A few days ago, I stepped back on my yoga mat and back into the studio to teach after a four week break from both my own practice and teaching.
I didn’t intentionally set out to take such a long break from yoga. I have been practicing almost daily for about thirteen years now. I have been teaching for the last seven years. This is the longest break I have taken from practicing or teaching. I spend a chunk of time in California each summer. As I headed out of Brooklyn and to the West Coast, I knew I needed a bit of a break and early on gave myself permission not to teach for several weeks. I had begun feeling tired and burnout all the time. My work/life boundaries seemed blurred to the point of nonexistence. My one day off each week was spent holed up in my apartment vegging out because that was what I needed to recharge for the week to come, which consisted of six days of lots and lots of work. I did not, however, intend to step away from my own practice.
My practice is no longer my own – it is always about planning and prepping for classes and private clients, or deepening my own understanding and knowledge base so that I can better guide my students. On the rare occasion when I can release all of that, I use my practice to ground myself so that I can teach multiple classes and private clients each day – it is still in service of my students. There is nothing left that is purely for me. And you know what… I’m okay with that. Coming to this realization was powerful, and confusing because I understood that to truly give myself the time off I needed this summer, I needed to put my own practice on pause.
It felt sacrilegious as a yoga teacher to not practice yoga. I firmly believe that a consistent practice is important. Those days we don’t want to get on our mats are often the times we most need our practices. I kept asking myself, “Shouldn’t I just force myself to get on my mat? Shouldn’t I be exploring this new realization on my mat and within my practice? Won’t it be different away from home, at studios I’ve never been to with teachers I’ve never taken classes from?” Ultimately, the answer deep down in my gut was, no.
The first week of not teaching or practicing felt like a much needed vacation. I felt a sense of relief. The second week, I felt out of balance. My work/life boundary had become so blurred, I wasn’t quite sure who I was without teaching, without yoga. I allowed myself to simply be with all the feelings and questions. And ever so slowly, I began to connect with myself on a deeper level. I was finally able to hear the ever so quiet voice within telling me what shifts I needed to make so that I could continue to do what I love, which is teach yoga, without crashing and burning as hard as I had.
I love teaching. I love taking classes. I love my home practice. All of these things will continue to exist in my life, but they are part of my work. No more coming to my mat or taking classes on my days off. No more using my yoga practice as my way of working out and staying in shape. While in California, I started a new workout routine that was entirely foreign to me, and completely separated from my yoga practice. I reconnected with things that are not work, not yoga. I asked myself what I needed to create and maintain greater balance and boundaries in my life, and I paused to truly listen to the answers.
Stepping onto my mat and back into my practice and teaching paralleled my life. I returned to yoga at the same time I returned home to New York City after six weeks on the central coast of California. I began my first home practice with three minutes in child’s pose. I needed to ground myself, to shut out all the external noises, and tune into myself. I spent the first day and a half back home in Brooklyn in my apartment, grounding myself in my space, feeling the energy of being in a city as opposed to a small town nestled between the ocean and the mountains. Everything felt different, and yet familiar. Sinking into the rhythm of sun salutations and the bustle of New York City felt natural. Oh did it feel good to be back. It felt like a long-awaited homecoming.