The Yoga of Letting Go of Yoga

Dear Friends,

I have decided to end my yoga therapy practice. Most of you won’t be affected by this, but I’m sharing it anyway because it’s something I’ve put a lot of time and energy into, and I’m not usually the type of person who likes to walk away from something I’ve worked hard for. But I’ve been learning some lessons about patience and flow in the past couple years, and I can say now that despite my patience, developing a yoga therapy business is just not in flow for me right now. What I mean by that is that life has a certain flow to it, and we’re not in control of the flow. Time moves without our consent. People come into our lives and leave again based on events and circumstances we may not even see. Things we want don’t come through, and things we never even considered asking for sometimes show up at our door and change our lives. Sometimes, what you thought was just going to be a hobby or a side gig becomes the center of your life. Sometimes a person you thought would be a fun fling becomes your life partner. And of course there are all the unexpected things you hope will never happen like Donald Trump becoming president and your mom getting cancer — things that turn your life upside down and make you question your naive perception of reality and your over-estimation of what you could control.

But about yoga therapy … Do you want a history? I’ll keep it brief. I started practicing yoga when I was 16, and it’s very possible that yoga saved my life. I was a closeted bisexual kid with an anxiety disorder in a religious southern town. I was terrified of my body, and I was starting to take refuge in drugs because I didn’t see any better options around me. Yoga became a safe place for me, and it’s something that I have continually returned to when in need of support and self-care. After grad school, I wasn’t happy with the direction my career was taking, so I reached out to yoga again and became a yoga teacher. I only managed to teach part time, though, even when my husband earned enough that I could afford to quit my day job and focus on teaching for a while. Teaching yoga as a full time gig is exhausting mentally and physically, and it didn’t pay what I needed to get by. I kept at it for a while, but as my business kept growing, the time I could spend on teaching kept shrinking. Then derby entered my life and I noticed that I had so much more energy for skating and cross training than I wanted to put into yoga practice and teaching. My heart just wasn’t in yoga anymore, but I kept teaching because I thought I needed to. I pursued further trainings, and I found Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, a method of practice that reached me powerfully. I had been working on healing the divide between my mind and body through my yoga practice already, but PRYT gave me a more advanced toolset for the work. I pursued further training in PRYT because it resonated strongly with me and I felt that I could help others with it. I felt that if I had the right tools to help people, they would show up and let me help them … and pay me to do it. That I could finally have a thriving career in yoga. But despite my training, my enthusiasm, and my dedication to the work, it just didn’t come together like that.

I have pondered the reasons for this, and they are many. For one thing, I’m bad at self-promotion. For another, I don’t like asking people for money. But also, I’m an emotional sponge and despite all that training, I don’t know how to turn it off. I take on the emotions of my friends and partners, and I found myself doing it in client sessions as well. After many sessions, I felt tired, unable to focus, irritable, and disengaged. Meanwhile, the business continued to grow without us doing much self promotion at all, and I found myself feeling guilty about the time and space I was setting aside for my yoga therapy practice. I was frustrated because it would appear that I do actually know how to build and run a business because I’m currently in the middle of doing exactly that … buuuuut I’m not ready to do it for two businesses at once.

As I pondered whether and when to end my practice, I sought the advice of my own therapist, several yoga therapy friends, and my close loved ones. I realized I wasn’t sad because I would miss practicing yoga therapy. I was sad because I was giving up on something that had once mattered so much to me. Nonetheless, it was increasingly clear that it was time to let the practice go. I tried to wait for the perfect moment. There is never a perfect moment. I did it anyway.

It’s been two weeks since I ended my practice. Prior to that, I was putting minimal time and energy into it, but it still weighed in the back of my mind like a responsibility I wasn’t meeting, a guilt trip just waiting … I had been avoiding looking at it for a while, so it just followed me around. I drew a portrait of it to post on Instagram, and now I want to draw a whole series of the monsters that live in my head.

Anyway, I was right about one thing: Letting go of the practice immediately freed up a significant amount of mental space for me. It feels like a huge boulder has been removed from a rushing river. Where there was turbulence and spray above the surface, there was also undertow beneath, and now the water flows more evenly over the remaining, smaller rocks. My life is still a rushing river of events flowing mostly without my control, but the river no longer looks flooded and treacherous. In the next few weeks I hope to spend some time weighing the ways that I’ve changed since starting my PRYT training in 2014, to take account of the things I’ve learned, and to really consider where I can apply that on my journey forward. I won’t start that list here and now because I’m sure it’s exhaustingly long. I’m hoping that what I’ve learned will serve me well. I feel clear now that the self-work I did in the course of my training was the real point of the experience for me, and that although I am done with the yoga-as-career phase of my life, I will probably never be done with the work.

Here’s to the next phase of the journey,

Mary

Art is Magic
Suddenly, she had an idea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *