Yoga Off the Mat

When I first found yoga in the midst of my career change, it was nothing more than a stress-reliever. Each night after work, I would head over to the studio and shut off my mind completely, focusing exclusively on pose cues from the teacher and the steamy temperature in the room. Yoga was a way for me to tune out my days as a litigator and escape the nagging feeling that I had created a life for myself that just wasn’t quite…right.

As time went on, each workday became an intermission of sorts before I could go to yoga class. It didn’t matter what cases or clients I had to deal with during the day because at 7:00, no matter what, I would pack up my bag and head to the studio. My time in the studio became sacred, a quiet place where I could stop pretending to be a lawyer and just be regular old Elizabeth.

It came as no surprise that my fears and self-doubt started popping up during my yoga and meditation practice in the weeks that followed. If I went to a restorative class, my mind would slowly drift to questions like, “What am I doing?” or “When will this job get better?” Likewise, whenever I was walking home from a powerful vinyasa class, thoughts about leaving the firm or becoming a writer began to surface. These thoughts became more and more frequent as the weeks went on, making it that much more difficult to pretend that everything in the litigation world was peachy-keen.

Things peaked around March when I was meditating at home one Saturday afternoon. I was sitting on my mat in my sunny living room, listening to my breath, when all of a sudden I broke into tears. Not casual, “oh I’ve had a bad day tears,” but full-on sobbing (I think the kids these days call it “ugly crying”). I sat there crying about everything- my enormous student debt, my lifelong dream of becoming something that wasn’t what I thought, the horrible way my boss talked to me, the panic attacks I was secretly having on a weekly basis in my office, and even how much I hated wearing a suit every day. All at once, the emotions I had been pushing down for the past month flooded to the surface like a tidal wave, and I could not ignore them anymore.

That morning I learned a valuable lesson that has stuck with me ever since: yoga isn’t an escape or something done exclusively on a mat. To the contrary, yoga is a way of life. Yoga is a path inward, a way of exploring every inch of yourself (even the parts that experience pain, shame, and fear) and learning to accept all of these parts as a beautiful, complete whole.

From that moment on, I started using my yoga classes as a way to inquire about myself: Was I really happy in my job? What did I see myself doing for the next five years? Was I being true to myself? Would this job allow me to continue being true to myself? And most importantly, what could I do about it?

When I opened my heart to these questions, I slowly started taking the lessons I learned in class into other aspects of my life. Instead of rushing out of work to escape everything in the studio, I would enjoy a leisurely walk home and think about the future. Instead of immediately turning on the TV when I walked into my apartment, I would catch up with family and spend time with my boyfriend. Slowly, I started feeling  more like myself than I had in months, which paved the way for me to make the decision to leave the firm.

Today, as I sit in my parent’s beautiful apartment in New York City writing this piece, I can’t help but realize just how far my life has come. Four months ago, I never would have had the time to visit my family on a regular basis or enjoy the city that I now consider my second home. How lucky I am to have found a source of income that not only allows, but encourages, balance in my daily life.

So here’s to the past few months and the many lessons they taught me about myself, and to a future filled with endless possibilities. I cannot wait to see where my yoga practice will take me…after all, if it’s already taken me to the streets of Park Avenue, who knows where else we can go together.


The Yogi Lawyer

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