How Yoga Kept Me Sane While Unemployed
Last year I decided to leave my exciting job in social entrepreneurship in the Dominican Republic to return to the States. Go to grad school. Get a job in DC. Stop playing around and get a real paycheck. Find a partner. Make a family. Do this in approximately 3.5 years.
I spent my first day off doing whatever I wanted: hanging out with friends, drinking a beer at 11 a.m. (hey, it was hot) and chillin’ out maxin’, relaxin’, just like the Fresh Prince himself. Except this didn’t feel so fresh. After a month, the feels started to come on strong: What was I doing with my life? What was I thinking leaving a paying job without having a new one lined up? Where was I going to live? What type of partner am I even looking for? Am I doing this because I really want to or because I think I should? The societal shoulds turned their game on strong- as did my inner critics. My parents luckily, stayed out of it. Finding myself back at my childhood home after a decade of independence was as expected, infantilizing. My family was accepting and let me do my thing, giving me the time and space I needed to figure my shit out. Except I couldn’t. Make. Up. My. Mind. I lived for the next year in a self-imposed purgatory. What did I want? Unable to leave a romantic partnership abroad, unable to commit to a new position and career path in the US I found myself moving nowhere. For someone who has always been in forward motion, making plans and charging full-steam ahead, I felt stagnant. Stuck in the mud.
During all this inner turmoil I found solace in one thing, my yoga mat. As someone who has had a fifteen plus year relationship with yoga, it represents the one constant in my life. As my monkey mind went on overdrive I knew the practice would at least give me calm. Yoga is my default when I’m lost and not sure what else to do. Despite periods without a regular studio, consistent practice or motivation, my body finds itself called back to this ritual. After a few downward dogs my muscle memory clicks, my body just needing a gentle reminder. Wake up! With yoga I’m forced to only be one place at a time- the present.
When I’m trying to find the balance between effort and ease in a Warrior Three, the only thing I can focus on is my breath. There’s no space for anything else. No anger at my partner, no practicing interview responses or planning lunch post-class. Mind chatter paused. Just breath, body and grounding thru whatever foundation I can muster. It’s thru this focused practice and presence that I can create space. When my yoga is on-point, I become more vulnerable, I open my heart to feel what I’ve been busy ignoring. In the calm, in the stillness, my truth is revealed.
These feel-good things: self-care, taking time to pursue individual hobbies, commit to what brings us joy, can easily be pushed aside when we are in job search mode. I don’t have an income. Who said I can do fun things? Every waking minute must be spent in pursuit of my new path… except that the only thing this leads to is self-loathing, burnout and maybe the retention of a few cortisol-induced extra pounds.
The more I practice yoga, the more I am able to elevate my spirits and my vibe. I find community with fellow practitioners and more peace with myself and my situation. I witness and feel the changes in my body and the shifts in my mind that continue to take place even after I‘ve rolled up my mat. Instead of hating this intermediate waiting period, the time to ponder, I’ve come to appreciate it and be grateful for the choice and freedom in engineering my own life.
In yoga we are forced to listen to our bodies. Do what it is asking for. Go deep. Go inside. Look at all that stuff we’ve been avoiding. In order to learn and evolve we must be present, not perfectionists. The baggage of past attempts, the anxiety of what others think only inhibits our progress; all that unnecessary stuff must drop to the side.
I’ve spent the past year distracting myself. Making to-do lists and organizing my family’s life (ahem, see not wanting to examine my own), applying for 70+ jobs, conducting over 30+ informational interviews: doing, moving, going. All this unfocused action was noise.
Somehow, this ancient tradition allowed me to breathe thru the uncomfortable, times when it didn’t feel like everything would be okay. It forced me to sit with myself when I wanted to crawl out of my skin. It taught me to accept where I was, what I was capable of in that moment and refrain (or try as hard as possible) to not judge myself for being where I thought I should be.
There’s times that I’d find Tadasana, hands in Anjali mudra, catching my breath post vinyasa and simply feel my heartbeat. Maybe I came into class beating myself up, harsh inner critic raging about unworthiness, inadequateness, yadda, yadda. Now how could I not feel purpose and connection? Or pure joy for being alive? I exist. I am. So there. That is enough. I am enough.
Yoga was the catalyst, a practice that got me closer, that prepared me to clear out the mental interference so I could tune in and hear clearly. Instead of shoulding myself to a solution, I check in with my intuition instead of forcing things. Now I’ve made my decision from a place of alignment. I’ve been able to take action. The choice itself doesn’t matter. The Universe has reassured me I’m exactly where I need to be.