Have you ever done something so undeniably you – something that speaks to the reason you’re living and breathing and being - that it almost feels selfish? Like it shouldn’t be happening to you? Like HOW did you get so lucky?
I’ve found this twice in my life thus far. Once, when I said “yes!” a lifetime of love with my best friend and fiancé. And now for the second time, when I took a chance on myself and signed up for training to become a yoga teacher.
Many of us find it difficult to love ourselves first – to do that thing that you know deep down is GOOD for you. Maybe we just cannot find the time in our busy, sleepless, calendar-driven schedule. Maybe we think too much about how others will perceive us when we put ourselves first. Maybe we find comfort in the status quo that has somehow become our life.
These are all terrible excuses, by the way. When you put yourself first, EVERYTHING in your life benefits. Your health, relationships, productivity (career), and happiness actually depend on it.
It took me a while to figure this out, and quite honestly, it wasn’t because I had some big self-love, self-care epiphany moment. It began when my company told me that our division was being relocated from Chicago to Dallas, and basically said, “hey would you like to pick up your whole life for this analyst position that pays a mid-range salary and constantly causes a level of unnecessary stress in your life?”
While I was bitter and freaked out and offended, I took this as a sign from the Universe (love her) that I wasn’t supposed to be on this path anyway. That really, my passion lies in health and wellness, specifically in nutrition and yoga. And that now was the time to start doing something about it. Although my company has kindly given me 6 months to find a new job, I realized it’s not a lot of time to reinvent my life. I had to get my ass into gear.
A few weeks after the Dallas Debacle, I found myself enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) online course and the CorePower Yoga 200-hour teacher training - my first steps in becoming a wellness guru. IIN will take me a year to complete, while yoga training will allow me to start teaching yoga as early as Christmas. I’m getting there – slowly but surely. One day, I’m hoping to open up a wellness studio that offers nutrition guidance, health coaching, meditation, and yoga. This is my “Sankalpa” the Sanskrit term for my heartfelt intention, or my heart’s deepest desire. And why shouldn't I go after it?
For the duration of my teacher training, I’ll be checking in on this intention, and journaling about it here. These check-ins will vary in length and content, but it is my goal to give you a real life snapshot of my journey. Enjoy!
Week 1 Takeaway: Modification vs. Customization
Week 1 consisted of introductions, a basic overview of the course, lots of “OMs”, and some awkward stumbling through practice teaching (on everyone’s part). Our group is comprised of 11 women, all different ages and backgrounds and one common love for yoga. We had a deep discussion on what yoga means to us and why we practice. The energy and vibes in the room left me on a high that I didn’t even know I had been seeking. I walked out the first day with the phrase “Oh, this is gonna be GOOD” repeating over and over. (Seriously, I’m not sure where that came from, but it was like a broken record in my head for hours.)
One of my biggest takeaways this week was the concept of Customization. As a yoga teacher, it is important to understand the needs of your students and recognize the fact that everyone’s practice is different. We learn to offer a variety of poses to “customize” (sounds better than modify, right?) a student’s practice to fit his or her own needs and ensure the safety of everyone in the room. There is no shame in listening to your body and practicing the way you need to that day - even while the chick next to you is gracefully flowing from a chinstand into chaturanga.
The next day, I set out to give this a try in my own practice. One of our graduation requirements is to complete 60 yoga classes within 60 days - although possible, this is by no means easy. Given the physical strain the training requires, I knew I’d experience muscle fatigue and soreness, with no rest-day reprieve in sight. The next yoga class I took, I vowed to customize in every pose - i.e. taking all chaturangas from my knees, skipping the inversion series and heading into child’s pose, dropping to my back knee during revolved crescent lunge, etc. Once I was able to get my ego out of the way, customization become the most freeing part of my yoga practice.
I asked myself - how can this translate into life off the mat? How can I let go of my ego and find a way to customize my actions? How can I let go of worrying what others might think if I listen to my body and do what’s right for me? These days, I’m learning to love myself first and do things that make me happy, which will translate directly into my love for others.
Take a mental health day when work has you pulling your hair out. Go to bed early instead of staying out for “one more drink” with the friends you see every week. Go on that vacation. Sign up for the yoga teacher training, or cooking class, or writing course that’s been on your mind for months. Just learn to do you, and always do it well.