I’m not quitting my day job (hashtag svādhyāya)

Over the past weekend, I not only taught two community classes, but I worked quite a bit at my day job. (Well, “day” job–the truth is, since I work for myself, I generally set my own hours and it’s not always during the day, depending on how distracted I’ve been.)  My alter ego is an attorney. I’ve been practicing for nearly seven years. Currently, I’m in solo practice, handling appeals.

Since completing teacher training, I’ve been asked by a few people whether I’m going to quit being an attorney and teach full-time. My answer has been an unequivocal “no.”

Let me explain.

There are a couple of reasons for my answer. First is the simple fact that I went massively into debt to get my law degree and pass the bar, so I might as well do something with it, right? I figure I should at least practice for a little bit, just so I can say I’m a lawyer and I didn’t take out all those student loans for nothing.

Second, I actually like what I do, for the most part. I like the legal research and writing. I like coming up with persuasive arguments. And I like to feel like I’m doing my part to help in our screwed-up system. Bonus: being on the appellate side of things gives me a lot of flexibility with hours and location–really, I just need my computer and a reliable Internet connection to do my work. And usually–unless I have a deadline or something–I can do it at any time of the day, which is really great.

But right now, for me, the biggest reason I’m not planning to quit being an attorney and teach full-time is because I don’t want to burn out on it. I love yoga. I love my practice. I love teaching it. But I remember what I went through went I first became an attorney and didn’t have a full-time job somewhere. I raced around, covering court appearances for other attorneys all over San Diego (and sometimes outside San Diego). I wasn’t really practicing law in the way I wanted to–I was just trying to make money. It was stressful and not in the least bit enjoyable. It wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I fear the same thing if I were to teach yoga full-time. I’m not under any illusions about what that would be like. I have friends who teach yoga full-time. I’ve seen what some of them have gone through, even the ones who would be considered generally successful. I know the work and effort they’ve put into it and continue to put into it. I’ve also had at least one friend burn out. I’ve heard of some of the sacrifices they’ve made and the truth is, I’m not ready for that. I’ve already been through it, in a sense, when I started my own law practice. I’m not prepared to embark upon another career with that much uncertainty. I don’t want yoga to be a source of stress in my life. Yoga is what keeps me sane and I’d like to keep it that way.

In thinking about this question, as well as other events in my life, I realized something: my career is not my passion and I’m okay with that. For years, I thought I wanted/needed to be passionate about my career. After all, we see things like this all the time, don’t we?

c185b9670e946ab4febccd7806f5a344

I used to think that was the goal. I used to think I needed that. Now, my perspective is a little different.

4cac362da858e9c4c96f83c6f91fee5c

For me, my passion and my career, my life and my livelihood–they’re separate. And knowing myself like I do now, that’s how it should be. Growing up, I had a tendency to go all in on things and burn out. That’s what happened to me when I thought I needed to be crazy passionate about my job. Don’t get me wrong–I’m passionate about the cause I serve in the work I do. If you know me, you know that. But it doesn’t consume me the way I previously thought I needed it to. It’s not my only passion. It’s not my life.

So when I say I don’t want to teach yoga full-time, it’s not because I don’t love it. It’s because I don’t want to lose my passion for yoga. It’s because I still want to love it in the years to come. I’m accepting who I am, even if it’s not who I thought I would be, and loving her all the same. (Hashtag svādhyāya.)

Maybe things will change. Maybe they won’t. Regardless, right now, I am both an attorney and a yoga teacher and that will continue for the foreseeable future. Both experiences shape my perspectives and shape my life and I’m not willing to give that up just yet.

Ego, ahimsa, etc.

When it rains, it pours. And sometimes that’s your own doing.

A couple of weeks ago, I rolled my ankle pretty badly while doing some acro. I fell out of a pose in a washing machine and landed with my ankle rolled. At the time, I didn’t think too much of it. It hurt, but I could walk, so I figured I’d be fine. After all, it’s not like I haven’t rolled my ankle before. (I used to wear heels everyday and walk on uneven pavement. Combine that with a natural klutziness and, well, you get the idea.)

The washing machine I was doing was one I hadn’t done in quite some time. Moreover, I was doing it on my weaker side. Had I done it on my stronger side? No. I just decided to jump right in.

Oh, hello, ego.

By the next day, I realized my ankle was worse than I thought. But I still had to teach two classes that Saturday, so I did, trying to be careful about the weight I put on my ankle and the postures I demonstrated. If I could, I was keeping my ankle elevated and iced. I skipped practicing yoga on Sunday and Monday to give it a chance to rest. All the things I should be doing, right?

Last Tuesday, I was feeling better, so I decided to go to the Buddhi Flow class at 5:30 p.m. with Carolina. As a general note, I’m good about taking days off to heal. What I’m not good at is easing back into things (as evidenced by the initial injury.) But that day, I was mindful of my ankle and resolved not to overdo it on standing balancing postures or anything else that might compromise the healing process. And for the most part, I did, but I was so focused on my ankle that I forgot other parts of my body. I was so careful not to put any additional pressure on my ankle, but I did not exercise the same caution with my wrists and hands, in large part because I was just so eager to do something that I then overdid arm balances and inversions.

Ego, my old friend.

By the end of class, I was sore. Within the next few days, I realized that not only did my wrists hurt, but I had somehow jammed or strained one of my fingers. (Hence, the above photo.) I’m constantly accidentally still twisting that finger and putting pressure on it, just by doing normal things, which is making recovery agonizingly slow for me. It also doesn’t help that, in my day job, I do a lot of typing.

What did I learn from all this?

  1. No matter how long you’ve been practicing, no matter how advanced your practice, you can still be prone to the same beginner mistakes. In my case, I’m usually so diligent about where I’m putting pressure and weight in my hands because I’m prone to tendonitis in my wrists. Yet in that one class, I forgot all of my precautions in my desire to feel like I could do something.
  2. Ahimsa, ahimsa, ahimsa! Non-violence. Toward yourself. Take care of your body. Let your body rest. Listen to it. If you don’t, it will force you to. You hear teachers say this all the time, but we all can still make this mistake.
  3. Always keep ice packs in your house.
  4. It’s a constant battle against ego, even when you don’t recognize it as such. I thought it just felt good to get on my hands, since I couldn’t do much on my feet. It felt good to be able to do something. But really, it felt good to be able to “do something.” As in, I want to do things, let me do things, I don’t care about the results. Let me feel pretty and accomplished! Ego exists in all of us. I’m not going to say you should never want to feel proud or that you should never want to be admired. It’s natural to feel that way. But, as I learned over the past week and a half, when ego takes over and trumps mindfulness, the results usually aren’t good.

So, in sum, be mindful of your body and its limitations, even when you don’t want to acknowledge them. Take care of yourself, even if it means not doing things you want to be doing. A small voluntary break or step back early on can prevent a longer, involuntary break later.

And seriously, self, try not to overdo things. Please? I’ll help you out with that.