Teaching yoga is everything I ever expected and more. Awe. Adventure. Fulfillment. Connection. Service. When it comes to teaching, there really is nothing better than seeing a student nail a pose for the first time or try something completely new and foreign. Whether it is a bind, a kick-up, or an arm balance, watching success on the mat is truly awesome and paying witness to a yogini embarking on a new possibility or pose is as equally sweet.
When it comes to trying new things, I have found that students vary greatly. Some will really try hard. Some will go to their safe default “try.” Some will “half” try. Some will make it look like they are trying. Some will try and give up once they fall, and sadly some will not even try – they take one look at crow and say ‘that just isn’t for me.’ There are resilient ones that will get right back into it after they fall, and there are ones who easily scar from the failure of falling. All of this is fine and beautiful and part of the process, AND they all have a commonality that I noticed the minute I taught my first class of 10-year-olds.
Surprisingly enough, you can learn a lot from a 10-year-old. They are right on the cusp of tweening. Right before adolescence takes its toll on their psyche and the stresses of puberty, body image, and being “different” set in. They are too old to be babied and too young to babysit. They having been playing hardcore for the past 10 years and have become masters of play dough, bubbles, blocks, Barbies, soccer, flag football, lacrosse, bracelet weaving, basketball, baseball, tennis, crafting, painting, freeze tag, cartwheels, Legos, Clue, Checkers, pick up sticks, karaoke, even chess for some. Nothing is out of their reach. They are all recent honors graduates from FUN University with imaginations more vivid and wild than the next. They think they know everything. They think they are invincible. And guess what? When it comes to yoga practice, THEY ARE.
I recently had the pleasure of teaching a class of these powerful 10- year-olds – all new to yoga – and they literally blew me away. When I called crow, I was expecting the typical cautious entry that I get from some of my adult classes. Much to my surprise, each of the girls jumped right in and more than half of them nailed it on their first try ever! There was laughter over the name followed by a quick look at what I was doing and then boom – they just took off into their own unique renditions. They weren’t concerned if they were right. They weren’t concerned with how they looked. They weren’t fearful of getting hurt. They were consumed with exploration. They were excited to learn and thrilled to take flight.
As we continued through poses, I ended up teaching more difficult ones than I had envisioned. These young girls were not the beginner yogis I had imagined. They were fearless warriors looking to master the next pose. To them, nothing seemed impossible. Nothing seemed scary. They didn’t have an “I could never” or “ I can’t” attitude. Instead I heard, “what if I do this?” or “does this work?” or “show me again.” They trial-and-errored each pose to death until they got what they were looking for. Much to my surprise and major delight, it seemed perfectly clear to me that something HUGE was missing here.
They were all missing something that, whether we like to admit it or not, is so evident in our everyday adult lives– self-doubt. No matter how hard we try, it is always there to some degree. It may be wedged far back into your psyche, or it may manifest itself more than we care to confess. In yoga, it may keep us from OMing. It may hold us back from practicing that kick-up. It may keep us from trying to press up into full wheel. It may stop us short from trying a bind or an arm balance.
And what’s worse, it shows up off-mat in our lives. We doubt ourselves as parents, spouses, friends, children, grandparents, partners, or lovers. We second-guess our career paths, our jobs, or our decision to stay home with our children. We stress out over all sorts of decisions past and future, from our wardrobes to gift choices to dinner reservations to where we decide to vacation. We question what we’ve decided on in terms of family planning, the education of our children, our financial matters, retirement, and beyond. This is just scratching the surface and yet it’s exhausting!
AND for what? Two little words: “Self-Doubt” (SD). It is just two little words that we allow to have power over our thoughts, moods, reactions, and actions. The fact that we enable something so small to have so much power is silly.
We don’t have to let SD rule over our lives. I am not saying I have the answer to rid you of SD. I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I have banished it from my own life. I am certainly no Ghandi over here. I would however like to think that by reading this, you will become more aware of SD when it rears its nasty little head into your life, and be able to laugh at it more and send it you-know-where.
Replace SD with ownership. Ownership over your life, your decisions and the important things that you hold so near and dear to your heart because they are what make you amazing. They are what make you, you. Self-doubt is what holds you back. We all need to do the world a favor and get back to our 10-year-old selves when SD wasn’t even a thing.
The next time you find yourself on your mat, OM louder, fall harder and let your practice consume you. You may be surprised with a breakthrough and you’ll certainly inspire those around you who are more than likely having a bout here or there with SD.
Also by Johanna: 5 Best Tips for Handstand That Will Get You Floating
What It Really Takes for Yoga Teacher Training
5 Tips to Get Out of Yoga Rut + Reboot Your Practice
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Photo: Johanna Mason