I’ve been a “freelance” yoga instructor for years, teaching in gyms, yoga studios, for a social outreach program focused on pregnant teens and young mothers, workshops, and at corporate events. Over the last decade, amongst all the occasional gigs, I’ve also owned a few regularly scheduled classes for one or two studios and gyms, fitting them into my normal week’s schedule, which includes a demanding,
full-time corporate job. All of these commitments often leave me feeling more like a juggler than a yoga instructor, and that can create problems if I don’t apply to my own life the very techniques I’m teaching.
I consistently struggle with the same issues with which every student walking into my class struggles – making time for family, nurturing my relationship, meeting deadlines, taking care of my home, paying the bills, attempting a social life, etc., etc.. Scheduling and over-booking ourselves, sadly, seems to have become the norm of contemporary life. It can leave everyone feeling overwhelmed and inadequate to the tasks. Week after week I see students, new and old, come into class with looks ranging from desperation, exhaustion, trepidation and stoicism mixed with the few who carry expressions of curiosity, happiness, ease and contentment – their faces reflecting their personal current moments.
So, how does the Yoga instructor, who’s struggling with all these same issues, stand up and teach? How does she manage to keep it all together? Well, sometimes she doesn’t … or at least this Yogini doesn’t always manage it.
However, when those obstacles seem to do nothing but trip me up, leaving me bruised and vulnerable, I realize I’ve neglected to practice Yoga myself. When I hit those spaces, I find the best place to turn is to the beginning, and that beginning for me is the Sutras of Patanjali, the Eightfold Path. (There are many sites with info on Ashtanga, the Eightfold Path, but this site offers a good, succinct explanation if you are unfamiliar with the Sutras.)
I find that the Sutras are a practical set of guidelines that offer everything we as souls in human bodies require for balance and wellness. I’m not saying they’re easy, but all of us who practice Yoga learn over time, that this path offers beauty, freedom, joy … and often a whole lot of challenge and struggle. Like many, I can be the most severe judge and jury of my own life, so starting with the Yamas is the gentlest and most grounding practice because it starts with Ahimsa – nonharming/nonviolence. And honestly, Patanjali had it right; it’s been my experience that the rest of the practice can’t truly happen if we are unable to practice Ahimsa. I know that if I can turn a kind eye to myself and forgive my humanness and its propensity to fall prey to ego (and a crazy, over-booked schedule), then I can return to my mat, to my meditation cushion, to my teaching with a sense of moving with compassion, kindness, love and perhaps even grace.
As humans and practicing Yogis, we quickly learn the Eightfold Path can take a lifetime of mindful practice before we reach the “tenth jewel” of Samadhi/Surrender. And as practicing Yogis, we also know that it IS the practice that counts; it’s the moments along the journey, not the goal which matters. So, when you feel overwhelmed, I suggest gifting yourself Yoga. Gift yourself time to practice, time to live the Eightfold Path. The rewards become quickly self-evident – we have more “space” physically, mentally, and emotionally in which to BE. We find the courage to set boundaries which keep us grounded and safe. We find mental rest, allowing our bodies to heal and recover from our daily lives. And we often find ourselves, plain and simple, happier and more peaceful. And isn’t that exactly the state of being for which we are all striving?
Shanti, Shanti, Namaste.
Resources I recommend for study:
- The Yamas & Niyamas, Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice: Deborah Adele < http://www.theyamasandniyamas.com/products3.html >
- The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation and Commentary: Georg Feuerstein Ph.D. < http://amzn.com/0892812621>
- A regular Asana practice at your favorite studio or your own living room
- A regular meditation practice – even if it’s only five or ten minutes (remember the phrase from Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita – “On this path, no effort is wasted; nor any progress lost, even a little of this practice will shelter you from suffering.”