I was recently interviewed by a beloved yoga teacher for a big yoga book/project. As he turned the tape recorder on and asked me the first question, something about how many times a week I practice yoga, I interrupted him. "Do you want me to lie or tell the truth?" I asked.
Naturally, I was kidding. (Kind of.)
The truth is that lately I don't do as much yoga as I would like (or could do). Not anywhere near what I would like. Sometimes I go weeks without it. Yikes. Did I just admit that? Yes, yes, I did. Sure, sometimes I practice a couple days a week, and I've had stretches when I did it daily.
I had an idea in my mind of what he was looking for, of what people who were reading a book about "yoga" were looking for. And that idea was NOT me.
Should I tell the truth? I asked him. He chuckled and said, Yes, of course.
So how many days a week do you practice? Um, sometimes zero. Sometimes 3. Sometimes 1.
Are you a vegan? No.
What's a yogic diet? I don't know. I don't think I have one. I drink too much coffee and I drink a lot of wine. I'm not dogmatic about nutrition or diet.
Are you a guru or a teacher? I am Jen Pastiloff. And I say the word "shit" too much.
No one wants to see some fake version of who I am because that's what I think they want to see. I've done that enough in my life. Go ahead and crucify me because I don't do as much yoga as I "should" or because I drink or because I don't like tea. I'm getting old enough not to care. I'm learning how to be OK with standing apart.
As he asked me his wonderful questions, and they were wonderful, thought provoking and insightful, I started to slip into my own line of internal questioning, starting with, "Where do I fit in?"
I realized that a lot of people grapple with this question: Where do I fit in?
What do I call myself? Who am I? Where is my place in this world? In the scheme of things, where do I get placed?
As my retreats/workshops become less asana based, as I stop teaching so many yoga classes, as I start writing more, I start to wonder where I fit in. Am I a yoga teacher? Am I a writer? Am I a truth teller? Am I spiritual? (That was one of his questions as well.) Am I a yogi?
The truth is: it doesn't really matter where you fit in the crowd.
What do you do when you feel like you don't fit into the club? You create your own club. Isn't that some old adage?
You start your own club called The This Is How I'm Going To Do It Club. The Take It Or Leave It Club. And you make yourself president. Bam!
The trouble arises, at least for me, when I feel like I have to fit into a certain model or when I feel like I have to fit into a box. When I feel like I have to look/do/say/be the way people expect me to look/do/say/be.
I found myself wanting to get the answers "right" a few times during the interview. I found thoughts coming up like, "How can you teach yoga if you x, y or z?" But then I realized that the answer was obvious.
I'd created my own niche, my own style, my own career – but most of all, I've found what makes me happy. When he asked me about the yoga diet, I said that I didn't know what a yogi diet was was but that I thought the best thing to do was to pay attention to what makes you feel good. Oh, this makes me gassy and bloated? I won't eat it. This gives me a hangover? I won't drink it. This makes me constipated? Done with that.
If we pay attention to what works, life becomes easier to navigate. And yes, you can use that analogy for your yoga practice, as well. Pay attention to how when you turn your foot a certain way, a certain pose hurts your knee. Hopefully, one day, you'll stop turning your foot that certain way.
I've found something that works. I don't know how exactly. When I start to question it, or when I try to fit in to be more yoga-teachery, (whatever that means), I lose the part of myself that makes me feel good. I lose the part of myself that makes me successful. And to be clear, I don't mean successful in any monetary or power-filled definition. I mean successful in that I can put my head down at the end of the day and say, I told the truth today.