How Yoga Changed My Life: Finding my Dream Job at 21 Years Old
I’m not the most experienced instructor. Heck, some teachers have been practicing for two decades; I’ve barely been alive for two decades. I struggle with hands-on adjustments, and “on your next exhale;” I may never get rid of all of my “filler words.” But I do know one thing: I love yoga and I love teaching yoga even more.
I’ve been practicing for about two years, and have been a certified instructor for less than four months. But my life has changed exponentially since becoming a teacher. Everything changed when I got serious about yoga and for a long time I never intended for it to be anything other than a very personal practice. I never thought I’d lead between eight and 10 classes of up to 30 plus people weekly. But then again, I never thought I’d do a lot of the awesome things I’m doing now.
Before I began my teacher training, I was a lost soul… to make it sound kind of poetic. I had been dumped by my high school boyfriend of two years and had spent all summer getting drunk, smoking cigarettes, and spending time with boys who only texted me after 11 p.m. I’m not proud of a lot of the decisions I made, but they did make for some pretty good stories and some even better lessons. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom, which looks a lot like your best friend’s bathroom floor at 3 a.m. post-“we thought jello shots would be a good idea” before you end up in tears on your yoga mat, feeling like your heart got ripped open and healed all at the same time. I had to keep running back to the same person who hurt me, and then I had to look for love in boys who would never care about my favorite color or what my middle name is before I decided that I had to love myself.
I didn’t realize how important that was until I got assigned self-love as a goal in my yoga teacher training. It was the women in my training constantly reminding me to be patient with myself, praising me for my accomplishments, and telling me that they loved me that really began my self-love journey. I write and talk about self-love a lot because it’s something I’m still struggling with, but it’s also something I wouldn’t have even attempted if it hadn’t been for yoga.
During my teacher training I got the courage to quit my dead-end retail job and threw myself into yoga and writing. I started writing for online yoga publications, was approached by Bad Yogi (you guys rock!) and practiced yoga several times a day. I ate, slept, and breathed yoga. When I was asked why I wanted to be a yoga teacher my answer was “because I believe yoga can change the world.” Now, I know this to be true because it has changed my world. I am so passionate about teaching yoga because it is on my mat that I first learned that I was good enough. I know a yoga teacher who ends all of her classes by saying “If you haven’t heard I love you today, I love you.” The way her classes made me feel is what I wanted to embody as a teacher.
I’ve taught at my studio, a variety of gyms, a police academy, on high school football fields, in parks, on rooftops, and at community centers. I’ve taught veterans and troubled youth how to touch their toes and stand on their heads. I’ve volunteered more hours that I can even count and my heart has never been more full.
I don’t have a stable job with a regular salary anymore. I have two jobs that depend on how many people come to my class and if editors like what I have to say. I rely a lot on my parents, and get by from class to class and story to story, but I have never been happier. Teaching yoga is my dream job because I am getting paid in so much more than money. Money can’t buy the feeling you get when a breast cancer survivor hugs you and tells you that she’s started yoga just after finishing chemo. Money can’t buy the feeling you get when a military veteran tells you that he couldn’t imagine his life without yoga. Money can’t buy the feeling you get when your little cousin comes to your kid-friendly class and tells you that she wants to be a yoga teacher when she grows ups. Money can’t buy the confidence I’ve gained from teaching yoga. Because I’ve met the most amazing, encouraging people through teaching yoga at my studio and at my CrossFit gym, I am now training for my first Spartan Race. Yoga has ignited my passion for competitive athletics and CrossFit training, which has transformed more than just my physical body.
In addition to writing about and teaching yoga I’ve also continued to study psychology at my university. Through my work with a non-profit (Veterans Overcoming Obstacles) I have found a passion for military psychology and a desire to fulfill a need for holistic healing for veterans who suffer from anxiety and PTSD. In January I will further my yoga teacher training with a “military and trauma yoga” course because I cannot imagine a time in my life when I will not be teaching veterans. I have thrown myself into everything from grant proposal writing to weekly evening gratitude meditations with Veteran’s Overcoming Obstacles. Those Friday night meetings have contained some of the most meaningful moments of my yoga teaching career.
Although I lack the experience of a majority of teachers in the fitness industry, have given up a regular paycheck, and have had my share of stupid alcohol induced adventures, I believe that this Bad Yogi is exactly where she is supposed to be. I’m not perfect, I can be naive, and I’m not sure what will happen when I graduate college and when I have to get a “real job,” but I do know that I will always teach yoga. Because at 21 years old I have found my dream job and instead of getting home from a house party at 5 a.m. I now wake up at 5 a.m. to flip tires, climb ropes, bust out a few sun salutations, connect with and impact my students, cry tears of joy, write about it all, and then wake up and do it all over again. I don’t know much, but I do know that I am the person that I am because I’ve gotten the chance to teach yoga and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.