In the middle of my 3rd class, I won’t lie, I was seriously questioning myself why I signed up for YTT instead of other simple workshops. Yes I wanted to deepen my knowledge for my home practice, but I was not planning to be a teacher anytime soon. My simple mind told me “YTT would be great. Learning how to teach, I can be my own teacher” but one very important thing I conveniently forgot back then was that I actually have extremely bad stage fright and public speaking issues.
As much as I’ve still enjoyed a lot of the course, it’s been a mental challenge for me. Even with a simple cue practice, I was already extremely nervous from the beginning of the course. While waiting for my turn to come, I would have sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat and nausea, and I would be so busy trying to make myself relax with pranayama. Once I step in front of my classmates, my brain would shut down, my tongue locked and a single word couldn’t come out. So many times I found myself standing in front of everyone and saying nothing for a while. Oops. This is really bad. How would I survive this course if I cannot teach? And more importantly, if I can’t find peace and fulfilment with yoga, I’m doing something wrong.
I came back to read on 8 limbs of yoga again with an intention to apply it in teaching and public speaking. It is quite known that pranayama and meditation/dharana can help to ease your stage fright, but on top of that, applying Niyama has been helping me with my root cause. This 2nd limb of Ashtanga Yoga is composed of 5 positive duties/observances (“dos”, as opposed to Yama’s “don’ts”) for your personal growth. I tried to link each of them with my stage fright issues and thought how Niyama practice could help. This is based on my own case but below are the applications I made to remind myself during the YTT course.
1. Shaucha : Purification/Clearness
This cleanliness principle is applied not only to body but mind. It is crucial to keep your mind clean; that means, we should stay away from negative, destructive thoughts and emotions. For my case, they were fears and lack of self-belief. I imagine myself failing at a challenge, rather than nailing it. “I might forget the sequence, my sequence might be too boring for students, my explanation may not be clear”, etc. I applied Shaucha to clean up my mind.
Application: Image training and Self-affirmation such as “I perform with joy” “I enjoy teaching” “I will be calm” etc.
2. Santosha : Contentment, Acceptance
In a modern world, practicing contentment is not easy, be it materialistically or mentally. We may know that achieving contentment can give us a peace of mind, but constantly getting full of information of people who are/have better than you, we tend to bring out our uneasiness/competitiveness (especially in a “kiasu” place like Singapore). One of my stage fright triggers happens when I feel pressured to be perfect AND I know I can’t be. When I need to instruct something I’m not confident with, the stage fright kicks in. Once I accept where I am now and be honest with what I remember and what I don’t, I became less afraid to make mistakes or to be judged. I could feel a lot lighter.
Application: Know what you know and teach only what you already know. Accept and keep reminding that mistakes happen to everybody. It will take time to be a good teacher and IT IS OK.
3. Tapas : Self-discipline
Santosha to me is to know and accept your current status, so we can see a clear vision of what to do next or what to do to maintain the current status in a good shape. Following Santosha, Tapas may be the easiest to apply. We all need to build a basic habit of practice, without being forced by external factors for self-improvement. Know what you need to do, and after that is the execution.
Application: Practice, Practice, Practice. Be it Asana practice or teaching practice or taking time to create meaningful sequences.
4. Svadhyaya : Self-study, Introspection
When I started reading some articles about Yoga and Public Speaking, most of them were talking how effective Pranayama is. It does, on the spot, relieve my mind but I was feeling that it is just a temporary solution. At the next teaching or presentation, I will have the same nervousness again. When I came to the 4th Niyama, I felt this is what I needed to do. Know the enemy and know yourself; this time the enemy is inside of me but I started throwing questions at myself to dig my issues. Why are you afraid to talk? Any bad memories that stop you from performing? When do you feel less nervous, and when more? What kind of crowds make you feel more nervous? etc.
Application: Analyse and observe yourself. Find the root causes from your past experience. Be Objective to review each teaching practice you did. Find your weakness to improve. Find your strength to stay motivated.
5. Ishvara Praṇidhana : Surrender to Higher Being
With a concept of Higher Beings, this last Niyama has been the most difficult for me to grasp and apply to my case. After reading several resources of Yoga Sutra interpretations, I understood this as “concentration and stable mind can be achieved when you have an attitude to let your ego go despite all the effort you have made”. When we apply the earlier 4 Niyamas (Shaucha to Svhadhaya) and practice them, we will likely see an improvement in life. But that might lead you to develop some feeling such as ego, pride, too many expectations of good results, and reputations. The last Niyama is to learn to cancel all those “tensed” feelings, completely. Do not expect anything based on who you are or what you did, but leave the outcome to the nature or somewhere out of your control instead.
Application : Constantly practice to be prepared and ready. But do not let your ego come up. Focus on improvement and do not let expectations bug your mind. Give your best self to the given circumstance without thinking of outcome.
I admit there were stressful moments during YTT as an extreme introvert, but it has been a great opportunity to face my long-term stage fright issue. With Niyama, I feel I can keep training myself to lessen my stage fright little by little. Even if the change is subtle, seeing myself breaking out of the shell is quite amazing 🙂