In January, the yoga studio I was teaching at closed. I was devastated and heartbroken to be losing a place that I loved and was full of so much community.
Since then, people have asked me if I have found another studio to teach at, or what my plans are for teaching yoga moving forward.
Every time that question gets asked, I reply “I’m not actively looking right now. I’m just letting the loss of my studio home settle.”
It’s been two months since I was teaching regularly. Since I was working 6 days a week and composing sequences and playlists for a good, sweaty flow. And has it settled yet? Shouldn’t it have settled by now?
The truth is, the idea of asking for teaching spots or even to be on a sub list feels exhausting. It feels like a weight I can’t bear right now. I hate putting on my marketing hat, and presenting a smile even if I don’t feel that way. Wearing a mask is hard and tiring for me. I don’t sell myself very well. I’m shy and afraid of rejection. I hate putting myself out there. Was I ready and willing to do it after receiving my yoga teaching certificate? Definitely. I jumped in head first. I was so excited, and it was worth it. But now? It doesn’t feel the same. My heart isn’t in it like it was before. And maybe…maybe that’s okay.
Did I love teaching at a studio four times a week? Absolutely. It buzzed me up every time. Am I enjoying the free time I have now? Absolutely. I forgot what it felt like to have a lazy Sunday morning after teaching on Sundays for a year. Would I teach at a studio again? Yes, absolutely yes. But when I think about searching and seeking that out? I can’t do it. Something inside me says “no”. And for the first time in a long time, I’m listening to that. Something is telling me to take a break, maybe temporarily or maybe permanently.
THAT freaks me out.
What if I never teach yoga (in a traditional sense, like in a studio) again?
Does that mean I’m no longer a yoga teacher? Does that mean I’m a failure? Does that mean something is wrong with me? (The answer to all of these is no.)
We wrap so much of ourselves in to our jobs, our careers, what we do to earn a paycheck. When we meet someone, one of the first things we ask is “what do you do for a living?” Why do we lead with this? We are so much more than our occupation, than what puts food on our plates and shelter over our heads. What about the souls that make up our bodies? Or the last page turning book we read? Or how we felt when we first heard our favorite song? What if we focused on those intricacies instead?
I’m working on pulling back those layers – of presenting myself as a counselor, a yoga teacher, a yoga therapist – first. Of presenting myself with confidence in who I am as a person vs those other titles I’ve worked for. I’m proud of the labels I’ve earned. I have worked so hard to get where I am. But what am I doing it for? For a title? So I can announce to the world in small conversations that I am a mental health therapist who also teaches yoga? So I can advertise my services and push myself until I burn out?
I say no to that lifestyle.
Since January, I’ve been really focusing on just being a student of yoga again. I get on my mat every single day. (As of writing this on March 12th, I’ve practiced yoga in some form every single day of 2018 except for 4 days. This is huge for me.) I noticed that when I was teaching every week, my practice got neglected. If I was on my mat, I was constantly thinking of how to tweak the sequence or become more creative with the asanas or meditations I was offering. That’s not really a practice anymore, at least to me. I missed the days where I flowed just to work out the inner dialogue and kinks in my body.
I’ve also recognized that while I was teaching yoga, I was no longer writing. Writing is something that feels good deep down in my bones. I miss writing blogs regularly, and toying with book outlines/short stories. I neglected this so quickly when I became a yoga teacher in a studio. By no one else’s fault but my own, of course, but still. I miss(ed) it.
I went through a little bit of a depressive episode. No doubt some of that was due to feeling lost without a yoga studio home, and feeling like a failure that I was no longer teaching. I knew in my heart I wasn’t ready to jump back in, but I was in denial of that. These days I practice mostly restorative yoga, or even just meditation. I can’t say that I’ve done a “sweaty power flow” since January. I miss it, sure. But this slow, mindful, self loving movement has been just as lovely for me. I feel a bit like a sloth. Moving, but taking my time. Letting everything really soak in.
In this depressive time, though, I isolated. I had this vision of myself getting really immersed in the beautiful yoga community of my city. I saw myself trying out a bunch of new studios and teachers and feeling really on top of my yoga practice. The opposite happened. I would plan to go to a class, but then it would be rainy or I’d feel sad or I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the couch and putting a sports bra on. It was tough. Now that I’m starting to come out of this episode, I see the cloud I was living under. It truly is a brain fog (the most accurate description of my depression and anxiety I’ve ever heard).
Instead, I practiced at home. I bought some reiki charged crystals. I sought out support when I felt like I needed it from my mentors. I journaled – a lot. I meditated. I practiced pranayama. I took a lot of bubble baths. I diffused essential oils. I slept. I burned palo santo.
And then, the sunshine came back out. I stepped outside and started to feel the energy flow through my veins again. I saw the flowers beginning to bloom and the warmth come back to my skin. I felt a smile creep on my face. Slowly, I could feel myself waking up from my hibernation. Not ready to market or try to teach in a studio again, but ready to move. Ready for action.
So, I signed up for a few workshops and special classes in March. I went to the first of a four week long workshop last week, and I loved it. I got super yoga stoned. I learned so much. I soaked it all up, purely as a student. With no intention of teaching it to anyone or incorporating it in to my sequences for my students. And man, did that feel wonderful. Exhilarating. Refreshing. It’s so nice to just be a student again, to get out of my head a little bit, to breathe.
I also have to admit something. When I teach yoga, I feel a bit like an impostor. Who was I to be teaching other people how to practice yoga? Sure, I completed my 200 hour training, but what did I know? I still felt like a newbie to yoga sometimes myself. And while I know I had something to offer (and still do), there is still so much to learn. To absorb. So much more room to grow.
And so maybe, just maybe, by my studio closing unexpectedly, it was the Universe telling me to take a break. To sit back. To observe. To learn. To live inside myself again. And possibly, to see what other paths yoga might take me down.
Finally, I feel ready to see what that is, and all the ups and downs that will go along with that.
Just in case you’re new here: I do still offer yoga privates and therapeutic yoga. If you are interested, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk locations, services/needs, and pricing. Namaste.