The Unlikely Yogi – How I Became a Yoga Teacher

posted in: Yoga 4

I’m a rock n roll, smoking, martini drinking, latte-obsessed Hairstylist… or, at least, I used to be…

When you think of a ‘Yoga teacher’, I’m not likely the image that comes to mind. So, how did a rebellious, tattooed, heavy metal lover become a Yoga Teacher?

Allow me to explain:

In 1998, a co-worker suggested that we all register for a Monday morning Yoga class together. Since Monday was my day off, and I’m naturally a night owl, I was less than excited about this morning idea.

Also, I had zero interest in Yoga, sure I had moved my body a lot in my past, I had been both a bodybuilder and a runner, but Yoga seemed a bit ‘woo woo’ for me. It brought to mind images of hippies in white clothing on a commune somewhere, not something I as a rebellious lone wolf could see myself doing.

But, with promises of lattes and door-to-door delivery, I finally caved in.

That first Yoga class completely rocked my world, in all the best ways. I had never felt so relaxed and centred. For the duration of the class, my mind focused on one thing and one thing only… Yoga. As an adrenaline-seeking, type-A personality, this was miraculous. I left the class feeling like I was walking on a cloud. I clearly remember saying to my friends, “I’m going to do Yoga forever.”

And so I kept going to classes long after my friends had moved on to other past times, and my relationship with Yoga deepened. I started going to classes more often and practicing a few of the poses I could remember at home. Yup, Yoga had begun to seep into my bones. I was hooked. Gradually, my practice of Yoga began to create changes, not just in how I felt in my physical body, but how I saw the world around me, myself, and my life outside of my Yoga practice.

Let’s fast forward to 2000 – I was now not only a successful hairstylist, but also a hair color expert and platform artist. I was making amazing money. I was traveling around the country, teaching hairstylists what the new latest and greatest in hair color and color techniques were.

From the outside, I looked like I had it all. I got treated like a Rock Star, wined, dined, stage, mics, models, music etc. I was in a position most hairstylists dream of.

While I loved my time on the road, it was really high stress and hard on me physically and mentally. And all the while I had a closet philosopher hiding in me, I was always reading Yoga and Meditation books on the road.

When I did get back to the salon and worked with my clients, I felt less than inspired. It was impossible to let my creative juices flow when every second girl in my chair wanted the same boring blond highlights that I could do in my sleep.

I wasn’t getting the same creative high I did on the road. I also just didn’t feel like I was contributing to the world in any real positive way. I mean, sure, I was making people ‘pretty’, but even that had lost its importance.

I was helping people feel better about their appearance, but what about the inside? I was starting to feel like my job indirectly made people feel ‘not enough’, just like the marketing I hated from major beauty companies. “You’re not pretty enough or good enough without _____.”

I began to feel a disconnect between my Yoga and my livelihood. I wanted to help heal our world, to contribute, make a difference. I had been an activist on and off for years, but now I felt called to do more. Now I wanted to help people feel beautiful from the inside out. I knew how much peace Yoga had brought me, and I wanted to share that peace with the world.

I also knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up my hairstylist lifestyle forever. Being on the road, the drinking, the smoking, the crazy amount of espresso I consumed to keep going day to day, was taking its toll on my body and my spirit.

I was starting to develop work-related injuries and had to cut back my hours at the salon, so I knew it was just a matter of time until I had to find something else to do for my livelihood.

I did a lot of soul-searching and realized what I loved most about my current career was the teaching. I truly came alive when I was teaching or learning (two sides of the same coin). I realized I could keep my love of teaching and just change what I was teaching. I could teach Yoga, something that truly spoke to my heart.

But in order to do this, I had to overcome many obstacles:

  1. The voice in my head telling me I was living the dream, that I had it all and had no right to be so unhappy.
  2. The fear of going back to school.
  3. The HUGE cut in income from my Platform Artist ‘Rock Star’ life to humble Yoga teacher.
  4. The guilt of leaving my clients some of which had been with me for over a decade.
  5. The confused and less than supportive questions from friends or family (the naysayers).
  6. Massive lifestyle changes; the espresso, drinking to excess and smoking clearly had to go.
  7. I had a truckload of debt load due to my medical issues from doing hair. While payments were affordable with my current salary, they would not be while I was starting out as a new teacher.

But I knew I had to make a change, so I signed up for Yoga teacher training and went to ‘Yoga school’ while still doing hair so I could work my way through school.

In 2004, I graduated from my first teacher training and, with the help and encouragement of my fella, I went for it! I ran eyes on the horizon and jumped, and found my wings on the way down.

But it wasn’t without big sacrifice…

Due to the staggering debt I had incurred from medical bills, I had to declare personal bankruptcy (one of the hardest but best decisions I ever made). I swallowed my pride, got a part-time job in a coffee shop working for minimum wage, and started looking for teaching gigs. It took 2.5 years, two jobs and six days/week before I was able to quit my ‘joe job’ and just teach Yoga.

I now have been teaching Yoga and Meditation since 2004 (fist pump). I get to create and hold space for my clients to heal and recharge their batteries. I get to inspire change every day. I truly believe I am helping to create a more peaceful world one student and one breath at a time.

I am so honored and grateful to be doing what I love and living ‘on purpose’.

And now, I’m doing it all over again. I recently moved from Calgary to Victoria BC, where I had been teaching full time. I gave up my clientele and my safety net moved provinces and returned to school to study Chinese Medicine and Yoga Therapy.

So, I am rebuilding from scratch again. Being a Yoga entrepreneur is not always easy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

P.S I’m still a purple haired, heavy music-loving rebel, only now I drink Kombucha and OM a lot

Know anyone that could benefit from some Yoga help? Share this!

4 Responses

  1. Joan Davis
    | Reply

    Love the story Nyk. Really miss my yoga.
    All the Best in your New Career.

    • Nyk Danu
      | Reply

      Hey Joan!
      Nice to hear from you! No new Career just a new city 😉

  2. Kathleen
    | Reply

    Nyk, What a brilliant piece! If more people could read this I think more people would take the risk of jumping to do the things they really love. Inspirational. Kathleen (I am still in northeast Syria.)

    • Nyk Danu
      | Reply

      Thanks Kathleen!
      I hope so ….big changes are challenging to go through but have always been worth it so far 😉

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