By Nikita Kirpalani, 200 hour Bali yoga teacher training graduate
Yoga. I love it. I absolutely adore it. I have always loved trying to keep up with the fast flows, feeling that burn during the long holds in Virabhadrasana 2 and realizing when I have gone deeper into a pose.
In retrospect, I guess it’s not that I have always loved yoga but that I have always loved yoga asanas—the physical, measurable, tangible aspect of yoga over which I seem to have complete control. This has always been my escape. Escape from the stresses, responsibilities, expectations, and trivialities of the outside world. Escape from the vulnerability that presents itself in life from time to time.
I have always struggled with vulnerability. I don't like needing people. I don't like losing control of my emotions. You can imagine how surprised I was when I realized how key vulnerability was to yoga.
“Breathe. Reserve judgement. Simply observe.” You hear this a lot at Zuna Yoga. Although it sounds simple enough, I had a tough time wrapping my head around this concept. To simply observe, I would have to recognize my shortcomings without being determined to fix them. How would I do that without judgement and frustration? I would need to acknowledge and accept my limitations and maybe even embrace them. I would have to allow myself to be vulnerable. And that was terrifying.
Most of us, myself included, have been conditioned to view vulnerability as weakness. We approach obstacles, discomfort, and difficulties with a fight-or-flight approach, always ready to charge forward and fight through the friction in order to progress and return to a position of strength. During my time at yoga teacher training, while trying to consciously observe without judgement, I learned that fighting through the friction or hurdles, whether physical or emotional, only slows down the process. We must simply welcome the discomfort to the best of our ability, breathe into it, allow ourselves to feel whatever it brings up, and then let it go. By relinquishing this control over our imperfections, we break down those walls of what we convince ourselves is toughness and strength, thereby allowing for connectivity and growth.
A moment that left a lasting impression and gave me the biggest jolt of clarity occurred in savasana during my teaching session. It was the second last day of our training and our group was the very last one to teach a practice class. After weeks of being pushed to our physical limits and being mentally saturated with whole new ways of thought, that savasana found everybody in a vulnerable place of looking inwards and being truly connected with themselves. In that moment, to be able to observe and feel all that energy and openness in one place was a truly humbling experience. It was strong. It was raw. It was real.
It was in that moment that I realized yoga is not an escape. When you really tune in and flow with connectivity, when you are fully present during every step of your journey as a student or a teacher, it is not an escape at all. It is jumping, heart first, into truth. Into reality. Into yourself.
It was also in that moment that I knew I wanted to teach.
Today, I taught my first class since finishing yoga teacher training. And although it was a small class of supportive family and friends, I was surprised to find that I was a lot more nervous than I was during the training. Teaching yoga, believe it or not, leaves you vulnerable. Will they like me? Will I be able to deliver ? to help? to connect? At yoga teacher training, we were all in the same boat, experiencing the ins and outs of this journey together, and that provided a sense of calmness and trust. Being back in the context of real life, my yoga teacher journey is more private. I have learned that, just as you must accept imperfection in your own practice, you have to embrace vulnerability in order to find your voice as a teacher. To connect. To admit that you don't know everything and that you are still on your own journey. Embracing this vulnerability as a teacher cultivates trust and creates space for students to be physically and emotionally open in their practice. It allows for growth. It allows for strength.