On this path effort never goes to waste and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.
– Excerpt from The Bhagavad Gita, translation by Eknath Easwaran
In 2004, I was in my mid 40s and at a crossroads… I had been working full-time for several years as the main breadwinner in my family, commuting over 10 hours a week to jobs around the Boston area, and I was burnt out.
I was also longing for some kind of fulfillment that I couldn’t quite name at the time, but I knew it wasn’t in my 8-5 corporate job.
With both of our daughters through college and at the height of the housing boom, my husband and I decided to cast our fates northward, selling our house on the south shore of Massachusetts and moving to Maine. We had always loved the rugged, down-to-earth beauty of Maine, and we were hopeful the new environment would present new opportunities for both of us.
That’s when yoga first entered my life… Without the immediate responsibility of work (thanks to the savings from our house), I was free to explore my yearning for something deeper… for a connection to something that I hoped would help me feel more whole, more fulfilled, and bring me greater joy.
I began attending a few yoga classes at WholeHeart Yoga studio in Portland – our new home city – and I was hooked. I immediately connected to the Kripalu-based instruction and the experience of becoming present in my body through a grounded asana practice that was heart-centered. I truly felt transformed… and I knew I wanted – no, needed – yoga to be a central force in my life moving forward.
Filled with an almost desperate desire, I enrolled in Kriplalu’s 200-hour basic yoga teacher training program in the fall of 2004. The month-long training was difficult both physically and emotionally, but it was also extremely rewarding. I met a wonderful group of compassionate, aspiring yoga teachers and experienced faculty with whom I felt a sense of belonging. Being immersed in the Kripalu culture of compassion, within the beautiful Berkshire surroundings, was a true gift to my soul.
I returned to Maine with my teacher certification in hand and a pure intention in my heart to transform my work/life as a yoga teacher.
Starting Out as a Teacher
Initially, my teaching practice was a bit of a struggle… Being an introvert, I was not entirely comfortable in the spotlight as teacher and I was even less comfortable giving hands-on adjustments to students.
I remember clearly my very first class and making a verbal mistake that truly brought home the concept of self-compassion: During the centering phase of the class, I was so nervous that I mistakenly used the word “clavichord” (a musical instrument) instead of “clavicle” (referring to the collarbone)! Thank goodness no one seemed to notice – or they forgave my inexperience without mentioning it.
In those early days of teaching, to help bolster my confidence I prepared detailed notes for my classes, typing them up and pasting them on colored index cards. I also practiced my class sequences regularly. Over time, my confidence evolved and matured, and I felt increasingly gratified by my teaching experiences.
For the next two years I taught a weekly class at WholeHeart Yoga studio, along with a lunchtime class at a local business. I also subbed regularly at various studios in in the area and taught a short-term program to a group of pre-school children. Whenever I could swing it, I returned to Kripalu for additional training and R&R retreats.
As life would have it, however, our family savings eventually began to run out and it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to sustain a living solely as a yoga instructor… It seemed me then (as now) that to make a full-time career through yoga requires being a studio owner — or else being in a position financially where you don’t need a full-time career. I had neither the business inclination to own my own studio nor the financial means to work only part-time.
So, apart from occasionally subbing, I eventually let go of teaching and returned to a full-time job.
An End… and More Beginnings
My yoga story could end there, but it doesn’t… Even though I stopped teaching, I never stopped my personal practice. In fact, it only deepened.
Fast-forward to 2014 and I was once again at a crossroads… After a good run of work stability and satisfaction, things changed drastically when the small nonprofit-like consulting firm I had been with for several years merged with a much larger company. Within a few months my comfortable, remote writing job – where my skills were highly valued – was gone. I soon found myself caught up in a corporate culture that felt like a meat grinder, where I was made to feel inadequate and my skills unvalued… I knew I had to make a change.
I left that job in April 2016. Although doing so provided some immediate relief, since then, my husband and I have faced a series of ongoing, exhausting challenges. For one thing, we moved three times – from Maine to Colorado and back to Maine again – and had four different addresses in 10 months. Not easy for two aging baby boomers.
I have also applied for hundreds of jobs, and even launched my own copywriting business and wellness blog to try to regain my employment footing. But the challenges of being an older worker, and someone who’s not naturally inclined toward “networking,” have been extremely harsh.
Throughout all of the upheaval and disappointments over the past two years, yoga has been the one stable, positive force in my life. It’s also been my health insurance and mental health therapy.
My yoga practice has allowed me to let go of regrets, anger, fear, frustration and sadness – if only for an hour or so a day – and experience tranquility… For the time that I’m on my mat, yoga relieves me of the burden to “become” and allows me to settle into the assurance of simply “being.”
In the midst of so many uncertainties about the future, I can always return to my breath and to the wisdom of yoga, which teaches me: “On this path effort never goes to waste and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.” What blessed reassurance!
As I continue evaluating employment options and my path forward, something from my yoga teacher training 14 years ago keeps bubbling up: How can I serve?
I’ve thought a lot about whether to return to teaching as part of that yearning to serve. Although I still have financial pressures—in fact, maybe even more than before—something feels different at this stage in my life… As I approach 60, there’s less time to waste on being unfulfilled. I feel more committed to making choices based on what I truly want rather than what I feel is expected of me.
Whether or not my future involves teaching yoga again is unclear… But what I do know is that yoga continues to teach me and guide me, and for that I am eternally grateful.