It is difficult – if not impossible – to build a successful freelance career without loads of ambition and energy. Odds are that if you chose this slightly-crazed-but-rewarding lifestyle, you’re pretty driven. That’s great… when you’re finding new clients or pushing hard to get a complicated project done!
It’s less helpful when you’re lying awake at 3 AM, mind racing.
On the advice of a friend (who was growing tired of conversations where I endlessly cycled through pre-project anxiety and post-project stress), I started seriously taking yoga about two years ago. By “seriously”, I mean that I try to practice 4 or 5 times a week – as opposed to my previous habit of wandering into a yoga class once every month. It’s made a big difference in not only the day-to-day happiness of my freelance life, but in my overall growth.
Yoga lends structure to busy freelance days
Because my work tends to skew towards the creative side of freelancing, I often have a nebulous working schedule – and it’s easy to sit around munching junk food, moodily waiting for inspiration to hit.
Yoga classes give me structure on fuzzy days. If I know I have a class at noon, I hustle to get work done beforehand, and the pleasant post-yoga glow lets me float through onerous tasks afterwards. It’s a nice way to break up a day that might otherwise be spent staring at a glowing screen.
**Yoga allows me to take stock **
For 1.5 hours, four times a week, I am not allowed to check my iPhone or update my website or worry vaguely about the state of my career. Instead, I must stare at a wall or a mat and confront my own frustration, stress, and the chronic busy-ness of my… business.
Being able to remove myself from the anxiety cycle – to take my brain’s hamster off the wheel – is invaluable to me. It allows me to gain a sense of perspective about little issues, and quietly brainstorm solutions about bigger problems. By literally removing myself from the work cycle, I force my mind to unplug for a while, because...
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Yoga forces my brain to be quiet (so inspiration can strike)
At the beginning of yoga class, a profound sense of dread inevitably creeps over me. I almost always think that I can’t make it, that I can’t do it, that today is not the day, that I have to go home. This is my panicked brain giving a feverish death-rattle before being forced to calm down for a spell.
Some of my best ideas have come during – or directly after – yoga class, after my mind has been coaxed into concentrating on bendy poses for an hour. Yoga is one of the few things preferable to a nap when I’m trying to get my subconscious inspired!
Yoga saved my back from laptop-hunch
I was beginning to look like the Quasimodo of the Coffee Shop. Yoga has saved my back (and my butt, may I add) from the consequences of sitting all day – and given me a nice pair of biceps, to boot.
**Yoga makes me accept imperfection with a sense of humor **
I’m okay at yoga. I’m decent at yoga. I’m never going to do it as a Professional Yogi. Even on my best days, I occasionally wobble or fall or don’t take a pose to its full extension. Yoga makes me accept my imperfections and foibles, and focus on the process – not the product. Every class I take, I feel a little stronger, a little more knowledgeable, a little more curious and cognizant of everything I don’t know. Yoga has taught me that I don’t have to be perfect to be making progress… and that’s probably made the biggest impact of all.
I’m not a complete Lululemoned chai-drinking convert – I refuse to do an Ayurvedic cleanse, and I don’t think that yoga replaces therapy (or even really good conversation). But I do know that yoga has changed my freelance career for the better... and that sure means fewer sleepless nights.
Kate Hamill is a freelance writer, playwright, and actor. She lives in New York City and consumes a truly frightening amount of Sriracha daily. Follow her on Twitter at @katerone.