No, Unemployment Yoga does not really exist…until now, because it should.
As a currently unemployed (but previously employed) post-grad, I find myself in a position that I never thought I would be in. Yes, I am well aware that the job market is a nightmare these days and I’m definitely not alone – BUT I HAD A JOB! It was a teaser really, a small taste of what it felt like to be financially independent for 8 short months, until the start-up website I worked for went “down the crapper,” as one of its verbally astute users so deftly described. So now I’m here, impatiently waiting for the elusive/illusive investments to reignite my paychecks while also actively searching for a Plan B.
But, let’s call it what it is. I’m unemployed. And, maybe it’s because I used to be on the employed side of life, but I’m not exactly taking it well. I’m pretty sure it’s all the knowingly condescending looks of pity I receive when I try to explain my situation during a conversation, or the constant stream of automated email responses to my online job applications, but either way, I can definitely start to feel myself breaking. It’s a slow process to be sure. 7 weeks ago, when my Funemployment (as I sarcastically like to refer to my situation) began, I was brimming with positivity and excitement, confident that I would be out of a paycheck for no more than 2 weeks. [Insert eye-roll here] But now, as I’m becoming a more seasoned funemployee, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that I even have anything to offer.
Every time I’m asked the dreaded first question of a conversation, “So, what do you do?” I get closer and closer to snapping. It’s like I’m back in high school, and the only thing I want to do is lock myself in my room and scream to the world, “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAAANDDDDD!”
And it’s this chronic feeling of alienation and losing control that makes my yoga practice feel more important than ever. Because no matter what happens in my job search, my practice is one thing that I will always be able to control. Plus, for those short 90 minutes, I know that I’m doing something that’s just for me. It’s like a massage for my otherwise achy and self-hating unemployed mind.
So, for anyone else who finds themselves on the funemployed train, here is my gift to you to keep you grounded and centered when everything else feels like it’s falling apart: Unemployment Yoga.
1. Find a mantra. I was given my mantra during my yoga teacher training at Kripalu, and I would be honored to give it to anyone in need. Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. Just thinking about it makes me feel better. Technically it translates into a dedication to the god, Krishna, but when I say it or think it, I mean it as “I honor the divine spirit, the guru, within me.” Basically, no matter what your mantra means or what language you find it in, its only purpose is to ground you with what’s important and to remind you of what makes you happy and whole.
2. Walking barefoot meditation. Walking barefoot outside is immensely beneficial to the human body and condition. (Check out this awesome article on it if you don’t believe!) And though meditating is often viewed with a highly skeptical lens, I thinking walking mediation is always the best place to start. Just focus on your feet. Done.
3. Find your Warrior. Virabhadrasana Eka and Virabhadrasana Dwi (Warrior One and Two) are my two favorites poses when I need to be reminded of my strength. First, I love the idea that I’m in a warrior pose – just the name makes it feel important. Plus, the actual translation of the Sanskrit names is AWESOME. Vira means “bravery” or “courage,” and Bhadra means “blessed.” If that doesn’t take you out of your unemployment funk, I don’t know what will.
Not to mention all the physical benefits of these two poses. They strengthen your feet, legs, butt, back, abs, shoulders, and triceps. Talk about a sexy warrior.
4. Build your balance. Unemployment is inherently an imbalanced and imperfect state. So adding balance poses to your yoga routine is practically necessary! Vrksasana (tree pose) is a classic fave of mine, partly because I think it’s funny to pretend to be a tree, and partly because of the indescribable high I feel during those rare moments of true balance. I’m naturally a very unstable tree – I sway and wobble constantly, but there are always those moments, those few seconds when I can actually stand steady and strong and it’s like I can feel my feet rooting into the ground beneath me, allowing my arms to stretch long and open to the sky. It’s beautiful.
5. Keep a journal. If you’re anything like me (slightly neurotic), unemployment challenges every single norm and definition of success and happiness you’ve ever known. The only way you’re going to come out of it alive is if you find a way to release all that pent-up anxiety and frustration. Being unemployed sucks. There’s nothing fun or relaxing about it. But, keeping it all in and just suffering through the rejection and disappointment is only going to lead to disaster. I find writing to be incredibly therapeutic. It doesn’t have to be insightful or intellectual writing – just write what you feel. Get on your mat; focus on your practice, and then journal about how it went. Good day? Bad day? No need to judge it, just write it down.