Lloyd Matias, Santiago Bay, Camotes Islands, Cebu, Philippines. Photo by: Paul-Lester Salomson.

From Engineer to Yoga Teacher: My Drastic Career Change

How and why I left a stable corporate “dream job” that was leading towards burnout to follow my heart and become a full-time yoga teacher.

come from Cebu City in the Philippines. In March 2012, I was just one of many fresh-faced graduates proudly receiving a newly minted degree in computer engineering. Like most of my peers, I aspired towards a corporate career and was fortunate to secure employment just two months after finishing college.

As I started to receive compensation each month, I settled into a life of safety and stability. The trade-off, however, was the pressure to finish loads of work in the least amount of time. That, and the extra pressure I placed on myself to receive the management’s validation and an excellent employee rating.

Yoga is a Physical Exercise

Lloyd Matias, Cebu, Philippines.

I have to admit that the image I had of yoga was that of a room full of women in their tights and colorful mats. So, when a friend asked me to accompany her to a beginner’s class, I initially had a lot of hesitation. The adventurous side of me, however, wanted to try out new things, so I agreed to go.

The studio we went to had a color scheme of olive green and white. Couple that with their wooden floors, being there gave me that earthy and organic feel. We were among the people who arrived last, so we took a spot at the back of the practice area and unrolled our mats.

Back then, yoga was only a physical exercise that I did once a week. I considered myself more flexible than most guys. The poses that really challenged me were those that needed me to balance my weight on my hands or those that needed me to ‘engage the core.’ These were the kinds of postures that I loved working on.

Yoga Connected Me to People

The company I was working for soon started to promote the organization of clubs. I was able to connect with like-minded people who also wanted to practice yoga in our workplace. We invited teachers to instruct us in our office. There, I made a lot of friends — many of whom have stuck even after all the years have passed.

Doing something with different people was interesting. There is an awesome vibe when a group of people is moving as one. Yet, when we focus clearly, we appreciate that the bigger picture is made up of unique individuals. There is a beautiful vibration as we move and breathe as one through the sequence of postures.

Yoga class, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines.

My Life in the Fast Lane

I worked as a computer engineer for a company that is headquartered in Japan. The management sent executives to help run its operations in Cebu City, and my boss was one of the first few people they sent from Japan.

I loved collaborating with him and our team. I was a self-driven and a highly efficient worker. I was still turning three years on the job. Despite the pressure and the fast paced lifestyle that was required to excel in this field, I was determined to maintain a positive outlook on work.

I thought I had my biggest break when my good working attitude caught my manager’s attention. There were plans for me to be expatriated to an overseas location. I underwent a series of interviews with some of our counterparts and was asked to wait a few weeks for their final decision.

When the email of their decision arrived, I did not falter. Though their decision was not to push through with the transfer, I was grateful enough to have been considered. It was a reward in itself, and it led me to believe that I was moving in the right direction. I must have been doing things right.

Canigao Island, Leyte, Philippines. Photo by: Paul-Lester Salomson.

The deal breaker for me happened when my boss, who was an expatriate himself, announced that he would soon be repatriated. The head office would be sending in someone else to manage our team. At first, I would not mind the changes that started to take place. After all, we all have to embrace change. However, this development, on top of my already demanding lifestyle caused me stress.

The year that followed became a restless battle with burnout. At first, it was just the lack of sleep due to working the late hours to finish mountains of tasks. Then, it was my inability to meet my manager’s expecations.

I felt like I was no longer working WITH my manager — I was plainly working FOR him.

I began waking up to sunny mornings with a rain cloud hovering over my head. I was disappointed with myself for being unable to connect with my new boss like I did with the previous one. The work started to become very demanding, and I was required to produce quality output in a short amount of time. Despite my efforts driven by an incessant need to receive validation, I could not keep up.

The twenty-one-year-old fresh graduate with a twinkle in his eye had become a twenty-five-year-old office drone gulping caffeine and munching on fast food. I was exhausted.

I realized then that this was not the life I want to live. I was earning a decent pay, but at the expense of my health and the time which I could have used for more valuable things.

My yoga props (mat, blocks, belts).

How Yoga Helped Me

It was always a different experience when I got on the mat. It was a time when I had nothing else to think about but breathing. Yoga was my way to slow things down. When everything became a hustle, I’d take a downward facing dog. Sometimes I’d subscribe to online classes and practice in the comfort of my own room. This, of course, happened only in my free time, which had become a scarce commodity.

Practicing yoga helped me maintain my sanity.

With the situation at work, a quick trip to the studio on the weekend felt like a vacation. I’d attend my favorite classes in one of the nearby studios with one of their teachers, Jeanne. She was a sunny soul to be with, always beaming with her smile.

During one of our chats after class, I innocently asked how to become a teacher like her. She shared some of her insights and told me that she knew of a teacher training course coming up in three weeks. She suggested that I get in touch with the teacher trainer and direct my inquiries to her.

I had only inconsistently practiced yoga for two years. I wasn’t even aware that such a thing as a teacher training course existed and that you’d have to pay to become a teacher. Moreover, teaching yoga was not something on top of my bucket list. It was never even on the list, to begin with!

Lloyd Matias, Cebu, Philippines.

I tried to shut out the idea but ended up pondering it that night.

“Wouldn’t it be great just to try it out?”, I thought. I reflected and asked myself: “Would I be able to commit time for such training?” Unless this were on the weekends, I would never be able to find the time for something like this.

Then one profound question came to me:

“Yoga has helped me live this busy (and sometimes crazy) life. Am I not responsible for sharing this with people who might have the need for it in theirs?”

The Universe Calls

I could not tell what it was, but there was always something nudging me to look into teacher training. I did a little research on the course Jeanne mentioned and came across a digital post that read, “200-hour Vinyasa teacher training. Weekend format.”

I checked the schedule. It would span across five months with the training days happening every other weekend. I was worried if I’d already made plans on those days, so grabbed my calendar to check. I hadn’t any other commitments.

“Is this a sign? Am I seriously going to do this?”

It was as if it was already planned out that I should take this course. Everything just fit so perfectly. A payment plan was even made available to make the training more affordable.

Just like the “You had me at hello” scene in the movie Jerry Maguire, they had me at “Weekend format.” I signed up.

Teacher Training and Teaching

Pascale Wettstein was a professional dancer who later accumulated over twenty years experience teaching yoga in Europe and the US. She was going to hold her fourth teacher training in two weeks’ time in the Philippines, and I had just found out.

Yoga Teacher Training, Cebu Philippines. Photo by: Claire L. Yap.

Over the next five months her sincere and professional training took us through asana (yoga postures), philosophy, anatomy, and teaching practice. We were twenty-two trainees who became twenty-two new teachers once the training ended.

We completed training a few weeks before the Christmas of 2015. I started teaching shortly after that while still working a nine to five. I took classes in studios near my workplace. Most of the times, after teaching a sixty-minute class, I’d have to go back to work so I could finish some tasks. I continued to juggle my job and teaching for a few more months.

I had a different demeanor when I taught and found it refreshing.

My weekdays were spent engineering source code while my nights and weekends were spent facilitating human movement.

I soon found myself planning out sequences for my classes while in my office cubicle. I’d also listen to the playlists that I prepared while I worked on the computer.

Yoga Connected Me to Myself

The little voice inside my head told me to give in to this new vocation. The prominant voices outside my head, family and friends, wanted me to keep the stable job.

I wanted to give the juggling act one more shot. Thinking it might make things a bit different if I moved to a new environment, I asked to be transferred to another team. This step helped for a while because I was learning new technology and new techniques. I was also beginning to love the warm and friendly new team. Despite these improvements, it was too late. I had already begun to give in to the calling.

I left my job after a few months and began teaching in studios, offices, and even in homes — wherever my teaching was needed. My schedule began to fill up.

Teacher training graduation, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines. Photo by: Claire L. Yap.

The Future for This Teacher

Yoga helped me slow down the pace of a stressful life. By teaching yoga, I found a way to connect with other people in my city.

I believe that by being a good student, you become a better teacher. That’s why I continue to join the classes and workshops of different teachers.

Chateau de Busay, Cebu City, Philippines. Photo by: Claire M. Paredes.

I do not discount the idea that soon I may find myself back to working a full-time job. But, that is up to the universe to lead me along that path.

One of my future plans is to start a blog, aiming to inspire more people to practice yoga — on and off their mats, in and out of the studio.

Yoga to me is not just a hobby. It is now my lifestyle.

We yogis all have our own stories. Mine may not be as dramatic as battling an illness, overcoming an addiction, or getting over a loss.

My story is a simple one of finding myself through yoga. I had to choose between staying in a harmful situation and moving on to do something that benefited both myself and my local community.

My story does not end here. It has just begun. I hope, dear reader, that you may find the same light that I discovered in the practice of yoga.

May the universe allow our paths to cross one day…

Lloyd Matias M. Arbiol

Written by

I am a professional Financial Adviser and Yoga Teacher. In my search for new adventures, I found a love for reading and writing.