This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Marcie Leek. Marcie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ten years ago, I taught my first English class. I had returned to college after a many-year gap and was pursuing my master’s degree in English as a Second Language. I had never taught before. It was terrifying and thrilling.
As I made my way through school and into my career, I became more comfortable with teaching by creating a lot of external support. I pored over the essays I would teach, I wrote detailed lesson plans and assignment sheets, and I commented heavily on my students’ essays, believing that this kind of attention would both foster a relationship between us and help them learn how to correct their mistakes. In prioritizing my teaching, I unconsciously de-prioritized the rest of my life. There just wasn’t enough time for everything. Time spent with friends lessened. My house was often chaotic because I had neither the time nor energy to clean it. I even ignored my body: if, while grading, I realized I needed to use the bathroom, I would wait until I had graded “just one more.” And then another.
I believed that this commitment to my profession and my students made me a good teacher. I thought this was what my bosses and mentors appreciated when they gave me glowing recommendations. I couldn’t see how to teach otherwise. Eventually, of course, I burned out. I got to the point where I couldn’t imagine teaching again. I was exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally. I took time off with the intention of moving out of my head and into my body.
I knew I could do this through yoga. I started attending classes regularly at Whole Life and was reminded of how comforting I found it to be led through a class and then to be given permission to simply rest. There were times I felt such relief to be there – knowing that I had prioritized this quiet and nourishing time above all else – that when I sat down on my mat I teared up. Going to yoga classes consistently, and then going through teacher training, helped me build a bridge between my body, my heart, and my mind. Rather than letting my mind, with its fears and dependence on the external, run my life, I am learning to pause.
I have learned that this pause will allow me to find my intuition, what yogic tradition calls my Self, and that this inner voice will never steer me wrong. It tells me when it’s time to take a break from work – or when it’s time to see a friend or play with the dog rather than working. It tells me when I need to settle down – that I’m caught up and will start to make potentially harmful decisions about my work life (too much) or my personal life (too little). I’m learning to listen to my Self. I still have thoughts of “just one more,” and I suppose I always will. The difference now is that I prioritize the voice that quietly says, “You need to pause now” and, more often than not, I actually listen.