I have been dealing with undiagnosed dizziness that has hindered me from my daily routine. I can't workout, practice, or teach yoga. Recently, I have had to give up some classes because of how I feel and it has been a scary and vulnerable time for me. Because of my circumstances, it has given me a moment to think of the past and reminisce of the experiences that have placed me where I am today (minus this medical hiccup).
I was always an insecure kid, but confident in creativity. When it came to paying attention in school, you would see me drifting off into outer space, dreaming of being somewhere else or being someone else. My grades were poor but my dreams were big, which was not a good combination. I fell in love with theater in 6th grade because of the escape it created for me. The thrill of the audience, the magic in the air, and adventures with unique and interesting people. After high school, I moved to New York City to pursue musical theater and acting. Like many stories, I was that little fish in a huge ocean of hungry sharks, chasing fame and opportunity. During those crazy, exhilarating, and stressful years was when I found yoga.
Yes, a story like this is so common. “I was lost and then I found yoga.” But my story is a bit more about the stars aligning at the moment right when I hit a big brick wall. It’s about the right people being at the right place at the right time.
Yoga and me didn’t click from the start. It was an awkward encounter every time we would meet. But, I took my time with it and didn’t care about the end result. It was so different than performing or auditioning. I always felt bad about myself in a room full of actors in New York City. When they would talk about their achievements, I would crawl into my shell hoping no one would ask who my agent was. While acting was something I was passionate about, the industry in New York sucked out my drive and ambition. I became very disjointed and insecure in the process of doing what I loved and that’s when I knew I had to make a change.
One day after a much needed yoga class, I saw a sign on the studio door for their first ever 200hour yoga teacher training. It felt like a smack in the face from someone watching over me. Even though I wasn’t ready, something pushed me to do it anyway. I ignored every eye roll and sly comment from people in my life. “But you’re not athletic.” “Are you going to do this for a living?” “Are you any good at yoga?” I didn’t care. I just felt it was something I NEEDED to do.
It was through yoga where I found my voice, confidence, and desire to learn. But, it was a long road to get there.
I signed up for my first teacher training with little yoga experience. Every time I left one of our classes during teacher training, I would shake my head and say, “What was I thinking? I will never be able to do this!” For a long time I was right. I couldn’t do it. I had trouble explaining EVERYTHING and the teaching presence wasn’t there for me. I think I was still trying to play a character instead of just being me. But, that force that pushed me towards signing up to become a teacher kept pushing me to keep trying.
After graduation I wanted to build my resume so I took any opportunity that came my way. I would teach one person in an office at a low-income housing unit all the way on the West Wide or trek to Flushing Queens (yes, I did that) to teach for the Boys Club of New York for $30. Slowly, I found a bit more confidence, because I was proud of myself for getting work, any kind of work. I was in NYC, which was the epicenter for all things yoga and fitness. Trying to get a teaching gig with no experience, no connections, a weak practice was more than a challenge. So, I took the most bizarre teaching gigs for free, just to teach.
One day I heard about an “audition” at New York Health and Racket Club. (Of course I found another field where you have to audition! Go. Friggin. Figure.)
New York City yoga auditions are often a room full of 20-30 people in a “round robin” set up. The interviewer calls out a name and a person teaches for 3 minutes and the next person goes and so on. It’s a NIGHTMARE. Once you get involved in the yoga teaching community, you know everyone. You know who to stay away from and who to gravitate towards. Being so new to the industry, I didn’t know a soul so I sat back and observed. I observed the experience, the nervous people like me, and I observed the egos.
One ego in particular was this dancer-type, (let’s call her Ginger) with full hair and makeup. She came in late and sat in the front row. When it was her time to teach and represent who she was, she had a very dramatic fight with the interviewer and stormed out like a maniac. This was all in her 3 minute “round robin” teaching interview by the way. I remember smirking to myself saying, “You my friend are an a-hole.” Right after that, my name was called.
I never heard back about the teaching job and gave myself a tiny pat on the back for showing up and having the guts to do it. But, I did wonder to myself if I had made a mistake with the whole yoga teacher thing. Did history repeat itself? Will I ever be a great yoga teacher and have a bunch of classes at a studio? Or am I destined for failure once again?
A few weeks later I landed another audition at a little boutique studio in Midtown that was a spin studio also offering yoga. I was so nervous because I reallllly wanted this one. When I got on the elevator to go up to the audition, guess who got on the elevator with me??? Ginger! Seeing her again, sent this rush of adrenaline through my body. I know what you’re thinking… “It’s not uncommon to see the same people in yoga auditions in New York City, Lauren!” I know, I know. But we both got on the elevator at the same time and rode it up together alone. I think there is something in that...
When I saw Ginger, all of my nerves disappeared and I felt like she was there for a reason. In the few seconds I rode the elevator with her, I had an epiphany. She was at another audition, which meant she still needed work and she looked nervous. Her behavior and energy was so negative at the last audition, there must have been a reason for that. I instantly felt sorry for her. I realized that day that that’s how we have to think as teachers. Everyone is going through something. It’s our job to help them through it and take ourselves out of the equation. Take our judgments and personal opinions out of it. To this day I have to remind myself that, every, single, day.
There was a reason why I crossed paths with her. Ginger was the person to give me the confidence I needed for that audition. When my name was called, I got up and felt completely at ease. Something strange happened to me. For the first time teaching, I was myself. I cracked an awkward joke (which has become my thing) and the whole room started laughing. I even saw a tiny smile from Ginger. Or maybe she had gas? Who knows? It was at that exact moment I found out who I was as a teacher. It was at that exact moment I realized what I needed to do as a teacher. Be yourself and show up to help. That's it. You're there to help these people. Whatever the reason. It took Ginger’s mental breakdown to make me realize it. I got an email the next day saying I got the job. My first real yoga teaching job at a studio. They told me it was because of my personality. I thank Ginger for that.
When you don't feel well, it's hard to teach people to feel well. That's one of the reason's why I can't teach a lot of yoga right now. For 7 years I have showed up trying to help people. Now I am the one who needs help. If you woke up today feeling really good, take a deep breath in and let out a long grateful exhale. Do it for me.