The day I realized I might not be a Yoga Teacher
I had recently moved to southern California from the quaint town of Vail, Colorado. I was feeling on top of the world having found a sweet yoga home at Yoga Bound and a prospering community to be a part of, teaching classes, leading fundraisers with lululemon as my ambassadorship continued, and creating new friendships with like-minded and inspiring people. The massage therapy industry even had positions open and I was elated to provide financially on this end by working in a high-end spa in Carlsbad. I was feeling a sense of accomplishment, success, and support by my transition and my beloved partner, James, and I were on a great new adventure together. What more could a gal ask for?
However, as much as I would like to think I have all the answers, the universe always has a different plan and she usually displays such “plan” in moments I am most unlikely to see clear. So, here is the kicker. Over the course of nearly eight years massaging and probably the combination of working in the fine dining food and wine industry for so many years previous, my body developed tendonitis in my right elbow. It was so painful typing on the computer, writing, even eating with a fork became impossible. Let me share that trying to eat left-handed is quite interesting. Humor aside, I felt defeated by my hard work and my ambitions to move forward. I stopped massaging, which had been my main source of income – because being a yoga teacher pays the big dollars!
So what to do? My now fiancé, then boyfriend at the time, and I sat down to discuss our future and create some creative options while my elbow healed. He, being one who never quite understood my crazy yoga career, just simply said, “ why don’t you give it up and get a different job, Kristina?”
Any person would understand this and think, “yeah, simple, easy, great idea!” But yoga teachers are a bit odd. Come on, we are. We all start out working for little to no money so we can make a name for ourselves, become known in the community because that’s a valuable asset to growing your classes. Let’s not forget to mention this is after we have dropped nearly two grand on yoga teacher training, probably quit our “day job” to attend and then to start teaching. If that doesn’t already sound scary, here is the real fun. As the years go by making next to nothing, we get experience and finally create general guidelines of payments for classes, perhaps workshops. But even still, we probably teach between 8-15 classes a week in group and/or private sessions, sometimes driving all over a city to complete two or three classes in a day. And weekends? What are those? Let’s not forget as well, the hours we work. Oh, it’s cool. I don’t mind teaching at 8am, then again at 12 only to end the day with a 7p class. Sure, I enjoy having 13 hour days with huge breaks in the middle where my loved ones are all at work. Yeah, a person probably would never sign up for this. But again, yoga teachers are a bit odd – in fact, from the sound of this, we are probably more insane!
James, oh, my sweet man, kept at it saying all these beautiful things that made so much sense…“Kristina, you have two bachelors degrees, half of a masters program complete, over 1000 hours in massage therapy education, extensive and advanced studies with Annie Carpenter, have managed two fine dinning restaurants…” and he’d trail on for a while making me feel good but only to end with this…
“Is teaching yoga that important to you to continue making a career out of it struggling this much?”
Obviously the answer is yes, because like any human being in denial, I put up a huge wall on that conversation and started finding other ideas to make money on the side just so that I could keep teaching yoga. And I made it work because I did find a side job. Basically being a paper-pusher for someone locally for a few months. I won’t lie though, what my fiancé said to me stuck. So, like a good yogi, I sat with it. And I sat with it some more and some more and some more. And in the sitting, I heard a question…
“Who are you if you are not a yoga teacher?”
And for the first time, I allowed myself to let go of my attachment to being a yoga teacher. I began to unravel the identity I had created for myself and look behind the mysterious veil of “yoga teacher”. I began to visualize a day where I wasn’t making yoga sequences, wasn’t’ in the yoga studio preparing to lead a group of people, wasn’t practicing, wasn’t reading about yoga, watching yoga, talking yoga! I rather replaced a day with doing something else, like working at a community center, helping others or perhaps in the school districts or maybe even at a local market educating people on food and health.
And you know what happened next? I started to feel really free. I began to see a world of potential and opportunity the moment I let go of an identity, in this case, really a title of who I was – of who I thought I was. All the work, the labor, the money, the time I had taken to become a yoga teacher, to be where I was then, I actually let go and all of a sudden I felt a sense of ease and even inner contentment.
Then for the first time ever, I got it.
I got the practice of yoga in a whole way. Yes, intellectually I knew these things, but in a heart felt, raw and real way, I finally got it. And I did so, by letting go. Here I had been clinging to an idea of who I was, in which was only crippling my fullest potential. We are evolving beings and we need to allow the mind and the body, but more importantly the heart the space to grow. Putting up walls and denying ourselves the right to move past an identity does not only limit an individual but it too, limits us all. We are all one. This truly is the practice of yoga in my opinion. This is the dirty work, the hard work - the letting go work. Like my teacher once shared, “You show up, do the work, and then let it go; it is ego that wants to cling”.
So the record is straight, I am still a yoga teacher. However, now when people ask what I do I appreciate that there is a small moment where I sense a blank slate, like it is yet to come. I have realized that in our modern day world, we really need some form of "title" for everyday conversation, so I joyfully share with people that "I am a teacher" and in some ways a teacher of life because everyday is another opportunity to keep on showing up to life - fully, abundantly, real and raw!