This is something I have wrestled with for several years. It took a huge back-and-forth discussion with a Yoga Teacher Training admissions advisor, an unsavory class experience, and weeks of inner searching for me to finally let go of an idealistic dream. In the process, I found the confidence to focus on me, not on what others thought of me.
First, it might be useful to provide some background. I have extensive dance training, and there is no doubt that it is my one true love. Unfortunately, dance as a career is not financially stable, and I also have several injuries that wiped that option off the board. Instead, I plan to integrate dance and movement into my new career (psychotherapy) in the form of dance/movement therapy.
It is important to note that I have also been practicing Pilates and yoga recreationally for the past 5-6 years. Pilates; I began because it was an ideal cross-training format for dancers - working on the core, "lengthening" muscles, improving posture. As for yoga, I got suckered in by the unlimited monthly membership at one of Boston's top yoga studios. (Student discounts are a powerful thing!) The first time I dropped into an extended savasana, my entire body exhaled. I let go of all my anxieties and my worries and was happy to just be, lying there on the sticky, wooden studio floors.
That sensation never happened again.
Over the years, my feeling shifted from, "I'm doing yoga because it feels good for my body, heart, and mind," to something more like, "I'm doing yoga because it feels like I should be doing yoga." And once something feels like a should, it is so very difficult to quiet all the voices in your head...
"You call yourself a mind-body practitioner? Well then obviously you need to include yoga."
"Yoga doesn't feel good for my body, but maybe if I keep pushing myself day after day, it will eventually click?"
"I really don't want to pay $3500 and take up 15 weekends to get a piece of paper that doesn't indicate anything about skill... but it seems like the accepted thing to do..."
So I did exactly that. I felt compelled to do so; not because of my own personal interest, but by social media, by the pressures of society, by the growing interest in "mindfulness" - a word that is thrown around without much understanding of its true meaning (hint: it's not just meditation). I paid my down payment for a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with a focus in Yoga Therapy at one of the most well-known schools in the state. I then mapped out my new five-year plan, which would include completing a total 1000 hours of training to become a Certified Yoga Therapist (CYT) with the International Association for Yoga Therapists (IAYT)
But what happened when I did attend a class?
- I usually felt uncomfortable or strained. A lot of poses or moves in yoga run counterintuitive to someone trained in dance or Pilates. A good example: being told to "relax" my legs and feet in sarvangasana. The dancer in me screams, "Without engaging the leg muscles, how do you keep your legs from swaying?!"
- I would watch the clock, wondering how much more torture I needed to endure before I could leave and take a shower.
- I didn't feel present, engaged, and appreciative. Going to yoga was pushing all of these emotions to the surface that ran counter to what yoga was supposed to be!
- Most importantly, I felt like I was doing yoga to satisfy social pressures, not because I actually wanted to be in class.
This past weekend, I attended a really tough Pilates class. It had me sore, out of breath, and struggling - not too unlike my yoga experiences. But there was one thing different; I actually enjoyed my time there. I didn't feel like I was putting on a facade to please others. I appreciated the focus on form over impressive poses. I felt like Pilates gave me room to become a better dancer while also being a good workout. The voices in my head quieted and I was fully present.
Ahh. This is what it should be like.
That same day, I cancelled my monthly membership to the yoga studio and withdrew from Yoga Teacher Training. The reasoning was threefold:
- It wasn't giving me what I needed.
- I was doing it for the satisfaction of others, not myself.
- It was detracting from the things that I truly felt passion for - primarily dance.
I wrote this post as a way for me to let go, to release my old expectations and open the door for new possibilities. I don't need to justify my decisions to anyone but myself. I still appreciate yoga as an artform, lifestyle, and physical exercise; it is just not for me.
And you know, ultimately we are the ones who know ourselves best. Don't ever let society dictate what you should or should not do. Listen to your gut. Pursue the things you are truly passionate about and cut out the excess. We can never please everyone, so why not focus on pleasing yourself first?