Equanimity and Grace Under Pressure

I find myself sitting here, racking my brain in an attempt to write a clever blog post, but my brain is recounting the fight I just had with my husband about not having enough space in our kitchen (my kitchen is fairly spacious – it was absurd) and putting my screaming toddler down for a nap for the second time within an hour.

My brain is racing. How can I find the clarity to write anything intelligible? I need to do yoga. I don’t have time for yoga. Oh right, Nadi Shodhana.

So I practiced Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing – twelve rounds, maybe two minutes, and I find a little bit of space and clarity.

I always considered myself to be a decent writer. I even had a short story published in a college publication when I was in high school. This was before the internet, so it took a little bit more effort back in those days to get yourself published. I’m dating myself, I know. My verbal skills were a different story, though.

I was self-conscious to a fault, especially under pressure or adversity. Let’s just say I didn’t always leave the best impression when it was most important for me to make an impression. You really didn’t want to see me get mad. I was a blithering, red-faced, crying mess. This pretty much led me to avoid confrontation as much as possible.

When I was younger, I participated in various performing arts, and I struggled with stage fright. Sometimes it was debilitating. I remember a time I was asked to play piano for a sweet group of older women who were in a fine arts group. I had played the song a hundred times, but I froze, and my fingers would not work.

As the kind ladies nudged me to relax, I was sweating and short of breath. This was probably one of the least threatening situations for a performance ever, and my nervous system betrayed me! I pretty much gave it all up once I was done with college. What sweet relief it was to not have to worry about stage fright any more!

I suppose it’s not that surprising that I discovered life requires those things of you. That’s the path to adulthood, right? I found myself interviewing for jobs and giving presentations at work, and that familiar fear would creep up and sometimes screw me up.

While I’ve always prided myself on my writing skills, today I find myself struggling to write effectively. When I have the time to write, I realize the space in my brain that used to store grammar rules and spelling skills has been fogged with worries and emotions and to-do lists mostly pertaining to the needs of my family. Not only do I struggle to find the time, but my brain is ever-fuddled with the duties of motherhood.

You’re probably wondering, how does ANY of this relate to yoga? Well, let me share with you some secrets that I’ve learned.

Somewhere along the path to the present, I found myself in yoga teacher training, and I began to discover how much yoga goes beyond the mat. There was someone in my life at the time, with whom my relationship and communication skills were REALLY conflicted. It wasn’t someone I could really write out of my life at that moment. I struggled daily and dealt with the awful emotions of bitterness and hate, and it took a serious toll on my life and well-being.

My teacher training had just begun, and I began to study the relationship and consider different tools that might help me get out of it. I learned about Bhakti Yoga, the practice of loving every being unconditionally. I thought maybe it would help me in my life, so that’s what I did. I didn’t say or do anything differently.

I shifted my thoughts toward that person and began to open my heart. Initially, it was exceedingly difficult, but once I got over the hump, I began to have empathy and truly see into this person’s heart. I saw myself there, and I realized I needed to practice love and compassion and forgiveness toward myself, as well. And then guess what? Everything got easier. The way my life began to shift was amazing. Love made everything better. Love was the answer.

Not to get too far off track on the topic of love – I was still battling this issue of stage fright, and I was studying a profession in which I would be speaking in front of people ALL OF THE TIME. What was I thinking?! I had much self-doubt about being a yoga teacher, and honestly, even after 6 years, I still often do. What I realized is that the tools I was learning to teach were the tools to help me overcome stage fright and communicate more effectively.

Instead of being paralyzed from fear of doing things the wrong way, I learned to forgive myself when I made a mistake and knew that it was all part of my path, and someone would learn from it. Maybe me. Maybe someone else.

I learned to practice mindfulness. I learned tools to help me relax and be present and find space within conversation so I could act rather than react. I learned the psychology of asana and pranayama and how they affect so much more than your body. I still learn beautiful new things through the practice of yoga every day.

Most importantly, I’m learning not to run from confrontation but to sit with the discomfort and pain that life has to offer, knowing that life can be deeply satisfying when you acknowledge both lightness and darkness.

Yoga enhanced my communication skills, and my goal as a teacher is to share these tools with students so they, too, can communicate more effectively and find equanimity and grace under pressure.

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