I stand in front of the mirror applying make up for my first day teaching the 200 hour yoga teacher training on Zoom. I’m not nervous about teaching the yoga teacher trainees. I know the group, they have been really understanding about going online. They are yoga teachers in training, they are a nice bunch. Plus I’ve got my plan, I’ve done this before and I know what we need to get through, I’m not even that nervous about zoom. I’m familiar with it from our online meetings. I trust it to work. So why nervous? It’s the camera. I’m terrified.
When I teach I usually see the faces of my students, their body language, their Asana. When there’s a mirror I teach with it behind me. I close my eyes for the meditations to tune in to their energy as a group. The focus is on them. It should be, its their course. But suddenly I am so distracted. I am aware of how I look on the camera, aware of my frizzy hair, the angle that makes my belly seem huge, the moment when I drop from cat to counter cat and the camera is focused on my post mastectomy cleavage. It’s awful. I feel dissatisfied with how I look. I feel like I did as a teen when I didn’t fit my big boobs and I just wanted to hide. I want to look like someone else, a sexy air brushed version of me.
I started yoga in my twenties. It wasn’t sexy. I joined a morning class with one other girl and an old lady. I wore loose tracksuit bottoms that let me move and an old tee shirt. I sweated awkwardly through sun salutes. I wobbled in standing poses, fell out of tree and stuck my bum in the air for half shoulder stand without a thought of being sexy. It was a safe space to do all of these things. Something happened when I did yoga. I felt better. I didn’t beat myself up so much or get so run down. I felt happier. I slowly got to know my body from the inside out. I slowly got to love my body for the way it could move and how it could feel to me. There was enough to do to simply follow the teachers instructions and attempt the poses. I didn’t think about how it looked. I loved my yoga teacher. I loved the yoga Nidra. I started to love myself. I thought that every person who ever considered cosmetic surgery should be prescribed with three months of yoga before they completed the consent form to go under the knife.
Now I fidget under the camera, light candles and check the room, check where I’ll need to move the laptop for the different parts of the class. I fix my hair, practice my face. Then I sit and close my eyes and go inwards. I center and connect. I forget about hair. When the first trainee logs on I start to teach I deliberately don’t look at my image on the screen. I watch the trainees, not their hair or their leggings, but their yoga, their Asana, are they grounded? Are they yielding? Are they happy? How’s their breath? Do they get it? Are they getting it? Are they doing it for themselves? Do they feel it, the contentment,(santosha) the discipline (tapas), the truth (satya), the letting go (aparigraha), the connection that is yoga.
It breaks my heart that this is not everyone’s experience of yoga. I understand now that I was blessed, that for some people yoga classes are intimidating. They see the images we use to sell yoga showing beautiful, fit, super flexible, sexy people. That’s great. Yoga in your bikini, that’s great too, fancy leggings, great, enjoy it. I’m not here to knock it. I love fancy leggings! What’s more now I have the confidence to wear them. When I did my teacher training I remember one girl confessing she wasn’t sure if she’d ever teach yoga as she couldn’t wear leggings. Enjoy your legs, enjoy showing off in your “best pose” but know that you don’t need to look a certain way. It’s not what its about. If you’ve got it flaunt it? I’m hear to tell you we’ve all got it. This beautiful thing called life, whether you are short or tall, fat or thin, young or old, curly or straight, black or brown, pink, white or fake tanned, in whatever body you have, you’ve got it. You’ve got it.