Name: Lizzy Nichol
Location: London, UK
Occupation: Health coach and Forrest Yoga teacher
I am not a yoga teacher…yet. So just the “teaching” part is challenging enough. In front of me, the other trainees are laughing so hard they fall from their down dogs onto their knees.
I walk through the line of mats clucking and squawking, red faced, teetering between humiliation and hilarity. Between tears of laughter and tears of everything and anything else.
Just when I think it can’t get any worse, the trainer who decided I would teach chicken-style whispers in my ear, “Don’t forget to flap your wings.”
This is a typical afternoon on Forrest Yoga Foundation Teacher Training. Think of it like the yogi military. First you must be broken down before you can be rebuilt. The breakdowns happen daily. Only now more than a year on do I see that yes, I have been entirely rebuilt.
A day or two after that chicken class, I am teaching again. Only this time I am to bark orders like a sergeant major.
Only I cannot do it.
Suddenly I would rather teach 100 more sequences as a chicken than just this one in charge.
I start. I stumble. And then I cry.
There is a saying in Forrest Yoga – “Never waste a good trigger.” Over the remainder of the training I began to unravel the knot I unwittingly located deep inside myself when asked to be a sergeant major – When I was triggered.
Turns out it’s been there since 1988.
I am five years old. My teacher, a young, French, willow-the-wisp woman named Miss Allport is standing in the middle of the classroom screaming my name.
The class holds its breath.
I don’t remember the transgression. But I can make an educated guess: I am talking, loudly, when I should be listening. I have declared, loudly, that the exercise she has set is dull. I have told someone, loudly, I think they are stupid and how they can do whatever they are doing, better. I am being a bossy little so-and-so.
There’s the word. “Bossy.”
The first time someone called me bossy was the first time it occurred to me that that, perhaps, was what I was. And clearly this was not a term of endearment. Clearly this thing that I was was undesirable. Clearly I needed to change.
So “bossy” and all its accoutrements went into a box – A box that I would fill over the years with other labels. Arrogant. Loud. Judgmental. Selfish. Each time I nailed it firmly shut.
Twelve years later I would stand in front of a quarter of my school as an appointed head of house and mumble through my curtains of long hair, looking down at my feet.
By accident, it seems I had also put confidence, self-esteem, authority and leadership into that box. Along with all my opinions. Along with my voice.
There was a new willow-the-wisp in town.
Now I am sitting in a circle on teacher training, another twelve years on. The talking stick is moving steadily, minute by excruciating minute, towards me.
[Forrest Yoga rules – whoever has the talking stick will speak uninterrupted for their allotted three minutes on a given subject before passing it to the next person.]
Kneeling, I press one end to my heart and begin.
I tell them about that kid in the classroom. And the girl with the long hair. I tell them how I have realized – just at that moment – that I have been running from my own voice since I was five years old. That I became a writer so I could speak without speaking. And wrote for brands, in voices not my own. I say that I seem unable to form an opinion, sitting permanently on any and every fence. I say that I thought I was an introvert who could pretend to be an extrovert, but perhaps I’ve been an extrovert all along. An extrovert in hiding.
On the last day of training we hug and cry, fearful of going back to our lives where the hard work will commence. Where we must make good on our intentions. Where we must build our broken-open selves back up.
I didn’t know if I would teach. If I could. I had insight now, but I still did not have a voice. I did precisely nothing about becoming a teacher …
Until four things happened in quick succession.
February: My teacher asks me if I would like to assist a class a week.
March: A friend asks me to cover her classes at a well-known studio.
April: I find, audition for, and get, a teaching job in a studio.
May: I fall into (and in love with) a public speaking training program.
In the months just gone I have stood on stage in front of 80 global executives from a well-known charity and spoken for an hour. I have gotten to the final of a speaking competition telling a story about my Grandpa. I have sold out a retreat and designed a workshop. I have been on a radio show. I have branched out from blogs to tele-seminars. I will give my new opinions to anyone who asks, or will listen. And I have taught many Forrest Yoga classes.
It is less than three years since I stumbled on Ana Forrest’s book, Fierce Medicine, at the London Yoga Show and read it cover to cover in days, appalled, entranced, and certain I had found my practice.
I could never have predicted then, that in finding my practice I would also find my voice.
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