“Pivot” is a word we hear a lot of these days, and as we enter a new phase of the pandemic with more and more people getting vaccines and businesses opening up, many people are needing to or wanting to pivot to new jobs, careers, and side-hustles. What’s the best way to prepare for a pivot, seen or unforeseen? What if pivoting is not a choice? These questions and more underscore my desire to amplify stories that take us through the journey of the pivot.

My friend Kristin, who you may know by now is a physical therapist and fellow yoga teacher, was forced to pivot when the pandemic happened. Her job as a physical therapist was eliminated a week after the pandemic started. She has emerged stronger and happier from that experience. I am sharing her experience as an inspiration to others who might be going through a forced pivot.  

As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.” The trick is to be ready to walk through the door when the time comes. Preparation and passion (as well as a little luck) are key. In the interview below, you’ll find out how Kristin did it.

Before we get to your forced pivot, where did you start out? 

I began as a physical therapist working in outpatient orthopedics in Kentucky. My kids were in daycare and I was working a full-time schedule. We were getting ready to move to New Jersey and a friend of mine—a former patient, actually—turned me on to yoga. He knew that because of my athletic background, I’d probably love it. We went to a class together, and I enjoyed it.

Then we moved, and I was a stay-at-home mom for six months before returning to work part time at a physical therapy clinic. It was during that time that I started going to a vinyasa yoga class in my area, and as I was looking around at the other students, I thought, This is why everyone gets hurt! In Kentucky, many of my patients had come from yoga. I started offering free physical therapy screenings at the studio because I wanted to help. 

What was going through your mind as you were applying your experience in a new setting? 

There were a lot of back and hip injuries. I’d look around the room and see people doing binds or bending their spine backward and forward to achieve the posture. Many of the hyper-flexible yoga practitioners were getting injured because they were exacerbating areas of overuse, and then average folks were getting injured in the forward bends, trying to look like the hyper-flexible ones! It’s also not uncommon to go to a class where they don’t warm up your body properly before doing twists or other demanding positions. My immediate thought was, I don’t want to injure myself with these poses. But then, I started thinking about all the other people in the room and a light bulb went on. I could help. I wanted to help.  

So, how did you start?

The classes were fun and I could see the benefits, but I could also see how the teachers were flying blind without a thorough knowledge of anatomy. I ended up teaching anatomy to their teachers in training and was floored by how little interest and accountability there was in the program. It was during that time that someone referred me to a different yoga studio that was run by a physical therapist. I took a few of her classes and she was speaking my language. She had modified the poses to align with scientific principles—i.e., no headstands, deep backbend while adding more poses that included weight-bearing through the hands.  

I ended up taking her yoga teacher training program back in 2014 and have never looked back.

I started teaching at her studio but continued my job as a physical therapist.  

Why didn’t you pivot at that time to becoming a full-time yoga teacher?

It was partially fear. My family relies on two incomes, and we were purchasing a house and I was afraid of not being able to make ends meet. So, because of that, I worked at the PT clinic and then would go to the studio and teach yoga. The difference was that when I went to the clinic, it felt like work compared to the teaching, which was pure joy.

Another reason I didn’t take the leap initially was probably because I had seen the risks of pivoting too quickly. It can happen when a company or organization likes you and wants to create a position for you, which is flattering to the ego, but then they often don’t have enough work, so you’re laid off a couple years later with no safety net. I didn’t want that to happen to me. But then, when the pandemic happened, I was laid off from the PT clinic, so I was literally forced to pivot.

So, what did your pivot entail?

Well, we were all learning. The studio went online overnight. By this time, I also had a lot of private yoga and PT clients. I was not sure if my students or patients would continue virtually.  But to my delight and gratitude, they did.  

The studio owner was also building an online-only platform. I joined her part time and plunged into developing content for the site. And lo and behold, we started gaining traction.

Looking back, what set you up for success?

I was already doing some yoga classes for the online platform, which helped because I was familiar with teaching in front of a camera, and then I had a good relationship with the studio. I had built up my clientele and became one of the most popular teachers. They trusted me and I had proven myself. So when they asked me to be a mentor with their online yoga teacher training program, it was easier to transition into a bigger role when the time came. 

I also presented them with a business plan that showed what I could do for them and what I was worth. It took a lot of preparation and market research, but it allowed me to basically create a job description that worked for both of us. The position was part time because I wanted to have other capital-making opportunities and not have to rely solely on the studio.

Lastly, I was clear on my assets, which is important. I’m well-educated and trained in what I do, and I’m a great teacher. Knowing that helped.

What is your life like today?

My work life is made up of teaching physical therapy-based yoga classes to practitioners as well as to yoga teachers so they can go on to teach it.

I’m also doing private virtual physical therapy and private yoga sessions in three different time zones: East Coast, West Coast, and Central. I also have private clients all over the world, including London, Germany, Sweden, and Belgium! I’m teaching teachers in Australia, Vietnam, Africa, India, and the United Arab Emirates as well!

Because it’s all virtual, I often work seven days a week, but the difference is that I’m doing work that I love. I have the freedom to be able to visit my daughter in college and I’m not tethered to working at a clinic somewhere. I’m also doing well financially and truly believe in the value of what I offer.

Anything you’d like to add?

You have to be a self-starter when working for yourself or when you’ve initiated a pivot (or when forced into one!). But if you start the preparation early, you will be ready when the time comes. 

Kristin’s story is a perfect example of how preparation, hard work, and passion can pay off to make a forced pivot work for you. What’s your forced pivot story? Share yours in the comments below so we can all benefit from our collective experiences, lessons, and successes.