At the centre of all yoga practice, and indeed, life, comes that magical little term, balance. One dictionary definition of this mellifluous state of being is ‘harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements within a whole’. Makes sense, all the different parts of your life working in harmony with each other; work, family, home, friends, health, hobbies…Simple! So why does it always seem so complicated? Being the diligent yogi that I am, I attempted to find the sanskrit word for balance. I found 45. This to me, is reassurance that it’s not as simple as it seems.
My family always encouraged me to find a dependable job. My mum had worked in a family business her entire life. She worked long hours and often had to chase money. She wanted something more secure for me. So I decided to be a Primary School Teacher. You can’t get much more dependable than that, right? In truth, it was my calling. I never considered any other options. When I graduated, almost 24 years ago, it pretty much was my dream job. You worked with the kids all day, and made resources and put up wall displays after they left. We had a meeting once a week to discuss important issues such as the Christmas Show and Liz’s retirement dinner. But things have changed and contrary to the media driven stereotypical myth, teachers do work hard. Very hard. There are meetings in the morning, meetings at lunch, meetings after school and meetings in the evenings. There is paperwork coming out of your ears. There are new ideas every 90 seconds and they are implemented immediately. And then there are children. Don’t get me wrong, we love them all (;-)) but they are tiring. You parents complain two days into the holidays. Imagine having 30 of them, each with their own particular needs and quirks. Teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate and stress is the primary reason behind this. I was coping pretty well until my own little darlings came along but after that I felt like I was in the circus. Yip, chief juggler…
In an attempt to achieve more balance in my own life I explored alternative options for work. I left the classroom for an office based job. Bad move. There was travel and long hours. I was seeing less of my children than I had done before. However, if there is one sure-fire way to catapult yourself into action it’s by jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. This was not for me. So what next? I’ve always had an interest in holistic health and followed my passion for yoga. This felt right to me and even though it meant weekends away training, late nights of study and early mornings of practice, I threw myself in.
My vision was to bring yoga to all, from pregnant mothers, to children, teens, adult and the older population. Things are moving on and I’ve achieved so much in the 21 months since graduating as a Yoga Teacher. I’ve now taught pregnancy yoga, mother and baby, families, teens, adults and an over 55’s class. They haven’t all worked out but I’ve certainly enjoyed trying. I’ve also learned some lessons along the way:
- the first being that you can’t do it all, or have it all, for that matter. My early vision was admirable, but ambitious. I’ve had to re-assess my original plan several times as there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to teach all of these classes by myself. And I can’t be an expert in each of these areas of yoga, it’s vast. I would be master of none. So I’ve let some of it go.
- as I’m not in a position (who is?) to quit my job immediately and pursue my dream I have had to build up the yoga teaching slowly while at the same time gradually reducing my primary teaching. I now work for the Council 2 days a week and run 7 yoga classes. This definitely was a balancing act for some time and the scales often tipped in the wrong direction. For every hour teaching you have at least an hour’s preparation time. So I’m not working any less than I was before, just differently. People often forget this and think you are paid for the hour you’re there, but there’s much more going on in the background. Just in the same way as teacher’s don’t leave school at 3 but have to endure the dinner party jibes with a smile.
- the money doesn’t just automatically pop into your account at the end of the month. You have to ensure you are earning. You sometimes have to ask to be paid, which sits very awkwardly with me as I’m a people-pleaser at heart and hate to offend. You don’t get sick pay or holidays and if it snows and you cancel classes, that’s a week’s loss of earnings. There’s no pension. Granted, a teacher’s isn’t great but it’s there.
- you have to pay for your own training and CPD. I now feel so indulged as a Primary School Teacher to be allowed to attend a training course. I will never again complain about having to bring my own lunch. My own Yoga Teacher Training cost over £3000. This is extremely normal. On top of that there were accommodation and travel costs. In all honesty, I’ve never added up the total. You have to teach a lot of classes to earn that back. As a council employee I have attended some amazing courses and my travel and accommodation are always covered. There are so many hidden extras for the self-employed. You pay your own insurance and membership to the Yoga Alliance. You have CPD, similar to traditional teaching, but this has to come out of your own pocket. And it can be expensive.
- you may not see your kids more. I thought cutting down days would mean more family time but this hasn’t really been the case. It’s just been different. My children are teens now and it’s true what they say, they don’t need you less, their needs are just different. They still like being around me, which is amazing, but the guilt you feel for working intensifies when you work odd hours, such as nights teaching yoga classes. They’re proud of me for working so hard and achieving this for myself, so they are completely supportive, but there’s still that tug when I go to leave at night. Because of this I’ve limited myself to two nights for the time being. Constantly trying to balance the books.
- and one last one. You don’t get paid holidays. Ok, I mentioned this already but it’s a biggie. I feel us school teachers are perfectly justified in our rage over the nation’s ridicule of short teaching days, ‘you only work part-time anyway’, don’t you just love that old chestnut? But the holidays, come on, we can’t really argue with that one. I’d keep quiet in the future if I were you.
The grass does often appear greener on the other side. Despite all of this, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I do feel that after a couple of years of struggling to find the elusive work-life balance, I’m just about there. I love teaching in school and now know I would hate to leave that behind completely. But I also love teaching yoga to adults. Some days I can have a long leisurely dinner with the kids after school, some days it’s merely functional. So there we have it for the time being. The best of both worlds. Some days are structured and routine, other days I have a little more flexibility to play around with. In the words of the feminist icon Alanis Morissette ‘I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a peace sign’.
One final note, there may be 45 different sanskrit translations for balance but there is only one for contentment and that is santosha. It has a beautiful sound to it don’t you think? Who needs balance anyway?