I was an hour away from my destination. It was one of those things where you have to say yes, because of the opportunity. Now suddenly it was happening and I was wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into.
The opportunity was teaching at a yoga retreat in Maine. I got asked to teach there around the same time that I was making the decision to take a leave of absence from my job. Things were emotional and very unsteady. I didn't even know where I would be living by the time the yoga retreat would happen.
Fast-forward through the parts of selling my furniture, cleaning out my classroom, emotional goodbyes, and moving all my stuff home to New Jersey...I was in the car, driving up to Maine, as I began to feel the onset of a panic attack.
Where was I going? Who would be there? Am I good enough to be a yoga teacher at a retreat? Where is home? What am I even doing in life? On repeat.
It was particularly difficult because within a few hours of arriving, I was going to need to teach a restorative yoga class, which is not the style I typically teach. I was picturing the people attending the yoga retreat as these intense, scary yogis. I was picturing myself standing before them, not good enough. I talked myself through it, telling myself that when I arrived I would have time to plan. Telling myself - everything's fine, everything's fine.
Interestingly enough, prior to any feelings of panic - I had planned to have a zoom session with my therapist that afternoon. At the time my therapist and I were trying to get in as many sessions as we could before my Massachusetts insurance ran out. The only window of time I had available for our weekly appointment was when I arrived in Maine.
I arrived to the retreat. It seemed lovely, and everyone seemed nice. But my brain was already thinking about how I wasn't good enough to be their teacher. Then two unexpected things happened that threw me into a full blown panic attack. The first was that the restorative yoga class was being moved up by an hour (my brain said - that's less time to plan!). The second was that the water system was being tested so we couldn't use it (if you don't know me - drinking water is literally my life, my security blanket. I need it at all times).
My panic attacks don't "look" like anything from the outside. It's all on the inside. My brain gets really foggy. My vision gets a little blurred. My heart races. Panic floods my whole body.
I headed to my room, trying to breathe through it. Never was there EVER a better time to have a tele-therapy appointment. I get on the zoom with my therapist and just start crying. The fact that I skipped the niceties (hi, how are you, nice to see you) meant that it was serious.
I told him everything that was in my brain. I told him I knew this was an important opportunity and it was the right thing to take it, but I didn't think I was worthy at this moment. I told him that in this moment I felt the same as when I was a first year classroom teacher, and how sometimes I just want to go back and hug her, because it was really bad how much I judged myself and didn't believe in myself at the time. And now as an experienced classroom teacher who believes in herself I just want to go back and help her. In other words, I really wanted my own approval, I really needed to love myself in that moment, but it just wasn't happening.
He suggested that we do some inner-child work. How the process went is honestly a bit of a blur, but I remember trying to get down into the reason I wasn't believing in myself. And asking my inner child if for this yoga class I could make it through and believe in myself. I remember asking myself and saying yes, but not with much assurance.
The inner-child work didn't put me completely at ease in the moment, but in retrospect I'm so happy we did that activity. It was eye-opening to realize how much of what I experience comes from a long time ago. In yoga, this foundation is the root chakra.
Chakra- what?? Let's pause so we can break that down.
What are Chakras?
The chakra system is the belief that energy lives at certain points within the body. It cannot be identified on an X-ray, which is one of the reasons that some people don't "take" to it. The main chakra system consists of seven energy centers that run along the spine. Each point is a place where we hold energy related to a certain topic (relationships, confidence, love, expression, etc.) The Chakras were written about in Ancient India as a way to balance energy in the body and lead to liberation from our thoughts (which cause suffering). For example - if your heart chakra is balanced, love can run clearly through you, and if your throat chakra is balanced, you can express yourself clearly and honestly.
The Root Chakra
The root chakra develops between 0-7 seven years old, the age of the "me" I was coaxing during my therapy appointment. Here are some things that coincide with this chakra:
Physical family and group safety and security
Ability to provide for life’s necessities
Ability to stand up for self
Feeling at home
Social and familial law and order
The chakra system is just another way to examine your life. Another tool in your tool box for self-study (Svadhyaya).
Back to The Panic
The discovery of needing to address my root chakra was not going to help me in the moment. I needed to get ready to teach this class. I took my yoga mat outside, laid it in the grass, and had a sandwich. In all my crazy preparation and nerves I had forgotten to eat (this is common for me). I knew that food was step 1. Step 2 was looking over my sequence. My friend Annie had shared a restorative sequence with me, so I looked over the poses she sent. All the while I was breathing into my feelings, trying my best to be supportive of myself.
As it came closer to "go" time, I finally got myself to calm down. I convinced myself that if I could just get through this first class, everything would be fine. Time to settle in and a good night's sleep would fix the rest.
I gathered up my courage and went in to teach the class.
I made it through.
And I was right, I just needed to get through that first class. The people, who seemed so scary before, were the absolute loveliest bunch of yogis. By the end of the week, I was literally reading out of my journal to them. That sounds weird but it wasn't because that was the type of community we created there. The beauty of that moment can be another blog topic in itself.
I don't know yet why I struggle to believe in myself. I have often gotten comments that look like this: "But you're _____, I don't understand why you _____" What are the blanks? It doesn't actually matter. Because whatever we "appear to be" doesn't matter worth a damn if we don't believe it on the inside. And relying on only what we can see and who that person is NOW, we're missing the larger picture of that person's life.
All the things we don't see tend to be the things that impact them the most.
I haven't officially dove into any more inner-child work since that time in Maine, but I plan to do work with it as we focus on the root chakra in our classes this month. I plan to fix the foundation (yes, a little Enchanto reference). I'd love for you to do this work alongside us at Journey Forward in our virtual yoga classes and wellness workshops.
p.s. The name of the yoga retreat in Maine is Santosha. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had.