I attended Level One the summer before my senior year of college. At that point in my life, I was a master compartmentalizer. I kept going back to yoga because I loved the physical practice and it helped me move through whatever was upsetting me, even if just for the duration of the practice. I went to Level One because I wanted to deepen my own physical practice, and because I was curious. I didn’t expect to teach after; I just wanted clarity about who I was. I was semi-aware that I was numb and lost, but not willing to admit it. Level One was probably the first time I held myself accountable and allowed myself to admit certain things to myself.
I experienced a lot of resistance the first few days of the program. I stubbornly clung to old habits of trying to protect myself. I wanted to be right and I tried to stay a step ahead of the program. I missed out by doing so. On the fourth day, I was forced to drop the idea that knowing everything would make me invincible and realize that all the theory in the world wouldn’t help me live my life authentically. In fact, knowing disabled me from doing so. I feigned confidence, and what I was hiding was that I didn’t trust myself. At all. Finally–FINALLY–I “got present.”
Once I did, the realizations came fast. This program breaks down what you do and WHY you do it. Your habitual hiding, your complaints: You aren’t doing them for the sake of doing them, or for the reason you think you’re doing them. Once you get to the “why,” you can make shifts. Level One didn’t change who I was, it changed how I thought. When I catch myself being a know-it-all, I can laugh at myself. I learned how to let go of being right and looking good, and it has liberated me, allowing me to actually be myself.
I didn’t know what I wanted when I left Level One (other than that I wanted to go to Level Two). Completing the training gave me confidence. Not just the confidence that looks like “shining out,” but the confidence to get real with my own fear and anger, to feeling “lost.” Because of program, I now know that not knowing what I am doing with my life doesn’t mean I don’t have value. Before training, I would’ve tried to hide my lack of direction, but instead felt permission to be 100% myself, the shiny and not-so-shiny parts. Confidence is letting yourself be exactly as you are no exceptions.
As I went on to complete my senior year in college, I struggled. Old habits die hard, as they say. However, I knew my own strength and that it was always going be possible for me to “get present” again and again. Every time I re-accessed what I learned at Level One, I regained trust in myself. My most powerful “breakthrough” didn’t come to me until about three months after Level One, when I experienced something painful that triggered it. But it was because I went through the program that I was able to experience it as a breakthrough rather than devastation. Level One gave me the skills to get real with myself. I still feel lost sometimes, but I’ve learned how to be with that feeling and to try to experience it so that it may teach me something.
And just wait until I tell you about Level Two.
Hannah Jenkins recently found her way to San Francisco and is on the team at Baptiste Yoga San Francisco.