There he was in perfect Chaturunga form on the sidewalk at the stoplight at Congress and 12th street – a construction worker dressed in his work clothes and an orange vest. My heart raced with recognition and joy.
I am him, he is me!
Before I continue, I need to come out of the closet. I’m a certified yoga instructor who does not teach because I’m chicken-shit scared to stand in front of the room. I was as surprised as anyone to have my introversion and fear of public speaking bite my big plans in the butt the way they did.
If I could teach with an orange vest I think I could find my way. It would serve as a reminder to myself and others that I’m very human and cannot readily distinguish between my left and right. It would call out, caution, I’m not perfect like the teachers in the videos or magazines, but I live yoga and it has saved me physically and mentally.
My vest would say let’s be careful with each other.
I was the most unlikely candidate for enrolling in a yoga teacher training program. Although I had never practiced yoga, it annoyed me. I am a runner. I even stopped running with a group because they talked about yoga too much. I could not listen to them sharing another blow by blow sequencing of their practice. Yoga was not for me, period.
Then, in my mid-forties, my lower back was in so much pain that I could not stand up straight in the morning. It came on fast and I thought my running days were over. It was at a Christmas party when my neighbor convinced me to try yoga for my back. She was older than me, had practiced for over thirty years, and had just finished her teacher training. She was practical and didn’t talk about yoga with that cult-ish look in her eyes. For whatever reason I was able to hear her message.
A week later I signed up for a beginner’s series at a nearby yoga studio. I was hooked by the end of my first Savasana. Within three weeks my back pain was gone and I was running and attending class or practicing at home almost everyday. A year later I was sitting in a 200 hour teacher certification program surrounded by a small group of wonderfully life-affirming women. We were all different but not a whiner in the bunch. I loved every minute of it and my practice evolved to be a pillar of my life.
At forty-seven, I was the oldest person in our group to complete the certification. Austin has a thriving yoga community and is bursting with certified teachers. From my vantage point, my peers seem so young and polished. Everyone around me appears to have mastered some kind of happening angle to their teaching style. I’m not a breathe-bliss-into-the-bottoms-of-your-feet type of practitioner. Of course there is nothing wrong with breathing bliss, I am just too scientific, and yes, a little jaded.
I’m a biomechanics, no frills, need-to-move-and-breathe-for-my-sanity kind of practitioner. When I graduated I felt like an old work horse, strong and disciplined, but not the most flexible or cutting-edge.
From the beginning, I was already counting myself out. Coupling that with my fear of public speaking, I put myself out to pasture. I decided I would be one of those people who went through teacher training to advance my personal practice.
Fast forward through a couple of years of changes and moves. I have continued with yoga and am thinking about teaching again. I started blogging as a way to practice being vulnerable but far enough removed to still feel comfortable. This is a first step in the process of feeling confident enough to be seen at the front of the room.
I accept that I’m aging and I believe that in that acceptance I will find my path as a teacher. Rather than striving to keep up with the effervescence of youth, spandex and enlightenment, I’m concentrating on just showing up on my mat.
The rest will come. The yoga teacher in the orange vest taught me that this morning.
About the photo: I took this photograph this morning at the corner of 12th and Congress, across from the capitol building, Austin, TX.