I started out as a yoga teacher and I was barely 19 years old. My students were mostly old enough to be my parents and I was not a collage graduate with a fitness related degree or business related degree. I had two other jobs besides teaching yoga to make sure I filled my days and could pay my bills. I lived in my car and bought all my props out of my own money so my students could have the best experience possible. I made up flyers for classes at many of the locations I taught because I saw that if I got one person from those I was ahead of the game, no one told me to do that and in less than pleasant weather I would walk the Walmart parking lot and side streets putting my flyers on car windows. I’d go to all the coffee shops around and post appropriate flyers for the classes in that area I was teaching (no one told me to do this by the way). Again if I could get one student, that was a win for me.
I never waited for someone to give me an idea or an opportunity I went out and got them myself. I never saw the studios, gyms and rec centers I taught for as responsible for my success as a teacher but rather that they were giving me a chance to expose myself to as many people as possible.
Some day’s I’d wake up at 5am to drive 40 minutes to a studio I taught at to do a 30 minute private class for an elderly lady with MS, then I’d get a coffee or do a self-practice or read for an hour and a half until I had a class 8am, to then drive 50 minutes back to lifeguard and teach a few swim lessons in the afternoon. In the evening I’d be out to any of the various locations I hustled at and taught one, two even three classes for the night, and sometimes not all at the same location (hustling again).
I have never taught routines and in the first several years of, teaching I was incredibly self-critical, feeling I was not a good enough teacher, that at times broke me down, I had bouts of crying, feeling I couldn’t make it, that I wasn’t good enough, and oh by the way I was newly in recovery for an eating disorder dealing with all the shit that goes with that, I would have to continuously pull myself together to teach and my mat is what saved my life and has helped make me who I am today.
I guess what I am trying to say is if you are expecting that when you become a yoga teacher that it’s going to be wonderful and easy, that the students will just flock to you, in kindness, think again. No one told me what to expect about anything when I went into this, I hadn’t a clue how to do much of anything except for my 6, one hour class outlines I had in my folder when I left my training. Being a yoga teacher long term has to be something you feel deep in your heart, no your soul, it’s something that will bring you to the pits of your being, exposing all your insecurities when students either judge you or appear to be and you have to find it in yourself to deal with it. When your class sizes swing by the tens and you must remember that shit happens and most likely it’s not you as long as you know you are doing all you can to succeed. I’d hear students comment on that their backs hurt or over hear in a crowd that their instructor does this or that, and I’d make a mental note to not do that or to learn more about what they were talking about.
It’s a mind game of rejection and acceptance when your classes take months, no YEARS to stabilize and gain approval from your community. I spent months and months and months when I opened my studio building up classes, time slots and new styles of yoga. I’d come home to my husband and he’d ask how many people and I’d say one or two and after a few months maybe four, and in the following weeks the same four again, it was years later of extensive effort, trust and belief that I was able to make things work.
You can’t be wishy-washy when you decide to be a yoga teacher and you must be willing to step out and take risks and most importantly follow through; ideas are one thing but actually putting them into action is another. I am the kind of person that continuously self reflects and asks what can I do better, what am I doing wrong and how can I change this? I am an action taker and am willing to go the extra mile. Is that the description of a yoga teacher, maybe, maybe not, but when you add a side of honesty your students learn to trust you.
Being a yoga teacher cannot be about the money no matter how many yoga teachers out there are teaching you the business of yoga and how you can make a six figure income doing so, in all reality very few will (for various reasons). And again I repeat to be successful in life you must follow your heart with honesty and integrity and then the money, if it’s your path, will come. My path has taught me to rely on no one to do things for me and when necessary ask for help, but don’t expect others to do your dirty work no matter where you teach, where you work or where you live.
In writing this today I hope you take some time to self-reflect, maybe you are not a yoga teacher but being one takes guts, takes real, REAL commitment and follow through. And in wanting to be a yoga teacher it’s important to decide to what degree do you really want to teach and how much you really want to do what you say you want to do. I have learned it’s not for everyone and to teach a class that is not hyped by media science (what the media says is so great, new and trendy, will help you melt pounds and make you look great) and to not fall into the latest fads (yes even yoga) means you may have a slightly harder time getting students in because helping people realize what they buy into is a totally different topic.
So to all my yoga teachers out there, hang in there and keep at it, maybe teaching eight classes is too much and you’d rather just teach one class a week and that be it, maybe you just want to teach your friends and family, or not at all anymore. Maybe you do want to open a studio, or maybe you have a whole different path in mind. I don’t regret any bit of my path and have a vision and I will do all I can to make it happen in God’s timing, but in the mean time I will not wait around for others to help me make it, that’s no one’s job but mine.
Regardless, I wish you all well and know that this message is merely from my own experience and one that will hopefully help you find what you are looking for, being that answer has to come from within you. I love being a yoga teacher and wouldn’t want to do anything else in life but what I currently do, heck I teach a yoga teacher training program, but teach it with the approach of a total life transformation program first, and feel that to be a yoga teacher you must start there and that takes time.
So to all my yoga teacher friends and readers go out there and rock it, own your space and follow through, the sweat you put in will reward you fully and the the sweat I’m talking about does not come from the heaters blowing 90 degree air out on you during class.