Taking a step back from teaching during this transitional phase — from full-time student to full-time nurse — of my life has given me quite the gift of space. In this space, I’ve had more time for my own yoga practice, and more time to reflect on the themes offered up to me by my teachers and teammates.
In particular, I’ve been thinking about one of Jasyoga’s focuses for this fall… Strength. I would be lying if I were to say I’m not a fearful person. I’ve been feeling especially nervous about my role transition at work. The approach I’ve taken is to tell myself to “be strong” by bottling my fears and pushing forward with clenched teeth. This hasn’t proven particularly productive. I realize now that the more I try to be strong by pushing away my feelings, the more strength I give to them.
Leave it to Elena Brower — the teacher of my teacher — to blow open the fault lines in my thinking with a simple pre-meditation practice. In her class (check it out on YogaGlo), she emphasizes creating space to simply feel how you feel and to accept feelings, rather than to "become" them, to create space around them, and as a result more clearly discern how you want to respond. I realized that, while I’ve been working to create space, I’ve missed the memo on acceptance. And, when I really examine myself, I realize that turning away from fear is the opposite of strength.
I’m beginning to accept that true strength actually means allowing yourself to be vulnerable — to feel anxious, to feel undone, to feel fear. Repression is not strength — it’s avoidance. So, the only way to truly embody strength is to bravely dive into the feeling and to sit with. It’s only then that we’re able to choose how to react.
Honesty check again: I’ve discovered I’m quite skilled in repression. However, I am trying step-by-step, moment-by-moment, to find the strength to feel how I feel and know that that's okay. And that is strength.
Earlier this month, I ran my first trail race… Ever. It provided ample opportunity to practice this new mindset. As I stood on the start line with 13.1 miles of unknown trail lining the next few hours of my life, I felt nervous and fearful of the impending pain. Usually in these circumstances, my self-talk would have been something along the lines of “Kendra, you weenie. Stop being afraid it won't hurt.” Then, I remembered Lauren Fleshman saying almost every race she ever raced hurt… And I thought 'Well, if a pro-runner hurts when she runs, you don't stand a chance girl so go ahead, feel afraid, it's gonna hurt, and we are gonna do it anyway'." And I did. Yes, it did hurt like a mofo, but you better believe my body and mind were stronger (and fingers crossed a little faster!) in the end for it!