There are millions of yoga teachers nowadays. Some are more like fitness instructors, and others are more like spiritual guides. I would consider myself a hybrid: I love teaching people how to feel more embodied and attuned to their physical selves, and I also love providing tools and insight into the more subtle, spiritual elements of our lived experience. As human beings, we necessarily have to connect with this physical reality, but I believe that many of our individual and societal ails can be attributed to this disconnection from our energetic or spiritual self. In the realm of our energetic/spiritual self, there is no separation between you and me; we are intimately connected. So, when I am teaching a class, and I have everyone begin by meditating, there is a feeling that enters the room: the energy goes from an errant buzzing to a stillness, like all the divergent energies have now settled into one rhythm - Connection.
Since working as a yoga teacher and strength trainer, I feel that the work I am doing is valuable. Positive feedback from colleagues and students supported this sense of value. However, I had a very hard time telling "business people" my occupation without feeling like it was not enough. There is a perception that yoga teachers are just teaching people how to stretch and look fit. The title "yoga teacher" did not seem to encompass the breadth and depth of the work I was performing.
I also had difficulty communicating and grasping the value of my work because of the common belief that money is value; being a yoga teacher is not a lucrative career. It seems that society-at-large does not realize the rippling effect of this practice with regard to lowering stress-related illness and increasing overall well-being amongst practitioners. We yoga teachers are left feeling less than the rest of the working world; yet we are the ones providing the worker-bees with the necessary relief from the daily grind. It's a strange imbalance, and I continue to contemplate this paradox.
When I became pregnant, I was told by many women that this is the most important and valuable time in my life. Of course I knew what they meant, but again, society does not reward you for creating life and doing it in a healthy manner. The masculine, capitalistic society we have subscribed to expects us to create life while simultaneously creating an income, because the only thing of true "value" is money. I can't buy groceries with a pregnant belly. Again, the paradox.
This time in my life has been so curious to navigate. Because of my personal circumstances, I am blessed with the ability to take time off from working for the last 8-10 weeks of my pregnancy. I have been gifted this time to nourish my spirit, my body and the babies before they enter this world. Many women do not have this gift of time and space and must work a job until they pop. My mother and sister both worked until they gave birth; they are great mothers and humans. But I would have loved for them to have this gift of rest and self-care before birthing life so that they could revel in the miracle of pregnancy and have enough rest to prepare for supporting a new life. I wish this for every pregnant woman.
At this point, I do not have an answer to the paradox. However, I do know this: the most valuable thing in this life is learning how to grow our capacity to love. Love is complicated and multi-faceted, but mostly it is kind, compassionate, joyful and free. This is the only thing we can choose to give and receive, and the only measurable value when we are on our death beds. So, I will continue to do this human dance, navigating these waters, doing what I love and sharing it with others.
How do you define value? Do you have an innate sense that you are valuable just because of your uniqueness? Do you require an external validation to feel valuable? How do we, as women, find value in our immeasurable contribution to society, as birthers, healers, nurturers, teachers, collaborators and caregivers? Yoga teacher or not, as a woman, you have been historically under-valued and underpaid. Let's start a discussion and learn to reclaim our value, support one another, prop each other up and encourage one another to redefine "value."
In my next blog I will talk about my concept of the contemporary feminine, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic of comparative values. Please comment or write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With so much Love,