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This year, after 20 years of participating, I finally made the commitment to my yoga practice and started my yoga teacher training with a local and reputable school. Not only had I hoped to deepen my own practice and understanding of yoga (which I have) but I also hoped that I would make some amazing new friends. But I’m discovering something about myself in groups where I’m not the facilitator; I have social anxiety and hold back in social situations.
The women in the course, upon speaking to them individually, are all interesting, amazing and passionate about yoga, but when it comes to letting them see me, the true me, I close up. I hold back. I don’t contribute who I am to the conversations, I contribute Alyssa – the teacher, the single mum, the apparently confident woman…but that’s not who I truly am. That is a mask that I wear when I’m out in the world.
I hold back and I’m not sure why. It may be because I’m not as flexible as some of the others, it may because their youth intimidates me, it could be because simply, they are strangers and I do not know them, at all. Like me they are showing me only one aspect of who they are and in that way we are the same.
Initially, I felt the competitiveness of the group and it may have just been me, but the group setting also triggered a strange competitiveness in me, trying to find my place in a group where I felt yoga was more than just asana (postures). Which is so not what yoga is about for me! For me yoga is a deeply spiritual and devotional practice. I’ve found that this course has, yes, been challenging in the physicality, but more so, I find it challenges me emotionally. It’s stripping down the layers of who I think I am to who I truly am – which IS the whole point of yoga.
The real me is; vulnerable, is shy, is soft, is passionate – both in and out of bed. Yoga – despite the various things people perceive it to be – brings me closer to the energetic being that I am. I feel present, I feel alive, I feel energy pulsing through me and I feel comfortable when I practice my devotional practice. Nothing at all matters in the world at that moment except breathing into the asana. The only other times that I have felt so alive in my life have been travelling and sex. They all share so much in common; an excitement of what may come, sometimes it can be torturous and other times blissful, physically and emotionally challenging at times but they both very much are about surrendering to the moment and going with the flow to what arises.
Which brings me back to the social anxiety, why is it then that I cannot feel like I can be myself in group situations? From the earliest age I’ve not enjoyed social situations and do what I can to avoid them. Ironically as a teacher, I can (and do) confidently and easily stand in-front of massive groups of young people and I confidently run Discover Yourself workshops with my Chakra Cards. In the places where I feel like I can be myself, I have some degree of control. As a student, or an event like a festival, I feel very out of place and don’t feel like I have the right to belong, I feel left out.
This is an old story; it is the ‘I’m not good enough’ story. It’s come up again for release and it’s happened in a place where I want to just completely drop the story and drop into me. To feel present, feel alive and feel the energy pulsing through me without fear, without worry, without any discomfort. If I can’t be myself in a group of trainee yoga teachers who understand (or are understanding) the concept of union, acceptance and non-judgement, where else can I? Maybe it’s also the judgement within me that too has come up for removal.
But more importantly is the concept of that mindful, peaceful place that I find in yoga, sex or in travelling needs to come out into the world. I have hidden myself for far too long. And life is too short to not be fully, authentically me.
So, like in the yoga asanas, I breathe into the discomfort and learn to love what arises.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2016
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