Diary of a yoga teacher in training: Finding balance in your life

childs pose

As a personal trainer, the more clients I trained, the more I realised that focusing on just exercise and nutrition alone isn’t enough to achieve sustainable health and wellness in modern society – not just for my clients, but for myself as well.

Yoga fills that gap, providing flexibility training, deep breathing development, stress relief, mindful awareness of your body and environment, and mental space in a world that’s becoming increasingly busy and cluttered. So last year I began a part time two-year diploma in yoga.

Here’s what I’ve been up to as a yoga teacher in training.

Last week I finally finished my 200-hour yoga teacher’s training hot on the tails of completing a certificate in postnatal women’s yoga. Two years of my life, a boatload of knowledge to process, a pregnancy, a 1-year-old daughter, and a postnatal body that is very different now from the athletic body I had when I started.

Much of yoga is about finding balance – both physically and mentally. So now seems a good time to reflect on whether I’m achieving it any better than I was when I started out.

I’ve spent most of my adult life struggling to find balance (as many of us do). I tend to be one of those people who packs my time out with everything that I can, then don’t realise I’m overworked and stressed out until I hit breaking point. This usually involves a bit of crying – I’m not typically a crier so I know something’s not right when it happens – and probably shouting at the poor husband about nothing in particular. This literally happened last night and no wonder given what I’ve taken on lately. It’s very un-yogic of me. I find myself thinking that a lot these days.

But as a wise yoga teacher once told me; yoga instructors don’t do yoga because we’re good at it, we do yoga because our lives are so crazy that we need it.

Finding the balance

As a general rule in the past, I’ve taken on more work, more coffee dates, more family activities, more studying… and very little has dropped away until I reach uber-maxed-out-frazzled-stressful-breaking-point (generally around every 6-8 months is my tolerance level). Then I strip my life back to the basics and create time for myself again, and the cycle restarts.

Fair to say it’s pretty obvious this is going to be an ongoing issue for me throughout my life that I have to keep in check, given I took on studying fulltime this past semester, while doing weekend workshops, while raising a 1-year-old, while continuing to work.

This past month I’ve been a pretty awful friend as I literally couldn’t handle adding catchups into my timetable. My only spare time was when Miss E had her daytime naps, and this became a choice of either (a) sleeping, (b) doing homework for yoga studies, (c) working on my blog or writing up client programmes, or (d) sorting the housework. Most of the time (a) would win out. Followed by (b) and (c) which took place between 11pm and 2am many nights. Basic necessities of life/compulsory deadlines and all that jazz.

Figuring out what’s important

I’ve come to realise this balance struggle will never go away; now that I’m done with my studies I’m already looking at the next course I can do, which playgroups I can attend with Miss E, how many yoga and fitness classes I can run given my timetable, and am toying with the idea of writing an e-book. *sighs*

What I do now though is prioritise what’s important to me. If I miss out on this stuff, that’s when the sh*t really hits the fan with me mentally and emotionally.

I always try to be home when Miss E wakes in the morning and when she goes to sleep at night. This sounds like an easy task, but the times people want to train and do yoga are these exact times which means my work life is taking a hit for now. And that’s okay, I’m finding other ways to work which allow me to do this but I acknowledge it will probably take a while to build it up daytime jobs. Baby comes first and they are only little for such a short time – they want and need all the love and attention they can get. Miss E thrives on routine so this is something I make sure I have time for.

I always have to do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Not just to control my PCOS symptoms, but to feel good about myself, feel stronger, and have the energy to run around after my daughter. This exercise looks different every day and is nothing like what it used to be. It may be a yoga self-practice at 10pm in my lounge. It may be some squats and lunges while holding my daughter. It may be a gym class. It may be a brisk walk around Auckland Zoo pushing the pram. It may be bouncing on the trampoline with Miss E in the morning (gently mind you; my pelvic floor muscles are still not quite up to it yet!).

And there has to be family time. We always try to have dinner together around the table as a family and it’s almost always a proper meal cooked from scratch with real ingredients. Even if Miss E is still finding her words and learning to talk, we have that real interaction with each other at least once a day (in front of the TV doesn’t count) and I know my family is getting decent nutritious food in the evening.

For the majority of the time these are my priorities and everything else gets fitted around this.

childs pose

A shift in views

My philosophy on health and wellness now is so different from what it was when I worked as a personal trainer in a gym environment. Even more so in the areas of women’s pregnancy and postnatal training. Over the past year I’ve also become a qualified pregnancy and postnatal yoga teacher (with plans to specialise in this area in the future, in addition to taking my advanced teacher’s training next year).

While I previously went with the attitude of train hard, eat less, do as much as you can, this frequently resulted in burnout. I now acknowledge that some days training hard would do more harm than good, eating less isn’t possible when you’re starving all the time from breastfeeding, and when you do as much as you can, you forget to look after yourself.

My initial yoga training is done but my teaching journey is just beginning. Stay tuned.

Love and light, Namaste and all that.

Ange x

Image / NZ Real Health

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