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
"I’ve seen it in my parents and other couples, where they lose themselves within the relationship, they become a shadow of their full potential and a being that is neither him nor her, but them and in all honestly, I’m terrified of losing who I am in somebody else."
It’s normal when you meet someone that you want to spend lots of time with them, but when you have children, how do you find that balance? How do you create space for a relationship as a single parent who has such a full and busy life?
I’ve spent the past 15 years building up my family and a life that doesn’t include a significant other. Of course I wanted one and much of my energy went into the longing and wanting for a long time. There was a time when I was seeking a man who also made a great dad, but my kids are at an age now where that no longer matters so much. It would be great if he was, but it’s not a priority. When we are young, we feel this pressure by society to get married, have children and a successful career by the time we are 30, but there are so many other ways to be. I’m lucky, I’ve had my children and that pressure is no longer there. I can be ready for love and companionship, not just procreation.
My priority is now me. What I want, what I need and vibrating in an energetic space where I attract the love that I need and want in my life, it’s no less than I deserve. However, I simply don’t have time for a full-time relationship, in a traditional sense. Or maybe that’s just my excuse, my barrier, my shield to keep the status quo. Maybe I actually like my own autonomy and independence and feel that sharing my life with someone would be suffocating and I would lose who I am.
I’ve seen it in my parents and other couples, where they lose themselves within the relationship, they become a shadow of their full potential and a being that is neither him nor her, but them and in all honestly, I’m terrified of losing who I am in somebody else. Of course in my world I see examples of couples who do encourage each other’s autonomy and independence, but they seem to be the exception and not the norm.
When I first met GSM, I just wanted to lock us up in a room and completely be immersed in one another and forget that the rest of the world existed. But not only is that unsustainable, but impossible as a single parent. To fully immerse yourself in a relationship is impossible, no matter how much time you want to spend with one another. It’s just not practical and probably not healthy either. And maybe life is like that – to keep our balance, to bring us back to self so that we don’t lose our identity we do need to have autonomous lives, or maybe this is just my fear popping up again.
So often, you hear “get lost in one another” but is a relationship about losing ourselves, or is it about coming together in sexual and intimate union and being authentically who you are, where you are both fully present with one another, in the moment? During sex, you cannot be thinking about things. It forces you to be present with yourself and with your lover. Of course you could think of other things, but that doesn’t make for an ecstatic experience. Just like the breath in yoga and meditation, sexuality is a tool for bringing us into the present moment and it is a powerful transformative one at that. Aren't relationships like that, being fully present in helping each other to be the best versions of ourselves?
Relationships can be all consuming and I would love nothing better than to dive into one with one of the beautiful men that have started coming into my life, but there is a but; a fear, a worry about losing myself, of it not working, of people getting hurt, of fears of the future that come up which continue to take me from the present. So instead, I focus on my happiness by loving what is. I focus on the present moment, on the gifts that the universe gifts me, of the snippets of time that I can share with lovers. I don’t need to immerse myself into someone else at the expense of who I really am. At this point in time, I don’t have physical time to devote to a relationship in the traditional sense and all the hobbies and interests that I have bring me back to balance, they bring me back to self. But I have to ask myself if I am willing to be open to allowing someone in, to let him love and nurture me, to grab my bum as we go about our day? Or will I run away again and use lack of physical time as an excuse? Having someone not only want me but show love and care for me and to just gaze at me lovingly – is very hard for me to receive. I can love myself no worries at all, but to have someone other than my children love and care for me – that’s challenging for an independent, single woman.
But I am willing to let love in and drop the barriers around my heart. I am willing to drop the stories that I don’t have time; that I’m not good enough, that my children won’t like him or there aren’t any men for me. These are all stories that stop me from creating amazing present moments with whoever comes into my life. It is about my willingness to have the greatest adventures of my life, in the prime of my life, no matter what the outcome may be and to trust the process of life.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2016