I have been going through what can only be described as a creative slump lately. It's been a beautiful handful of weeks celebrating a wedding, a bachelorette party, and now my 3-year SOULiversary (teaching anniversary at SoulCycle), and it has definitely taken a lot out of me.... Last week, for example, was a whirlwind of emotions; I had my annual class review and instructor development trainings all week before flying to Los Angeles for a weekend of bachelorette party shenanigans... Now that I feel like I have finally caught up with myself and have taken some time to reflect on this career milestone and overall life high, there are three lessons I would like to share with you that I have learned throughout my three years as a full-time instructor! 1. Be Yourself.
BEFORE YOU ROLL YOUR EYES, hear me out. As cliché as it might seem, this is the first challenge every instructor faces and its one of the hardest to overcome. We all have, hopefully, had an instructor who changed our perception of whatever workout we have fallen in love with. They said something so profound it made us cry, they reminded us that we have something to fight for, or they simply kicked our ass in a way we never knew we needed. Whatever it was, it changed us for the better and maybe even inspired us to pursue a teaching career. The thing is, you can't chase down anyone else's dream but your own, so finding your own voice in the midst of being inspired by someone else's can be extremely challenging. We can get caught up trying to rally followers in ways that we have seen work for other people, but the same teaching strategy for one instructor won't necessarily resonate with people if it isn't authentic to you. During those first few classes I taught, I could hear the mantras I learned from other instructors creeping into my dialogue, so I had to learn how to make them my own instead of just regurgitating something someone else had taught me. I can't remember the exact moment that I first heard Melanie G. say "choose faith over fear," but it has been one of the realest sources of inspiration for me ever since. When delivering this message in my own classes, I have to think about why that particular truth bomb resonates with me in the moment instead of just throwing it out there without any real purpose or relevance. Everyone interprets information differently, so it's a generous choice to give yourself permission to reflect on what is true in that moment before reciting the same information the same way you have already heard it before. People don't want a second-hand version of someone else, they want you, so use what inspires you to create something as unique as you are.
2. Find Your Balance.
This starts and ends with the little moments throughout the week where you can find some inner peace and quiet... For me, it's when I'm driving to Marin; there's something about turning off the radio and just enjoying the view in the comfort of my car that really allows me to clear my mind. It is highly unlikely for me to meditate at home without just taking a nap, so recognizing those moments within in my weekly routine where I can be still and listen to what is happening in between my ears gives me some time to prioritize and focus. Having someone tell me what to do through yoga and personal training sessions can also feel so self-indulgent that I often forget that its technically more "work." The feeling of being quiet and having someone guide me for a change makes me feel grounded and whole. As full-time instructors, we give so much of ourselves to our riders and our studios that sometimes the most simple act of being still or quiet can really help us find the balance we need to recharge. Beyond the physical benefits, the mental and emotional components of yoga, meditation and simply getting away from work for a while is extremely important for preventing burn out. It doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming; take a walk outside, sit still with your eyes closed, take a power nap... the benefits of creating pockets of self-care throughout your week will always be beneficial.
3. Keep It Simple.
This is something that I have been working on more recently, and will probably have to remind myself on a near daily basis, as I continue to grow as an instructor and overall human being. Having a lot of teaching experience gives us a lot of material to work with as we develop our class structures and coaching techniques. One of the hardest things for me has been to take some pressure off myself to include everything I have ever learned about why SoulCycle is so great and why everyone should be just as passionate about it as I am into every class that I teach. The truth is, this mindset is exhausting, and I have been guilty of putting way too much pressure on myself to provide this cumulative experience when, in reality, some of the most powerful experiences we can provide aren't done so by force, or even using our words. When we take the pressure off of ourselves to meet an expectation that no one has set on us but ourselves, the connection we are able to make with one another becomes much more organic and real.
One of my riders sent me a message after class a few days ago, quoting something I had said, "You don't have to have all of the answers to be a leader." I truly believe that we all just want to do right by the world in our own individual ways. Sometimes admitting that we have a lot to learn and that we simply don't have every answer to every issue in the world can keep us connected to one another throughout our individual pursuits. When we stop trying to put on a show and break ourselves down to a human level of understanding and consciousness, we prolong the longevity of our passion for what we do because it really doesn't have to be complicated. Today I reminded my class, "When you think of it, we are mostly made up of water, so be a flowing river or ocean, not a pond or a puddle." Sometimes all we need to do is remind ourselves and others that we all have a lot more in common than we probably know, and that in itself is worth exploring and celebrating.
By giving ourselves the freedom to give the world a real version of who we are, by finding balance between the chaos and stillness, by taking down our guard and allowing the simplicity of our ambitions to guide our actions, we are able to give more authentically to others and ourselves.