“My name is Laura,” I said, introducing myself to the group. “I haven’t been doing yoga very long, but I am already exactly where I want to be with it: totally in love. So yoga teacher training is my celebration of that.”
Three weeks and two days later, I quit.
When people ask me why, I tell them about a moment after I’d booked a ticket out of there, when I went to reveal the news of my impending departure to fast friends I’d made.
One of them was propped up in her bed, the colour of her teeth and barely able to lift her head she was so drained of energy after three days of puking, shitting, and getting a kidney infection.
Beside her stood a girl half-dressed, rubbing cortisone cream into a growing rash on her arm, carefully edging around the tender sunburn she’d gotten from the 40-degree Indian heat wave.
On the other side of the bed was a potty-mouthed Canadian with her arse out, waiting for one of us to change the dressing on the sore of her left butt cheek. She’d been ill, too, and gone to the hospital for it. She was lucky – she made it all the way there without fainting and thus falling off the back of the moped the school drove her there on. Three days later a girl from Singapore would collapse en route. The Canadian had gotten a shot in her bum that had later gotten infected, grown into a puss-filled ball, and had to be lanced. She was left with a hole as wide and as deep as the slot for the token in a trolley at Sainsbury’s.
Everyone was, in short, totally fucked. Five hours of yoga a day, five hours of classes, tests, homework, detoxing symptoms and that famous Delhi Belly - as well as a heatwave - tested all of us.
But I get it. I get that if you’ve saved all year for the $2,000 course, plus the flight halfway around the world, you’re gonna see the damned experience out. If you’ve dreamed of being a yoga teacher all your life, you’re committed to getting over any Indian illness in order to get that certificate.
But those things didn't apply to me.
When I collapsed in the shower one morning not long after my birthday, propping myself up on naked all fours so that I could vomit, again, into the toilet bowl, I found my edge. I found the point at which an adventure stops being a route to personal growth and pushing boundaries, and becomes an exercise into damaging my health: physical, and mental.
What had stopped me quitting before that point was what people would think. I’d told everybody I was going to train to be a yoga teacher! That I was utterly committed to my mat, to exploring where my love affair with Vinyasa Yoga could take me! I was COOL and SPECIAL and ADVENTUROUS!!!!!
To quit – to say I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, finish what I had set out to do – was embarrassing. And, of course, I’d made 25 new friends, too, all of whom were struggling with the same doubts, and illness, and insecurities. India is rough, man. We were supposed to hang in there for each other, pull one another through. Everyone’s advice to me was, “You can do this Laura! You’re such a good teacher!”
And I am. I’m a fucking stonking teacher. I’m used to addressing groups, communicating ideas. But. But just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Really, teaching for me is less about teaching and more about having an audience. That’s the most honest thing I can say: I like having people listen to me, so I’ve gotten really good at making myself easy to listen to.
Being a yoga teacher was about me being heard, only in pursuit of it I stopped listening to myself. I knew within about a week I wasn’t enjoying being there (and a week is a long time when you’re running on 14-hour+ days), but we’re told the things that are good for us are also the hardest things. So I persisted. For every miserable hour I’d get five minutes of something that hinted I could go on. That it was worth it. I really wanted to want to finish, you know? I started to beat myself up that to be honest, I’d really lost interest in breathing techniques and meditation and bone structure and the philosophy of yoga. All I wanted to do was stretch on the mat, and I can take a class for that. I didn’t need the certification. My ego just fancied it, is all.
I said I was celebrating my love of yoga when I arrived, but I knew that the longer I stayed, the less I was celebrating and the more I was enduring - and I just didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to push myself that way, in those conditions. Not for that. Not for something that was simply supposed to be fun.
I did a thing, and now I am not doing the thing. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
Sometimes I almost believe that.