I had the good fortune to meet Rebecca Bly during a yoga teacher training nine years ago. Her beautiful practice and authentic quest for knowledge suggested great things to come, and her journey has delivered nothing less! After some serious soul searching, Rebecca quit her career as a software developer to become a full time yoga teacher and wellness coach, founding Live Beyond The Mat to help people to find peace and balance in their day to day life. Rebecca describes trading in her pencil skirts and a windowless cubicle for yoga pants and sunny studios as the best decision she ever made, and four years later she’s proud to say she’ll never look back.
In the latest installment of our Trailblazers interview series, Rebecca shares her story and encouragement for fellow travelers...
At the beginning of this month, I invited readers of the New Beginnings newsletter to join me in the pursuit of being oneself. The work of integrating the many roles we play and the quirks that make us who we are is not easy, but the reward of an authentic life makes the challenge worthwhile.
No matter how disciplined we are in our routines and how carefully we craft our self-image, we are all full of contradictions. When at work we may drill down, silently focused on executing the task at hand; while at a dinner gathering with friends just an hour later we might be the life of the party. We may insist on a pristine, organized desk but choose to let chaos and clutter reign in the kitchen. We might confidently command dozens of students through a bold, energetic class but shy away from one-on-one small talk before or after. These types of inconsistencies are integral to who we are; rather than trying to explain or justify, it can be freeing to embrace them.
Can you stop trying to mask your imperfections and instead see the beauty they reveal?
As I mark the one year anniversary of this venture, I continue to tweak and refine the balance of work, play, and rest in my schedule. While I began with a desire to silo and separate the different elements into discrete blocks for writing, teaching, serving, and learning. I am discovering instead the value of integration.
My initial theory was that by creating days dedicated to one or another type of activity, I could truly focus and invest 100 percent of my time and energy without interruption. But in practice, it never worked that way. Questions and meetings about a writing project would sneak into a teaching day by way of a phone call or email. The travel schedule of a private client would push a teaching block into a writing day. The shelter at which I was volunteering asked whether I could teach a weekday class rather than serve breakfast on the weekends.
At first, I tried hard to keep gathering up the elements and sorting them back into their "proper" places, but I soon realized the time I spent organizing and reorganizing was squandering resources I could instead invest in things I need and want to do.
We are all more than the sum of our parts, and we needn't be defined solely by our jobs, hobbies, or relationships. Letting go of the need to identify as a teacher, or writer, or volunteer, or friend/wife/daughter/mama has allowed me to relax and ease into these overlapping, complementary identities and let them enrich each other - and me.
Can you integrate the pieces of your life and allow the whole you to shine through?
The first time I assisted a yoga teacher training, I said to myself, "How amazing would it be to do this for a living?!" Years later, I am grateful to say that I am - and it is...
Last weekend, I worked with an inspired and inspiring group of yogis who were just beginning their teacher training journey. No matter how many times I have the opportunity to do this, I am struck by how rewarding it is to witness as a collection of strangers transforms into a true community with a common commitment to learning and sharing their knowledge with others. The experience never fails to leave me with a fresh burst of enthusiasm for my own yoga practice and teaching.
This principle extends far beyond training yoga teachers: anytime you can light a fire within someone else - and empower them to do the same - you set into motion a cycle of perpetual reward. An investment in the life of another inevitably yields a return in your own.
How can you bring cheer to another today?
If you are like me, you enter a new year full of enthusiasm and ready for a fresh start. As the holiday festivities wind down, you target January 1 to jump into (or out of) whatever habits you have identified as ripe for change.
New Year's Day arrives, and you find yourself in a honeymoon period - of course you can find time to read, run, cook, [insert desired habit here] - it's a holiday! But a day or two (or more) later, you return to work or school, and by the time you get resettled, half a month has passed, and you realize your most sincere intentions have fallen victim to old routines...
If this sounds familiar, I have a secret to share (...shh...don't tell anyone...) Improving and removing aren't limited to January 1! Some habits are harder to break and some routines more challenging to start than others. It may take more than a goal or resolution to alter a long-held pattern - and you may not be able to do it alone. That is why I was thrilled when my church announced a 10 day "reset" fast beginning last week. The idea was to join together as a community in giving something up for 10 days to make room for greater clarity and (re)establish healthy boundaries in our lives. A fast doesn't necessitate giving up food, but I recommend choosing something equally important in your routine - whether coffee, wine, social media, or anything else you look forward to and will miss. This will keep your pursuit at the forefront of your mind all day, every day.
Over the past 8 days (just two to go!), I have appreciated this opportunity to take a closer life at the habits and patterns in my life, and when I feel tempted, I am grateful for the camaraderie of those sharing the journey.
Is there an area of your life that needs to be reset? Can you ask a friend, partner, or higher power to help you take a small step toward an important change?
Last week I blocked off an entire afternoon to finish a few projects and check off some lingering "to-dos" from 2014. But as I worked diligently away, new, more time sensitive work items trickled steadily into my inbox, pushing off my ambitious agenda-clearing plans. As I watched the clock, I grew increasingly anxious that the work I had so eagerly anticipated finishing would not be complete before the window of opportunity closed. Sighing, I shut down my computer and headed home.
When I arrived home, I found my sweet girl in her new toy kitchen "cooking" for her menagerie of birds, bears, and babies. She is entertaining herself! I observed. I should use this time to check a few more items off my list!
And then she began to sing...and any hope of concentrating on work was lost. As I watched her lovingly serenade and feed her companions, I understood immediately that the moment was vastly more important than my own agenda. I closed my computer, sat on the floor, and helped myself to an enthusiastically prepared strawberry, fish, and cheese sandwich. It was delicious.
Can you give yourself permission to accept what you have been able to accomplish and pause to experience what really matters?
Elected officials, senior executives, and the rich and famous often employ an individual to serve as their personal gatekeeper. This critical person is tasked with sorting through the endless requests for meetings, determining who merits a place on the busy schedule, and ensuring everyone adheres to the established agenda.
Few of us have such a luxury in our personal lives and must instead do the work for ourselves. I understand the value of gatekeeping and make it a point to schedule with intention and preserve open space on my calendar, but as soon as I establish boundaries, it seems someone - or something - manages to slip right through...
Over the holiday break I was approached with a seemingly ideal teaching opportunity. The venue and students sounded fun, the timing lined up with an open block on my schedule, and the location was convenient, but a nagging voice in my head urged caution... I asked for a few days to consider the offer, and as I pondered the opportunity from every possible angle, I tallied up a trusty pros and cons list.
Despite every rational metric - from logistics to growth opportunities - pointing to "yes," something held me back. As I considered the possibility, I couldn't shake the image of an unwelcome visitor sneaking through my gate. So against the prevailing logic, I respectfully declined. And the moment I did, I felt the disappearance of a burden I didn't even know existed.
Are there opportunities you need to turn down to preserve (or create) margin in your life? Can you guard your gate?
I shared this quote in the New Beginnings newsletter that hit inboxes yesterday. In a simple, succinct thought, Thoreau highlights our all-too-frequent tendency toward self-consciousness, while at the same time offering an elegant solution.
Whether consciously or otherwise, we often look outward before deciding how, when, and whether to act. What if instead of seeking approval from family, friends, and colleagues, we simply allowed ourselves permission to just be our authentic selves?
As we begin a new year, can you give yourself permission to be you?
Be careful. Be good. Be nice. The instructions we receive from parents and caregivers from our earliest days are rooted in a desire for our safety and socially acceptable behavior. They repeat these directives over...and over...and over...until we eventually internalize them and behave according to prescribed norms.
But long after the formal guidance ceases, we continue to look for cues as to how we "should be." We seek approval - consciously or otherwise - from family, friends, and colleagues - and strive to fit the expectations of a particular situation or setting.
It is natural, even necessary, to focus on the interests of others in conversation - and I know I am not alone in tailoring my presentation to my audience. When surrounded by fellow parents at a park or playgroup, I put on my mama hat and talk about kiddos and their antics. When with friends from my Hill days, I dust off my political cap for a discussion about current events. When with yoga clients, I don my teaching beret, offering instruction and guidance. The danger comes if and when we begin to deny certain parts of ourselves for the convenience of others and consequently lose sight of who lies beneath our hats.
Have you ever stopped yourself from contributing to a conversation because you were worried about what others might think? Have you ever missed an opportunity to connect by over-analyzing how your overture might be received? Have you ever held back part of your true self out of concern for what kind of impression it would make?
A new year is an opportunity to do things differently, and I am naming 2015 the year to "just be..." Won't you join me?
A new year provides a new opportunity to renew our commitment to dreams, plans, and passions. If you are dreaming of starting a family but facing challenges, consider joining us for an upcoming four week workshop on yoga and fertility. As someone who struggled to become pregnant – and one who has studied the therapeutic benefits of the practice, I have experienced and seen firsthand how yoga can be an incredible help for women who have been unable to conceive and/or carry a baby to term.
The Yoga and Fertility workshop brings together women who are sharing the infertility journey - from those who are beginning to explore their options to those who have been struggling for years. Seasoned yogis and newbies alike come together to learn from one another and help facilitate the healing process.
The combination of a therapeutic asana practice, time for meditation and reflection, and an opportunity to create community has helped dozens of women find healing and release from the burden of infertility. If you live in the DC area, I invite you to join me beginning next Wednesday, January 14 for the fertility yoga workshop series I am offering at Tranquil Space Studio.
If you live outside DC, send me a note. I would be happy to help you find a resource in your area and/or develop a home practice and virtual community to support you along the way.