Befriend your inner sidekick
Discovering the truth of who we are and why we are called to share yoga with others. By Louisa Louisa Mallejacq-Flynn
Although there are a million quotes online about transformation and how uncomfortable it can be (cue caterpillars tightly cocooned before turning into butterflies), I struggle to find one that fully articulates the ride I am on right now.
Cutting straight to the crux, I have just embarked on a yoga teacher training (YTT) course, and while there are many moments when I feel a bit wobbly, as I am certainly very much finding my feet (as demonstrated by thoughts such as: ‘Who would want to learn yoga from me?’), most of the time, I am purely thrilled to have the opportunity to learn so much from an incredible teacher, with the hopeful intention of sharing the joy of yoga with others, the way it is being shared with me.
But, sometimes, when I think too much about the art of this wonderful, ancient and sacred practice, the doubtful, self-questioning moments can rock me.
I remember the first time that I felt it. I had just been accepted onto the course, and while I was elated, with a smile from ear-to-ear, I also experienced a hollow sort of sensation in my tummy. A bit like when you go over a hill.
I attributed much of the discomfort to the simple act of doing something new; of having to level-up.
Sometimes the feeling lessens, pushed aside by all of the other feelings, come what may. And, sometimes, it grows. Such as when I dwell too heavily on the fact that I have so much to learn.
But it is okay. It is all very exciting, and I have sat with and meditated on this stuff enough to know what is going on in me, and I feel able to laugh at it.
It is only this way now, though, because I have been able to get to know my inner bully, even more than I thought I already had. The one thing that I am constantly learning about yoga is how powerful it is at unearthing further areas of inner work for me to do. And I am so grateful for it. After all, it is only by being with what lurks in the shadows, by sitting with it, understanding and naming it, that we get to call it out into the light.
And, by doing so, I have met an inner ally — my sidekick — that I never knew existed, and it is great to get to know them. In many ways, I think it will act as my sail as I chart my course.
So, if you are also on the adventure that is YTT, or just navigating the ups and downs of life, and you could do with befriending your inner sidekick, then here are my suggestions:
1. First of all, meet and greet your inner bully. Most of us have pangs of inadequacy from time to time. Especially when we are doing something new. It is normal. But if these spells feel longer and more sustained, perhaps we need to tease out the feeling that is at the heart of it. For example, I know I have a tendency to want to get important things (especially things that I do for others – such as sharing yoga) as near to perfect as I can. I know I have held myself to impossible standards at times. Getting to know this about ourselves is crucial for being able to get beyond it.
2. Remember the brain’s negativity bias and then contradict whatever comes up for you. What evidence is there, really, for being incompetent to share yoga with others? Undermine the negative voice. List all of your accomplishments and all of the challenges that you have overcome (no matter how small) and allow the voice of your inner sidekick a chance to be heard over all the noise.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others. This one comes up again and again with most matters of the mind. We are all unique and are all on a unique journey. So, it is simply impossible to compare ourselves to anyone else. It does not matter if the person next to you has practiced for 30-plus years, or if they have only been doing so for two and can already hold an unaided Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) with both ease and grace. They are not you and your future students would not want it any another way. It is useful to use your lists of feats to fill-up your own energy tank, and then refuse to waste a drop of it on self-comparison.
4. Focus on all of the reasons that you came to yoga in the first place and why it is that you want to share yoga with others. Above all else, let this be your guide. This is your heart. This is your purest intention. This is why the world needs what you have to give. Perhaps your sidekick will speak to you here of the key message of your offering of yoga?
5. Then try to make this message louder. So, for example, instead of me ruminating on: ‘What if no one comes to my classes or thinks that I am any good?’ I could try: ‘How can I create the most meaningful lesson for my ideal student?’
Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I am stunned by the task that, at times, feels insurmountable. After all, I believe that sharing yoga, such a life enhancing philosophy and practice, is a huge responsibility.
However, it is when I am thinking thoughts such as these that I know I am leaving the backdoor open for self-doubt, fear and perfectionism to come sauntering in.
But then, as soon as I get centred again, and I remember the words of my YTT teacher, Hayley Gumery…“Get. On. Your. Mat.”… it all clears.
And it is so true. When I get out of my head and onto my mat. Back into my body. Back into my heart. Feeling everything: from the shadows of life’s trials to the reasons why I love yoga, and why I wish to share it. Then I find it. My inner sidekick. My cheerleader through this transition. What’s more, I discover that they were always there. This is the feeling I want others to know. It is this that I try to remember the most.
And, just like that, it dawns on me that a quote about transformation is not what I need. It never was. After all, as Patanjali’s Sutras (1.2) state, yoga is the stilling of the mind: ‘yogah citta-vritti-nirodhah’.
Ultimately, the most important thing any of us can do is to roll out our mat, and, by doing so, we get off the wild train ride of fluctuating thoughts. So, if in doubt, just come back to yoga.