I remember it clearly from my yoga teacher training, I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t warned. ‘Make sure you stay in your own practice’ they told me. ‘It’s easy to fall into the trap of only practicing when you teach’ the told me. ‘Always make sure your personal practice comes first’ they told me. And did I listen? Yeah… for a couple months I suppose. But then my practice started to rapidly degrade and along with it went my sanity and passion for life. I fell into a slump
The first few months after my teacher training program (more about that here), I felt invigorated like I never have before. I was alive! Not to mention I was in the best physical, and dare I say mental, shape of my life. 3 weeks away from the real world, focused in on all things yoga has a way of transforming you. It felt as though that feeling would never leave me. I dove straight into building my own business, something that I certainly never thought I would do – talk about scary! I made flyers, business cards, a website, and I started blogging and teaching, and I kept taking class, kept in my own practice. I felt like a million bucks!
And then I started to burn out. I was up to teaching 7 classes a week – on top of a full time job, mind you – and I felt like I was always on the run. I knew my momentum would only last so long, so I kept pushing, saying yes to everything so as not to miss an opportunity. I wanted to keep all the doors open, and explore all the avenues available to me, at any cost. My personal yoga practice began to slow down, sessions becoming fewer and farther apart. After all, I was teaching 7 hours a week – that’s basically the same thing, right?
Wrong. There is a big difference between guiding a class through a yoga practice, and being guided, whether by yourself or an instructor. Yoga is an inward practice. The goal is to extract yourself out of the world, forget about the people and things around you and observe yourself, analyze yourself, listen to yourself, honor yourself. As an instructor you have to maintain awareness of the whole room, keeping the flow accessible, offering assistance, keeping them focused. So when I am in the role of instructor, it’s impossible to actually experience my own yoga practice. These things need to be separate, but as I became more pressed for time in my daily life I began to forget that.
And then we got a puppy, Rocket, who, by the way, is actually the cutest thing on the planet (see above for proof). And I was scrambling for time, even more that I already had been, so that I could fulfill my teaching obligations and still take the time needed to train our newest family member. In addition to all but dropping my personal practice, I stopped taking the time to prepare healthy meals, or to read and I started to dread going to teach. I stopped getting enough sleep and my overall mood took a turn for the worse. I found myself slipping back into old patterns of negativity and catastrophic thinking.
And so I decided to drop some class times – over a period of about 4 months I went from 7 classes each week within a 60 mile radius form my home (I told you I took every opportunity) down to just 2 at one studio, Yoga In Quartz Hill, just 6 miles from home. What a perfect opportunity to take all that extra time to get back into my own practice, right? Correct. However, that’s not what I did. I had already slipped too far into a slump, and even worse, found ways to justify my change in mood, in outlook, in lifestyle. The downward spiral had already begun and I was too exhausted to fight back and pull myself out. So instead I found ways to justify all the crummy things I felt and thought, making them even bigger in my mind, more real, and more overwhelming. Instead of finding refuge onto my yoga mat, I started to seek escape in a different way. I slept away all my free time, or indulging in junk food and reality TV as my only sources of comfort and escape.
But enough is enough. As I hit my 1 year anniversary as a yoga instructor, I couldn’t help but to stop and acknowledge the stark contrast between who I was then and who I am now. I went from being an enthusiastic, life-loving, motivated, and joyful person who was eager to make a positive change in this world, to a hopeless, lonely, pessimistic, and depressed person who feels like it’s not even worth trying anymore. Over the last 6 months, every time I stopped to acknowledge that shift in my life I would become overwhelmed by the thought of getting back to where I was. It seemed unreachable – I mean look at all the horrible things going on in this world! What makes me think that I can make any difference? What’s the point? And so I chose ignorance and indifference. I just kept going through the motions, hoping that some magical external force would come along and fix me.
But that’s not reality. The world doesn’t change you – you have to change the world. Even when it seems completely overwhelming, and even when you know that you can’t change it all, you have to decide that it’s your responsibility to light a flame, however small it may be. You must take that flame with you wherever you go, first and foremost to light your own path, but also the light the way for others. There will always be shadows lurking in this world – that’s the law of opposition. But if you carry your flame with you on your journey through life, inevitably you will inspire those around you to light their own tiny flame, and in time the whole world will become a brighter place.