As I was teaching to a Level One Teacher Training Bootcamp, I heard Baron ask, “Are you afraid of your feminine energy?” I suddenly stopped, looked around at the 100+ yogis in the room and became quiet. I was shocked by this question, not really understanding why it was being asked. But I thought about it for a while and answered honestly and without emotion, “I think I am.” It was one of the biggest “A-ha” moments of my life.
That was almost three years ago. I was participating at a Baptiste Training called BADASS, a breakout program within Level One. Nine of us were coached all week on our teaching and our big finale was teaching to the Level One Participants while being coached by our teacher, Baron Baptiste. I was super excited about this moment. It was rare to get one-on-one coaching from Baron. But, I never expected such a life changing moment to happen while teaching Triangle Series.
Baron continued on. “I know and we know you are a strong, powerful and successful woman. I have seen you grow yourself and your studio throughout the years. But now you don’t have to prove it. Find your softness and give that to yourself and your students. You won’t be able to take away the strength and power. That is a part of who you are.” I started to tear up. It hit. It really hit. But in a good way. There was so much freedom in what I was hearing.
After the training, I met my then-boyfriend (now hubby) John in Hawaii for a vacation. I immediately told him what Baron said. He wasn’t at all surprised and acted as if it was common knowledge. When I got home, I called my parents and told them the story. My dad said, “Well, Duh.” Seriously, my dad said “Duh,” I will never forget it. And then my dad continued on about how I had always been a bit of a Tom Boy. I was floored by their responses. How could this be so obvious to the men in my life and not to me? Why didn’t someone tell me?!
My experience led me on a path of personal exploration and excavation. I began to see myself from an outside view. As a kid and teenager, I didn’t sing in the choir or play an instrument, I participated in track and field hockey. After college, I became a fitness teacher and personal trainer. I liked feeling strong. In addition to being physically strong, I always felt like I had to prove that I was good enough. I always felt like I had to prove my abilities, strength and success to people. I always felt like I had to be fiercely independent and not need anyone. Then I started to think about my daily life. How I hate to blow dry my hair. I dislike it so much that I used to go outside with a wet head in the winter, in Boston, and freeze my booty off. That’s how much I hated doing my hair (and still do). I wore clothes that were too baggy, and very often raggedy. I lived in sweats or my yoga clothes. Even when I wasn’t teaching yoga. Well yikes, there really wasn’t much femininity, or gentleness in my life.
The femininity part was interesting. But what was even more interesting was the question about my fear. Was I afraid of my femininity? Well shit, yes. I didn’t realize it but my quest for independence, a successful business and a need to always prove myself made me think that the opposite qualities were weak. Staying home to take care of my condo, learning how to cook, spending time on my hair and makeup? Are you kidding? And Baron really understood it for what it was. A fear. If I let people see this soft, gentle side, what will they think? What will I become? Of course now I realize what a crazy lie I was living. And I had created a pretty tough path for myself. It was exhausting. I didn’t realize that I needed someone to say, it will be OK. You will still be Angela. You will still be strong and successful. But you can be pretty and soft and gentle too.
When I came back from that Bootcamp, I started teaching my powerful classes but I added gentleness, ease and grace to my teaching. It was like magic. My classes were packed. One of my teachers said, “I don’t know what happened at Bootcamp but I LOVE the way you are teaching. I am not even sure what is different, but I love it.” I smiled. I kept this story close to me for a long time. While I explored how this affected different aspects of my life (my relationship with John, my teaching, my dress, my attitude towards my studio, staff, etc), I applied my new way of being. And it worked. I now let John take the trash out in the alley behind our condo. I didn’t need to prove that I could do it on my own. I let him take care of me and it felt good for both of us. I approached my students with a new, softer attitude. I still made them work just as hard, but it came from a softer place. There was more compassion, ease and joy. Ah, there was joy.
Today, almost three years later, I openly share this experience. We as teachers often say that the way you are on your yoga mat is the way you are in your life. It’s so true. We can’t change our way of being by putting on a new hat. And I certainly couldn’t hide this when I taught yoga. I feel grateful that my teacher took a stand for me and my growth by telling me the truth.
Today I have a new freedom in my life and I work on it everyday. Just last night I had another femininity fight with myself. It had been a few days since I had shaved my legs and tomorrow was my day off with John. Ugh, I hate doing this, I’ll just do it tomorrow. I looked at the razor and said, discipline. Shave your legs. These kinds of things seem silly and small, and they are in the grand scheme of life. But I make an effort to enjoy the feminine side of myself because I have realized that it really is pretty fabulous. And, while we were watching TV and cuddling on the couch, John rubbed my leg and mentioned how soft my legs felt. He had no idea that I was writing this post.
So, if you have read Brittany’s posts (The Beginning, Round 2, and Round 3) and about our new journey together, it will all make sense. Clothes are a huge issue for me, and you can now understand why. I’ll share more about this struggle as the Closet Zen/Shakti Style Project continues. For now, I will continue to put effort into my soft side. I even made an appointment to get my hair cut this week. These are all big things in my world.