Soul Check

Creating a peaceful life and a fulfilling career. By Tara Stiles

Probably a lot like you, I took my first yoga class a long time ago and had a bunch of expansive, hard to explain, overwhelmingly positive feelings. My first thought was something like: “This is amazing, why isn’t it an everyday part of life?” I feel like I’m in my own spaceship navigating toward the vastness inside. My second thought was: “Why don’t my friends practice yoga?” Why doesn’t everyone practice yoga? How is this not as commonplace as drinking water?

Probably like a lot of you, I continued my yoga exploration and found a whole lot of everything. I found great teachers and inspiring books. I also found abusive teachers and harmful techniques. Even good intentions can get mixed up in systems of controlling and pushing people around, making us feel less capable than we are, separating us from our own intuition and power. I saw friends getting injured physically and emotionally, while seeking the healing and enabling they wanted. There can be some good, but the pile-up of negative side-effects felt like there must be a better way. It taught me why yoga has had such a complicated reputation for so long.

If we want yoga to be available to everyone, we can be part of a solution. We can evolve yoga into a practice that doesn’t hurt, only helps. We can remove the rigidity and dogma that turns so many people away, and open the doors wide here for everyone. So I went further along in my practice. Eventually I started sharing yoga casually with my friends, then getting more organised with classes. I wanted to lead from a place of empowerment, positivity and ease. I started to believe in a better way. I didn’t expect this hobby to become a career, but when you’re sharing something useful for others, something you are so passionate about, things have a way of taking over your schedule.

The details of our yoga stories are unique but have so much in common. We believe in a better way. We love our practice and love sharing it. We feel fulfilled when we see that we’ve helped someone. It’s an irreplaceable reward. So how do we create a peaceful life while we build a career out of it all? And, how can we feel good in the process?

Business and money are topics that cause discomfort for many yoga and wellness professionals. We love what we do, so it’s easy to complicate getting paid for our services. We can get overloaded with fears and insecurities about what we should be doing. It’s easy to become frozen. Something major that’s helped me along the way is creating Soul Checks, to guide both my personal practice and how I share in the world. If you’ve practiced a wellbeing approach like yoga for a long while, you might become very comfortable with knowledge and applications of energy and meridians, posture and position, sensitivity, connection and harmony, all the ways your body shares what it needs, so you can respond in a way that helps. You’ve spent time learning and practicing for this. So it makes sense that the body of your work requires learning and practice too. To grow your life and nourish your soul, your work needs the same care and reflection, the same structure for understanding and application.

A Soul Check is a spiritual pillar that grounds and directs your actions, so you can grow a peaceful life and expansive business while helping others.

Soul Check #1: Get to know yourself

This Soul Check is so easy to miss. Whatever you are putting out into the world, it only really works if it’s authentic to you. Reflect on your life so far, maybe even before yoga entered it. Do you like doing things on your own or being part of a group? What are the activities that bring the best out of you? It’s helpful to remember an ordinary situation, an ordinary job, one that maybe you wouldn’t think to include in your memoirs, to really see not just the situations you’ve been in, but even more valuable, how you reacted to them.

When I was in high school my parents let me borrow their giant Delta 88 Oldsmobile. They didn’t let me have money for gas though. That was on me. I had a few jobs to take care of the problem. I worked at the local dance studio. I worked at Pizza Hut as a phone girl. I sold blow pops out of my locker. Each job taught me about myself. I loved to dance. That was easy. I wanted a steady job, so Pizza Hut was perfect. I loved bringing people together and talking with everyone about how they were doing, so blow pops out of the locker fit well. I’m not sure if the blow pop shop was allowed by my school, but there is my slightly rebellious streak. At Pizza Hut I folded boxes and helped out wherever I could. I brought refills to hangry customers and opened doors for delivery drivers so they didn’t drop the precious hot pizza. I learned that I like to orchestrate. I like to guide. I like to anticipate problems and invent solutions. I like to do things in my own way if I can find a better way. I like to lead. I like to be independent. I thrive when I need to figure something out.

You might be like me, or the polar opposite. It’s not better one way or the other, this is about seeing what’s here for us. Our differences in how we are provide the beauty we all need to help ourselves and others, with what we offer. We give what we have. Thankfully all the trees are different, creating a beautiful forest. When you spend time getting to know yourself, you learn what you like, what you don’t like, and can make empowered decision on how you spend your time.

Some people thrive by leading in someone else’s yoga studio or online platform. There can be great comfort in not needing to be responsible for anything but your leading. For others, this can feel suffocating and the need to create your own space is more comfortable. One way is not better than the other. But it’s not great to be stuck in a structure that doesn’t help you feel like you. Getting to know yourself is essential. The Soul Check process might feel unfamiliar at first, having this look at your life instead of your yoga practice. But you’ll see the connection when you dive in.

Yoga is union and self-realisation. Getting to know yourself is essential to create something that’s authentic to you in the world, and to be the best you can be at serving others. When you create your container for giving from this place and share your unique magic inside, you’re helping others remember themselves as well.

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.