really cared to hear my teaching, it didn’t feel entirely authentic. I felt out of my league, overwhelmed, and like I was underperforming. After all, how could I possibly call myself a yoga teacher and teach yoga when I myself was so, unbelievably, thousands of miles far way from being a perfect person? What could I possibly have to share?

Who could possibly follow me, or want to follow me, if I wasn’t perfect?

Ah. There it is. That theme of perfectionism. My how that word stalks, haunts and pervades my life. Let’s add another word to that mix just so we get the whole story of why I stopped teaching straight; anxiety. The anxiety of not being perfect and of other people noticing that.

The last thing I’ve ever wanted to do was to disappoint anybody. I pulled back, I pulled away. I shut down and ran to the “safety” of steady employment.

That’s what life is supposed to be right? Waking up, stuffing breakfast, throwing back some caffeine and sprinting out the door? Feeling miserable day in and day out? All so that you can spend your hard-earned money on trying to make yourself not feel miserable so that you can support your ability to keep working so you can continue to support your ability to not feel miserable? So that I could be a “contributing member” of society?

But I digress.

Yes, I still taught occasionally on the YouTube channel, but with a half heart. I’m a fraud, I kept thinking to myself. Just a gimmick trying to be popular. Nothing’s changed since high school, I kept nitpicking at myself. Let’s add another word to this disgusting perfect/anxiety cocktail: worthlessness.

Oh ya, now shake it up really good and add some salt on the rim. We’ve probably all drank this cocktail more than a few times in our lives.

Recently, I’ve felt that cocktail really start to stir my stomach and even come back up a little bit, courtesy of more words.

Today I read something pretty powerful. Well, a lot of things that were pretty powerful. I’m talking about the yoga sutras of Patanjali. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s basically the ultimate, thousands-of-years old how-to guide for yoga. In the discussions in my yoga training surrounding this guide, we’ve talked a lot about misperceptions, and how they can limit us.

Like looking into a distorted mirror, misconceptions twist and turn our reality until we look like our forehead is disproportionately bulging out of our overly thin and lengthened face or something. Misconceptions are just our own thoughts piling on top of the true essence of ourselves, or what some people might refer to as our true nature.

These misconceptions include a lack of faith in ourselves or an attitude of conviction that we are doomed to fail. That we could never succeed, never teach yoga, never do this, never do that, never be perfect.

Wow, punch me in the face with your relevance, Mr. Patanjali, cause that one hurt a little bit. Let me get this straight while I’m writing to you, Mr. Long-Dead Yoga Guru sir, you’re saying that the only thing standing in my way is myself?!

Well, shit, I’m my hardest obstacle to overcome. Can I go back to having false thoughts and misconceptions, please? It was so much easier to just sit back in my comfortable view of my own limitations. Now I might actually have to do something about it. Gross.

But as my teacher mentioned the other day, at least once we’re aware of something, we can work with it, through it and beyond it. Though I’m not enjoying the taste of this anxiety/perfectionistic/worthlessness cocktail as it makes its way back up.

According to Sri Gurudev, one of the last qualifications needed to remove the obstacles separating us from our true selves is to practice in all earnestness.

“That means with full attention, the entire application or your mind and with full faith in your achievement.” 

I guess that 1980’s hit song was right. You just gotta have faith.

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4 thoughts on “

  1. Please don’t feel that way about your Yoga instruction. You’re my daily inspiration! Your YouTube videos are wonderful! I looked through many instructors online and I chose you. Let me tell you why…I’ve been chronically ill for months and it is your YouTube yoga videos that are getting me to move and heal. I don’t need a perfectionist, I need your gentle guidance and soothing voice that convinces me every morning to strectch and move. You should label a few of your beginner videos “for those suffering with Dysautonomia, Posteral Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome”. The disease causes racing heart when standing, extreme fatigue, migraines, and more. Another reason your videos help so much with this illness is because your voice is soothing and keeps the heart rate down. Those of us suffering (5 million mostly women age 15-35) can’t exercise in a standing position (floor and seated is ok). I searched for yoga videos specfically for POTS and no one is doing a good job at it. POTS sufferers are home bound. I’d be happy to write you a recommendation for Dysautonomia International.

    • Hi Tammy,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Let me first say this deep exploration has and is leading me back into the art of teaching and each day I practice the art of being kinder to and more understanding of myself :). Second, I would love to talk with you more about your illness and how I can better teach to people in your situation to better serve and help you, if not find healing, at least find some peace of mind and body. Please send me an email if you’re interested in talking more, I’d love to hear from you!

  2. Oh Lauren: IMO, your poses, alignment and teaching style are beautiful and professional. But those are just secondary, low bar concerns. It’s your ability to sift and share these authentic insights and introspections that make you a valuable yoga instructor. Much of the yoga being taught these days, even by “perfect” instructors, is dead–just endless (and often intimidating) pose throwing in service of some “health” or “fitness” god. As you’ve discovered, no amount of isolated pose work will alleviate our (ego’s) deeper, heartfelt emotions and concerns. If that were possible, physical therapy would be the place to seek enlightenment.

    The true, original forms of yoga (Patanjali, Bhagavad Gita, Tantra, etc) were created to free us from these internal anxieties and burdens, so if you can figure out how to convey yoga’s answers to these universal problems to yourself and your students, you will be among the greatest teachers to ever stream across youtube. Sorry to sound weird, but I can read it in your powerful words: you are on that path. If teaching (not instructing) still call to you, please keep naming the problem and helping us to explore yoga’s solutions. Prayers for whichever asana and/or writing paths you choose~namaste.

    • Wow, Kevin, thank you for your beautiful, encouraging and insightful words! I laughed out loud and had a moment of clarity when you said “if that were possible, physical therapy would be the place to seek enlightenment.” Love it! For a long time, I struggled with the idea of wanting to be a “popular” teacher. I managed to convince myself that, because my classes weren’t packed and I kept hearing about how great other instructors were, I was somehow less-than. The other day, I heard someone talking about their own struggles with the anxiety and fears behind teaching and she said, it comes down to this: do you want to be a popular teacher or a good teacher? And I remember thinking to myself, well, I want to be a GOOD teacher. That slight shift in perspective has radically changed my worldview, and opened up a whole new avenue to myself. I’m still teaching (and actually diving continuously deeper into it) and practicing the yoga of learning how to show a whole lot more kindness and compassion to myself in the process. I’m also trying to focus on presenting my voice to the people who need to hear it, be that through writing or yoga, and I plan to continue doing both. Readers and commenters like you and Tammy have been so wonderfully supportive of me throughout this process, and your encouragement and faith keeps me going. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and keep shining on!

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