Why I almost quit teaching yoga (but didn't) : Lessons on getting unstuck
I’m slowly coming out of a “yoga fog”, or in other words, a lack of inspiration when it comes to my practice and my yoga teaching and a quiet frustration I’ve had with the yoga community in my city and as a whole (but I’ll save that for another post). I’ve been teaching yoga for 6 years and this has by far been the most difficult, frustrating year of my career to date. It’s been tough to articulate why since yoga has always been a huge passion and source of inspiration for so long.
The guilt I’ve felt about being in this “fog” for so long has been crippling to the point that I nearly quit teaching yoga altogether. I decided to write about it and put it out there for three reasons;
1.) Sometimes I need to write things down as a way to process and understand my own feelings about them,
2.) To hopefully help other yoga teachers, artists, creatives, (really anyone) know that they’re not alone or abnormal for sometimes wanting to take a break from their craft. And not to feel guilty about that.
3.) I wanted to share a few practices/insights that have helped me get “unstuck” in case you ever find yourself in a similar position and would love your ideas on what you do to stay inspired and moving forward when stagnation sets in.
So how did I get there?
The “fog” slowly started creeping in about a year ago when I returned from an immersive yoga teacher training in Bali. I experienced pure yoga on such a deep, layered level that I almost didn’t know how to describe it when I got back. It’s hard not to feel that way when you’re practicing varied pranayama (breathing) techniques, deep meditation, cleansing practices, asana (poses), and learning about the connections to neuroscience and the absolute genius of the practice for 12 hours a day for 30 days straight. We also practiced in a very slow, but still powerful way in the middle of nature with no music. It felt like I was getting a taste of how the ancients practiced before yoga became filtered down and distilled into what it is in the West today.
It was powerful and transformative to say the least and I couldn’t wait to get back to the States and share it with my students. But what I realized when I returned and hopped on my “pure yoga” high horse was that I didn’t know how to evolve into the teacher I now wanted to show up as. My students were used to me teaching in a specific way and all of a sudden, fear bubbled to the surface and I worried that if I changed too much, they wouldn’t like it and then I would have no one to teach to.
I’m not sure where these fears came from, but they showed up as little bitchy whispers in my head that said things like:
“You should probably just quit teaching, your students deserve better than this.”
“Yoga teachers are a dime a dozen in this town — what makes you so special?”
“Your classes are so boring, why can’t you be more creative like all the other fucking professional yoga choreographers in this town?”
“You sound like everyone else and you’ve been doing this for 6 years. You can do better.”
“Why does this matter?”
and on and on and on…
Soon it evolved into frustration with the entire yoga community. I was annoyed with Instagram yogis, the ego in yoga, the lack of collaboration among studios, the drama, the backstabbing, the lack of diversity, and the rumors and gossip about and among teachers. All of the aspects that shouldn’t be a part of a practice that literally means “union”. I hated it all.
It got so bad that at one point very recently I started slowly dropping my classes and craved to quit teaching all together. I was convinced I needed a break and that there was nothing wrong with that (and there isn’t). I was even bitching about my yoga practice, too. Complaining to anyone who would listen that yoga just didn’t make me feel the way it used to.
But you know what? I never actually quit practicing. Despite my bitching, I still made it to my mat, even if it was less than usual. It was still the only practice that I wanted to come back to because it was still the only thing that could silence my inner Yoga Bitch long enough to hear what my Self had to say. And when that dawned on me, it was like a mini-breakthrough…
… maybe, just maybe I was choosing to see all the negative aspects of yoga that are bound to present themselves anytime humans are involved with anything (because we’re not perfect and we’re all trying to figure it out). Maybe, just maybe… I was the problem. Maybe I needed to chill with the judgement and criticizing and choose to see all the beautiful, good yoga gems hiding all over my city.
I recently took a hot, sweaty class with one of my greatest friends and fellow yoga teachers, Mandy B, and by the time we got to savasana, something had cracked in the shell I’d formed around myself and my teaching. When I stopped and got quiet lying on my sweaty mat in corpse pose, my inner Yoga Bitch suddenly went silent and my inner Wise Woman (a.k.a. my Self) whispered in my ear:
“You’re a teacher in your bones. You always have been and you always will be. It’s perfectly OK and natural to go through (sometimes long) periods of stagnation, frustration, or lack of inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with you. But this practice, this yoga thing, is your Art and your Prayer to the world and you have so much more to share. Don’t you dare quit. Your students are counting on you. It’s all OK and it’s alllllll yoga.”
Magic. It’s those little whisperings that still keep me coming back to my mat even on my worst days and throughout my most frustrating periods of life. Nothing compares to quiet, meditative movement within the four corners of my mat where my mind can go quiet enough for my Self to be heard.
Since then, I’ve made a promise to myself and my students to actively stay inspired (which is work). I’m back to reading books and listening to podcasts about anything and everything that helps me grow, learn something new, see a different perspective, or evolve (right now my source of inspiration is an experiment with sobriety). I’ve vowed to stop bitching about my frustrations with the yoga community, and instead vowed to make it to more classes at more studios with new (and old) teachers. I made a list of practices that have helped me sit with and move through the feelings of stuckness that I thought might be helpful…
Ways to get Unstuck:
Journal — one of the best ways to clarify how I feel about anything is to write it down, organize my thoughts on paper so they’re not all jumbled up in my brain.
Talk to someone — I’m an open book, so this one’s not difficult for me, but for those of you who are more private or introverted, I would encourage you to talk to someone about feelings of stuckness or stagnation. Therapists are my favorite.
Take care of your animal — What I mean by that is take care of your physical body to the best of your ability when you’re in a funk. It’s easy to numb out with booze or drugs or whatever your vice is, but try your best to get the sleep you need, nourish your body with good food, drink lots of water, and move. Sounds simple, but it makes a huge difference for your mind and your mood.
Sit with it — This one may be the most difficult for me, but sometimes when you’re feeling stuck, you just gotta sit with the stuckness. Where do you feel it in your body? What do you think it’s trying to teach you? Is it time to course correct? Learn something new? Are you too comfortable? Ask and see what comes up.
Remind yourself why you started. Write it down and read it every morning and night if you need to.
Take a break! If you need to take a break, by all means, take a break from your craft. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Surround yourself with other people in your field who inspire you. And then go take their classes and learn from them.
Find books and podcasts about topics or themes within your field that you’re interested in.
Research trainings, workshops, or retreats and GO.
Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit. To me it means love, compassion, and wholeness. It means getting quiet enough in your mind to hear what your Self has to say. What does that look and feel like for you? It doesn’t have to include a yoga mat.
It’s OK to go through periods of stagnation, even with something that used to be a huge passion. What do you do to move through it? I’d love to hear from you.