Losing my religion

Last September I got fired from my “home” studio. The place where I got my certification. The place where my friends challenged each other to become better teachers. The place where my boyfriend taught (he eventually cheated on me…problem solved.) The owner thought I was stealing email addresses from her computer system. (It should go without saying that I wasn’t.)

So, I went from spending 6 days a week at a place, knowing everyone’s name and feeling like a part of everything to…zip. Zilch. Zero.

Luckily, I had some wonderful yoga friends that picked me up off of the floor and thrust me into some lovely yoga situations. I taught at other studios and I started Bendo at the Zendo. I invented Emotional Rescue Yoga.

Honestly though, losing that connection to my “yoga roots” really hurt me, and I could not recreate the sustenance and the community that I had so valued there. Despite my amazing students and friends, I became really burnt out and I haven’t taught yoga in months.

Yup.

I write a yoga blog and I haven’t taught yoga in months. Ah, hell, it’s the internet, let’s let it all hang out: I haven’t taken a  yoga class in almost as much time.

I started sewing. I walked my dogs. I decorated my house on the cheap. But yoga? Nope.

Finally, this week I took my first yoga class in a while, and I was terrified. I felt like the new kid at school. I really wanted my mind blown. I wanted to have an experience that reignited my passion for yoga.

It was nice and that’s all. I could hear the excitement in the voices of the other students as they accomplished challenging poses. I remember being excited about that. I watched the woman next to me carefully lay out her yogitoes and wet it down delicately from her water bottle. I remember caring that much about my yoga environment.

I can’t get back to that place where yoga is a technicolor dreamland. It feels now like a dishrag-grey room in an ordinary building.

There are no tidy conclusions in this post; I just felt like sharing something personal with you. I don’t know how I feel or what I want from yoga at this point. It’s confusing and a little sad. A little scary.

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17 thoughts on “Losing my religion

  1. what a great way to either turn that dish-rag grey room into something, maybe not technicolor, but maybe something like lilac or bluge (blue/beige?). perhaps you’ll find your peace with it. perhaps you won’t. maybe doing it at home is where you should start? maybe it’s just sivasana at home? maybe not. i just like that you were able to be so honest and open here. brava!!!

  2. Thanks for all the details and here’s to growing from tough experiences. Totally understand your need for a break and to contemplate. But I hope you find your passion again for Yoga and not let one awful situation color your view forever.

    Just may take some time, Alison…

  3. I really appreciate your honest post. I’ve felt this way with my practice before. I always found that, as Erin suggested, practicing at home helps. It makes it yours again. Your energy remains around you and there is no one else to distract. I like to think that the dishrag-grey room has some pretty awesome characteristics about it too. Maybe you just have to look at little harder, it may not be as obvious.
    I wish you all the best, your post really touched me this morning.

  4. Your blogs are always so open and funny and kind and always speak to me. I am currently in training to get my RYT in hot yatra yoga down in Greenville, SC at 90 Degrees-they are awesome, love love my studio. But if I were to work there and lose that tie somehow, well, I can put myself in your shoes and it would suck.
    Esp when it’s something revolving around ego. Let’s face it, emails were not the issue. Like, reallllllly, EMAILS? WTF?
    Ego and jealousy on the owner’s part is most likely closer to his/her truth. Don’t let another person’s issues and problems become yours, even if you got some of the punishing, it isn’t about you when it came to that job. Be glad you are gone from that place!
    When God closed that door for you it is bc you didn’t walk out when you were supposed to! You are meant for much more. He is telling you via a “firing” bc you were not listening to Him! 🙂 Are you hearing the whispers?
    So, get back on your mat, every day, just a little and let yoga help you dust the cobwebs away. Listen to the whispers my friend.
    XXXX
    Namaste
    gina

  5. It sounds like a horrible and traumatic experience. Making yoga yours again is important. I had a discouraging experience in the art world a number of years ago, and in hindsight I let it rob me of my joy of art and museums for too long.
    My own yoga has taken me to so many unexpected places, and has put me on some pretty shaky ground, making me question my current relationship, my religion and my journey in life. But it has opened up new worlds, and continues to do so. Best wishes for your own journey!

  6. Ali, I congratulate you for removing yourself from what was clearly a toxic environment and successfully branching out to do great stuff. Such a feeling of loss from this experience brings to mind the feeling of disappointment in people or places that we thought were better than they actually are. Better to find out the ‘true colors’ earlier than later. On one hand, it is terrifying to be at these crossroads, on the other hand how exciting to have a one-way ticket towards your next adventure (yogic or non). There are so many more fruits in the world to discover.

  7. It’s nice to hear your voice again.

    I think I recognize that very same ordinary-looking room. Been there myself. Unfortunately, I think part of the circumstances are that most of the ordinary-feeling yoga rooms are, in fact, ordinary. Just my opinion on that, but it makes me sad.

    As far as the portion of dishrag-grey that you carry into the room with you, I also identify with that. I frequently carry that with me into classes. I’m wishing you the energy to just keep moving forward, one step at a time, until the time you happen across a rainbow. I’m rooting for you.

    I’m not big on the benefits of going through tough times for the lessons learned, but there are a lot of people out there who have had similar experiences. They could use you restoring a little technicolor to their ordinary grey yoga-worlds. I can’t wait to see that happen.

    David

  8. Oh, my dearest Ali. I’m sorry you had to go through such a painful and traumatic experience. You are, as you have been since we met long, long ago in a dingy middle school classroom, one of the most genuine, honest, charming, clever, and absolutely fierce people I know. I have always admired and looked up to you. Even though we lost touch for a long time, I am certain you’re still the same Ali I always knew: no challenge is too great, no single passion will ever be enough for you in life, and you are never far from the next great adventure you’ll embark on. Think about all the things you’ve experienced and accomplished! I’d be envious 🙂 . . . if you weren’t so consistently inspiring, motivating, and so unpretentiously eager to share what you’ve learned and what you’ve gained with everyone you meet. Whether your passion for yoga is reignited or not, I haven’t a doubt that you will pick up, carry on, and find the next amazing feat you will perform under this crazy Big Top of life. And yes, I just used a circus metaphor. Seemed appropriate. Remember . . . forwards, not backwards! Upwards, not forwards! And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!
    Love you to little Ali-bits and Ali-pieces. ❤

  9. Thanks for sharing this. I am pregnant (about nine months) and was doing Ashtanga before I got pregs, about three to four days a week. I can hardly walk these days. And I find myself learning more and more about my attachment to my physical practice since I can no longer do it. Relishing the other “hobbies” I can enjoy just as much. walking. reading. decorating and redecorating the nursery. It’s nice to get a similar perspective.

  10. Hey, Ali.. I clicked my way here from a link shared by a mutual FB friend. It’s feels serendipitous somehow, because in your experience, in you, I found a sister. And a matched namesake, too, if you can believe it (check it out when I say goodbye…).

    Without writing you a novel, I wanted to share with you a struggle that parallels your own. It’s important for me to do this because reading your story reminded me that I’m not alone. I’m not a hopeless shadow of the committed Yogi I once was. I’m not a failure or a fake. I’m open-hearted and full of love, and while these attributes (which to my mind, you share equally) are a sattvic blessing, they do not come unburdened. They are glowing gifts that we all truly desire and deserve. It’s just that sometimes it seems easier to use our heads, our egos, to attain them, rather than the vulnerable path, through the heart. Our vulnerability is an easy target, in a way. Suffering engenders a lot of negativity, including betrayal. I’m sorry hearts like ours have to bear it.

    I’ve gotten two pretty bad Yoga burns, and including those, about 3 or 4 combined ‘spiritual’ ones. I have learned some lessons from them, and well, I’m grateful. But I’m still learning. I’m still healing. And I’m not above my next mistake, or any for that matter. I accept that I will make more. And I love myself more at each precipice.
    So here, then, is my story in two parts… of how I fell off my yoga mat.

    (1) I fell in love with my first Yoga teacher at 18, a benevolent elderly woman who studied in India as a result of her family’s military station there in the 50s. Towards the close of a year under her tutelage she began projecting her problems onto me, over petty issues like day-late payments and misconstrued communication. After two months of devastating manipulation, I realized I was isolating myself (to explain this to friends/family only exacerbated the idea that Yoga was a cult, which despite this unfortunate circumstance, I was fully aware it was not). I finally decided this was unhealthy, that she was unhealthy, and got myself out. But I lost my certification. And I lost my beloved mentor, teacher and friend. Not to mention the group I trained with. To their minds her fabled stories about me were true. It’s hard to see a liar in the face of a saint.

    Interlude. I worked 70 hours a week in retail/restaurants for nearly a year to leave for YTT in India.

    (2) I moved to the oft-dubbed ‘Lotusland’ of Vancouver, BC, when I was 21 to go to school and to get away from home. I was a new teacher, with less than a year under my belt teaching Sivananda Hatha. After confiding in the Director of the local Sivananda Centre that I felt lost in the studios there without much spiritual component being taught, he told me I had come to the right place. He took me under his wing, so to speak. I spent all my time outside of work/school volunteering at the centre, often with Sri Venu. Whenever our sangha ate out he paid for my meal, explaining his charity was on account of my student budget. Each day when he dropped me home from the centre, he would lecture me on some yogic philosophy. I was loved at the centre, I had beautiful students, I loved everyone. But when Sri Venu and I started a kirtan ‘band’ together his motives became clear during our rehearsals. After months of trying to ignore his sly propositioning I confronted him about his romantic interest in me. He reacted with outrage: no way, no how, was my accusation in any way accurate. Already deeply conflicted about the whole ordeal, this just made matters worse… so after much deliberation, I decided to talk to a colleague and senior Sivananda teacher. She completely controverted the possibility of his interest, effectively diminishing my concerns to the wanderings of a feeble adolescent mind. I tried to continue as nothing happened but Venu’s continued attempts to seduce me and the idea that no one understood my situation defeated my best efforts. I confronted Venu again to no effect. With no other hope in sight, I cancelled my classes for the next term and stopped going to the centre. Venu bemoaned my resignation to my students and colleagues citing ‘mental illness’ as the impetus for my retreat.

    Ali. My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for what you have gone through. What you have to continue to face.
    Four years later I continue to face as much, and it has been two years since I last taught a class. While I have made some progress it continues to be a struggle for me to go to other teacher’s classes without feeling embarrassed–without feeling the emotions, thinking the thoughts so anathema to my humble yogi roots. I sought out other practices for years trying to reignite the technicolour spark you cited. And while I have found it in other places they were few and far between. I have been participating in plant spirit medicine ceremonies for the past 2 years to redeem my tired spark… and though the road has been long and winding it seems to be working.

    I don’t have a lot of wisdom to share but I have a lot of love and respect for your spirit… and I hope I’ve shown it. Finding my ‘tribe’ has not been easy, so when I see an old soul with stories not unlike my own, it gives me strength. So thankyou for that. Thankyou for sharing. Thankyou for your courage. You are a rare treat… a gift to the ailing parts of our world of promise and hope. Please message if you ever feel inclined, for any reason. I would love to hear from you.
    Much love, my sister. Namaste.

    Ally.

  11. Dearest Friends (new and old)
    I am so touched by your responses to this post. It was a little scary to share, but MAN, you all made me feel so wonderful. Much love to those of you who shared your stories…I certainly feel your pain. I wish you all a beautiful yoga or nonyoga future, and I’ll keep you abreast of what’s going on with me.

    Love, love, love,
    Ali ❤

  12. Sorry I’m late!
    Ali, this is awful news! I am so sorry! Your boyfriend cheated on you and you boss fired you? Well, there’s two options: send me their addresses, and I will send them a poo in the post. Second option: send me their addresses, and I will go round and kneecap them. Admittedly, this second option may take some time to achieve, but I’ll start saving up the aeroplane fare anyway, just in case.

    In the meantime, you always have puppies to play with and friends who love you 🙂

  13. Hi Ali,

    I’ve always enjoyed your charts and such on YogaDork and decided to follow the link to your site to see whats new. I guess whats new isn’t always great. I can imagine the hurt from what you experienced. I practice and teach at the studio where I started doing yoga. I’ve seen people at this studio go through similar experiences, and of course the history of yoga in America has its share of similar examples. Some observations I’ve made along the way: People are the same no matter where you go. Even advanced practitioners are capable of and frequently do fall out of alignment with Yogic principles. Teaching Yoga is not the same as practicing Yoga. If there is such a thing a “real” Yoga, its about the relationship we have with our Self (however you understand that). In being aware of your feelings and having the courage to share your experience, you are practicing Yoga. Thank you for continuing to share your practice with us. I love your light, good times and bad. Namaste’ Scott

  14. i was recently in a class where the teacher talked about her experiences with negative energy while teaching. the teacher said she had a training teacher who was hesitant to touch people in class and project her negative energy to them. the senior teacher told the young woman that we can send energy into the world, but we also accept energy. i have found thinking about accepting positive energy has not only kept me from projecting my negative energy but also makes me more open to the positive energy that imbues my life in unexpected places.

    best wishes for your continuing journey and practice.

  15. This seems like yoga to me! Lots of deep twists and bends and heart openers here. The mat will always be there when you are ready. I’m glad you’re making your way back. I was once “in a fight” with yoga for a year or two when my favorite teacher closed her studio. Took me a while to get back, and realize that it really is MY practice, no one elses’. Yoga will wait for you, whether it’s months or years. I’m glad you are practicing a bit now, too, I also like yoga best.

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