I frequently find people saying that a yoga practice changed their life, but they rarely give the concrete examples of how that I crave.
I suppose I’m looking for validation of my own experience, a rational explanation for what sometimes feels like magic.
I had been doing yoga on and off for the past 7 years or so before it changed my life.
I knew enough about the practice to have developed an asana home practice but I had never been consistent with it.
But this time around, my life was in trouble. I was in the thralls of my first corporate job, my relationship with my long-term partner was hanging by a thread and I had been unhappy for years.
My state of mind at the time was such that I considered this corporate job a last ditch effort at a better life.
I took the advice of those around me and reasoned that a salary would give me the stability I craved; getting that ever-elusive health insurance would give me a sense of wellbeing.
Before this job, I had waited tables and worked in coffee shops for years after college. I had been dissatisfied and figured that being in this position of servitude was the reason I was miserable. I was wasting my perfectly good degree on the service industry.
This was what I told myself and heard from others. That tentative internal voice that told me to be patient, that my path would appear, that my time was more precious than money, that physical work is healing and meditative and that someday I wanted to be a writer – that voice could only have been the faint call of insanity. Words would flow through my head but I was too blocked to ever put them on paper.
My unhappiness had created fissures in my relationship. I was approaching thirty and saw the threshold in which I could get a “good job” closing. In a panic, I threw myself, body, mind, and soul into a crusade of a job search.
I found something quickly. It had benefits and a good salary. The room where I worked was gray and I sat in a cubicle. The company had non-profit status. For the first time in my life, I got to feel the slight tickle of moral superiority when people asked what I did for a living.
I drank a lot of water in my office worker days. The water cooler was next to a window and I could gaze at the building next door as I filled my water bottle. I got to move my body on my frequent trips to the bathroom. Occasionally I'd wonder what would happen if I smashed the window and jumped out.
Around this time, there was a deal for unlimited yoga classes at a studio near my office. It was a fancy studio in Soho and it felt self-indulgent, but instinctively I thought it might offer relief. I reasoned that with my salary I could afford it. I liked the classes more than I expected to. Soon I was going to yoga just about every day after work.
At the outset I had expected that yoga would help me better tolerate my job. I imagined I'd become so Zen that I'd be able to rise above the anxiety that hit me as soon as I set foot in the office building.
Instead, as my frantic mind began to settle, I became convinced that there was little virtue in spending most of my waking hours in an environment that did not suit me.
I quit my job three months ago. It was terrifying. My voice shook when I told my supervisor, but I took a deep breath and felt a small sense of relief.
I’ve since reduced my living expenses but one thing I haven’t been able to part with is the yoga studio membership. The voice of fear returns sometimes, but I’ve learned to breathe into it instead of letting it control my mental space.
Yoga has not made me or my life perfect. I don’t manage to always be happy but I now know that this is something that starts from within. I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I truly believe that in doing things I enjoy, a path will come to me – or perhaps this is my path and I’ve been on it all along.
At the very least, I’m grateful for the years of waiting tables and working in coffee shops as I’ll always have something to fall back on.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com