Why I stepped away from yoga, and why I'm ready to dip my toe back in
I didn't like yoga when I started it. I've shared this story many times before. I was encouraged to try yoga by a friend, and I thought that it was too difficult for me. I couldn't do many of the postures, the breath was all backwards, and I definitely could not relax during that "final relaxation" at the end. Yoga was hard. I was not a natural and I definitely didn't want to do it at all. But as luck would have it, I didn't have much of a life outside of work at the time, and I needed something to help me with the physical pain and limitations that my back was causing me, so I kept going. And, well, you know the rest.
For 22 years yoga was my life. It was everything. It was not just what I did for a career, it became my entire lifestyle. I didn't just teach yoga, I lived yoga, just like any true teacher of this ancient practice would. I took that shit seriously. Yoga had changed my life for the positive, and I wanted everyone to have the same opportunity so I threw everything into the business. Due to my work schedule I missed weddings, family gatherings, parties, and baby showers (okay, in truth, I did not really miss the baby showers). I did all this while driving an hour each way on the NJ Turnpike from my home in south jersey, usually about six days a week.
But I was doing what I loved. And my students, my amazing students, loved the places that I created for their zen vibe and ability to transform their mood with just a quick sniff of the Nag Champa incense that wafted through the space. I'd heard it said that if you do what you love, then you never work a day in your life. I truly felt this way for a very long time. It was such a blessing to be a yoga teacher and direct my own yoga studio.
But I watched the practice of yoga change over the years, and that was difficult. When Groupon emerged, people began to question the prices of my classes as being to high — even though I hadn't changed them in ten years. Then all the boutique and chain studios began to emerge in every strip-mall and students began to scatter to locations closer to their homes. The whole business of yoga got a lot harder, with less people seemingly concerned about the integrity of the practice.
Please don't get me wrong, many of our students made real commitments to their practice and their teacher, and it was very much appreciated, and still is to this day. But all the other "stuff" of running a business like making sure the toilet paper was stocked, the space was clean and neatly put together for the next class, and the constant self-promotion, well, it was starting to detract from my overall energy that I could bring to the classes that I taught. And just when I thought I couldn't do it any longer, the pandemic of 2020 happened.
For many people, the pandemic closed their doors. In actuality, my books showed a big increase from 2019 to 2020 because when everything happened, my yoga classes became a beacon of hope for many people, who looked forward to logging into zoom and hearing a familiar voice. And with my student's renewed love of yoga, I regained a new love of teaching yoga. My purpose had been renewed, and I was more than thrilled to hold space for people in their time of need. It was all going well until it wasn't.
The pandemic changed everything about our lives. At the studio we certainly had many affects. Most of my teachers had major changes in their personal lives that precluded them from being able to teach for One Yoga Center. I found myself attempting to teach most of the classes for a good part of that year and beyond, but it was too much. By the end of May I was in complete burnout. But I kept pushing through as much as I could, while needing to cancel some regular classes that consistent students had come to rely having on the schedule. Honestly, I didn't manage the balance of guilt and self-care well at all.
And then there was the teaching hybrid style, and navigating how to hold space for people both online and in the studio equally. And as time went on, many students got tired of logging into zoom, but still didn't feel comfortable coming in to the studio, and that meant classes were at an all time low in attendance for 2021. I started selling crystals to make up for the loss in yoga attendance revenue, and wound up creating a whole other full time business for myself. I enjoyed it and kind of miss buying and selling crystals, but it was all just too much.
When I finally succumbed to the dreaded Covid-19 in 2022 and was unable to secure teachers to sub for me or attend to the studio, I simply looked at my husband one day and said, "I can't do it anymore. I need to close the studio." And that was by far the most difficult decision I ever made in my professional career. Everything that I had built around helping people through yoga and other holistic methods was gone in an instant, along with a whole entire community. I was sincerely grieving the loss of it all. In that process I stepped back from practicing yoga — partially out of grief, but also to give my body a well-needed rest.
Then Bodhi died.
Then my rotator cuff nearly shattered into a million pieces.
And then I couldn't practice yoga if I wanted to.
WE WERE ON A BREAK!
Can't you hear it? Just like Ross from Friends, I was screaming at the Universe. I had finally taken the responsible route of stepping back and I got hit by a wall so big there was no way around it or through it. I just had to patiently allow the process of deep reintegration to happen.
There's a quote from the 1998 movie Hope Floats with Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. where he, a master carpenter, replies to her comment about not understanding why he only paints houses when he can create such a beautiful home like he had for himself. He says:
You're talkin' 'bout the American Dream. You find something that you love, and then you twist it, and you torture it, try and find a way to make money at it. You spend a lifetime doing that. At the end, you can't find a trace of what you started out lovin'.
That's exactly where I was with yoga. I didn't want to admit it, but it was true. You know how I really understood that this is where I was? When resentment crept in. There's no place for resentment in yoga, Shiva forbid in a yoga teacher. Yet there I was.
Our friends in AA say that resentment is the number one offender. In step four of the Twelve Steps one must make a "searching and fearless moral inventory" of yourself to work on your resentments and clear the anger and annoyances out. I spent a lot of this year traveling, getting to the bottom of all of those feelings, and eventually healing. The biggest thing that I realized was that many of the time I was moving from a place of ego — not love, because my heart was broken, and had been for a lifetime and more.
I'm just at 11 months since the rotator cuff shattering and my full mobility has almost returned, although full strength is an entirely different thing. Then I received a message from my friends at Special Olympics NJ to see if I was available to teach any yoga classes. Ever since I started that program many years ago, it was always the best part of my day. No matter what occurred during the day, when I went there to teach that population, I always left with a smile and a remembrance of why I loved to teach yoga. I went to teach a couple of classes recently, and all of a sudden, just like that, it all came back to me. Not only did I realize how much I miss teaching yoga, but I now teach from a different place than I had in many years, and it felt really good and true.
I'm not ready to plunge into teaching yoga again. I'm sure that I will never teach as many classes or with the grueling schedule that I created again. But I am ready to dip my toe back in.
I'm committing to teaching a short 5-week winter yoga session in Hightstown, NJ February 24 - March 23.
So if you're reading this and miss our classes and time together at One Yoga Center, know that so do I. But I wasn't giving you all that I had before. And I needed to take a break away so that I could rediscover what I loved about the practice again, and teaching it to others from a complete heart-centered space.
Maybe you'll join me? Details for the Winter Yoga Session can be found in the "Retreats & Events" page on the website, and people have already started booking their spaces for this limited engagement.
I'm looking forward to seeing many familiar faces on the mat again this winter. We can join together in community and practice, and keep each other warm with our inner lights of love. When will the next opportunity come? That remains to be seen. Me and yoga, we are dating again, but taking things slowly.
Here's a quick link to register and save your spot before it books up!