You Never Know
By Bernadette Birney
“We all have gifts and talents … squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or 'too bad' if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle.” ~ Brené Brown
Jeez, tell me about it!
My twenties were in their death throes when I registered for my first yoga teacher training. At the time, I thought being a grown up meant obligatory pantyhose and going to an office every day. My vision of maturity had as much appeal as an adult diaper. It was small wonder that I was skedaddling in the opposite direction.
Like so many waiters before me, what I really wanted to do was write. Unfortunately, the market for awkward poetry was as nonexistent then as it is now. My quandary was that I couldn’t earn a living doing work I wanted to do and I couldn’t even pretend to want to do work at which I could actually earn a living. It was a pickle. I felt disconnected and weighted down by the feelings that result from failing to find meaningful work: emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment and even grief.
Now I’m not recommending this strategy but instead of getting career counseling I went to yoga. Lord knows I never planned on becoming a professional yoga teacher. I could barely even manage that Crow Pose. But I loved the way I felt at the end of vinyasa class—sweaty but somehow pure. When the studio offered a teacher training, I signed up. I figured I would deepen my practice while I figured out what to do with my life.
Twelve years later I have a successful teaching career. Who’d have imagined that my love of words would find its expression in the poetry of the body! Not me. Not only have I found meaning teaching Darien locals every Tuesday and Thursday morning at Elements Yoga, I’ve found my people, too! It turns out this pantyhose eschewer relishes being part of a wholehearted community. Had I remained in that Brooklyn garret, I would have missed that experience.
Since that teacher training I’ve had all kinds of adventures through yoga. I made my closest friends. I got to—finally—develop a sense of belonging. I got comfortable in my skin.
I started a blog and have made friends literally all over the country! I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of them and teach in their studios. My work has brought me as far afield as India, Costa Rica and Mexico. It has opened up more doors than I could have envisioned. I even finally had the thrill of being paid for my writing when I was published in yoga journals!
One day I crossed paths—through yoga, naturally—with a woman who was steeped in life coaching techniques. (To be honest, I’d thought life coaching was made up, bogus profession. I was wrong.) My life was routed in yet another unexpected direction.
For years I had found myself frequently staying after class to answer questions, and advising students on all kinds of situations by email. When I realized that I’d been unofficially coaching people for years I decided to pursue a formal life coaching training. Now I not only reap the benefits of working with a coach myself, I coach others in reaching for their own dreams. I have yoga to thank for a second business.
My point here isn’t to offer you my résumé but rather to call your attention to a ripple effect. I never had inkling the future held so many fulfillments. Doing that first training bumped me up against ideas and people I would have never otherwise encountered. Doors opened on streets I’d never even considered turning down solely because I leaned into my pleasure and indulged my interest in yoga. One decision altered the course of a lifetime.
From that first training years ago I have some kind of crazy yoga-full-circle: today I train yoga teachers. Who’d have thunk? Now I can’t promise that if you train to be a yoga teacher you’ll have the same monumental results I had.
But you never know.
Bernardette Birney teaches a class on yoga teacher training at Elements Yoga and Wellness Center, 354 Heights Rd. in the Noroton Heights Shopping Center.