What do you do?


I traveled recently to the mid-west with my husband for his 30th high school reunion; meeting many new and amazing people. Having all the polite conversations for days; What do you do? Where do you live? What have you been up too? Any kids? Family still here in the area?

I found myself anticipating just when my husband would tell them that I’m a yoga teacher. I could feel myself tense up and realize that the next response is usually “I need to exercise more” or “I just can’t calm my mind to do yoga; its not for me”.  I just smiled and didn’t respond. How can I explain the uniqueness and magic of the practice in a loud and crowded room?  Inside I was wishing that instead of us labeling ourselves we could really go into who we are vs. what we do for a living.

I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure that there are many this happens too in many professions. In Washington DC it is quite normal to have the first question out of our mouth be “What do you do?”  As if we need to qualify if the person we are about to talk too is worth our time.  You say who you are by the kind of work you do and then the normal response from many is to equate by association with your experience. Instead of responding by asking more about that persons reason for doing what they do or why they enjoy what they are doing, we immediately turn back to ourselves.  Our egos take over and suddenly we are there boosting up our careers or jobs for the approval of others.

It reminded me of something Yoga Master Teacher Max Strom once said. He once said in a workshop I took that he was tired to traveling and telling a stranger on his flight that he was a yoga teacher. You have to overcome the obstacles and stereotypes. So instead he would tell them that he makes people feel good with their bodies and minds by teaching them to breath better. I admit that when I was a recruiter I did the same thing. If I told people I was a recruiter they would often say “oh a headhunter”. I would joke back – “sure but make no mistake, I want the entire body”. But I learned how to describe what I do first vs the title of what my role is to avoid being shut down by others.  If people get to know the person first they often can move past their habits and have a new or different experience.

I think I may have to do this more because Yoga Teacher is too generic as there are so many styles and kinds of yoga here in the West. I’m not a therapist by license but I know that what I’m doing is not simply exercise focused. For me the physical fitness is just a by-product of something much deeper.

I read a quote from Sarah Powers (A Founder of Yin Yoga) who said “My style is a cross pollination of Buddhism and Psychology which I have come to call Insight Yoga”. I think this is the closest to describing my style which is to combine mindfulness and awareness into the yoga. Breath is far more important to me than asana.  Each moment being reminded to bring awareness into now and our breath is just one tool that helps us do this. I also love talking about human nature and how our brain works so people can learn and possibly form some new habits.

The trip traveling across the country was a quiet time for me – as I was in the car 13 hours with my husband and two dogs – I found myself just enjoying the ride, looking out the window to see the farms and fields, and not being on-line. I found myself meditating on the next steps I want to take in my Teacher Training. What ways do I want to help others in my career?  I’ve been working with many injuries, rehabs and body types especially over the past year that are different for me and really have me grateful to teach yoga outside of just the studios and gyms.

Of course we all need a time out from our daily routine but it is good to return and get back to my routine. I’m still unsure of routes to take. Time and Cost are the biggest issue now that I earn less income as a teacher. I’d love to pursue Yoga Therapy but that is a $13k expense for almost 5 years. Next is learning to teach Military Vets. Also specializing more with Yin Yoga – as I would love to be trained by Sarah Powers after reading so much about her. I will continue to meditate on this and see where it takes me. That is something I love doing and when I can let go of what I want and see where it takes me I’m never disappointed.  More to come…