The Insider: Making (huge) Life Changes With Yoga Journal
New Year’s just wouldn’t be New Year’s without resolutions, and this time of year, just about everyone has advice on helping us keep them. But what if the happier, healthier life you envision for yourself involves more—much more—than, say, avoiding sugar, or getting more sleep, or cleaning out your email inbox? What if you’re looking to hit reset and make a huge career or life change like moving across the country, or even becoming a single parent? That calls for advice beyond simple diet and organizational tips.
With yogic wisdom and practical advice for taking a leap and following your passion, Yoga Journal‘s current issue includes the, ” Live Your Dream” piece with three real-life stories of motivating transformation. The Insider investigated, to share more exclusive details with our readers about these women’s stories and their advice on how to make big shifts happen in your life this year. Let the motivation, inspiration and goal setting begin.
Yoga Journal: When Chantal Pierrat, 35, began contemplating leaving her lucrative job as VP of sales and marketing at a publishing company, she was worried. “I was the breadwinner for my family, so it wasn’t just me taking this leap” she says. But as a yogi and women’s advocate, Pierrat was feeling an intense desire to do something more in line with her inner values. She was surrounded in her life by strong women friends who were living authentic, independent lives. Some were working for themselves; others were carving out a whole new way of doing business. One single friend so desired motherhood, she’d decided to have a baby on her own. Pierrat started thinking, “After years of compromising ourselves, women are coming out and making courageous decisions more in alignment with their inner life. I was a women’s studies and literature major in college—what am I going to do with this?”
Pierrat realized that after 11 years with the publishing company, she wanted to strike out on her own and go into business for herself. Her dream: to launch a women’s-focused nonprofit that would help support women like her friends (and herself), who have entrepreneurial dreams. “I want to help emerging women because I feel like I am emerging and I don’t have any support—no mentor, no group to join”,
Pierrat studied her budget and saw that with a tight rein on household expenses, she and her family could live for 18 months without her income. “That knowledge gave me the courage to keep moving forward,” she says. She started developing a business plan, building the ideas and confidence to move forward. Still, she was scared to let her employer know that she was contemplating leaving. But when she did, her candor paid off. Her employer offered her a transition year in which she’d be paid full salary, while working on launching her new enterprise in her spare time. “It gave me stability, while researching the viability of my dream,” Pierrat says.
Today, Pierrat is the CEO of Emerging Women, a business devoted to empowering women through leadership training and networking. Her first major event exceeded her expectations “by, like, a thousand percent.” Her husband supported her both emotionally and financially as she pursued her dreams, and she stresses the importance of nurturing your important relationships through times of tough transition and limited downtime. “Stay committed to your relationship; no matter what, make time for it—that is a huge support,” says Pierrat.
Her advice to those on the fence about taking a life-altering leap: “If you have something that is burning inside you, you can’t not do it. It will be more draining and exhausting to not do it, than it will be to go for it.”
After five years of teaching in New York City public schools, Emily Hyland, 32, had a change of heart. It happened after trying to break up a fight between two teen students and then, later, getting yelled at by one of their parents. “I realized this was not the type of environment I wanted to be in anymore. I wanted to follow a creative path, not one so rigidly confined to bureaucracy and protocols,” says Hyland. “I knew something was missing. But I wasn’t sure exactly what.”
For Hyland, a devoted yogi, the first answer to “What next?” was to sign up for yoga teacher training on the weekends, something she’d been thinking about for a while. She had started practicing yoga at age 24, and when she did, she experienced a huge shift in her life. “I was overweight and out of touch with my physical body and myself. My yoga practice made me very mindful of taking care of my body,” Hyland says. At first, Hyland felt self-conscious about being the largest person in the teacher training program. “But then I found a great yoga home and beloved teacher, and it was like the timing was right and everything opened and aligned. There was such a sharp contrast between the yoga studio—a big, beautiful room with blue pastel walls and large wooden windows to let in light—and a dreary, harshly lit public-school classroom,” she recalls. “I had gone from an emotionally exhausting environment to one that was very focused and quiet and allowed my authentic experience of being to emerge.”
Within a few weeks, Hyland felt she had discovered her calling. “I was much more balanced. That was something I wanted to give to other people.” She quit her job a few months later and started
teaching yoga full-time. “People would say to me, ‘Great, but you only had 16 more years to retire with a pension,’” Hyland recalls. “It is nice to know you have security coming in life—it made it hard to leave something so career oriented. But working in the school system was not conducive to having a life full of balance and health. I am so much happier now.”
Her advice to others contemplating new beginnings is straightforward, if not simple: “You just have to do it. Don’t envision worst-case scenarios, because failing is not that bad—maybe you’re stuck sleeping on your parents’ couch for a few months while you get back on your feet. As long as you have a support network of friends and family, give it a shot.”
Sometimes you only realize what’s missing in your life when you start to avoid the experience as those around you are living it. That’s how Los Angeles pediatric occupational therapist Rebekah Tolin, 39, realized she wasn’t being true to herself if she didn’t try to become a mother—even without a life partner. “I always knew I wanted to be a mom since I was a child—it was never not an option,” says Tolin. “At 30, I was trying hard to find Mr. Right, speed dating, online dating, meeting matchmakers. But by 33, I started resisting going to friends’ kids’ birthday parties or to baby showers because it seemed too painful. I realized each event forced me to ask myself, ‘Why don’t I get to have this?’”
After a number of these parties, Tolin had another realization: “I’ve lived in eleven cities and run eight marathons—I don’t shrink from challenge. If I want to have a baby, I clearly have the determination to do it on my own.” One evening, Tolin sat down and started researching single-mom groups and blogs. Encouraged, she made an appointment with a fertility specialist to discuss her options. Soon after, she knew she was ready to move forward. “Once I had decided it was time to be a mom, every second I was not one was painful.”
Tolin doubts she would have dared try to get pregnant on her own had she not connected with a single-moms support network and sought guidance from other women about the process. Even with the support, she feared going it alone, and second-guessed her decision. It was in the few weeks before she finally conceived her son that Tolin realized the power of the word “yes.” She was feeling terrified of what she was about to do and confided her fears to a spiritual guide. “She said, ‘The answer is always yes; don’t let it be no because of fear or being stuck in a pattern.’ When she said that, I realized how much I truly did want to be a mom, and I moved forward,” says Tolin.
Today, Tolin has a happy, healthy son named Aiden. “When I got to be a mom, the depth of love was so much deeper than I could comprehend. It makes me cry all the time with gratitude.” Even so, it hasn’t been an easy path. An unexpected C section and childcare were difficult to afford on one salary. Some of her friends, especially the single ones, faded away—something many new parents experience—and Tolin was caught off guard that the support she thought was in place was not as strong as she’d hoped. Fortunately, Tolin’s mother moved to LA to be closer to her daughter and grandson, and she picks Aiden up from school every day. Her mom’s help aside (“She has been my rock,” Tolin says), Tolin confesses that it’s not always easy when there’s not another full-time parent to help take up the slack. “Had I known how hard parenting would be, let alone parenting solo, I might have been more conscious about taking the leap—but then I might not have my amazing son,” Tolin says.
For help coping on the more difficult days, Tolin points to the importance of having any kind of spiritual practice that connects you to your body and yourself. A runner, yogi and meditator, Tolin says her practices help settle her thoughts and focus on what is true and important to her, deep down. “My yoga teacher always stressed to me to breathe in the moment—to not think farther ahead than the next breath or two,” says Tolin. “I took that philosophy to guide me through Aiden’s first few months. Whenever I felt totally wiped out from being up all night with him, or stressed about finances, I would just tell myself, ‘I only need to get through today.’ Yes, there have been difficult moments. But when I cuddle with this precious, sweet-smelling little guy, I know without question it was the right decision.”
Did you enjoy these stories? Would you like to get more tips and a step-by-step guide to help you implement big changes this year? Explore the full issue of Yoga Journal now for more inspiration, motivation and yoga poses to start your morning.
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