My Breakup with Yoga

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Five years ago, I was sitting on a screen porch in the Low Country of South Carolina, rocking gently in a wooden chair, sharing a coffee with a dozen or so extended family members ages thirty to seventy. I asked each, “What is the favorite job you ever had?”

Every one of them said, “Easy answer,” and they gave it directly.

At the end of the conversation, I said, “No one asked me.”

They said, “We don’t need to.”

They knew the life-affirming passion I had for my profession. I loved yoga. I read about yoga, talked about yoga, practiced yoga, retreated for yoga, ate like a yogi, and made a regular habit of taking time away from those types of vacations to go find a local yoga studio. I believed I was training every day for my next step: opening a community yoga studio.

It was my ultimate career aspiration. It was on every vision board for ten plus years, and it was named, renamed, designed, modeled and beloved even before I had signed a lease.

In December, I closed that studio without a second thought.

Truthfully, I’d been struggling to find the passion in my career since having my first daughter. Working in boutique wellness means spending nights away from home, working weekends, answering phone calls on holidays, and often putting in a year of teaching a class for two to five students before finally building a small community.

It was time I used to have and give willingly. It was time I now had less of and gave far less willingly.

Meanwhile, new teachers came up the ranks every day who still had that time. Millionaires and private equity firms invested major dollars in big box yoga chains. Instagram followers expected animated videos highlighting individual muscle groups when suggesting a posture. Yoga teachers had to increasingly prove ourselves by laying on more language, more corrections, more “I know more than the other teacher” comments.

And then, of course, 2020 came, and I just couldn’t find a reason to keep fighting the online video wars for a tiny piece of the yoga pie needed to keep my doors open in the rare chance we’d be able to some day recover. I couldn’t keep watching as more and more teachers posted their Patreons and their online studios in a gross competition with each other for survival.

When we closed, within weeks another studio filled the vacuum. Most people won’t ever truly notice the difference. Most people will buy the cheapest class package they can find – or visit through ClassPass if that’s their thing – and move on when they find something more convenient.

It’s not their fault. They’re consumers, not necessarily yogis, and consumers follow a predictable pattern of behavior that can be analyzed and targeted with enough marketing dollars. If you’re into that analyzing and that targeting, and if you have those dollars, you can make it work.

I just couldn’t make it work.

I know with tremendous confidence I’m really fucking good at what I do. What I did. I could layer 13 different elements into a class, from music to breath to energy to science to philosophy to a down-to-Earth life story to anatomy, and bring all that shit together in 75 minutes.

And this weekend, in a statement that would have surprised anyone who knew me, I said, “I think I’m ready to retire.”

And this week, in something that surprised me, I am feeling what I’ve started to recognize as heartbreak.

I don’t know where this heartbreak takes me. Perhaps I’ve simply fallen out of love. Perhaps I still love yoga so deeply that a separation is untenable and a reconciliation imminent. Perhaps – most likely – it’s somewhere in the middle ground. Most likely, I love yoga, but not enough to pay the high price required to continue making it my career. Most likely I’ll be that person on the mat next to you next year.

Most likely I’ll be on the mat next to you tomorrow.