The yoga classroom was filled with people, yet the silence spoke to me in a way that words couldn’t.
Eight years ago, those middle school therapy scenes commonly seen on TV suddenly become my reality.
My classmates and I were watching a film when I got called to the counselor’s office. In the classroom’s dim lights, the shadow of my teacher crept to my side. I’ll never forget the heaviness of her soft tap on my shoulder, which sunk in my body, while her whispered words hit me like arrows. To me, going to the counselor meant something was wrong. What had I done? Was I doing okay in school? Was it about me? About someone else?
With a flushed face and tears welling up in my eyes, I sluggishly forced myself to the office. The counselor looked me in the eyes, narrowed her inner eyebrows, and asked, “Why aren’t you participating in class?” Every muscle in my body tensed as I gazed down toward the floor. She continued, “Why don’t you raise your hand in class? Is something wrong with you? Are you afraid of being wrong?”
My throat constricted as if someone were choking me. I was speechless, words and sentences jumping around in my head like a word salad. Nothing was wrong. Maybe I wasn’t like your typical middle schooler, eager and excited to answer questions in class. But really, nothing was wrong. I was just…me. Quiet, introverted me.
I managed to choke out that nothing was wrong. “Be like the other kids!” she told me. “Say something! We want to hear you.”
Imposter Syndrome and Introversion
Imposter syndrome — or feeling like a fraud — has always hit me hard. My whole life I’ve heard the words, “Be you!” yet in that moment with my school counselor and elsewhere in my life, I’ve also been told the opposite: That I had to be just like the rest of my peers. As a result, I’ve battled with self-esteem. Why am I so quiet, and why couldn’t I just be loud like everyone else?
Valerie Young, who wrote The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, says that environmental factors play a major role in cultivating imposter feelings. “The more people who look or sound like you, the more confident you feel,” she explains. “And conversely, the fewer people who look or sound like you, it can and does for many people impact their confidence.”
In school, I’d often be hit by jealousy, envious of the people who could just shoot their hands up in class and answer the teacher’s question. My classmates didn’t want me in their group because they assumed I wouldn’t participate. The more I thought about it, the more I began to hate myself for my quietness, wishing I could be loud like everyone else. I felt like I didn’t belong in the classroom setting, a belief that would follow me to high school and beyond.
Slowly but surely, my insecurities diminished, and I focused on myself and my capabilities.
Discovering Yoga Helped Me Discover Myself
In May 2019, I found myself surrounded by people in a yoga studio. My dance teacher had recently shared her experiences with her practice, and it sparked a bit of interest in me. I was the only 18-year-old in the room — everyone else was visibly older. Intimidated and insecure, I picked a mat at the back of the room and silently watched seasoned practitioners perfect their downward dogs and handstands.
I could feel my heart racing, muscles tensing and tightening up. I wanted to get out, but at the same time I didn’t. It wasn’t your typical classroom. Sure, it was filled with people, yet the silence spoke to me in a way words couldn’t. I knew this was the perfect environment for me.
The magic of being guided by a teacher, and only one voice in the room, brought wondrous effects to my mind and body. There wasn’t a clutter of sound and pressure to vocally participate. Nobody was asking me to morph myself into someone else. For once, I felt comfortable with who I was.
Yoga means “to unite,” and within my first few classes, my physical actions became aligned with my developing understanding of introversion. Yoga taught me to be competent with my silence, and the journey thrusted me inward, into the place I had previously disregarded. I loved the whole practice, and found so much freedom through it. Slowly but surely, my insecurities diminished, and I focused on myself and my capabilities. Through this process, I found my confidence growing by leaps and bounds, cultivating a better sense of self.
Just a couple months after, I enrolled in teacher training. While most courses require students to have a year’s minimum of practice, here I was, having done yoga for 5 months, sitting in a studio full of practitioners who were much more experienced than me. There were times imposter syndrome hit me, but I knew in the long run, being able to teach the very thing that had helped me through so much would be worthwhile.
About 70 percent of people experience imposter syndrome, no matter their personality type, showing that feelings of self-doubt and incompetence are real and somewhat inevitable. But yoga has helped ease my imposter syndrome, and helped me get more in touch with my introverted qualities. Here’s how.
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How Yoga Helped Me as an Introvert
1. It encouraged me to be myself.
Many times, introverts strive to fit the extroverted values of the world, but that only results in stress, tiredness, and burnout. Yoga teaches you to listen to your body and its limitations by following alignment and modification cues. Eventually with time, we surprise ourselves by deepening our postures and trying harder variations. It takes so much patience and mental effort to back off and listen to what the body wants. Off the mat, this teaches us to be patient and honor our unique selves.
2. It helped me get over my fears.
For me, imposter syndrome arose through the fear of others not understanding my personality and making quick judgments about it. In yoga, we’re taught to feel into our fears and know that we’re capable of overcoming them. There are many fears that come with practicing yoga, both mental and physical: falling over in a handstand, losing balance in high lunge, looking silly during lion’s breath, having the “wrong” body type. As progression with our practice is made, the fear starts to diminish as we start to accept ourselves and become less judgmental.
3. It created a stronger sense of trust.
Imposter syndrome comes with many doubts, which disengages the quality of trust, and as introverts, we need to learn to trust ourselves because the world doesn’t always understand what we want or need. With yoga comes a large amount of trust — you are trusting those around you, the teacher, and most importantly, yourself. Off the mat, we need to trust that whatever we’re doing is enough, even if we don’t think it’s our best.
4. It taught me the importance of slowing down.
Introverts need time to themselves, but that can be hard to achieve when the world asks so much. Yoga teaches us to slow down from the constant hustle of life, take a break from screens, and surrender to the present moment. With imposter syndrome, we can be so caught up in our reputation that we start to get ahead of ourselves, losing the mind-body connection. My hot yoga teacher says this phrase in almost every class, and I absolutely love it: “If you can slow the breathing down, you can slow the heart rate down, eventually slowing everything down.” It all starts with the breath, and once that’s slowed, we can concentrate better, eventually unwinding and better understanding our thoughts as the waves they are.
5. It strengthened my relationships.
Yoga helps you understand yourself, thus building a stronger, healthier relationship with self-doubt and self-insecurities. In addition to understanding yourself better, something all introverts develop over time because we value deep periods of reflection, you start to understand others better and relate to them on a much deeper level. Your empathy strengthens, connecting with others beyond the surface.
A year into my yoga journey, and it has brought nothing but positivity and happiness. My body feels much more open — stronger yet lighter. My confidence, mentality, and self-worth have strengthened far beyond who I was just a year ago.
My yoga practice requires me to use my introvert qualities to cultivate an abundance of discipline, determination, and dedication. Yoga is by far the best thing that has happened to me, healing the wounds of my mind and body, easing my imposter syndrome, and helping me connect to the beauty of introversion.
You might like:
- 5 Ways My Introversion Pushed Me to Be Stronger
- Why Highly Sensitive People Get Mentally and Emotionally ‘Flooded’
- The Difference Between Introverts, Empaths, and Highly Sensitive People
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