For the last two months I've been in Mysore (India) immersed in a 500Hr Yoga Teacher Training. I arrived in Mysore feeling firmly grounded. I was clear on my reasons for coming here, I had a good idea of what I was seeking to learn and had a clear vision of what my next steps were going to be (Bali, then moving to the Sunshine Coast). I felt physically strong and comfortable where I was at physically, emotionally and mentally.
The first 10 days of the training were fantastic, the honeymoon period - absolute bliss. The yoga practices were great (developing strong foundations), everything our teachers said had me attentively listening in awe (except during anatomy classes) and I was meeting and connecting with lots of wonderful likeminded people. I started to feel really energetic, so much so that I felt I needed to find a way to calm myself down.
Everything was going great although it soon became apparent that I had a lot of learning to do in area's that I hadn't anticipated. These lessons arrived as a number of different challenges or obstacles on the path as the yogi's would say.
My first challenge was my right wrist. This has been playing up on and off since last December, I just haven't been able to get it right. We were doing a lot of backbending (Charkrasana) which was placing additional strain on it, the result was some inflammation and discomfort. After chatting to our teacher I decided to keep as much weight off it as possible for around 5 days. It was around this time that the physical practice started to pick up with some arm balances etc. My first challenge was to listen to my body, not putting myself into positions I knew I was more than capable of doing but would only be serving my ego and not my healing.
To help my wrist recover faster I started to seek out some treatment, initially I had massage in mind but I found myself doing some intuitive body work sessions. These sessions included some physical massage along with cranio-sacral and crystal therapy work. This is where the second hit to my ego came. During the first few sessions I was told that my body is holding more than physical tension, the therapist suggested that much of it was likely to be emotional, stuff that needs to be released by me letting it go.
I truly believed that I'd made peace with everything that I could possibly have been holding. This was hard to take, I left feeling like I still had a lot of work to do. If it wasn't for some very pertinent points/observations that she made I probably would have dismissed it as being an inaccurate conclusion.
Then I got sick. Rarely do I get ill when travelling, I'd say that I have a pretty strong stomach although something didn't agree with me. This really didn't phase me for the first few days, it was just like having an underlying case of Bali Belly. I continued with the physical practice just taking it a bit easier. Although by Day 3 of having everything pass straight through me I was feeling drained. Again my physical practice was struggling, I was also finding it hard to stay awake and focus in class. A rare choice was made, I decided to take some antibiotics which cleared it up pretty quickly.
After the rest period for my wrist I slowly eased back in and it started to feel better again. Then during practice around one week later we started playing with some arm balance transitions, a slight twist while weight bearing and it was aggravated again. Again back to limited practice and that feeling of complete frustration. This time I started strapping it up for some extra support.
At this point I started to see things with a little more clarity, I realised that I'd been carrying this niggle for months. My priority shifted to getting myself to the second month of training with my wrist feeling as strong as it could be.
By the end of the first month I was already feeling like I was being strongly challenged on all levels. I like to work really hard, to get the best out of myself in all circumstances and to constantly push myself to grow. If I'm to be totally honest often this manifests on the physical plane, only for so much of that first month I felt physically unable to push and get the best out of myself. This as I'm sure you imagine was resulting in just a little frustration.
We had a week off in between Level 1 and Level 2 of the training, this provided a great opportunity for some rest and recovery.
One of the girls suggested that we visit an incredibly talented doctor who diagnosis/treats based on the principles of chinese medicine. One of the first things we did on finishing Level 1 was to go see him. His diagnostic report was somewhat shocking to me, I thought I was in relatively good health, I certainly feel much healthier and better than I did a few years ago. I thought that the huge improvements to my diet and lifestyle in the last 3 years had 'fixed me' but the report said otherwise. The hardest part was I couldn't argue with anything that he said. He was 95% accurate in the diagnosis without asking me a single question! What he had described, I was actually experiencing in my body. Again came that feeling of not being as far along my journey to wellness as I thought I was. What made it even harder (which I know is stupid) was hearing how everyone else who had seen him at this time was largely in great health. This was probably the one thing that played on my mind the most, how many more ego blows could I take?? Well it seemed that I still had much to learn and it wasn't over yet.
Next up was our 8 day Panchakarma detox treatment, a friend and I did this during our week off. Around 4 days into the detox I came down with a flu like cold - the worst I've had for as long as I can remember. With this I began the second month in a similar manner to how I finished the first. Struggling, only this time with running/blocked nostrils, headaches and lethargy. On the positive side though my wrist seemed to be doing much better.
After the first full week of the Level 2 training we began undertaking some intensive bodily cleansing (kriyas). The first kriya called Vamana Dhouti has us drinking lots of salt water very quickly and then vomiting it up. After this my digestion got so messed up that I went a week with less than 3 trips to the toilet. My body felt toxic, smelly, blocked, bloated and then came the impacts on my skin - more pimples than I've had since I was a teen. My mind suffered quite a lot during this time, most of the time it was occupied with how yuk I was feeling and thinking about how much stuff was stuck inside me.
Just as that cleared up (after a week) we did another intensive kriya called Shanka Prakshalana, this time we drank the salt water, performed some exercises and then released the water through the bowels. This time I was more fortunate, only 4 days of digestive discomfort until I returned to a semi normal.
In the last two weeks of the training I started to feel much better...
I was moving deeper into many postures that I'd ever been before and the wrist became far more manageable, I stopped strapping it up and I was comfortably holding chakrasana and arm balances once again. The last week was probably the most enjoyable, we had some strong practices, lots of question time and plenty of opportunity to learn new techniques for assisting others.
If I said that I gracefully dealt with every little set back I'd be painting a very inaccurate picture. With the exception of the first 10 days, this was one massive rollercoaster ride. It didn't so much feel like a yoga teacher training, it was more of a learn to deal with yourself training for me (which I suppose is largely what yoga is about). This culmination of experiences certainly had an impact on me.
Firstly I lost my grounding - I began questioning everything.
Did I really want to return home and commit to living in one place?
Am I even in the right job, do I want to continue with the Stand Up Paddling side of things?
I started to feel that I was broken, that I needed to take more time here in Mysore or in Bali to 'fix' myself.
On several occasions I felt like my yoga practice was moving backwards, that I wasn't learning anything or refining anything that challenged me. Significant periods of frustration were experienced along with lots of struggling to find motivation.
For the first 4 weeks while all of this was happening I didn't understand where all of the doubt and negative emotion was coming from. I couldn't understand why I was having these experiences, it all just seemed a little unfair.
It became really clear to me where this downward spiral of negative thought came from after chatting to the therapist who was doing the course of intuitive body work on me. As I filled her in with the pertinent points of my previous week (how I was feeling, my growing list of uncertainties etc) she said something along the lines of 'how is your confidence coping with all that'?
Then it all clicked...
Pretty much from the second week of teacher training, my ego took hit after hit...gradually it wore me down to the point where my whole sense of self confidence was gone.
I don't consider myself to be an egotistical person, but I do acknowledge that this thing called 'ego' exists within me and it is a very powerful creature. I had no idea just how much it impacted on how I feel about myself and my confidence.
It was huge relief to find a clear explanation for the feelings/doubt that I'd been experiencing. Once I could see exactly what was happening the doubt dissolved, I stopped questioning my dreams and the path that I've selected to get there. I then started making my plans to return home and begun to get excited about it all again.
When everything seems to be stacking up against us it's very easy to loose heart and think that we are 'broken' and need 'fixing'.
One of the most important things that I learnt over my last few months here in Mysore is the strong link between my mind, ego and sense of self. I've been amazed to observe how the continual blows to my ego impacted my state of mind which in turn really strongly influenced how I feel about myself and my confidence. I have no doubt this whole experience played out exactly how it needed to in order for me to learn the lessons that needed to be learnt. Had it been just one or two little set backs my recovery most likely would have been rapid, I generally have enough positivity in my mental mind bank to bring myself back up. Then I'm really not sure what my greatest lesson would have been.
I now feel confident that I can continue to move forward knowing that my intended path has been adequately put to the test, after all the doubt and questioning I came back to my personal truth. I am not broken, I do not need fixing and I trust myself enough to know what I want.
Mandy Habener (Dumas)