Showing up somewhere you've never been before ain't easy. Especially if it's a place where everyone seems to know each other and they all appear to be an expert at something. For me, its particularly intimidating to show up to a new gym or Yoga studio where I don't know the people, place and overall culture of how to interact there.
Nothing is more humbling than being a newbie, and many times my personal insecurities have caused me to have an extremely unpleasant experience. It's the incessant voice in my head, rather than my actual experience of reality, that is imposing these strict limitations of what is a good or bad experience, telling what is valuable and what is a waste of time.
Over the weekend, I took a Yoga class with a new teacher at a new studio. Everything was unfamiliar except for the lingering smell of sweaty bodies and the feeling of my own mat beneath my feet. But people were smiling and grateful to be there, so was I too. Sitting and stretching in our designated places, we all waited patiently for the class to begin. When it came time to start, the teacher arrived loudly and began her introduction. Part of me was a little turned off with how abrasively she addressed this large group of eager bodies, but we all swiftly followed her instructions and the class commenced.
Her voice was strong and commanding, and there was no music. All I could hear was a steady flow of alignment cues, the group's rhythmic breathing and the teacher's occasional jokes and insights about her own life. She repeatedly poked fun at how much she talked while teaching, and soon I noticed that her directive barking had replaced my mind's constant chatter.
My mind had nothing else to focus on except for the very specific instructions for how to move, hold, breathe and release. There was nothing to distract me, yet there was no way to escape the sound of her voice. It was as if I could finally cut out the noise by going deeper into the silence, found only at the end of her sentences and before her next breath.
Somewhere along the way, the voice of my mind just gave up and I entered a flow state.
I realized that this is why I like teachers who talk a lot. Sometimes all I want is for someone else to tell me what to do and how to do it. I guess that's what people are trying to describe when they say "turn off your thoughts and clear your mind." It doesn't happen by turning on a switch, but it does come from making a shift. So let's drop the expectations and hold ourselves accountable. When we show up somewhere new or we take a Yoga class, there is literally no right or wrong. There is simply effective and ineffective.
We can inefficiently resist things that are uncomfortable, such as the aggressive demands of an unfamiliar teacher. Or we can embrace things that our conscious mind wants to change. Here's my logic for this phenomenon: first, it takes less energy to embrace, and second, we've got to deal with it anyway so we might as well enjoy it!
The ability to transform any experience into a valuable lesson is the definition of a good student, which in my eyes is the making of a good teacher. When we get frustrated by someone or something and we immediately disregard it as wrong, annoying or a waste of time, perhaps we are missing out on an essential bit of goodness. Perhaps, we are stopping ourselves from receiving the hidden value in those moments of discomfort. Instead of avoiding the inevitable, maybe we can dig deeper into our displeasure in order to soak up the sweetness of our experience.
I'll be the first one to admit that I have thrown my hands up in the air, exclaiming, "I'm so tired of learning lessons!" But when we stop learning, we have truly stopped living. This whole thing - you know, being alive - is all about discovery. The world is never going to run out of surprises, so let's keep searching.
If you are seeking skills and support to move deeper into your Yoga practice, then I invite you to consider a Yoga Teacher Training. There is no better way to connect with yourself and your vision of something greater. Click here to learn more.