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Finding Purpose through Teaching Yoga and Pilates

Woman in a green dress walking on the beach
Walking on the beach

As I was saying in the previous post about getting from crappy jobs to finding purpose, when I started teaching Yoga I found what I did not even know I had been missing: purpose. In Sanskrit, this would be called dharma. In Japanese, ikigai. No longer did I feel the hurtful emptiness that seemed to make all my abilities, my studies, my days, useless. Mind you, my Mum thinks that “with all my degrees” I shouldn´t be “lying on the ground as a job”!! That was a hurdle, too. Getting across the message that this is actually a worthy pursuit, that is does people good, and that it does ME good, too.

We cannot change other people´s perception unless they want to change it, though, and all I can do is keep going in the direction that is flooded with light. Like Rumi would say, "When you step on the way, the way appears".

When I was writing a lot of stories, sometimes it was really hard and almost forced. Other times – the best times – a story would just seem to download itself, to tell itself to me, and all I would have to do was write it down. That felt so perfect, so right, and so rarely achievable. And other people did not necessarily feel that way when they read it. Now, though, when a practice goes really well, people feel it. They come over to tell me that it made their day better; that they look forward to it every week; that their back pain is gone or that they slept all night for the first time in ages. This has such a magic effect. And I know it isn´t me, it is Yoga, but still, I am the means through which this magic is delivered, and I am so, so honoured to do this. I feel like a wonderful gift has been placed in my hands and its light is never-ending. All we have to do is practise, and it will keep illuminating us.

Every day I remind myself to be grateful for this. I had some dark, dark times in my life (more on another post or two!) and back then it felt like things would never change for me. I had missed my opportunities (why didn´t I go to art school? Why did I not travel the world more? And so on and so forth ...) and my life was going to stay gray. There were moments of desperation, I will admit. I lost sight of what was important and could only see what was causing me pain and distress. To go from that to feeling like I make a difference and like I love my job is a pretty big step up!

I also qualified as a Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Facilitator, a goal I had been pursuing for a while. Being a highly sensitive person (HSP), I was drawn to ways to relieve people´s suffering, and found out that Yoga also has this special power. I studied remotely with the Justice Resource Centre of Boston for a year, working with a very qualified facilitator as well as with a group of peers, to understand ways in which the practice can make people feel safe and seen again. Every lecture resonated with me so deeply ... and every book I read for the course, every assignment, every workshop helped me understand a little bit more about what makes us suffer, and what makes us feel safe.

I also teach Prenatal Yoga, which, again, helps people connect – with themselves, with their babies, with the other people in the room. When my babies were very small, things got very hard for me (more about this in another post) and so I keep telling the ladies in the class that it is okay if it takes you time to connect with your baby, if you are not always delighted, if you are finding it difficult. I hope that, by normalising this, I can help them feel okay and worthy even when they have reactions, thoughts and feelings that do not align with the Hollywood version of happy motherhood.

Another qualification I pursued was Yoga for people living with and beyond cancer. This is called Yoga Thrive and I studied it with Tyla Arnason and Dr Nicole Culos-Reed of the University of Calgary. Here again was purpose – working with someone who needs to feel safe in their body, and who benefits from gentle movement and present-moment awareness.

Then came Pilates, a wonderful way to keep people safe by teaching them to connect with their core, to take care of themselves and to cultivate strength, control and flexibility.

It is incredible to feel that everything I do when working is for something – nothing is lost, nothing is useless.

If you have never tried Yoga, or maybe you did try but did not like it, I invite you to come and try one class. To move, to breathe consciously, and then to lie down in relaxation knowing that, in that moment, no one needs anything from you. This is your time, and you are SO worth it. I think, for me, this is one of the keys in Yoga: I teach girls in transition year every week, and what I tell them is ... if you take only one thing with you from our practices, let it be this: that you are worthy of love and respect. That by respecting yourself you teach other people how to treat you. That if someone is treating you badly, it is they who are wrong, not you who is causing it, so distance yourself from them. I really hope they do, and you do, too.


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