On Tuesday I said out loud something floating through my mind for months, a thought so strangely persistent and impossible I kept trying to dismiss it just like the farmer in the movie Babe tried to ignore his idea to enter Babe in the sheepdog trials (Babe is a pig). Sitting in my therapist’s office, I said, “I want to become a yoga teacher.”
“Of course you do,” she said, completely convinced it was the perfect next step. Reeling, I left, went out to lunch (or was I metaphorically already there?) with my friend, Kris, who gave me further encouragement. I jumped on the internet, and despite other things to do, started cruising for yoga teacher training programs, of which there 5.2 million, most sporting pictures of 20-somethings in spandex doing headstands or balances more delicate than peace in the Middle East. Without ever having been there, I instinctively knew my program was Kripalu, one of the premier and oldest yoga centers in the country, located in Western Mass and offering long-distance training (two 12-day intensives as the main teaching format).
At first, I thought I would work up to the training in, say, two years or so, and by that time, I should be able to do a shoulder stand without my legs falling over. On some level, maybe I was thinking I would also “look” just a tad more like someone who teaches yoga. But after a wonderful phone call with a former lead yoga teacher at Kripula and student at Goddard, the lovely and inspiring Susan Moul, a writer and yoga teacher I admire tremendously, the gate opened and the horse of my body shot out.
I know it’s a dualistic way to talk about the body as if it’s running with the mind saddled on, yelling, “Whoa!” and “Oh my god!!!” as it tears across the field, but it’s obvious that my body is way ahead of my thoughts. My galloping body surged into research and found some important books to read. My galloping body took me to yoga practice already five hours in four days, and now it wants to do it again today and tomorrow. My galloping body took me shopping for more yoga work-out clothes, and told me, “Who the fuck cares?” when the yoga pants I tried on showed me how the straight lines of my legs led to the large bowl of my stomach. My galloping body took the prerequisite information for Kripula of an hour of yoga a day for six months, and instead of thinking it needed a few years to even begin to begin, immediately started fulfilling that requirement.
Coming from a history of some mild eating disorders, an avoidance of exercise, and a wide swatch of overweight family, just the notion of practicing something like yoga regularly is a radical departure from my genes and upbringing. My people, when there’s a family gathering, tend to bring a dessert (as in a whole pie or cake) for each person attending. When we get together, the news is the latest gastric bypass experience among us (out of a dozen of us, four have had the surgery). Most of us have been through deep pain and years of struggle over our bodies, peppered with shudders of shame and infused with hopelessness.
Yet what makes becoming a yoga teacher unlikely for me is also why I need to do it. It’s the best initiation into the rest of my life that I can imagine, and the process alone of going through the training and deepening my practice through training and teaching is the best way for me to continually strengthen my health and enhance the rest of my life.
This summer, I taught a class on finding your calling with no notion where putting that out was going to land me. While I watch this new calling unfold, I’m thrilled, scared, and I know this is absolutely the galloping motion I’m in love with and need to ride out.
Photo of yoga practitioner is Meer Patricia Kerr, founder of “Big Yoga”
Other photos are a horse and me when I was about 8, and photos from Kripalu.org.
Check out Susan’s website/blog too!