Why, I'm glad you asked.
I had a lot of answers to this question before doing yoga teacher training at Kripalu, based on 18 years of practicing in this lineage. I would have told you about sensations of meditation in motion, the gentleness of the practice, how it asks you to tune into your own body, and the mysteriously wonderful feeling after a practice or during savasana when integrating the class.
But now that I have gone through the teaching training, I have a whole new appreciation of what goes into making a Kripalu yoga class what it is, and a real understanding of why the training is so challenging.
I could go into a lot of technical things, but that would be of little interest to many, so will focus instead on the crux of the matter: it is all about compassion, for the self and for each other. What this means is: to become a Kripalu yoga teacher, to practice and lead with this level of compassion, and inspire it in your students, you need to find it for yourself.
So, whatever residual bits or chunks or say, I dunno, reservoirs, of self-hatred you have in you have to be somehow exorcised, because it turns out that the only way to be compassionate to someone else truly is to have it for yourself. The Bible says "love your neighbor as yourself" but if you don't love yourself, how the hell are you going to treat your neighbor? Probably not so well.
Yeah, so, this is the crux of what was challenging for me, and the reason I am so proud that I made it through the process. Whether it was through self-laceration or self-judgment, or in the middle of the training, practicing poses that injured me so that I had to stay still for a few days, I had to face up to all the ways I hurt myself...and find a way to stop.
Some people told me this kindly, some in ways I could not or would not hear or somehow seemed to boomerang and make it worse, but the fact remained: they were all right, whether conveyed skillfully or not. I had to get the monkey off my back.
And there was only one way to do that, also made clear by yoga philosophy: let go of the stories. All the stories. The stories we tell ourselves (I tell myself) about what we/I can or cannot do. The stories others told us when we were growing up or in school about what we could or could not do. The stories literally and figuratively inflicted on us, either through overt or covert abuse. Traumas big and small, complex or straightforward...that all leave traces, scars, engravings on our souls AND on our bodies.
The biggest story I was told from the gate, verbally and nonverbally was: you are weak, there is something wrong with you physically, you are somehow awkward, your eyes are weird, you are uncoordinated, and etc. Add to this verbal, physical, and sexual abuse and you have someone who is no fan of being in her own body, and if reminded - horrors - in a mirror - will flee, fight or freeze - it is so terrifying.
So, what brought all this up were the practice teach sessions, when I needed to allow others to observe me. I wrote in an earlier post about one of the worst episodes with this, but the fact is this happened to varying degrees no matter how skillful the mentor or viewer. I had to ask one of the assistants at our lunch "study hall" to write stuff down while I taught someone so I could get used to this without freaking out.
Now, before this I had directed plays and taught university classes with people watching me. I had defended my PhD in front of others (obviously). I have had my theater work loved and loathed by critics, but it was practice teaching yoga that nearly broke me.
Because I was having to be Embodied in front of others, AND help them to do the same WITH others watching. Given my personal history this felt and - even now typing these words even after a successful final practice teach that gave me great joy and led to certification - still feels terrifying. The only difference is now I have found tools to help me deal with the terror.
I don't know if attempting to teach another kind of yoga would have made me feel this way or not, but I damn sure know that teaching Kripalu yoga did, because it requires a level of compassion that leads to empowerment of the students, through specific languaging yes but also something more subtle. So that trying to do this meant all the voices and abusers came crashing down to contraindicate that ability.
The ancient voices did not win (see above in re my final practice teach) but they were and are Loud and Scary. Which means of course, I will sure as shit continue to teach yoga, because whatever happened at Kripalu the 26 days I was there, everyone I see now notices it. People comment on how I look, my posture and my bearing. As one friend said, it's like a whole lot of something fell off your shoulders.
And I have a feeling that just like with recovery, I'm going to have to give it away to keep it.
I also want to honor the teachers we had this past month, Jurian Hughes and Rudy Peirce, who have to give of their hearts and souls to share this teaching with us, the coordinator Sachi, and all the assistants, Deb, Kathy, Michael and Kristin...and the other guest teachers...it does take a village to make a Kripalu Yoga teacher.
Finally, in honor of this, I share with you some yoga selfies I took in my kitchen today - yep, kitchen warrior poses. Virabhadrasana 1 & 3. Because, it's me, and to show you that indeed any Body can do yoga. Taking selfies does not come naturally to me. This took a battle with the aforementioned voices. But here they are. When I teach, I will invite people into this gentle, compassionate practice, whether you think you are a "yoga person" or not. If I can do it, so can you.
P.S. I turned 56 in June...so, this is 56.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While was blessed for the opportunity, after four years of being an adjunct, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in NYC and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again. As of 2018, I also started leading writing retreats to my beloved Orkney Islands. If you ever want two weeks that will restore your soul and give you time and space to write, get in touch. I am leading two retreats this year in July and September.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I now work full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, editor and writing retreat leader. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
In 2017, I launched a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. You can also contact me through that site.
I am now directing again, my newest play, On the edge of/a cure, and have finally updated my publications list, which you can find on the sidebar. Someday, I will have a website, but for now, you can find a lot about me on here. Thanks for stopping by...