A riches-to-rags tale, or a rags-to-riches tale, depending on how you look at it
Everybody loves a good rags-to-riches story but you never hear about a riches-to-rags tale with a happy ending. That’s what I feared most about quitting my job in corporate America and ‘throwing it all away’ for yoga.
I’d saved money to leave my home, friends and family in Australia and move to New York. I worked at the worlds biggest PR company in the middle of Times Square with a competitive team. It was an admirable position if you’re in to depressing offices, long hours and 10 days annual leave.
New York winters are bleak but they didn’t compare to the grey-on-grey bleakness of the office I worked in. I remember one morning particularly well. It was -25F and I trudged through the snow to get to Times Square. I slipped on some black ice and my hip slammed on the pavement. My contemporary, casual office outfit was dirty and wet and I was freezing and sore.
When I arrived at the office I noticed someone had erected a limp, blow up palm tree to “brighten the place up”. This was a creative agencies best attempt to add value to our day. Around Noon, just as my hip pain subsided and my pants dried, I heard a siren in Times Square. Apparently there was a bomb threat just below my office at the Navy recruitment center.
Through these wonderful, cheery days of corporate hell yoga became a sanctuary. Even though I wasn’t particularly experienced at the practice of yoga that hip-slamming, freezing, bomb-threatening day I considered enrolling in a yoga teacher-training course to increase the nurturing factors in my life.
When I expressed my desire to do teacher training with my boyfriend there appeared to be an obstacle. My boyfriend had previously dated a girl who had run off with a strange cult. He was worried it was all happening again. He was convinced that just like his ex I might come home talking about giving all my money to an imaginary life force being channeled through a lady in Ohio. The poor guy, I could understand his fear.
My parents asked me what I was going to “do with it”. My friends asked me if there was decent money in teaching yoga. I asked myself why I was going to spend a few thousand dollars, 200 hours, and every weekend for the next four months doing this.
I took myself up to Sonic Yoga in New York to speak with the head of teacher training, Johanna Aldrich. Johanna was, and still is, a tall, skinny, gorgeous blonde with a smile the size of a piece of watermelon.
She politely suffered through my interview-style questions about the course. Looking back on it I cringe at the memory of the arrogant, corporate me asking lovely Johanna what Sonic’s “value proposition” was. She was patient and lovely. I’m stubborn and guided by whim so I signed myself up.
My first day at ‘school’ was awkward. I was worried about my outfit. What would they think about my fancy new Lululemon clothes? I was mildly shocked when I entered the studio and looked around. There were 30 very strange looking circus folk in uncomfortable looking poses.
These strange hippies had obviously all brought their lunch too because there was a pungent smell of lentils and other hippy food. Perhaps this expensive and time-consuming course was a bad idea. I wondered if the lovely watermelon-smiling Johanna would consider giving me my money back.
Regardless, I stayed on and over the next two months I was taught about anatomy, yoga scriptures, theory, teaching, breath work and meditation techniques. After a few weeks we were asked to lead a class to the other teacher trainees. I worked on my segment for weeks.
I taught my first class and I was shocked at the effect it had on me. I felt like I was ‘conducting’ an orchestra and it looked beautiful. My fellow teacher trainees sensed where I wanted to take the class and helped me get there.
Watching 30 people move in unison is a special moment for any yoga teacher trainee. Bare feet and sweaty bodies bouncing off colorful yoga mats in unison. The sound of sticky toes peeling off the yoga mats at the same time. This was a better symphony to my ears than any opera.
As I looked at the group as a thing of beauty I noticed the beauty of all the individuals. They were all beaming at me. They all wanted to help me conduct a great class. It was such a quaint and non-competitive gesture and with this sensing my heart shifted and something softened, as I saw that this moment as a part of a flow, a permanent, changing reality – my new reality.
Considering I had gone to a fiercely, competitive, all-girls boarding school and moved to a competitive city in a tough job, this shift towards softness felt radically different.
During the training the main message that kidnapped my thoughts was the importance of tempering the ego. I walked into that course with a competitive attitude and I left realizing that competition and ego were the two things holding me back in my relationships, my yoga practice and my happiness. They still are, but I work on them every day.
My ego was the reason I couldn’t quit a job that I loathed. My ego was the reason I nearly didn’t sign up to teacher training. My ego was the reason that I saw those 30 stunning yogi’s as ‘weirdo’s’ on that first day.
A lot’s changed since that first day. I told my boyfriend that I was proud to be a part of the yoga cult. He came to a yoga retreat in Guatemala with me and ended up doing more yoga than me! I quit my job. I left New York and moved to the beach in Santa Monica. I started three businesses, one of which is an online platform to help yoga teachers raise awareness of their skills in their ‘hood called My Yoga Avenue.
Now, I know yoga teacher training might not seem like an amazing achievement for a lot of people. It isn’t climbing Everest, or surviving a shark attack, or surfing the world’s biggest wave, but feeling proud of the path you are on, quitting a job you hate and supposedly ‘throwing it all away’ feels pretty bloody good. Plus, it turns out, the past two years feel more like a rags-to-riches story rather than the other way around.
Charlotte Crivelli was born in Australia and lives in Santa Monica, CA. She has combined her passion of yoga and her 12 years of marketing and PR experience to create a website to help yoga teachers market their skills, My Yoga Avenue. Teachers create a profile on My Yoga Avenue. The site is aggressively marketed to yoga enthusiasts who search by zip code for teachers in their ‘hood. Included on the site is a blog where Charlotte posts marketing tips and tricks for yogis. Charlotte is a 200 hr RYT with a bachelor of communications in marketing and communications.Prior to creating My Yoga Avenue Charlotte worked in the PR and marketing corporate world in New York and Sydney, Australia. She is relieved to have exited the corporate jungle, grey offices and 10 vacation days per year.