A year and a half ago, as editor of a well-respected design and architecture magazine, I was living the dream. There was just one problem: it wasn’t my dream anymore.
I had started as an intern nine years before, relishing every moment. Nothing was too big, nothing too small; and when I was officially made part of the team, I wanted to be involved in everything from conceptualising the brand and each issue, to brainstorming marketing ideas and literally dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s. I proudly took home the flatbook once a quarter to pore over each word, image, page number and caption, fist-pumping the air when I found a typo or – the editor’s unicorn – an errant double space.
Somewhere along the way, I dropped in to a local yoga studio to find respite from a racing mind and relentless deadlines. I found a deep physical and mental challenge, and a satisfying new stillness at the end of each session. It helped with clarity, helped me see the world, other people and myself with new eyes. I was hooked and made a decision to embark on teacher training.
Fundamentally, yoga teaches me how to do life. It has helped with many challenges, both personal and professional – especially freelancing.
It was an intense six months. A demanding full-time job that required regular after-hours networking, then training every second weekend: Friday evenings from 6-8pm, Saturdays and Sundays 7am-5pm. Exhausted, I wondered more than once if I would get through it. But I loved the philosophy, anatomy and physiology, and the deep self-reflection it asked of me. The two-hour asana practice each day was a lived reminder of what it was all for – if I could help people in some way to experience that aliveness and peace, it would be worth it. With the gruelling schedule, naturally at some point a bad flu hit me and all I could do was lie on my mat, chest congested and breath laboured, to absorb the beauty of our teacher’s sequencing while my classmates practised around me.
I emerged from the 200 hours of Level 1 training intact. Elated, I returned to my editor’s life, but a year passed and I found myself frustrated at not being able to put my fragile teaching skills into practice. I needed to figure out if I really wanted to teach, or if yoga was just going to be a hobby. So I signed up for another six months, another 150-hours of a Level 2 training certificate. The same gruelling schedule, the same exhaustion – and the same certainty that yoga was the best thing I had ever done for myself. Tired or not, it turned me into a Daft Punk caricature – better, faster, stronger – and more inspired, centred and compassionate. Even I could see how the benefits rippled out to those around me.
After I completed that course, I vowed to fit teaching into my life. I negotiated a part-time work arrangement and started dropping my resume into local yoga studios – and dropping the fact that I was a new yoga teacher into every conversation that I could.
If this sounds like I’m completely enlightened and nothing bothers me, that is absolute BS.
My first paid class was completely nerve-racking, filling in for a friend’s corporate class while she was on holiday. I was so grateful that she trusted me to cover for her; full of admiration for her physique, confidence and technique, and acutely aware of my perceived shortcomings in comparison. Despite this, I got through the class without falling, fainting or fucking up, and even seemed to connect with the students in a small way. When they left the room, I silently jumped up and down, kicked up a few celebratory handstands then sank to the floor with my face in my hands. I had done it. I had taught a yoga class and at least three people in this world – the students who attended – actually thought I was a teacher. Which meant that I was.
Through a friend’s sister, I was invited to do a trial at a studio and was soon teaching two or three mornings a week before work. Eventually, I decided I wanted to teach more and resigned from my editor role, trusting that the opportunities would come. And they did. At first, a few corporate gigs, then a contact (who had contributed to the magazine while I was editor) invited me to join the roster in her beautiful new studio at Andrew “Boy” Charlton Pool in The Domain. I was teaching around eight classes a week and was in a kind of heaven, finding my confidence as a teacher, falling easily into an ancient, natural rhythm of rising with (or before) the sun, moving my body every day, eating well, sleeping through the darkness. I expanded my collection of yoga pants and thought I’d never wear closed-toe shoes again.
But as someone wise once said, “This too, will change”; and it did. Being a new yoga teacher came with its own challenges: living on much less (and more irregular) pay, the stress of racing around town to get to various classes and physical tiredness all took a toll. Worst of all, I was so busy trying to make a living and become a good yoga teacher that my own practice suffered. After four months, I took a couple of weeks over the Christmas break to reflect. I realised that I wanted to get back to practising regularly. I also realised that I missed writing and editing.
So I decided to keep just a couple of corporate classes that I really enjoyed, drop the studio classes, and open myself up for more writing and editing work. Once the intention was out there, it was supported by good clients and solid projects and my sense of balance returned.
Fundamentally, yoga teaches me how to do life. It has helped with many challenges, both personal and professional – especially freelancing. It has helped me cultivate the skills and discipline to adjust and maintain balance when things are thrown my way – because they always will be. It helps me practise awareness and encourages me to seek out peace at every opportunity.
If this sounds like I’m completely enlightened and nothing bothers me, that is absolute BS. At times I have fear, anxiety, frustration, boredom and resentment – but I try to identify the emotions, understand what they signal, and deal with the root cause. I’ve realised that I have the power to change my situation and that brings with it huge freedom and responsibility, for which I’m incredibly grateful.
And now as I sit in a villa in Florence, having recently taken on the role of companion to a 90-year-old lady, I have to pinch myself and bow to the infinite opportunities, lessons and experiences of this yoga mat we call life.