2022 has been a year of endings, beginnings, learning and exploration. It has given me the chance to explore important questions like
- Who am I?
- What matters to me?
- What does “thriving” look like for this life?
I’ve made some big changes, and 2022 has changed me in lots of ways that probably seem subtle on the outside, but feel profound on the inside. I’ve learned things about myself personally and about our physiology and psychology as humans, and I’ve loved stepping more solidly into the role of “teacher” – something my first boss said I was destined to do at age 14. I’ve discovered some of the things that make me feel alive and in flow and some things that can make life feel heavy or panicky. And I’ve got a couple of ideas about 2023, but mostly, a sense of openness and wonder to what the new year may have in store.
End of an era
I started 2022 knowing that it was going to be a year of immense change. I was already into my notice period in my role as CEO and committed to a 2-Year Level 6 Diploma in Yoga Therapy. But my decision to leave was still unknown to most people. I knew I would need to tell my team and our partners and that there was a lot of work to do to disentangle myself from an organisation that I had been woven into for 13 years. And an organisation that had been woven into me.
The disentanglement was easier than I had feared (as can so often be the case with the things we fear). The team were unbelievably supportive and were so autonomous and competent that my departure created barely a ripple. On the other side of the disentanglement, it turned out that the role of “CEO” was not as integral to my sense of self as I worried it might be – a testament, I think, to the preceding 8 years of yoga and meditation and the way those practices shaped me.
Learning and healing
It was good to have something new, deeply fascinating, and extremely challenging to dive straight into. Within 2 weeks of leaving, I was travelling to London to begin my training to become a Yoga Therapist. I met 35 incredible humans who would be my classmates and many knowledgeable and inspiring teachers who would be guiding our learning. I was also blessed to have an incredible supervisor, who would become an important pillar of support during the year.
The first 8 months of training to be a Yoga Therapist has been transformative for me. The course content is thorough, rigorous and continually makes me ask “why aren’t we all taught this?!” I feel like I understand myself, my patterns, my brain and my body in ways that were unimaginable even a year ago. Incongruences between how I want to be and how I am, have become clearer and I understand how those patterns got encoded and how they show up in my life. I am beginning to make more sense to myself and not feel like such an enigma!
Not that this learning has always been easy. Self-enquiry and developing awareness has brought to the surface patterns of thinking, behaving and feeling that have been hard to look at and acknowledge. I have seen behaviours that have felt completely at odds with the person I want to be. And I’ve not just seen them this year. I’ve seen how these patterns have danced through my life and relationships, often since childhood. Through my own yoga therapy, I’ve uncovered parts of myself that I had buried, and I have begun to do the work to integrate all these parts into the person I am today. I feel more “whole” than I ever remember feeling and like I’m no longer filled with warring factions. There is a peace that has come from this that is hard to put into words, but for which I have tremendous gratitude.
Teaching and exploring work
When I was promoted to CEO in 2016, I made a commitment to myself. I committed that I would not “lifestyle creep” to live a CEO lifestyle. I knew that if I did that, I may create a set of golden handcuffs that could result in me feeling trapped in a job that wasn’t right for me anymore. I committed to living humbly in the present to give myself choices in the future. I set up a savings line in my budget called “future choices” and I put money into this every month for 6 years. For 72 months, I put money into this budget line and had no idea what I would one day use it for.
In 2022, I used some of it to very intentionally pay my living costs for 6 months as I eased into a new life that was part-freelancer and part-student. It bought me the time to focus on my studies and to have freedom to try out a lot of different things to see which, if any, I might want to make part of my future work. It felt like the best gift I could have given myself. It meant I could say yes to things that felt intriguing or exciting, without worrying if they would be profitable. It meant I could ease into the life of freelance teaching in a way that made it complement the learning and healing I was doing through yoga therapy, rather than feeling in opposition to it.
I have learned so many things about the type of work that fills me up and makes me come alive this year. After 2 years of teaching mainly online, I have discovered the joy of teaching weekly studio classes and rediscovered what yoga has to offer us in shared physical spaces. I have learned how much I enjoy creating wellbeing-based training courses that blend the teaching of ideas and knowledge with embodied and experiential practices to create a genuine mind-body learning experience. I have discovered that being freelance and getting to collaborate with a mix of inspiring people and doing interesting things feels like freedom for me.
People and community
One of the great joys of 2022 has been the wonderful new people I have met and a deepening of some of my existing relationships. Teaching at the Yorkshire Centre for Wellbeing in Harrogate on a Saturday morning has introduced me to a community of people who make Saturday mornings feel like a special treat each week. I love the conversations we have before class and the opportunity to create shared experiences of peace, openness, and connection. My two Wednesday classes in Knaresborough, Gentle Flow and Yoga for Beginners, also feel like a privilege for me to share space and time with amazing people and get a glimpse into their days, weeks and lives. Our little online Santosha Rose community, some of whom have now been meeting virtually for almost 3 years, closes off my Tuesday night and starts my Friday with a beautiful sense of connection too.
I’ve also had the opportunity to connect with people in completely new and beautiful ways. I wrote and delivered a new 6-week course for Primary Care Professionals called From Coping to Thriving and delivered it for the first time to a small group of professionals working mostly in the non-profit sector. It felt like a privilege to share a personal and impactful journey and I enjoyed the challenge of distilling many of the things that I’ve learned over the last 8 years into a 24-hour course. The course was the first time I’ve combined my background in creating and leading courses, workshops and conferences with teaching embodied practices and it felt very flowing and connective.
It has been wonderful to co-create workshops, programmes and retreats with some of my favourite people. I’ve really enjoyed teaching alongside Kris during our Retreat Days and being one of his Qigong students as he deliverers sessions to our community every Tuesday night. It’s been great to collaborate with two of my wonderful students and friends (the two Rachels!) to offer Away Days and Workshops to the Intandem Communications team, as we explore ways to support other businesses to integrate wellbeing into their company culture. I’ve enjoyed becoming part of the team at Selby AVS and will be forever grateful to Chris for his trademark enthusiasm and unwavering support and to Emily for being my panel partner as we pitched From Coping to Thriving to a committee of health professionals. I also got to co-deliver a weekend Chakra Retreat with James at Yorkshire Centre for Wellbeing and a Yoga and Poetry workshop with my wonderful friend Liv.
And speaking of friends, I am so grateful for the wonderful humans I have shared this year with. This year saw my brother Chris get married and it was a huge honour to be a bridesmaid and to share the wedding weekend with him and his wife and my new sister-in-law, Grace. I’ve also had lots of trips down to Kent to visit Dan, Jade and Neo and continue to find these to be as joy-filled and replenishing as any holiday I’ve ever had. I’ve enjoyed wonderful days and evenings with my parents, including a fabulous family Christmas; our first for 5 years. And getting to know and feel part of Kris’s family and friendships has been another source of joy. We have forged new friendships and deepened many of our existing friendships with wonderful meals in and out, exploring life, the universe and everything. Kris has been both a pillar of strength and support and my favourite person to be playful and silly with and I feel grateful every day to be doing this journey of life with him.
Challenges and growth
There has been so much joy in 2022 for me, but I know that part of life is also navigating the challenges. The first of these came for me in negotiating a new relationship with work-home balance. Part of my mental health recovery involved being very boundaried about when I was working and when I wasn’t. When I wasn’t working, I didn’t check emails and I was mostly able to put work out of my mind. As a freelancer and especially one who works evenings and weekends, it’s now much harder to know when I’m working and when I’m not. Sometimes this means responding to emails later in the evening or on Sundays and some really long working days for assignments or writing new courses. I’ve grappled with a long-established tendency to leave the most important and difficult things to the very last minute and made peace with myself, recognising this is only a problem if I label it as such.
During the year, I think my biggest professional challenge has been around how to share what I’m offering in a way that feels “right” for me. After two years of mostly opting out of social media, I anticipated that this would be the year I would need to find a way to make it work for me. If anything, I’ve probably used it less this year than any other. I’ve dabbled with design software and had brief periods of activity, but nothing consistent. I feel a huge pull to not engage with social media and don’t know if this is wisdom to be heeded or a barrier to be overcome. This is one of the last areas in my life where I feel unclear about what I even want… is it to overcome the barrier and embrace social media and promotion? Is it reject social media platforms completely? Or pay someone else to do the heavy lifting around marketing so I all I must do is write and deliver things?
I think the list of challenges is shorter than I might have anticipated in large part because of the amazing support I have received this year. As I embarked on this new phase, it felt important to have strong professional and pastoral support, as well as a personal support network. This included my wonderful coach, Jonathan, who has helped me on every step of my journey over the last 2 years, including deciding to leave my CEO role and planning the logistics of a new life. My yoga therapist, Chloe, who supported me to explore the depth of myself and develop more kindness and compassion towards the parts I found the hardest to love. My course supervisor, Vicky, who has helped me to integrate everything I’m learning and discovering about myself and to be gentler with what I find. And finally, my meditation teacher, Navid, who continues to open me up to the wonders of this human life and to the universe that will dance for us when we’re ready to see it.
Looking ahead – 2023
I came into 2022 not knowing much about what the year had in store for me and I feel similarly going into 2023, albeit I’ve got a little more planned this time. I’m excited to be collaborating with two of my favourite people (Kris and Navid) to create a 4-night retreat in the forest in Sweden in June and to share this experience with 14 wonderful yogis and yoginis. I’m also excited to lead 40 more Primary Health Professionals through the From Coping to Thriving course and to continue to build on and develop this programme. I’m looking forward to another year of teaching weekly classes in Knaresborough, Harrogate and online and growing these classes and this community. I’m excited to continue collaborating with Selby AVS and Intandem Communications and to exploring the next steps for Santosha Rose. In 2023, I will finish the taught element of my Diploma in Yoga Therapy and I know I will continue to be challenged and transformed in the process.
2022 has been one of the most joy-filled and transformational years of my life. I feel so much more grounded and stable and have healed places in myself that I thought were broken beyond repair. It has not been easy and perhaps one day I will share more about my healing journey of learning to love all the parts of myself and integration to greater wholeness. Yet the balance of the year has still been one of positivity for me. I know this has not been a universal experience for everyone in 2022. People I love have suffered and grieved and life has felt unbearably tough at times. As I move into a new year, I am committed to finding more ways to serve, more ways to show up for the people I love and more ways to pay forward the incredible support, practices and knowledge that have helped me so much. I’m approaching the new year with a sense of openness and curiosity, and I’m intrigued to continue to watch the universe dance and to see what she has in store for me.