Your "Should" and "Must" (and an Awesome Book)

“Should is how other people want us to live our lives. . . . When we choose should, we’re choosing to live our life for someone or something other than ourselves.
Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s that which calls to us most deeply. It’s our convictions, our passions, our deepest-held urges and desires—unavoidable, undeniable, and inexplicable.” —Elle LunaThe Crossroads of Should and Must

My yoga teacher opened class last week with a quote from The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna, a book I went home and ordered that very night. The quote was: “All too often, we feel that we are not living the fullness of our lives because we are not expressing the fullness of our gifts.” It was one of those memorable classes where the theme really spoke to my heart.

After class, I began to reflect on the last time I was at a major crossroads in my life and had to choose between what I should do and what I felt I must do. In 2011 my husband and I moved to the DC area for his job. Even though I have no doubt that moving was one of the best decisions we could have made for his career, our relationship, and our general happiness, I personally had a bit of a shaky start—particularly in the career department.

I had gotten a coordinator position in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington DC, one of my favorite places in the city. I was happy and grateful to have secured a job so quickly (especially after realizing that our cost of living would almost triple), but within months I realized that I was in the wrong place. I wasn’t happy, I didn’t feel fulfilled in what I was doing, and I felt as if a dark cloud was following me as I trekked from my house to the DC metro to my office and back again five days a week. I cried—a lot. People told me that I should feel lucky to have a job because some people aren’t so fortunate, that I was simply being too picky about what I was doing with my life. I tried to listen to them and justify my situation, but I couldn’t ignore that feeling that I didn’t belong.

Before moving to DC, I had worked for an independent publisher, and I knew that I truly enjoyed the work I did there. (I even wrote about my aspirations of working in the publishing industry in my application letter to Cornell.) I decided to take some of the things I loved about publishing—editing, writing, organizing, planning—and see what I could do with them.

In May 2012 I began to use my daily two-and-a-half-hour commute (gross!) to edit projects for various organizations. By October, a few projects turned into several projects, and I had more work than I could handle in my spare time. I needed to make a decision: do what many other people do and work a 9–5 at a more-than-reputable organization and earn a good paycheck and benefits but be unhappy every day or take a leap into the world of entrepreneurship and pursue my dreams (which is a bit scary to say the least). Any guesses? If you’ve read my bio, you know which path I took. Armed with Michelle Goodman’s My So-Called Freelance Life and the support of my husband, family, and close friends, I began Ford Editing—and the rest is history.

I know many people who live their lives as if they are checking off a giant list—like a life resume. They are so concerned with how they look to other people (the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality) or what they think they should be doing that they don’t take the time to really enjoy their passions, their relationships. I had several people try to talk me out of starting my business because “it was too risky,” and while I respectfully took their concerns into account, I knew that starting my business was a must for me, and I was willing to do anything to make it happen. And guess what? The rain cloud has long since lifted, and I can look myself in the eye every day with pride and fulfillment—and you can’t put a price tag on that.

Now, I’m not saying to go out and quit your job and start your own business, but I am challenging you to take a look at your life and your current path. Are you happy? Are you where you thought you’d be? Are you surrounded by people who lift you up? We make decisions, both big and small, in our lives every day—about our careers, relationships, passions, where we live, and how we take care of ourselves, among countless other things. It’s important to slow down sometimes and assess where we are in life and decide if that’s where we want to be. If not, we have the power to make things different. The decision between should or must will be one that we will be faced with over and over again. Which will you choose?

My Teacher Training Journey

Hey everyone! I thought I'd share a little bit about my yoga teacher training experience while it's still fresh in my mind (although it would be difficult to forget). I completed my training at Core Power Yoga, a company that has over 100 studios nationwide. Their 200-hour teacher training program is set up as an eight-week program, which turned out to be about 25 hours per week of yoga between lectures, yoga classes, reading, journaling, and writing. The lectures were held three times a week for three hours each, two on weeknights and one on the weekend. I completed my training in addition to 40 hours a week of editing, and although it was trying at times, I am here to tell the tale and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was intense, but the schedule worked a lot better for me than other training programs I researched, many of which require you to set aside your weekends for up to six months.

I started teacher training with the goal of becoming a yoga teacher (this sounds obvious, I know, but many people do teacher training for other reasons, such as deepening their own personal practice or learning more about the history of yoga). I knew I would love Core Power’s style of teaching, as two of my favorite yoga teachers did their training there, but I didn’t realize I would receive so much more than teaching tools during my eight-week journey. The training, in its intensity and gravity, really taught me a lot about myself and completely transformed my personal yoga and meditation practice.

I gained a lot of practical knowledge that has no doubt set me up to successfully share yoga with others, but I also learned a few valuable life lessons, which I’d like to share with you:

  • Trust your intuition. It will never steer you wrong. You know deep down what is best for you. Listen to that little voice inside and let it guide you—it will take you just where you need to be.
  • Happiness can always be found, even during the most challenging times in life. If you really look, you’ll find it.
  • Don’t take anything for granted. Nothing in life is guaranteed. Spend time with your loved ones and do the things that make you happiest. Consider starting each day by writing down three things you are grateful for.
  • Let go. Our bodies and minds are different from week to week, month to month, and even day to day. When you change your perspective to accepting where you are at any given point, you can do anything.
  • It’s about the journey, not the destination. Be grateful in yoga, and in life, for where you are in the present moment. It’s not about the end result but the journey and the lessons you learn along the way.

Making the choice to sign up for teacher training is something I’m grateful I did, something that has made a permanent mark and changed me for the better. Completing the lecture, reading, journaling, and class requirements was no small task and something that, upon completion, was really proof that you get out of something what you put in, not just in yoga but in life. My teacher training journey has taught me to be grateful and passionate about life, and has instilled in me a strong desire to share the benefits of yoga with others. I have met some amazing human beings and learned to love my body. The ways in which my life has been positively transformed are countless.

Have you ever considered teacher training? Let me know if you have any questions! I’d love to share more details with you.

On Chasing Your Dreams

As many of you know, I recently took the plunge and trained to become a registered yoga teacher. I’ve been doing yoga for over ten years now, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to go down a different path on my yoga journey. While preparing myself for this next chapter, I did some serious thinking about what it means to chase your dreams. Life is short, and each day is a precious gift. If you feel that hunger, that longing to try something new, take some time to reflect and think about what you need to do to make your dream a reality.

Aside from the logistics, here are a few truths you can expect when chasing your dreams:

  • You will most likely be going outside of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a tiptoe, a step, or a giant leap, going outside of your comfort zone can be, well, uncomfortable to say the least. I had never taught anything formally until teacher training, so I wasn't even sure if I’d like it—or be any good at it. It’s important to cut yourself some slack when trying something new. You will most likely slip up as you learnwe all doand you might even question yourself. Lean on friends and family when you have doubts and remember why you started in the first place.
“As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” —Robin S. Sharma
  • Some people won’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, and that’s okay. As with any decision, big or small, you will most likely have naysayers. In my case, I had an array of responses to my decision to become a yoga teacher, from “I’m so excited for you—you’re going to be a natural” to “You know the market is oversaturated, right? Seems like a waste of money to me.” Sure, teacher training is a financial investment, but for me sharing my yoga practice with others is about so much more than making a living. It’s, of course, okay—and even smart—to take varying opinions into account when making a decision, but in the end, it’s up to you. Your decision doesn’t need to make sense to everyone as long as it makes sense and is meaningful to you.
“Trust your instincts and make judgments [based] on what your heart tells you. The heart will not betray you.” —David Gemmell
  • There is no “perfect time.” Life can really get away from us. It's been six years since my husband and I had our first date (six years?!?!). Time seems to fly by in an instant, and we wonder how it’s even possible. Don’t put a date stamp on chasing your dreams. It’s easy to say, “After I get that raise” or “When the kids are older,” but why put your happiness on hold? Take the time to regularly evaluate where you are in life. Is it where you thought you’d be? Is it even better? Are you happy? Don’t be intimidated to take a step toward your happiness, even if it’s a small one.
“If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won, or lasting happiness achieved.” —Maurice Chevalier

What Yoga Means To Me

What do you think of when you hear the word yoga? Leggings, slow music, flexibility . . . pain? Many people think of yoga in this way based on what they see from the outside, but it’s much more than that.

“The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, direct and concentrate one’s attention on, and use and apply.”* In very simple terms, it is a Hindu philosophy that teaches one to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.* According to Deepak Chopra, yoga is not a religion but rather a “science of the self” that “seeks to help us understand our inner world through various techniques that include meditation, asanas, breathing, focused awareness, and certain rules of behavior and conduct.”*

While all styles of yoga can relax and ease the student, it’s important to find a style and instructor that best suits your specific needs. There are many different styles of yoga, so there is something for every temperament, body type, and age. For example, if you have arthritis or an injury, you might want to try Iyengar yoga, which focuses on alignment and precision in each pose by using different props such as blankets, bolsters, straps, and yoga blocks. If you are drawn to a more spiritual experience, you might be interested in the jivamukti style. The style of yoga I normally practice is power vinyasa, although I do like to change it up when I can.

I was eighteen when I tried my first yoga class, and at that time everything “yoga” was completely foreign to me. A friend from college brought me to a local yoga studio as her guest. I had no idea what I was doing, but I will never forget that first session and how it changed my life forever. I soaked up every feeling, every word, every sensation. I left the studio feeling more at peace than I’d ever felt.

That first class took place during a time in my life when I was most mentally and physically unhealthy—the very low points of my eating disorder. Through yoga, I learned to be more mindful of my thoughts, emotions, and actions, and started the lifelong process of learning to hold on to the good and let go of the bad. I learned to not take anything for granted. And more importantly, I learned to love myself, which gave me the strength to do what was necessary to get healthy again.

Today, yoga is a part of who I am. What started as a desire to try something new has transformed into a practice and one I’m very thankful I found. Over the past ten years, I have practiced anywhere from one to four times a week, and I’m seeing progress (both mentally and physically) every day.

So, is yoga right for you? You’ll never know until you try! Just remember that it’s more than leggings and slow music. Every person in the room will be doing the same pose in a slightly different way, and that’s the beauty of it—it’s very personal. It's about community and individuality all at the same time. All that matters is that you’re living in the present and doing what suits you in the moment, and this will change from class to class. It’s a great way to reset after a long week or to get ready for a new one. With all the hustle and bustle of work, family, friends, and life in general, it’s nice to have a safe place to push all that away and just be.


Sources

* Iyengar, B. K. S. Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga. Rev. paperback ed. New York: Schocken Books, 1979.

* “yoga.” Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yoga.

* “Is Yoga a Religion?” Yoga Journal, October 9, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/yoga-religion/.