How I Got My “Om” Back: Beating the I-am-not-enough virus with purpose

I tipped the movers and glanced at my watch.  The moving van had not even left the premises before I had to hop in the car to go teach my very first class in San Francisco.  Luckily, I was teaching for the same studio I taught at in Los Angeles and had been spending a lot of time in the Bay, while my husband and I navigated our then-long-distance tryst.  Despite having been teaching for almost a decade at this point, I was nervous beyond belief.

When I arrived at the studio the classroom was already filled with expectant faces. Since I was new to the city I had said “yes” to every opportunity that was offered.  You must throw a lot of you-know-what against the wall to see what sticks.  I could have told you immediately that I was not a beginner’s teacher, but it was the only slot available at the time and I was lucky to even have a permanent class.

The minute the doors shut and I began the class, I felt an uneasy, yet familiar, feeling wash over me. Something I had not dealt with or faced since I first started teaching.  It took me over like a sudden stomach flu and before I knew it my body was riddled with its most debilitating symptom – doubt.

The “I-am-not-enough” virus had taken hold.

I began to second guess everything that came out of my mouth. I could no longer read the room.  I began shaking with uncertainty, as thoughts like, “do they like me?”, “is this okay?”, “is this too hard?”, “too easy?”, “what do they want?”, began popping up in my head, like a demented internal whack-a-mole.

The 55-minute class felt like 4 hours and by the time savasanacame around, I was grateful for the peace that finally set in once I stopped talking.  I watched the bodies lying there blissfully and took in the room.  It suddenly hit me. I was in San Francisco!  I was no longer in Los Angeles. I had no idea how this was going to affect my career.

Yes, I had moved for love, but I also did it for myself.  I had lived in L.A. nearly my whole life and was excited to explore a new market.  The only thing was that I had no idea what this market was like!  My teacher had moved up to the Bay a few years prior, so I knew her style and I had taken workshops and signature classes at my studio, but I had barely scraped the surface of yoga in Northern California.

The clock eked to the end of class and I began talking the students through their re-entry. As I felt the last student settle, I opened my mouth to “Om”.  I had been looking forward to this moment.  A good “om” can make all the difference when you have had a challenging class.  It connects us on a vibrational level to one another, but also to the greater world.  After all, “om” is thought to be the omnipresent song of the universe.  When I opened my mouth though, “om” seemed to croak out and no matter what key I strived to hit, my “om” was just…off.

This continued to happen for almost the entire first year of living in San Francisco. I would start class confidently, when midway through the “I-am-not-enough-virus” would set in and doubt would take over to the point where I would spend half the time fighting off old limiting thoughts like, “do they like this?”, “do they like me?” “is this what San Francisco yogis want?”. Inevitably leading to a final nails-on-a-chalkboard “om”.

Regardless of how long one has been teaching for, moving somewhere new means rebuilding your business from the ground up. It means teaching at as many venues as possible, so you can refine over time where you want to lay down roots.  It means commuting across freeways and bridges, having to leave 3.5hrs before your class start to fight rush hour traffic. Sometimes teaching for the same amount you just spent in gas and bridge tolls.  It means teaching levels that you know are not your niche, but being grateful you even have a permanent class on the schedule.

The thing is though, as we run around scrambling to establish our self in a new community, it leaves very little time to get to know the actual community! It did not help that I had a home practice and any free time was with my partner.  What this meant was that I had spent very little time learning the landscape of the yoga scene.

Around the one year mark, I went through a mourning period. Where the first 11 months I was bright-eyed and excited, smiling at everyone passing by and all but throwing my hat up Mary Tyler Moore style downtown, I started to miss home. I missed my family, my friends, and my students deeply.  And I came to the realization that other than on social media and in passing between classes, I had not tried very hard to become a part of the SF community. I needed to hit the pavement, literally.

Photo by Andy Blake

The best way to get to know a city is to walk it. Coming from LA, this was a whole new world! I had all the wrong shoes at first and my feet paid dearly, but once armed with new sneakers and the determination to get rooted, I felt unstoppable.  Walking helps you ground as you are literally on the earth. You breathe fresh air and set your own pace.  Your commute time is always reliable. And serendipitously, I started to run into other yoga teachers everywhere! Faces I had seen on the small box of Instagram came to life and friendships began to form.

I also started to take classes in the community.  What I learned was that there was a wide variety of classes out there.  There was no one Nor Cal yoga style.  Some classes were super hard, some were soft.  Some were alignment based, some cranked the music and flowed.   Some had chanting, some had none. I had been so concerned with trying to figure out what the students wanted that I had not stopped to check in with myself and remember why am I teaching.

I didn’t need to change whatI was teaching, I needed to get back to my why. The antidote to the “I-am-not-enough” virus? Remembering your purpose!

I teach to help people connect more deeply to themselves. I teach to help people be kinder to themselves. I teach to empower people to take ownership of their experience.  It was time to follow my own lessons.

The minute I owned who I was as a teacher again, my classes grew.  My friendships blossomed.  My heart began to heal and I recognized that I had not lost LA, but instead gained SF.

And wouldn’t you know it, I got my “om” back.