This came up in a class yesterday and I think it needs repeating today. If you want to have a happier life, never do as much as you can.
It's funny because when I said it in the conversation, everyone laughed as if the idea is funny. It’s almost like someone who works 70 hourrs a week and doesn’t take lunch breaks is suddenly a better person than someone who works 60 hours. And then there’s the fellow who rushes in saying “yes, well I worked 80 hours last week and my mother had a heart attack and I kept working” and somehow that makes him a better employee? This is not for me.
I was discussing how come I don't teach as often as I used to and that there are many other teachers that are out there teaching 20-30 classes a week. I even have one colleague that took his first full day off from work last week in four years. Four years of non-stop teaching!
As a yoga teacher we run around a lot. We are all over the city trying to get from location to location and then instructing others to relax and breathe and slow down and be more calm, all the while looking at our watch and hoping we have enough time to grab a bit of food and maybe wash our feet before we head onto the subway to run to another class we have to teach in 30 minutes on the other side of town.
And I get it. We love what we do but sometimes the challenges of money and this profession, to be sustainable, have us going above and beyond.
I have spent the past few years playing around with this question and trying to come up with a sustainable financial future as a yoga instructor - and it's a daunting challenge. Lately I have found a great balance and some opportunities came up that have allowed me more freedom.
I looked at my needs and desire in life and used that to form how much I need and broke that down to a bare minimum class number per week. The result has left me with space right now. I have time to make my food. I can make space for friends and family when they need to chat or talk midday. Mostly I have time to just sit. I have been known to get lost in thought while on my mat or sitting in a park or many times at my desk.
There will be a time when I am back in school again or that time will be taken up with other things but right now it is the incredible pleasure of having space. My sleep has been better and most days I don’t have to set an early alarm. I have been able to focus on my nutrition and health. Make extra time to rest and recover physically. It also gives me time to plan out sequences and play with body movement ideas for the classes I do still teach, and have a chance to research new sequence and movement ideas.
There are days though that I have much to do and some times I can get overwhelmed and forget that I have other options. I remember one day I was talking with a friend in-between a packed filled day of appointments and work and he was sharing a personal event that happened in his life that day and I blurted out in frustration “what does this have to do with me right now?” He paused, I think stung. And I heard it too. Ten minutes later I called him back and apologized, to which he suggested that maybe all the things I need to get done that day don’t need to get done that day. And I spent the next five minutes after thanking him and apologizing again re-evaluating the next 24 hours. Found myself a window of blank time and used it to eat, have a hot bath and go to bed early.
It may seem like a simple thing, but it is an important reminder. It happens so easily. To-do lists get long and the world we live in seems to reward, encourage and acknowledge multi-tasking and people who live constantly on the go. But it’s a never-ending cycle. And as a yoga teacher who helps share not just physical asana but the embodiment of yoga and yogic philosophy in a digestible way to others, I have found the best way to teach or instruct this lesson is to live it. Take a pause. Breathe. Answer a question another time. Not everything in life is an emergency.Some things can wait. So “if you want to have a happier life, never do as much as you can”.
My hope is you can take a moment and think about that statement. See if there is any truth in it for your life. If there is, think about how to go about it, what would that mean in a small and simple way? And in doing so, I hope that you find a greater space for peace and rest.
You can also check out this article for one idea on how to do it.