I’ve been struggling lately. With small things like grappling between staying home where it’s warm and cozy or bundling up and going to the studio to practice, and with bigger issues pertaining to what the meaning of life is and what I have to offer the world and so on and so forth. I feel like I’m teetering on the precipice of change, and I have to plunge forward in one direction or another, but right now taking even the smallest step just feels so hard.
There are days when it seems like there’s nothing left to do but weep at the state of the world, at the way we treat one another, at the fact that we can take the most important things for granted. There are lots of moments when I wonder 'Why bother?', when I feel like I’m putting out so much more than I’m getting back, or when I literally have no idea what my next move should be when life seems to be making perfect sense for everybody else. I know I’m not alone in this, that there are times when things just feel more difficult than usual, that it is part of the human experience.
I was out for dinner last night and happened to overhear the conversation at the table behind me, where a man was listing, in excruciating detail, everything that was wrong with his job. And as much as a small part of me wanted to lean in and commiserate, the better part of me (the part that knows better) just wanted to give the guy a hug and ask him what he could do to improve his situation.
Because the better part of me knows that we get to choose the good we put into the world, even if it’s just an extra dollar in the tip jar or a heartfelt note of appreciation. A change in outlook. An unsaid apology released. A listening ear. But the fact that every moment is a choice can also make every moment a struggle. Sometimes being kind can feel more difficult than being spiteful. Sometimes letting go is so much harder than holding on, and our ability to press onward can shrink under the pressure of giving up. The beautiful and difficult part is, we get to choose.
So, today, my choice is to share the struggle. To simply sit and breathe for a while and feel where the struggle arises. To get on the mat and invite my practice to crack me open and let the struggle pass through. To cling to threads of hope and happiness with blind faith that everything will work out. My choice is to eat tiramisu for lunch and sit down and write an honest blog post and tell my sister I love her. My choice is to keep trying to put more good out there, because that’s what I have to offer. And somehow, within the context of choice, things start to make just a little bit more sense.
My practice has shifted and changed a lot over the course of my foray into yoga, and consequently, so has my teaching. It’s been interesting to experience the personal evolution from practicing and teaching yoga as a means to an end to simply acknowledging the power of stepping on the mat and coming from a place of curiosity rather than a place of goal-oriented ambition.
In the spirit of clarity, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to offer as a teacher, and what it means for me to embody that role. The class that I taught this morning was centred around the theme of creating more room for discovery, and I think that lately, it’s this idea that compels me to get up in front of a room and teach from the heart. To explore the “Why nots” and the “What ifs” and the “Maybes” through breath and movement. To design a practice that makes everything feel more possible. To find space and connection in our bodies, hearts and minds is what yoga inspires us to do, and as a teacher, my intent is to be a vessel for that truth.
The more that I get clear about my vision and my mission, the more that I dig in and do the work of self-discovery, the more comments I get about how “that class was exactly what I needed today”, or “That was just the right energy”, or ”Your sequence was perfectly paced”. I love that. The more that we tune in to our intention behind what it is we are putting out into the world, the more that we can manifest our ideal reality — literally. Authentic teachers attract the students who want them, who understand their language and who resonate with their values. I like to think there’s a teacher for every student and a student for every teacher, and there’s an energetic shift when we interact with those who understand and uplift us.
Being a teacher is about so much more than putting together a playlist and coming up with a sequence. It’s about doing the work of figuring out and owning that special gift that we each have to offer. It’s about developing and honing the capacity to truly see people — beyond judgments and limitations, to witness not only the ability that exists, but also the potential for growth. It’s about learning to love the student and the practice, and being able to serve each student where they are, to meet them there and offer a practice fuelled by discovery.
For me, 2013 came and went almost inconspicuously, as if it never happened at all. It felt like a year of storing up, of retreating, of turning in. I didn’t write as much, practice as intensely, or pursue my goals as fiercely due to a whole host of reasons, and at the time, that felt right. I worked a lot. Made and lost a few friends. Grew up. Let life happen. My birthday and the new year both came and went quietly, and here I sit, finally thinking about all the possibility that lies ahead.
My intention for 2014 is to create more clarity, and to distill that clarity into a potent feeling of living, teaching, and practicing from a place of purpose. Doing the work of shifting toward what I want, rather than simply shifting away from what I don’t want, begins with getting crystal clear on not just how I want to feel, but what I’m willing to do to get myself there. Being “stuck” is no longer an option. Confusion? Bring it on. Feeling “unsure” is an inevitability, but a passing phase, not a way of being. For me, creating clarity means writing regularly, stepping on the mat more, and getting super comfortable with shift. Because let’s face it — clarity isn’t only about creating a goal and honing in on it, it’s also about recognizing when something no longer serves us.
The thing is, our practice asks us to shift all the time. We turn ourselves upside down. We stand on our hands instead of our feet. We reduce our foundation to one leg instead of two. We come up against our most inflexible parts and find the spaciousness that exists there. Those challenge poses that once seemed an impossibility somehow takes shape and form within our bodies, and we learn how to modify poses that don’t honour our physical realities. We twist ourselves around and wring ourselves out and we breathe through it all. And we make it through, stronger, steadier and clearer for it.
So may this year be full of confusion, and clarity, and sweaty, potent yoga classes. Here’s to muddling through and doing the work and finding the strength amidst the struggle. I’m ready.