I have been working the reception desk and teaching on Sunday mornings at a yoga studio in Ferndale. A few months ago, the owner offered me a second class on Thursday evenings. She wanted to give me more exposure to the students to help build a following for my teaching at the studio.
Thursday evening yoga is prime time. The real deal. While the daytime classes attract a much smaller student base, the evening classes bring in the stressed out after work crowd. The classes may range from 10-12 students and maybe more.
Since I took over that time slot, the largest class I had was eight students, but more often it was 4-5 students. In the last few weeks, I was only drawing in 1-2 students. I could tell the studio owner was starting to get concerned, but she would always smile and say that I was doing a great job and yoga is a tough business.
After class last week, she and I finally had a chance to sit down and talk. She told me that she looks at the attendance reports for classes every few months and my class was not as "healthy" as it needed to be. Then she told me the story of when she was a new teacher and how she would teach right after a super popular teacher. She would watch 15-20 people come out of his class, and then only 3-4 people come into her class.
"It happens to everyone," she assured me. "Every teacher in this studio has been moved around on more than one occasion, even the experienced teachers. It just takes time."
While I appreciated all of her positive comments and support, I was actually not upset about it at all. In fact, I felt relieved. What I have learned about myself in the past few months is that I love practicing yoga, but teaching yoga - especially in the studio environment - stresses me out.
I tend to teach yoga the same way that I practice yoga. I prefer a slower pace and time to reflect during my practice. Teaching the evening classes at the studio, which are often attended by students with much stronger yoga practices than mine, can be really intimidating. I was never sure exactly what they wanted or how to give it to them.
After being at the top of my class in yoga school (whatever that means) and graduating with glowing comments from my mentors, I thought I would be a better yoga teacher than I turned out to be. Which brings me back to my earlier comment about being ‘fired’ from my yoga teaching job.
I have never been fired from anything in my life. I have been successful at most things I have tried, well, except for cross country running and playing the violin. But neither of those things were my choice. I never wanted to be a runner, but I had to pick a sport to be “well-rounded” for my college application. And I wanted to play the flute, but I had braces so they made me choose the violin instead. Who knows, maybe I would have been an amazing flute player!
Aside from those early high school experiences, I pretty much followed the path that was laid out for me. I was an honor student in high school and I was awarded a full ride scholarship to college. Then I was accepted into the highest ranked Master's program in the country (and I got a scholarship there too, by the way.) I was offered my first supervisor job in my late 20's and I was a Director by the time I was 30.
From there, I moved from one management-level job to the next. Like so many people, I did what was expected of me. Trying to be whatever they wanted me to be. Not wanting to let anyone down. And I was so hard on myself along the way. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time. I just thought I was doing what needed to be done.
I would relentlessly deliver to the best of my abilities. And I was rewarded with promotions, raises and bonus checks. Yet, all of those successes and achievements led me nowhere. In fact, they ultimately made me sick.
I have been reading a lot about the creative process as I try to find my way as a professional writer. Elizabeth Gilbert tells us that “Perfectionism is the murderer of all good things.” And I think she is right. After years of trying to be perfect, I find it incredibly liberating to fail at something.
Even before I started teaching yoga, I was trying to free myself from the idea that I need to be perfect. It is not always easy. And there are many times that I find myself struggling with concerns about my future and how to live my life. But when I catch myself, I gently remind myself that I don’t need to have all of the answers right now.
The truth is that no one is perfect. And the more a person gives off the impression that they are perfect, the more likely it is that they are not. So many of us strive for perfection because we mistakenly equate perfection with happiness. We may feel like once everything is perfect, then we will finally be happy.
But perfection is an illusion. It doesn’t exist. And the more we seek it out, the more it will hover just outside of our grasp. It is the imperfection that gives us permission to be human. And to find happiness in what we have today, instead of hinging our happiness on what will be.
When I left my corporate job, my goal was to find out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Being a yoga teacher is the first thing I tried. And as it turns out, I am not a great yoga teacher. And more importantly, it doesn’t make me happy.
I used to think that I was naturally good at everything I tried. Now I can see that I only tried things if I was fairly certain that I could be good at them. I stacked the deck in my favor. And in doing so, I deprived myself of the opportunity to fail.
In the end, we learn much more from our failures than from our successes in life. And maybe admitting that I cannot do something, or that I don't want to, isn't really a failure at all. It is merely a deeper understanding and acceptance of my true self.