In my everyday life in Vancouver, yoga plays a major role in my identity. People know me as yoga classmate, colleague, teacher, and blogger. People whom I’ve never met know me as YogaSpy; my blog is our connection.
In contrast, my closest family members rarely mention my blog! They’re positive about it, but it’s not our main point of connection.
Even my yoga teaching, which looms large in my Vancouver life, seems to fade away. Visiting my parents at home, I do wear my yoga teacher with my dad, to improve his flexibility and posture (whether he likes it or not!). But my mini sessions with him never seem half as effective as my real classes.
Before a real class, regardless of my prior state, I gather myself together. I banish any distractions and I arrive with high energy and a smile. At home, I might be ensconced on a sofa, reading a book or typing away, deep in thought, when my dad says, “Okay, I’m ready for yoga now.” It’s a rare and fleeting opportunity, so I always take it. But it’s hard to switch gears in five seconds.
In a group setting, my teaching style is firm and directive, but tempered with humor. One on one I might come across as bossy–at least to my dad. “You don’t talk to your students like that, do you?” he once said.
In class, I’m stricter with students who can do more, gentler with those who can’t. Maybe I’m too insistent with my dad because I’m personally attached to him; I want him to do more.
A brief session squeezed in before dinner is adequate. But it’s no comparison to a full-length class that includes Savasana. I always feel rushed and abrupt. The balanced arc of a good yoga sequence is missing. But there’s never enough time or the right moment for a class during family visits.
I’ve sometimes felt unseen as the yoga teacher I am in my other life. Unseen as the current me. But I’ve also realized that to my family I’m not primarily a yoga teacher and blogger. Whatever I do in the yoga realm doesn’t matter if I’m a mediocre sister, daughter, or aunt.
Our karma in the moment
Around the New Year, I traveled to my sister’s home in California. My parents also flew in, and the visit was all about family. I gave my sister a few yoga tips, but otherwise did no teaching or blogging (and the barest minimum of practice).
Instead I read my niece’s Amulet books (a riveting graphic novel series by Kazu Kibuishi), spent two hours at an American Girl store, told nightly made-up bedtime stories, played Pictionary, staged adventures with dozens of Schleich animals…
I got to thinking about karma yoga and our “duty” in each circumstance of our lives. It’s a mistake to cling to one role, the role you might consider your most important, most successful, or most impressive. In a job interview, it makes sense to highlight one’s achievements, but I’ve seen people listing their degrees or name dropping their connections when it doesn’t matter a bit.
In contrast I’ve seen people who relate to others appropriately in the moment. They relate to peers as peers, to a child at the child’s level. Even to cats as if as cats, dogs as if as dogs. This is what it means to be empathetic and intuitive.
In my professional life, I’ve always known my roles and responsibilities. Sometimes, in my personal life, the edges are fuzzier and my expectations broader. In this New Year, I want to be clear on my karma in each situation. If I’m attached to my Vancouver identity when I’m with my family, I’m catering to my ego. That’s not karma yoga, no matter how much yoga I might do.