By Amy Moore
I grew up as a painfully shy, introverted girl in a family with three brothers. Like many others, my parents were held hostage by their own demons which left them unable to function in a capacity that a child needs as they’re growing up. At home, it was best to be quiet, obedient, and almost invisible as an effort to keep the calm among the chaos.
As a kid, I sat on the sidelines observing others living life and unable to get past my anxiety to be able to participate in many activities or make many friends. My life remained similar as I grew into a teenager. My emotional pain manifested into numerous unhealthy habits, the most profound was my body image. In early adolescents, I began my journey with anorexia and bulimia and suffered with it secretly for years. Maybe in a sense I was trying to disappear, to go unnoticed and unseen through life.
Although I was physically and mentally unhealthy I longed to be a healthy strong person. I read and researched everything that sparks my interest, which is exactly how I came to find yoga. When I started reading about yoga I was fascinated about the stories of health and healing that so many people experienced. However, it didn’t seem possible to me. How could stretching and breathing change your entire life? Regardless of my reservations, I felt drawn to learning more. I wanted to know more about the practice peacefully displayed on DVD covers and magazines.
It took a couple of years before I would get up enough courage to step into a yoga class. I went alone, terrified and sick to my stomach, but I went. I stepped onto my mat for the first time and started to move and breathe. I didn’t experience some great epiphany or spiritual healing, I felt awkward and uncomfortable. As soon as the class was over I couldn’t wait to run out the door. However, the next week I went back to class – alone and terrified again. I just kept going back to that space on my mat. I was drawn to it.
Years later, when the opportunity to attend yoga teacher training presented itself, I dove right in — both excited and terrified in equal measure. Attending yoga teacher training was one of the biggest steps I’ve taken towards cultivating the life that I had imagined through my practice. You may be wondering, how does a painfully shy, introvert with social anxiety stand in front of her peers in teacher training and teach? Well she doesn’t, at least not on the normal timeframe of teacher training. My first attempt was nothing short of humiliating. On my first attempt to teach, I stood in front of the room filled with my peers and my teachers with my gaze lowered towards my feet as I tried to gather the courage to teach my first sun salutation. When I lifted my gaze to the class staring back at me I felt my vulnerability exposed and with no control I started to cry. Through a shaky voice and tears I taught my first sun salutation. Although my classmates and teachers were unwavering in their support, the emotional breakdown happened again the next time I was called up to teach. So, I elected to do everything required in the training except stand in front of the class to teach.
Once I completed the teacher training minus the actual teaching portion, I was so disappointed in myself that I allowed myself to drift away from my yoga practice. As time passed, I felt myself being drawn back to my practice. As I made my way back to my mat I realized how much I missed my practice. With the encouragement and support of my very close friend who volunteered to be my student, I taught my first class outside near her house in an open field under a tree. It was beautiful and during that class I knew that I would return to my training and become a yoga teacher. When I returned to complete my training, my same supportive classmates and teacher sat in front of me as I stood and taught without emotionally falling apart.
The tears I shed later that day were solely tears of relief and joy as I was finally able to stare into the darkness of fear and vulnerability and see a sliver of light. If you are fortunate enough to find something in this life that speaks directly to your soul, you are a lucky person. Or maybe it’s not luck, maybe it’s your path, your purpose. For me, it is yoga. That’s what I found that speaks directly to my soul. Through yoga I can see a vision that was once hazy. I can see a vision of a life that does not have to be filled with anxiety and fear. Although, I still suffer from social anxiety, I am learning to manage it much better. My hope is that others will see that there is a light at the end of that tunnel, that there is hope to manage anxiety and fear. It’s amazing how your perception of life can change when you make the decision to embrace and confront the fear and vulnerability you’ve carried with you for so long, I am living it.
Amy Moore is a recent yoga teacher graduate. She has a small yoga studio in Fort Myers, Florida, where individuals who suffer from social anxiety can have a less intimidating space to start or continue their yoga practice. Amy is happy to share her story in hopes that others that suffer from the same anxieties may see that there is hope beyond that unrelenting chatter in their minds. Find Amy on FaceBook here and learn more about her studio here.