Imposter Syndrome: My Journey to Feeling Good Enough as a Yogi & Yoga Teacher
Super bendy, LuluLemon-adorned people shooting their legs high into the air in synchronisation - that’s the image that keeps so many from beginning their yoga journey. Or, in contrast - the lure of being one of those bendy superstars draws those looking for a new pursuit to push and flex their athletic prowess. Yoga, however, is about so much more than perfect poses and leggings.
For me, it began as some sort of combo of the two. As an athletic individual, trying new exercises has always been well within my comfort zone. My coordination and endurance, however, didn’t prepare me for the art of practising yoga. I first tried yoga at a small fitness centre with my mum and her friends when I was in high school. Slowing down when it wasn’t a “cool down”, listening to my breath: these were all new concepts to me.
Proper alignment was not my focus as I tried to copy others and zoomed from chaturanga to upward dog and popped back up to the downward dog. No, it would be a long while before I recognised the influence of one’s ego and began the journey of bidding those negative thoughts farewell and finding flow.
Becoming Aware of Your Ego
Being mindful of your ego, and learning to let it go is a lot easier said than done. While the teacher may tell you to honour where you are today, it sure is tempting to glance over and see your neighbour going for the challenging posture, and not try to match them. Indeed, this desire is rooted in how we’ve been schooled and is part of our culture. From a young age, we are taught to compare and compete.
Finding our way back isn’t easy as we’ve been programmed this way for so long. I found my way back on the mat. It’s been both a learning and an unlearning process. For years I had ignored the calls of honouring my practice and where my body was in that moment in time. Yoga at this point in time was exercise. Sure, I found it calming: the essential oils, music and candles, but I hadn’t yet become aware of my ego and how this lack of awareness held me back from truly experiencing yoga.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened. Maybe it was just the repetition. Hearing my teachers remind me so often that this was my practice led me to only look at my instructor for visual queues and nobody else. The more I ignored everyone else and focused on myself, really feeling my body and yes, honouring my body, the more exhilarating yoga became. Not exhilarating like the rush of a rollercoaster, but a calmer exhilaration-a steadfast one that stayed with me throughout the day.
Somewhere in not pushing myself to be the best, to keep up, but rather explore the boundaries of my physical capabilities in the very movement of my practice, I gave myself permission to be me, to feel me.
Taking the leap
As my yoga practice deepened, I found myself longing to become a teacher, but I didn’t feel ready. I kept my desire to become a yoga teacher to myself for five years. Five years! I was scared that I wasn’t ready. That ego of mine was creeping into play once again. I finished my training in May, and I have to say that I definitely could have taken this training sooner.
What I learnt in my training was that I was not alone in the fear of imposter syndrome, far from it. One of the big topics of our training was how to get out there and start teaching. Many of my fellow yoga teachers in training had both put off the training because they were afraid of not being good enough or ready, and as well, they were nervous about being “ready enough” to teach.
We even did an activity where we went around the room and introduced ourselves as yoga teachers. At first, it felt silly. Going from classmate to classmate in my training course, and saying, “Hi, I’m Lauren, and I’m a yoga teacher,” seemed cheesy, but it was necessary. So necessary. There was so much hesitation in the room. We needed the reminder that we were ready and capable.
So, what was holding us back? We were still experiencing our egos, comparing ourselves to one another, and focusing on our weaknesses, rather than our strengths. So many of my classmates were worried that they were afraid of teaching because they couldn’t do every pose. We were not seeing our gifts, and instead, seeing them as weaknesses. Like one trainee who worried that she laughed too often when she was practising teaching. She felt that it made her appear unconfident, whereas I thought she came across as vibrant and fun. I’d love to take a class with the laughing yoga teacher!
In the end, we all encouraged one another to get out there and start teaching. Yoga is not a performance art. It doesn’t matter if you can’t physically execute all the poses, so long as we can guide our students to find their own edges.
Tips to help with those newbie yoga teacher scaries
For those of you who are considering training, or have recently finished training, and are nervous about teaching, check out these tips below to kick those newbie yoga teacher scaries to the curb!
- Change your mindset: Reframe the way you see yourself as a teacher. Instead of saying “I can’t do all of the poses,” say “I am going to rock the poses I know!” Consider pumping yourself up before you teach with a mantra expressing how awesome of a yoga teacher you are!
- Be prepared: If you’re nervous you’re going to forget something, write out your lesson the night beforehand, and review it. You won’t have to do this every time, but it will help build your confidence.
- Practice with friends and family: If you still aren’t feeling ready to teach a class to strangers, try teaching to close friends and family members. Or, try teaching a class you’ve prepared with your friends and family members first. You won’t be able to do this every time, but again, it will help build your confidence.
- Remember why you love yoga: Yoga is about connection, not competition. Read that again. It’s an important one. You’ve got something beautiful to offer your students. Remind yourself of this before you teach every class.