by Leila Hock, CSOY Alumni 2014 & Founder of Alignment Coaching
Yoga was the first place anyone ever told me to slow down and stop reaching. I still remember my teacher saying, “It’s called a practice for a reason. There is no performance!” As simple as that sounds, it was mind-blowing to me at the time.
In our current world, there are so many accolades and achievements and certifications and milestones that you are “supposed” to collect. There are endless blogs and email lists promising to deliver you success and happiness with “5 Simple Steps!” It’s overwhelming. If you spend more than 20 minutes perusing the internet reading what you think is “productive” because you’re learning about self-growth, you can easily come out of your internet fog overloaded with what you’re “supposed” to do to achieve success and confused at all of the conflicting information out there - let alone what you already know.
For the first 26 years of my life, I killed it. I did everything I was “supposed” to. I made straight A’s in high school while succeeding in sports and theater, went to a great college and majored in the smartest sounding major I could find (Political Economy) while working to support myself and then went straight to a top ten law school where I did equally well. I graduated law school with a high powered law firm job in Chicago with a salary well into the six figures. I had made it!!!
I started my corporate law job in 2007, which was a challenging time. In 2009, after months of learning of at least one classmate that was laid off every week, it was my turn. I lost my cushy-salaried job that was supporting my mortgage and my student loan payments.
In just a year and a half, I went from “killing it” to feeling like a complete failure.
I knew when I was laid off that I didn’t really want to continue being a corporate lawyer, but I felt I had no choice. Miraculously, I landed an in-house job that felt successful and interested me much more than the law firm job and felt I was back on track. Recession schmecession…no one can stop me!
And then I got a coupon for a yoga studio in my neighborhood...
I had been athletic my whole life and was competing in marathons and triathlons, so figured yoga would be a cinch. Plus, this studio had a “Yin and Vino” class on Friday night, and I can totally get behind any endeavor that involves wine.
I started going on Friday nights pretty religiously. It even felt like church to me. My teacher would say these terribly wise things - “You get to choose how to experience this pose.” “The shape doesn’t matter, what matters is how it feels to you.” “You can push to your max, but how sustainable will that be?” “There is no reason to strive beyond your limits.” “No one is watching. This is about you.” - as I was suffering quietly in an eight minute pigeon pose.
I didn’t know this lady (and now she’s one of my closest friends), but she was turning my world upside down! All of these things she was saying about the poses seemed to have a direct application to my life.
Who was I performing for? Why did I keep making decisions that made me look good to other people but that really weren’t fulfilling to me? I was tired and unsatisfied.
What those first classes really gave me were a time and place where I could start to listen to myself. The wisdom spouted in class was further encouragement to slow down and listen. Yoga definitely didn’t quell my type-A achiever tendencies, but the beauty is that those tendencies made me want to do yoga “right.” And I was lucky enough to have found a teacher that told me that “right” meant figuring out what it meant to me.
Ever an achiever, I began going to more and more yoga classes and eventually took a teacher training. The more yoga permeated my life, the more I knew that what I was doing professionally just wasn’t right. It was for other people - not me. I moved to Colorado and took another lawyer job because I still had those damn student loans. But as soon as I got here, I started planning my exit.
In support of that exit plan, I decided to do CSOY’s 300-hour Teacher Training in 2014. I was missing my home studio back in Chicago and wanted to dive deeper and build my yoga community and figured having 500 hours of training would help make leaving the law and teaching full time more of a reality for me. And, just like every foray deeper into yoga, it changed my life - but in an unexpected way.
See, as I was planning my exit from the law, I just assumed that teaching yoga full time would be that exit. I loved yoga, I loved teaching, I was investing tons of time and money into it, and that’s what people who are 500 hour RYT’s do! They teach full time! But all of my teachers’ wisdom bombs kept popping into my head: “Do what’s right for you.” “Following someone else’s path will get you to someone else’s dream.” I started to realize that teaching wasn’t my path either.
After some deep self-inquiry about the life I wanted to live and plenty more time spent in that quiet space of a yoga studio, I begrudgingly decided that, even though it felt sexy and like what I was “supposed” to do, teaching yoga full time was not my path either. In my search of what that path was, I found a profession that is the perfect marrying of my type-A, achiever mentality that propelled me through the legal profession and my yoga side that told me to slow down and determine my own path.
While working full time as a lawyer and teaching yoga whenever I could, I began a coach training program. It was great, and it really just felt like the wisdom of yoga without the physical side. I loved it and loved the idea of incorporating my yoga knowledge in a package that I could deliver to people that were just like me - skeptical, hesitant to step into a yoga room, “successful” but not happy.
In 2015, I left my full time law practice and began a full time career coaching practice. Now I get to help people define their idea of success and start living it. I offer people the wisdom of yoga in a non-traditional yoga setting.
What I know is that I never would have had the courage to think about a different career path without yoga. I never would have found a time or space quiet enough for me to decipher what was important to me without the yoga studio. And I never would have placed enough value on my own dreams and idea of success (versus those of others) without yoga.
Yoga can be life changing or it can be a workout. Quite frankly, it’s an expensive endeavor if you pursue it as a workout and you can do that stuff on your own. If yoga has not provided you with the space and courage to listen to your own voice, switch your yoga up. Find a new studio or a new practice or a new teacher. Stop chasing what you’re “supposed” to chase in yoga and find what’s right for you. The power of the practice is in it’s gentle nudges toward finding your true self - not in the sweat or physical asanas that you simply add to your list of external achievements.
And finally, if yoga has changed your life forever, share your story with others. We all know that a rising tide lifts all boats. Be the tide.
As an attorney, Leila watched her colleagues, clients and friends move through life without clear direction and realized she was falling into the same trap. Leila’s natural curiosity and eye for problem-solving gave her the opportunity to discern what makes people and companies work best in corporate environments. The true secret she observed is alignment. For individuals to be at their best, their tasks and goals must be aligned with their values and who they are inside. After receiving her coaching certification with iPEC, she founded Alignment Coaching. Leila inspires and encourages her clients to take charge of their corporate journey in a way that supports the life and future they want. Contact Leila now to take charge of your career!