Nine years ago, I attended a talk as part of a “Portland Young Professionals” series. I don’t remember the name of the woman who gave it - all I remember is that she was a soft spoken former ballerina who had started her own business. Her talk was simple, with no powerpoint slides or visual aides - but I remember her thesis so clearly:
What we offer our clients is often the very thing we deny ourselves.
When I heard it, I felt my heart drop.
I had recently moved to Portland, and was hustling my bustle around the city to teach yoga at pretty much any studio that would hire me. I was teaching 8-10 classes a week - some in NE, some in SE, and even two in Tigard. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I was biking, carpooling, and taking the bus everywhere. It was exhausting, but I put up with it because I thought that was what being a yoga teacher was: You pour your heart out, sacrifice your own body if you have to, and accept the fact that you’ll be traveling all over town, accepting shit pay - because you love yoga so much and you want so badly to share it with others and it’s an honor just to teach!
But I couldn’t remember the last time I had practiced yoga, for me.
Sure, I had attended lots of classes, but they were all in order to “check out the studio,” to network, to see if they were hiring and if maybe I could work there. It wasn’t forever, I thought - just until I had enough work to live off of, and then I could get back to my regular practice…
Damn that gentle ballerina and her truth bombs!
I’m embarrassed to say that it took me 6 more years and a global pandemic to realize more fully what she was saying. Then another 3 to more fully act on it (more on that below). But I guess I shouldn’t be embarrassed - because learning, and embodying, takes time…
So here we are, 9 years later, and this is how her talk is manifesting in my life:
Before I’m about to do something difficult, I pause to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” If the answer is, “Because other people want me to,” I make myself pause a little longer. I try to find a reason why I want to do it. If I can’t, I don’t do it.
Whenever I find myself teaching, or offering advice, I ask myself, “Am I following my own advice?” If the answer is no, I ask, “Why not? What would it take for me to follow my own advice? Can I give that to myself?”
I set aside time for solitude every day. Oftentimes, it’s in the form of an asana practice. Other times, it’s a silent solo-walk. Sometimes it’s listening to music and writing, and sometimes it’s holding a warm beverage to my heart and breathing deeply. Whatever form it takes, it’s a time to tune into what I feel, and what I need - which makes asking for what I need and setting boundaries easier.
Last month, I realized that one of the things I needed was help with my business. I had been helping other teachers with their businesses, encouraging them to ask for higher pay, to rely less on studios, to expand their offerings beyond drop-in classes and private sessions… But I wasn’t giving my own business the time and space it needed to do those things.
So I hired a business coach named Lindsay. We’ve met three times now, and I already feel more energized than I’ve felt in years. I am remembering how to say, “No, I don’t have time for that,” and “For the next __ hours, I’ll be working - please don’t interrupt me.” Also, “Yes, I need time for that, and I will prioritize it now.” I am also remembering why I do what I do - and it’s not “to support others in living more bravely and loving more fully.” It is to support everyone in living more bravely and loving more fully. “Everyone” includes me.
I am delighted, scared, exhilarated, and anxious to see what form my business takes in the next few months and years, especially now that I have a coach by my side. I know I will keep teaching, and I know I will keep practicing. And I am very confident that I will continue to lead more immersions and retreats - because they are my favorite things in the world!!! But beyond that, Sita only knows. I am as open as a ballerina’s hamstrings.