The End of Training, The Beginning of a New Life Journey

If you spent time with me in the last 4 weeks, you know that I cry…a lot. The water works in me couldn’t be stopped. When I was leaving my amazing home away from home in Hong Kong that I’d lived in for 2 years, I barely cried, but set me in a room full of yoga teachers and apparently I bawl like a baby. Today was my final day in training and, as expected, I couldn’t hold in the tears. It must have been something about the emotions evoked and the “realness” of yoga that made me so connected to my tear ducts. It was also the fact that the last month was one of the most amazing and life-changing times in my life. I met beautiful people who showed me what true openness and kindness really are (that includes my fabulous housemates). Today was a goodbye to 9 people who truly cared about me and of course I cried all day knowing that I may never see them again. Having the presence of these wonderful people in my daily life made the last month extremely fulfilling even through the emotionally challenging parts of class. I don’t know where I’m supposed to be next, but I know, that for this month, I was meant to be here. Thank you to my teachers, my classmates, and my hosts for extending your arms and embracing me into your lives this past month.

On this last day, I taught the class about Savasana or the final relaxation pose of the practice. During this time, usually the teacher reads something inspirational. Here’s what I said:

We’ve been incredibly lucky the last month with all that this yoga teacher training has offered us – our insightful, wonderful, helpful, and caring teachers; the supportive, funny, and intelligent classmates; as well as more words of wisdom than any of us can remember. Throughout the last 4 weeks, when wow! moments and lines have occurred, I’ve written them down to help inspire me later. I’d like to share these with you today to help concrete our month of practice.

*Be brave enough to be uncomfortable

*Accept life on life’s terms

*Notice without judging

*Become the steady force amidst the turbulence

*Surrender your control, control your surrender

*When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite/positive ones should be thought of

*Always be loving, always be learning

*By contentment, supreme joy is gained

*Yoga is about uncovering the light that’s already inside of you

*How we deal with the present moment affects future moments

*Every moment in your life is a chance for a moment of bliss

*Not self-improvement, but self-knowledge and self-acceptance

*Freedom or liberation from that which clouds our true self

Hello Universe

To: Universe

From: Ashley

Subject: Settling Down

Most people I know are settled down – whether it’s in their role of parent, wife, teacher, husband, Sycamore resident, etc. I am definitely not one of those people. And honestly, the idea of settling is a bit unnerving; it’s committing to something or somewhere or someone for forever. Since I left for college at 18, I have yet to find a place to call my own or a man to call my own – mine forever. Despite it being a bit scary, settling down is the recurring thought that permeates my before-sleep-thoughts and my dreams. I picture my life in the future while waiting for sleep to come and it always involves me being in love or married and with the perfect job.

I don’t think I’m scared to settle down, I think it’s unnerving because it’s something I’m afraid I’ll never get. Yes, I know most of you reading this are rolling your eyes at my pessimism and having your fingers prepped to say, “Of course you’ll fall in love with a place and with someone!” But my roving mind has yet to find a place that feels right for me or a guy who likes me more than I like him. In less than a month, I’ll be 29 and in those 29 years I’ve lived a blessed and happy existence. When I think about major complaints regarding the last 3 decades, I don’t have very many…except for the fact that I’m ready to fall in love with a town and with a guy. I’m ready…the open door is here and I’m ready. Without a concrete future life plan, now is the perfect time. Maybe I had to live my great life and give my wandering eye and wandering brain some attention before I knew that I was ready.

So, universe, I’m putting it out there to you: help me find my next step. Help me find who’s right and where’s right so this happy existence can continue while settling down (not settling). No more floating, no more roaming, I’m ready to be brought home. I’ll help, I’ll do what I can to make the process easier, but some guiding words or flashing neon signs would be nice too. Namaste universe.

10 Years = A Lifetime

Tonight is my ten year high school reunion! Wow! Despite claiming for the last 10 years that there’s no way I’d miss it, I couldn’t attend because I’m in California. High school was so much fun that if I could pick to go back to any years of schooling, I’d definitely pick high school to do all over again. Cheerleading was so much fun, I made lifetime friends, I excelled in classes, I dated lots of cute boys, and had a grand ol’ time doing it all! But at 18, I left the place I’d called home since I was 5 and the roller coaster of life took over. Since I can’t tell those at the reunion what I’ve been up to for the last decade, I’m blogging instead (surprise surprise!):

*2002-2006 Attended Illinois Wesleyan University for my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

*2006-2007 Worked as an 8th grade reading teacher at Yorkville Middle School (though I’d leave out the part about how I was broken up with by my “first love” so I had to move home with my parents for a year haha)

*2007-2010 Moved to Ottawa, IL to teach third grade

*2010-2012 Moved to Hong Kong to teach in English at the American school and started writing about my experiences which led to me becoming a writer for an online women’s expat forum and an editor of multiple tourist sites

*August 2012 Attending yoga teacher training to try out a possible new career path

*Future: who freakin’ knows!

So to the SHS class of 2002, have a grand time tonight; enjoy the open bar, the good company, and the new friends you might make all over again.  I’ll see ya in 5 years!

Extra! Extra! Read All About It: I am a Perfectionist

Okay, so maybe this isn’t a surprise to the majority of people who are reading this, and in all honesty it isn’t breaking news to me, but this teacher training has exacerbated it. Judgment of myself has been out in full force the past week and a half: unconsciously being upset with myself because I’m not as good as other people in certain poses, as well as wishing I could do asanas better or “perfect” and then being mad at myself when I don’t or can’t. Today, I broke down in class, just so mad at myself for not being able to do a pose I’ve never been able to do (hello – can we say first sign??). Everyone else around me is holding one leg up straight in front of them with 2 fingers and I can’t even get close (maybe not everyone, but my mind perceived it that way). I was so frustrated with my imperfection that I left the room, had a brief cry in the bathroom, then came back apparently shaken. My instructor could tell (remember how I told you that I suck at lying? yea, I can’t fake happiness either) so she came to talk to me and had a lovely speech (in my mind’s interpretation since I forgot my hand recorder at home):

There’s so much more to you than what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s your job to uncover the light that’s already inside of you. How we deal with the present moment affects future moments, so be positive in every moment. Know that what you’re doing is already beautiful. Perfection is impossible.

Smart lady, right? I had a few more tears (this damn yoga teacher training is making me totally emo!), then picked up my bootstraps and got on with my day. After class I decided to go to catch up on my homework at Starbucks. While reading this book called The Heart of Yoga I had an aha! moment about how people relate to themselves inwardly, called niyamas. The first step to being better to ourselves and having clarity is by recognizing our mistakes. Then gradually we try to bring about some changes. One of these changes is through Samtosa which is modesty and the feeling of being content with what we have. Instead of being in despair about a problem, we should accept what has happened. The author sums this up by saying, “’Contentment counts for more than all sixteen heavens together.’ Instead of complaining about things that go wrong, we can accept what has happened and learn from them.” Whoa! Did I skip my homework last night just so that I could read it after my mental freak out today??! How did the author know that I was having this self-crisis on perfection today…and, well honestly, almost every day?

The eerie coincidences continued with an email forward from my mom titled “Create a Life you Can’t Wait to Live” which is also the name of a book by a famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. The email had an excerpt from his book that I edited to fit my situation:

You are about to experience the life you can’t wait to live – one filled with passion, peak performance, and purpose. You’re going to fail [and] disappoint yourself – almost every day you’re going to encounter a good, solid, logical reason why you ought to give up. And without passion, you just might.

Peak performance is dependent on passion, grit, determination, and a willingness to do something poorly until you can do it well. Scientists have yet to invent the world’s first perpetual-motion machine – everything runs down or out of gas eventually, including human beings trying to maximize their peak performance day after day.

The end result will be a picture of beauty, purpose, and fulfillment – a life you can’t wait to live.

Now maybe it’s the universe trying to help me see the error of my self-deprecating ways, but three resources in one day have been practically shouting at me to stop judging myself, stop ranking my abilities against other people, and start working toward the happier, fuller, unknown me. It’s going to be damn hard and because I’ve been doing this self-judgment my entire life it’ll be a tough nut to crack. I’m willing to try and see what happens, though. “Practice makes perfect” is an illusion, a non-reality, so let’s change it to: imperfect practice makes you better, but never perfect.

The Who, The What

One week of yoga teacher training is over and, my goodness, it was a busy week! Here’s the who and the what of my last week.

The Who: There are two teachers and one assistant who is training to be a yoga teacher trainer, as well as eight female students in my training course:

*a 16 year old online high school student

*someone who is training for an Ironman

*a former professional ballerina

*a hair stylist

*a girl who recently moved from Mexico City and just got her green card

*a school speech pathologist

*a woman her owns her own sustainable furniture company

*and me (How do I define myself? A former teacher and wannabe writer?)

 

The What: Each day starts with at least two hours of practice, sometimes three. During the practice, we’re learning accurate alignment and how to correctly do all of the asanas. Each week has a different focus with this week being on standing poses. For the rest of the day, we’re either learning the philosophy behind yoga (and no, it’s not a religion, but a spiritual practice), human anatomy (so many damn muscles to memorize!!), posture labs where we find the exact way to hold asanas (or poses) and how to adjust students in them, and lastly, we have teaching practice – a time to try out our own teaching skills. Class ends at 4:15 each day, but there are hours of homework writing or reading about each of the above parts of the training. By the time 10 o’clock rolls around, I am exhausted, but feel completely ready and excited each morning to see what’s up next!

Yoga Teacher Training…what’s that??

Today I leave for California. While there, I’ll be taking a month-long yoga teacher training course at YogaWorks in Costa Mesa, California – right in the heart of Orange County. When not at classes, I can indulge myself at Laguna, Newport, or Huntington Beach, visit DisneyLand, see the giant Hollywood sign, or drive an hour-and-a-half to San Diego. While this sounds like a vacation (and I’m sure it’ll turn into one Friday night-Sunday night), I’ll actually be quite busy taking classes.

Come August 31, I’ll have earned my 200-hour certificate which means I can teach at smaller studios around the world. There is such thing as a 500-hour cert and people who attain those can teach at major studios and can also teach others how to be a yoga instructor. Throughout the next month, I’ll be taking classes from 7:15-4:15 every day, as well as a multitude of yoga classes outside of the training. In the end, I’ll essentially be “doing yoga” for 200 hours in a month! There are training courses where you can attend only on the weekends, but doing this would take months and months, which frankly I don’t have. Without a steady income at the moment, I need to get done with schooling as soon as possible so that I can start my new adventure. Doing this intensive training course means that what takes most people weekend upon weekend upon weekend, I’ll be done with in 4 weeks and I’ll be doing it in California!!

Will I teach yoga when I’m finished? At this point, I really hope I can find places to do it. I’d like to combine my editing and writing efforts for freelance positions then teach yoga at a studio (or studios) all in the comforts of Chicago. That’s my plan now…who knows what’ll happen come September. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to work 7-4 every day?

I’m excited (albeit a bit nervous) for the coming weeks mostly because this is a dream that I’ve had for a long time and I’m taking my destiny into my own hands to do something that I love. My moving to Hong Kong was my first step in becoming me, this is the next. Here’s to a great month continuing to figure out my life!

Taking Chicago by storm…one date, one yoga class, one salsa lesson, one blog post, one trip, one drink, one meal, one new friendship at a time.