Yoga, Praise, and Self Worth
My name is Lisa. I’m an ashtanga yoga practitioner and yoga teacher from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have a husband, a daughter, and a son who are my whole heart. And two big, dumb dogs and a cat who’s up to no good. And incredible friends. These things are my life!
I’m thrilled to be joining Carolyn, Nikki, Courtney, and Kris on Finding Isvara. These inspiring ladies and I met and grew close during the Ashtanga Intensive session at Miami Life Center in July 2015. There, we had the privilege of working with some of the most talented and experienced ashtanga yoga teachers in the world. It was an invaluable experience in every way, and the personal feedback we received from our instructors was no exception. More on this in a bit, but I think some backstory is needed first…
One of my greatest struggles in life, and in my yoga practice in particular, is feeling “good enough”. I’ve rarely felt truly worthy of praise. In college, I can remember getting excellent grades and thinking that if the professor really knew how little I understood, they wouldn’t have given me such high scores. I could go back even further and find similar examples. For my entire life, I have been caught in this nasty cycle of never feeling good enough and therefore constantly seeking out validation that I would then feel unworthy of. This, of course, played out in my yoga practice. I had inadvertently turned my asana practice into a vehicle for praise - “oh look at Lisa’s effortless back bend”…”wow, she’s so flexible!” etc etc. While the compliments felt good momentarily, they never satiated my need for approval deep down, and ultimately just fed the cycle of inadequacy.
But, as I've grown in my practice over the last six years, a little light has begun to shine somewhere inside. The more I devoted myself to the practice, the brighter that light grew. But don’t get the wrong idea. It isn't magic. It didn't happen overnight and I’m definitely not completely free from this burden. It is the often grueling work of showing up on my mat everyday that has made the difference. As I’ve seen my yoga practice grow through my hard work and dedication, I’ve come to understand that I am strong and capable and worthy. And I don’t mean that since I can now put my leg behind my head that I’m finally good enough. It’s the opposite, really. I mean that the work done on my mat has taught me an important lesson - I can do hard things. Despite my shortcomings, I really do have what it takes to believe in myself and follow my dreams. I never truly understood that before I began the practice. Now, I know better. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m inspired by how far I’ve come.
Ok, fast forward to my time in Miami…
Practicing among these yogis was both a humbling and enlightening experience. It was powerful to witness what this practice looked like on people. You see, I’ve only ever practiced on my own and in limited groups. Until then, I had never had the pleasure of practicing amongst other devoted ashtanga yoga practitioners. I noticed that the practice looked drastically different from person to person, but a few things remained the same - the resonating breath, the sweat, the focus, and dedication. It didn’t matter if they were working on half primary or battling it out with Karandavasana, the practice was still the same. This gave me a perspective I had never had before. I was, indeed, a “real” ashtangi. I wasn’t an imposter because I couldn't jump back. I was worthy of that label because I had the courage to show up on my mat everyday despite the emotional and physical struggle that was waiting for me there.
Now back to the feedback from my teachers at MLC…
Kino MacGregor, in particular, was very encouraging to me. Every teacher I worked with taught me something valuable, but her input affected me most. She is one of the most advanced practitioners alive today, and has dedicated her life to sharing the practice of yoga. So much of her feedback was positive. She said I was perky, confident, funny and could lead a class well. She gave me some pointers, too. She encouraged me to hold my space confidently while teaching and to not undermine my position with nervous habits and poor posture. This was amazing advice that I truly needed and it has transformed my teaching!
However, It wasn’t until my final moments with her that she offered the most impactful piece of encouragement yet. When I was receiving my certificate from her and Tim during graduation, she asked me if I planned to teach any ashtanga classes when I returned home. I replied that I wasn't sure, that I wasn’t feeling fully capable. She seemed shocked! She looked at me and said, “You totally should! Do it! You’ll be great!” I can’t remember exactly what she said after that, probably because I was overwhelmed with her confidence in me, but she said something to the effect of, “You are meant to teach. You’re a natural.”
Had she said that to me a year before, I would have found a way to dismiss it. I would not have believed in myself enough to accept the compliment. But devoting myself to the practice of ashtanga yoga has given me a steady and strong foundation of self acceptance. It was that foundation that enabled me to accept her encouragement for what it was - a genuine compliment and belief in my potential. She said the right thing at the right time, and it’s what I go back to in moments of self doubt.
Compliments mean nothing if you don't believe in yourself first and foremost. My practice has taught me that. I'm eternally grateful that Kino believed in me, but I'm even more grateful that I've come to believe in myself.