The pandemic proved to be a blessing to my yoga business, helping me to (hesitantly) launch my work online which I had been wanting to do anyway. In March of 2020, I started by teaching a weekly yoga class which morphed into a women’s circle called the Soul Power Sisterhood.
My business was growing, more women were showing up, the group was getting intimate, and I felt incredibly alive.
In awe of what was happening, I added another weekly class, raised the price, and continued to dream about where this work might go.
The inconvenient truth was that while I was preaching the importance of sadhana, self-compassion, and self-care rituals, behind the scenes, my life was falling apart.
My house was disorderly, my marriage was distant, my children were disoriented, and my finances disorganized.
And eventually, as all unrooted things do, my online business flopped.
About a year in, my health started to suffer and I found myself energetically, emotionally, and spiritually wrung out to dry.
Impulsively, I closed the circle and stepped away, frustrating many of the participants, and letting myself down.
My ego, which had strongly identified itself with the work, the praise, and the perceived growth, was terrified.
What did this mean about me?
My reputation as a yoga teacher?
My financial future?
I spent the next several months in self loathing and fear, hooked by relentless critical self-talk, when I reached out to my yoga therapist, Chinnamasta Stiles, for help. With a loving yet firm hand, she encouraged me to find my way back to my yoga mat, recommit to the inner work, and come home to my heart.
Once I felt stable enough, I was able to get curious about how all this had happened: how did I get to where I was? What behaviors, actions, and beliefs had caused this to occur?
Looking at myself honestly has never been easy for me, though.
As a recovering addict, shame and self-loathing are samskaras that run deep. That’s why the path of yoga therapy has been so profoundly healing: because it assumes my goodness (rather than my badness) as the starting point.
Understanding the nature of trauma and the one addiction process that Durga Leela teaches has helped me to understand how my ancestors used workaholism, people pleasing, self-abandonment, and substances to survive the challenges of being a human and find fleeting moments of peace.
I could see now that these patterns were alive and well within me and, without a steady sadhana of my own, had been running the show.
Stabilized by my yoga therapist and my daily practice, I could see this experience with clarity and decide that this was a powerful growth opportunity rather than a collection of hopeless character flaws.
My rajasic mind (and our increasingly rajasic world) would like to convince me that taking time to pause and prioritize myself is a sign of weakness: that my worth is directly tied to what I am producing rather than inherent to who I am with or without a yoga business.
The trees that surround my mountain home model that production is only one part of the process: only producing fruit when they feel nourished, resourced, and when the timing is right. Staying close to them during this self-imposed sabbatical has been medicine for my soul.
This time in the desert — the sacred pause between death and resurrection — has allowed me to look honestly at myself, my life, and my values and to recreate my world from the inside out.
Because of it, I’ve chosen to slow things down, get to know my husband better, savor the sweetness of my daughters, spend time with good friends, and consciously decide what I value and who I want to be.
This is the power of svadhyaya when approached through the compassionate lens of yoga therapy: it helps us take our lives, and our power, back so that, with the help of the Divine, we can co-create a more aligned way for ourselves, instead of being run by the subconscious patterns of the past.
And while my yoga business isn’t thriving (yet), my house is clean, my kids are happy, my marriage is strong, my sadhana sustains me, and the simplicity of the sunset brings me great joy. This peace feels priceless to me and worth every uncomfortable moment.
Erin Alexander is a yoga teacher, yoga therapist in training who lives in the mountains of Northern California. You can learn more about her at allsoulsyoga.com