As recent as five years ago, I could easily have been voted "person least likely to teach yoga". I had no interest in looking inward to try and unravel the factors that had left me a very unhappy person. I much preferred to self medicate and numb myself with caffeine and alcohol. And yet here I am… grateful for the opportunity to share my passion and awake at 4:30am every Monday, ready to salute the sun with my yoga community.
So what changed?
I have to look back to my childhood to understand myself better. I grew up in a household where both my parents were teachers, and both my parents were (and still are) extremely active movers. From a very early age I was exposed to downward dogs and sun salutations via my mother, and all manner of martial art disciplines through my father.
As is the case with many children, I made the emphatic declaration to myself and to anyone who would listen that I would never, ever, EVER follow in the footsteps of my parents.
I'm fairly ashamed to say it now, but I also had the perception that yoga was not a very masculine pursuit. A point of view that created an easy excuse for an insecure teenager (and later twenty something) to cling to every time that my mother would suggest that maybe, just maybe, the grounding nature of the yoga practice was exactly what I needed in my anxiety-riddled life.
So then…my first yoga class. Four years ago, one of my now closest friends had just started teaching. Given the safety net of practicing amongst people I knew, I had run out of excuses and finally decided to see what this yoga thing was all about.
One vinyasa practice later, I remember trying to pull my shell-shocked mind back together after savasana and thinking…
I'm going to feel that in the morning...
But I LOVE feeling something and knowing that I'm actually alive.
For a few moments, all my stress and anxiety went away. How long has it been since I've experienced that?
And… what do I do now?
I knew, after that experience, something had changed forever. Which isn't to say that the change happened overnight. As we tend to do, I didn't always prioritise what I knew was the "right" thing to do for myself and found it very easy to fall back into patterns of drinking and partying. But there came a point where I made the decision to take a long hiatus from drinking and really invest the time into feeling comfortable and confident in my body - something I don't think I'd ever felt in my life - and from that, my daily practice emerged.
The deepening of my practice is one half of the puzzle that led me directly to where I am today. The other dirty little secret I have is that, you guessed it, I LOVE teaching. I have taught at university, mentored with the Smith Family, and found my deepest fulfilment in helping grow the careers of others. It's what makes me good at my day job and is a huge part of who I am.
And so: two vital parts of me came together, I built up the courage to enrol with the Hom Yoga Training Academy, and within a few days my thoughts went from "I'm not really sure where this lead or if I even want to teach yoga" to "Oh yeah, I am DEFINITELY going to teach yoga".
Sometimes the answers we seek won't be clear to us until we dare to take the journey. It's hard to believe that something so integral to who I am wasn't even a passing thought just a few years ago.
(Sorry, mum and dad.)
By Joey Nguyen