Beginning a Journey of Yoga Service: Notes to Self
This blog has been one of my very finest efforts of procrastination. Honestly, if they were giving awards, I would be up for the top prize. Why? Well…I just like to research, plan, draft, re-research, redraft, and then sit on things for a while… Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone! And if not, bear with me. I had a lightbulb moment: The insecurities that arose when co-facilitating my first program with Yogahood Australia are the same little gremlins that kept me from typing my first words here – fear of not being enough, not knowing enough and somehow not being prepared. So I made a few notes to self, some bullet point antidotes to these feelings of scarcity when engaging in yoga service, in the hope that they will be useful to others feeling the same way. Let’s go.
1. Being you is being of service.
A seemingly simplistic statement, I know, but it stands its ground. I have been co-delivering yoga sessions for young people experiencing mental health issues, and found that one of the most important things I can do as a facilitator is to practice authenticity - or what Brené Brown describes as ‘letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are’. This can be scary, but always pays off. Moments where I’ve said a lame joke and had an internal slow-motion cringe only to be met with laughter, or I’ve fell out of a posture with a giggle and seen someone else feel free to do the same, tells me that practising authenticity is important. Be you, and you create space for others to be themselves.
2. Not knowing is an opportunity for learning. Take it!
Whilst wanting to start volunteering with as much knowledge as possible, I quickly realised that not knowing - and being open about what I don’t know - is okay. Actually, it’s more than okay. Whilst I love studying yoga and have a (previously mentioned) tendency to over-research, I’ve learnt that offering inclusive, trauma sensitive, community yoga is less about knowing and more about learning from and connecting with those in the room. Listening, learning about, and being adaptive to individual and group needs is the best way to offer appropriate tools for wellbeing, resilience and self-empowerment. So take the opportunity to learn – often the participants will be your best teachers!
3. Just show up.
In the past, I’ve let the fear of being underprepared keep me from showing up. A subset of worries that my brain likes to bake up are anxieties around saying or doing the wrong thing because I don’t know better, or haven’t brainstormed seven thousand hypothetical situations and appropriate responses. It’s in times like this where the famous words of Maya Angelou are a saving grace; ‘do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better’. Another way of putting this is – just show up.
4. Trust the process.
A final note: Beginning your journey into yoga service is a process - trust it! You won’t have all of the answers straight away, despite any previous yoga training or experience, not to mention any eleven page volunteering manuals you decide to develop before your first session just in case (what? I didn’t do that…). Be kind to yourself and remember that as the old cliché goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
In summary; be you, be human, lean into not knowing. Show up, trust the process, and enjoy. A worthy array of tote bag slogans, and some solid notes to self that may also be useful for you in beginning your own journey.
Cassidy is a volunteer yoga teaching with Yogahood Australia. She contributes her time and teaching skills to our outreach programs, bringing yoga to communities in need.