Labor Day Post: From Corporate, to Self-Employed, to Struggling Yoga Teacher, to Peaceful and Balanced

By the time you read this, Labor Day Weekend will have passed. Isn't it so ironic that the holiday designed to celebrate the Labor Movement is spent doing quite the opposite? (For most of you, at least. For the fellow hustlers out there, I see you, working hard on your vision in between the mini-breaks with friends). The thought of "Labor", "Work" and "Hustle" brings me down a trip to Memory Lane. To a time when I was still a Corporate employee with no vision, no passion and no drive...except to figure sh*t out because the feeling of dismay was growing on the regular. It's crazy how my life is just as busy (if not busier) but with so much purpose now.Still a lotta lessons, some that you may have already learned with hustling, whether it's teaching yoga, working in a start-up or raising your family...(You can skip to the end of this blog if you'd like to get straight to the lessons and action steps to take care of yourself!)

It was 9:05am on a Tuesday morning. Many years ago. Before me was a computer with a widescreen monitor attached to a strong metal mount. Scratch that. There were 5 computer boxes behind the monitor along with 5 more along the back wall. Bordered by ethernet cables, wires, power plugs mixed together like an electronic spaghetti, topped with blue and white plug-in adapters like plastic meatballs.

As soon as I sat down, turned on my computer monitor and logged into the system, there was someone standing right behind me, looking right over my shoulder. It’s a co-worker whose computer was malfunctioning. Some software was crashing. Some blueprint was not printing. A font had disappeared from someone’s Adobe Photoshop. A “fire” was needing to be put out because there was a deadline that was about to happen in 5 minutes.

12pm would hit, and I would take my lunch break and RUN. Well, I’d drive home first, then run. In my living room. Cardio drills in my living room as designed by the fitness instructor on the workout DVD. Intense High Interval Intensity Training to get all my aggression out onto the floor. Frustration from feeling so dead in a cubicle to make myself feel alive for 1 hour, just to drive back to this cold and barren cubicle for the rest of the day.

This was my life. Everyday. From Monday through Friday. From 9am to 5pm. I was a Tech Support girl. And I was unhappy. Imagine the scene from the movie Wanted, where James McAvoy’s character takes his computer keyboard and smacks it against someone’s face (except I simply wanted to defenestrate the keyboard out the window. Much more peaceful visual).

Thinking in college that Tech Support would be a good job to have, I realized post-college that it would not be a dream career to have. The desire to be outside, to exercise my mind and body, the vision of making ends meet without sacrificing my creativity...made it so hard to stay satisfied working in a corporate setting.

Ooh, what if I somehow inspire people through health and fitness? I’ve been eating a lot healthier, meal prepping, exercising so much and losing some weight. Yeah! I can do that! I can sell these workout DVDs I’ve been using!

That didn’t pan out so well. People wanted free information, didn’t want to buy the DVDs, asked for burned copies, and I was still feeling more burnt out from doing tech support.

There is a world out there, beyond all these CD-ROMS and machines, where people can make a decent living doing something they truly love. Residual income, passive income, work really hard up front, then just maintain the work while the income keeps going. Yes, there is. Now, where is that kind of world for me?

When you work an entire day doing something you don’t love, and you don’t yet have a passion that thrives in your very being, it can feel like a dead-end situation. I was in my mid-20s and I became depressed at the thought of living like this going into my 40s, 50s, 60s…

Maybe I’ll dive into Internet Marketing! I can write a sh*t ton of spam blog posts about something and make it rank highly in Google, use “Black-Hat methods” and collect Ad-Sense money! I don’t know what, but I’ll just write about a bunch of niches, the money will come in!

So began my endeavor to crank out blogs about everything and nothing. Depressing days turned into driven days. Eyes on the prize. The game: Get out of Corporate.

Well, the next one of those driven days rolled around and a co-worker named Cindy came by to chat. You know, to shoot the sh*t and talk about boys, partying, working out...and yoga.

Yoga? I’d never taken a yoga class before. I took a pilates class in college and it didn’t feel like much of a workout. This Yoga class that Cindy was raving about sounded like it could be more of an exercise than that pilates class. I couldn’t even touch my toes, didn’t feel very flexible, but if it’s a popular class for a Sunday morning it was worth a try.

The teacher’s name was Bryan Kest. The class style was Power Yoga. The duration was 2 hours. The line of students flowed out of the door, down the sidewalk, around the corner, and down the adjacent sidewalk. I still did not know what I was getting myself into. Thoughts of falling asleep on the mat were still pervasive. It was an early Sunday morning, you know?

Santa Monica, Power Yoga, Bryan Kest

With everyone inside the studio on Santa Monica Blvd, mat to mat, there was this jovial energy about the room. Some people were chatting with each other. Others were resting on their backs. Many girls were color coordinated with their yoga clothing. Some of their clothes looked f*cking expensive. Feelings of inadequacy rolled over me. I couldn’t touch my toes. I didn’t have any yoga fashion sense. Maybe I’ll just get through this class somehow.

The class starts, and the guy next to me is already dripping in sweat. The sweat is pounding the studio floor. Pitter patter onto the floor, and almost onto my mat. We are still in plank. When I say “we”, I mean half the room excluding myself. I am on my knees, feeling frustrated, feeling like the stiff electronic cords sitting at my office desk. I look at a girl who is wearing such a “perfect” yoga outfit, and Bryan says “it doesn’t matter if she’s got a cute sports bra on, what you’ve got is just fine”. Looking up at him, he’s talking to someone else. I think. But, he’s probably addressing all the girls in the room that are wishing they had worn something cuter. Somehow, we make it through to the end of the 2 hours. “Savasana” is the only time I really got to feel like falling asleep. If sleeping in sweat is what this pose is, it’s fine because I am that tired AF.

The class finishes, and this feeling of bliss comes over me. Wow, that was unexpected. It’s almost like getting high, except with a desire to eat clean food as opposed to junk food. This is good. This is great! What an excellent way to decompress before another week of Corporate.

Cindy and I took turns carpooling to this class for many more Sundays. Then, life took us both on very different tangents. I got laid off from the job, spent 6 months working on gaming Google with my blogs before they changed their algorithm, and started a small health coaching business that incorporated nutritional supplements. I ran with that for a few years, experienced a lot of personal growth and learned public speaking and life skills from some of the most inspiring people to-date, but I didn’t take very many yoga classes. I was so laser-focused on growing the business aspect. (Def take note of this, guys).

In 2012, I hit a breaking point. A roommate who was teaching yoga part-time and serving restaurants recommended that I take a yoga teacher-training class. It could help me practice yoga a lot better. Sure. Why not? Needing something to stimulate a life change, I went for it. Our personal teacher trainer was going to teach us about Vinyasa Yoga.

What’s a Vinyasa?

With no knowledge about yoga except the fact that there was a physical aspect to it, the entire teacher training process shed light on some of the other areas of the yoga world. We took turns teaching yoga to the community, got seriously critiqued, and bonded like family for those 3 months. The studio became our second home, a personal haven of peace and in-depth learning. Yoga took over our brains!

When Teacher Training was over, we all went our ways. Some became teachers, some remained students. As for me, I did both! There were several things going on that I asked myself at this point:

-There’s a lot of these mala beads in various studios. Almost every teacher is wearing them. I’m not really feeling these, is there something wrong with me?

-There’s a lot of teachers eating vegan and gluten-free. Some are saying not to drink caffeine, that eating unhealthy food doesn’t go with teaching yoga, but aren’t yoga teachers just normal humans that just happen to teach yoga?

-I’m not down to give up meat. (Oh, wait, that wasn’t a question.)

-I really, really like teaching yoga, but will I be good at this?

-I’m not into teaching any chanting, yet I’m not into the extremely acrobatic poses like many famous online yogis. Will students follow my guidance when I can’t do a one-hand balance on a telephone pole? Are there people feelin’ me on this???

-I’ve seen several yoga teachers not make full-time income--am I going to experience the same?

All these questions were kept silent. Feeling out of place, I almost like a loner, yet I was comfortable embracing these personal beliefs, lifestyle choices and style of practice.

Here’s one more question I asked myself, “if Yoga was started by a few guys who went against the grain of what everyone else was doing, and did this in order to disrupt the normal script and live a peaceful life, then how is this any different than how I feel about what the general Western yoga scene has turned into? It’s almost as though this has gone full circle, a circle of people who have gone rogue...”

This was how Rogue Yogi was born.

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Rogue Yogi is an alternative lifestyle brand representing yoga enthusiasts all over the world, practitioners who want to better themselves through the various aspects of Yoga without conforming to what they feel a “Yogi” has to be. Because Yoga is def a lifestyle. It’s a way of thinking, being and living. It’s a way to nourish the things that nourish us, and it’s a way to give less energy to the things that don’t. Yoga doesn’t stop at the mat. It goes beyond the physical strengthening practice and into the mental. So, it definitely can be practiced off the mat, when you’re on the BART and there’s delays, when you’re in an Uber or a Lyft and the other passengers are on their phone, or when you’re about to give a talk to a room full of your peers about taking care of ourselves…

The mission of Rogue Yogi is to provide meditation and physical yoga classes in-person and online, retreats to take the practice deeper and build life-long friendships around the world, apparel for people to feel self-expressed with the ethos, recipes for omnivores and vegans alike, inclusivity for all body types and sizes, underground music recommendations, and a place for unique personalities in this urban world.

That being said, Rogue Yogi isn’t for everyone. It really isn’t. I will not appeal to everyone and I get to remember that. It’s been an experience interacting with some yoga instructors who don’t agree with me on eating meat, and some studios that want to keep instruction as strictly fitness with no philosophy, while others do chanting and have some classes moving us through Vinyasas so fast that there’s minimal time to get connected with the body and practice mindfulness. How do I provide opportunities to share about Rogue Yogi in studios when I don’t want to conform to what the studio wants? There hasn’t been a studio, yet, where I’ve completely felt at home or resonated completely with their ethos. There won’t be much opportunity to seek out anymore studios to teach at because my husband and I are moving to Barcelona, Spain in a few months. (Another challenge to add to the list!). We’ll have to learn Spanish, remember the US time, and figure out how to grow Rogue Yogi on the Internets from overseas.

Guys, I don’t say this to complain or to make this a struggle. These are legit challenges, but they’re challenges that I am wholeheartedly taking on. These are experiences that I’m willing to mindfully go through in order to bring this mission to fruition. It’s so worth it.

How ironic is it though that I’m back at my computer, cranking away at not only blogs, but now also Instagram posts and videos, Pinterest pins, graphics for my private Facebook group/lounge “Rogue Yogis Run the World”, and teaser videos on YouTube? (Don’t worry, Google. I’m creating organic content about something I love!) Being at my computer to grow this online yoga lifestyle brand is almost a full-time job but the ROI may not be for a few years. How dedicated would I need to be to hustle at this in order to make this vision a reality? I’ve never done videos before. Never worked with sound recording. Never grew up knowing much about color theory to make graphics look appealing. Nevermind the fact that I’ve just NOW discovered several online yoga personalities who are already making a massive impact. YouTube is so saturated now. Facebook’s business page algorithms have changed. Is it luck that they knew how to figure all this out years before all this happened? Did I wait too long to take Rogue Yogi from its inception in early 2013 to roll into momentum now in 2016?

Add to this the fact that there’s all these classes I have to teach at all these different studios at all these random time slots, and all these classes I have to sub, and all this and all that...

Wooooosh…....thank goodness for Restorative Yoga classes. Gotta remind myself that! :)

Wait a minute. How ironic is it to need a reminder to practice the very thing I’m passionate about? That the one thing I practiced to recharge from Corporate workweeks, is the one thing I began to treat as an afterthought now that I was doing it as a living? Doesn’t that sound somewhat backwards? But, this is the reality for many yoga teachers, fitness professionals and hustlers of all walks of life. Many of us discover our career path, make the decision to go all out for it, get the blinders on, hustle hard, and put the very thing aside that should be the first priority: our SELVES.

So, what do we do, guys? What can we do to make sure we’re taken care of, so we can take care of others?

NOTE: I can’t speak for all yoga teachers and hustlers, as some of you may have figured this out way sooner than me! I know a few of you that are going about this with little stress, practicing all the things I’m about to say. To you, I say, YES. The rest of us can def learn from you :)

 

A Couple of Action Steps:

  1. Designate a time for you to practice yoga and meditation (a “NO MATTER WHAT” schedule)...being a teacher is about sharing your personal practice with your students. Sharing the experiences you’ve had, speaking authentically from the heart.

 

  1. Practice the art of saying “NO” with politeness and respect Know what you’re ok with being flexible with...draw the line somewhere (I understand that you need the experience in order to be considered to teach at better studios, just don’t sacrifice so much that you’ll lose the essence of who you are). Saying no to some opportunities won’t close you off to others.

 

  1. Create a meal plan for your nutrition (keep your body nourished if you’re on the go between studios). Bring meal shake powders, snacks, fruits, meal prep earlier in the week so you already have boxed lunches ready to devour. Coffee? If that’s what gets you by, you do you, friend!!

 

  1. Set aside a day/time block each week to nourish your other passions (creativity, art, leisure). Take yourself out on a date! Yes, a date!! You don’t have to spend much money. It’s more about being inspired by other people, things, experiences that get your energy movin. It’ll balance things out so Yoga doesn’t seem like it’s the ONLY thing you got going on (which can lead to the burn-out)!!

 

For your sanity, guys. If you want to do this for a very long time, try these tips out. See what works, leave what doesn’t! I do wish that I learned this earlier, but I don’t regret learning these lessons at all. At this point, it feels so great to focus on my personal yoga practice first. That my life stays in balance a lot more now than before. And when it goes a little off-balance, it’s a lot more graceful to bring it back. These realizations have made teaching so much easier and light. So fun and so much more attentive to the students. They get the best of me, because I’m doing the best for myself.

 

Hope this helps, Rogue Yogis. If you have any other personal words of wisdom on how to take care of you, comment below!

 

Love,

Julie (Your Local Rogue Yogi)