When you start something new, you know that at some point the honeymoon phase is over. Inevitably, there will be a moment when the newness wears off and shit is starting to get real. That things are not all roses, but that everything has a learning curve. And that at some point, you will have to come face to face with yourself and your struggles.
I knew all of this in advance, but I didn’t think that that point would come so soon. Because in the last class, I struggled.
Withdrawing the senses
Maybe it had to do with the fact that there were three weeks in between the previous yoga class and this one. Even though I had been consistently practicing at home, I started feeling a little bit disconnected from that good, magic feeling I had during the previous sessions.
A lot had happened in my life as well. I applied for a new job, got the job, then decided to turn it down. And in the meantime, things got more busy with my current job. All of these things were good developments. But they did consume quite a lot of time and energy. And I felt a bit exhausted and disillusioned about the job hunt as well.
Either way, maybe I took some of that exhaustion with me to yoga class last week. It was very busy that day and I was already struggling to stay present, when our teacher mentioned the concept of pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses.
If there’s anything that highly sensitive people struggle with, it’s exactly that: withdrawing the senses. The brains of highly sensitive people are simply wired differently, meaning that they are more sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, and other sensations. Throughout the entire class, I was unable to relax completely. There were too many people, too many sounds around me, not enough space to move, and, oh yeah, my thoughts.
Encountering my ego
The first yoga classes had been relatively easy. Sure, there were some āsana’s where I had to stretch to my limits, such as this version of locust pose and a wide-legged forward fold that we were holding for quite some time. But these poses weren’t impossible for me. I didn’t feel particularly proud or disappointed with myself. They just challenged me a little, which is a good thing.
Yet in our last class, there were two poses that triggered reactions within me. First, we did a version of baddha konasana where we had to balance on our feet. I couldn’t find a proper picture of this pose on the internet, but it was an extremely challenging pose. Somehow, I could do it. But then, I started pushing myself to lift my pelvis even higher and almost hurt myself in the process. It was the first moment where I consciously encountered my ego. Maybe I even wanted to show off that I could “do” the pose. But given that I also compensated with other body parts, I felt a lot of back pain in the process. I was focusing too much on the image I had in mind, not on how it feels.
The second pose was a somewhat different story. We did shoulderstand again, which is not my favorite āsana, but also not one I particularly struggle with. Yet at some point, our teacher asked us to remove the support from our hands and balance only on our shoulders. Those who have been following me on Instagram might know that I suffered from a neck injury some time ago because I turned my head while I was hanging out in plow pose (rookie mistake). Ever since I haven’t been completely comfortable with inversions and don’t feel like I have enough strength in my shoulders to balance on them. And so I couldn’t do what the teacher asked us to do. Which also was a first.
A humbling journey
In both āsana’s, I encountered my ego. Whether it was because I was able to do something and pushed myself, or wasn’t able to do a pose, the reaction was the same. I identified with my ego.
I don’t have the illusion that after four days of doing yoga teacher training, my life will already be different. Yes, I’m doing my morning practice every day and I’m slowly reading my way through the yoga sūtras. Yoga is definitely taking up more space in my life.
But I still have a lot to learn. Or rather, I still have a lot to unlearn. There are so many habits and ways of relating to myself that have become pathways in my brain. But these things will surely dissolve and become less rigid as I dive deeper into yoga and learn to live from a state of silent observation. That will take time.
Yoga is a humbling process. And taking on a four-year-long teacher training is a humbling journey. The more you learn, the less you know.