Friday, June 19, 2015

My Yoga Life

It has been six weeks since I left my corporate job to start a new life. When I walked out the door on that sunny Friday afternoon and looked out at the city scape from the large glass elevator, I promised myself that I would never look back. And I haven't.

I also told myself that I wanted to forget everything I know about the healthcare industry. And although all of that knowledge surely resides somewhere in my brain, it has definitely moved into the archives. Hopefully it will continue to fade from lack of use.

My new life revolves around yoga. I spent most of the month of May completing my yoga teacher training and preparing for my final exams. And now I am exploring options for teaching yoga and working at yoga studios until I figure out what to do next. Right now, I work at the reception desk at one studio on Sunday mornings in exchange for free yoga. And I was offered to teach my own class at another studio on Monday mornings.

I absolutely love working at the studio. Every Sunday morning, I get up early and put my hair up in a ponytail and drive 25 minutes just to open up the studio. It is dark and quiet when I arrive. Slowly, I turn on the various floor lamps and open up the yoga room. I try to make sure it is a friendly and hospitable environment for the students.

There is something magical about a yoga studio. It is a sacred space where people connect with their inner world. It is a place where physical, mental and spiritual transformation happens.

Then the students start to arrive. I greet them and register them in the computer and send them into class with a smile and a peaceful nod. When I am working at the yoga studio, I am balanced and centered. It feels completely authentic to me.

Teaching yoga is a little different than working the reception desk. It takes a lot more preparation to teach a class. Usually I am nervous going into it, but once I get started my yoga voice takes over and I am able to guide the students through their practice. I hope that the more I teach yoga, I will feel less nervous and more confident. My teacher tells me that it will come with time and experience.

All of this exploration has been enlightening and yet there is part of me that wonders where it can really go. My favorite part of my yoga life is working the reception desk, which is not even a paid position. And the average yoga teaching job at a studio makes between $25 and $35 per class.

Of course, it is not all about the money. In fact, I would prefer that money never even entered into the equation. The challenge is that if I want to teach yoga for a living, I will need to make at least enough money to pay my bills.

Everyone says that yoga is a multi-billion industry, but the money is not going to the studios or the yoga teachers. It is going to the companies who are making the yoga mats and yoga clothes. They focus on selling the image of yoga, instead of the actual yoga classes.

I was thinking the other day that each person probably spends anywhere from $75 to $150 on the yoga outfit they wear to class and other related supplies. If there are 10 students in class, there could be up to $1500 spent on the clothes and equipment. And yet the teacher, the person who provides the actual yoga experience that people are seeking, makes less than the cost of one pair of yoga pants.

The other thing I have noticed about my yoga life is that things tend to evolve more slowly. I have been following up on referrals from various people and meeting with these amazing women who either own a yoga studio or have some other related business. One woman I met with is a yoga broker. She contracts with the clients and she recruits the teachers. Then she connects them together and handles the class scheduling and payment on both sides. It seems like a great business model that works for everyone.

Whenever I go into one of these yoga meetings, it has a very similar vibe. We meet and talk to each other about our backgrounds and motivations. In many cases, the yoga business owner is similar to me in that we have both left a corporate job seeking something more fulfilling through yoga. We share our thoughts on the yoga world and how things are evolving. And we identify possible ways that we might be able to work together.

In the corporate world, a meeting like that would be followed by an e-mail with meeting notes and action items to move forward with all of the great ideas. In my old job, you could come up with an idea (even a bad idea) and if it gained momentum then the company would just force it into being through sheer will and determination.

Things are very different in the yoga world. We all believe that there is a force greater than us that guides and directs the course of our lives. So even when we come up with great ideas, the next steps are usually to consider our options and wait for the right opportunity to present itself.

In my last meeting with my yoga teacher who also owns a studio, she and I talked about four different ways to work together. I told her that I would go home and do some thinking about it and her response was "Don't think too hard. It should be organic. Whatever we do together, it should just feel natural to both of us."

I can't ever remember someone in the corporate world asking how I felt about my projects or whether my heart was guiding me toward the right solution to our business needs. The only instructions I ever received were to fix it and find a way to get it done. Fast. If there were barriers, we were supposed to just knock them down or escalate.

I have to admit there is still a part of me that wants to try and do something (anything) to move things forward and make this work. In my corporate life, there was always a clear next step. Of course, it was not necessarily in a direction that I wanted to go! In my yoga life, I find that even if I wanted to do something, most of the things that need to happen are not really within my power to change.

It might take awhile for me to adjust to this new yoga life. It is very different to listen to my inner voice and place my trust in a mysterious force that somehow will know more than I do about the course that my life should take.

While I might feel uncomfortable for awhile, I keep reminding myself that during the 20 years I worked in the health care industry I never found the contentment and peace of mind that I have experienced working the reception desk at a yoga studio for three short weeks.

I must be on the right path. I just need to be patient and wait for the universe to reveal the next step.

Retail Therapy

I have always enjoyed shopping. When people would ask me what I do in my spare time, I used to ask them if shopping could be considered a hobby. I loved shopping for clothes, shoes, housewares, you name it. Whether it was something I needed for myself or something another person needed, I was always up for a trip to the store.

As I started to contemplate what I would be doing with all of my free time this summer, I thought I would end up shopping and cleaning my house. The shopping part actually concerned me a bit, because I am living on a limited budget for awhile. Since I have been off work, my attitude towards shopping has changed. I find I don't need it anymore.

Of course, I still get satisfaction from a productive trip to the grocery store or to Target to get paper towels and other supplies for the house. But I realized that a lot of the other times I shopped, it was because I was unhappy.

I hated my job so much that I needed to buy pretty clothes to wear so I would want to get up in the morning and go there. I would always be in search of the perfect pair of comfortable black shoes to wear with all of my dresses. And I would often have to settle for a "non-perfect" pair just to get me through until the right pair came along. My closet is full of almost perfect black pumps.

I was trying to fill a void in my life by acquiring and procuring stuff. And I convinced myself that I needed all of that stuff. I used to tell myself that I work hard to earn all of that money so I can use it to buy things I need to make me happy.

Looking at that statement now, it seems ridiculous to me. Why did I think it made sense to torture myself every day just so I could get money to buy stuff to make me happy? I was a victim of the golden handcuffs. I was well compensated at my job and I thought I would never find another job that paid me as much money, so I stayed there even though it made me completely miserable.

That type of logic is exactly what the corporations want us to believe. Maybe it is all part of a huge plot against us. Corporate America creates all of these miserable jobs for us to do so they can turn around and sell us stuff to help us feel better about our miserable jobs. When you really think about it, they are the beneficiaries. First, they get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. And usually we work more than the 40 hours they pay us for, so they are already ahead. Second, they earn the profits from all of the stuff we buy with the money they pay us.

I wonder what would happen if people were just happy with their lives? Then we would not need to buy all of that stuff. Of course there are still things we need or even want to buy. And I am in no way implying that we shouldn't shop if that is what we choose to do.

I guess I am just recognizing all of the mindless shopping that I did over the years. The idea of retail therapy is one that I used so often to justify my purchases. Shopping made me feel free. It made me feel like I was taking control of my life. But I wasn't.

The problem with retail therapy is that it's only a temporary solution. As soon as you go back to the office and start to feel the weight of all of the burdens and responsibilities, the unhappy feelings come flooding back. And the cycle starts all over again.

This time, I am going to try something different. I am trying to build happiness from the inside out, instead of the outside in. It might be a longer process, but in the end I think it will be more satisfying. And much less expensive.