This past week, Carol Horton, a well-known author in the yoga-sphere, wrote a blog entitled “Teaching Yoga, Finding Meaning and Navigating the Rat Race.” The blog was sparked by yet another post entitled “How I Went Broke Trying to Teach Yoga” – which interestingly enough was posted on Credit.com. The story goes that a Harvard-educated lawyer with a MFA from Columbia falls in love with yoga, takes a 200 hour teacher training, loses her job, gets severance and decides to continue on to a 300 hour program ignoring her bank account and figuring “the universe would send me a sign.”
IMHO (in my humble opinion), the universe needed to smack this girl upside her head. And set her straight. The story continues on in the typical yoga teacher fashion, with her running all over town trying to pick up classes, private clients and actually get paid a living wage. This is a story that I too am familiar with. I spent the first five years or more of my yoga teaching career running all over Chicago, teaching 20+ classes a week to pay the rent, drive my car around town and keep my fridge stocked with food. I had to hustle pretty damn hard to make it work. I had to, as one of my lovely Facebook friends puts it, get off my ass and do the work.
“Doing the work” means being willing to teach at god-forsaken hours (think before the sun rises) and also teach late night classes back to back. Which means getting home at 10pm at night, still needing to eat something before you pass out, then having to get up YET AGAIN at 5:30am to drive at least 20 minutes to your 6:30am class and still have to find and pay for parking. This also means being alive, awake, alert and enthusiastic at 6:30am. And dealing with other peoples shit. Seriously? All for how much? Not enough to put up with this bullshit for long. Nobody ever told me that the universe was going to provide something if I just set the right intention. Or maybe they did, and I either didn’t hear it or blatantly ignored it (for me, option 2 seems most feasible). I was going to have to provide for myself. Well, at least until I found a husband…which I did, but that’s not why I married him (he might tell you otherwise, but just ignore him).
Teaching yoga full-time has, as Carol puts it, become a rat race. Which really saddens me, but it comes as no surprise. When I started teaching over a decade ago, this yoga thing was just in its infancy. I was begged to substitute daily. I always had classes to teach and finding work was not much of a problem. I feel for people who are being trained as teachers in 2015 if their dream is to pursue this as a career. Because it’s really freaking hard. And I see myself as simply teaching asana, some pranayama and meditation, not really teaching “yoga” as my teacher Aadil sees it. From his perspective, asana is only the tip of the iceberg that is yoga. I agree wholeheartedly. But I am not equipped to teach “yoga” nor do I really believe that most people are interested in learning what yoga truly is. Sometimes, I question if I truly know what yoga is. Hard to teach what you don’t understand, right?
So if you are in teacher training, and you have your heart set on this as a career, be prepared to bust your ass and hustle. Recognize that yoga is an amazing gift, a life-changing one that can save us from our worst selves. But it also demands that we do the work to grow. Setting all the intentions in the world doesn’t mean crap if you don’t back it up. So get a game plan. Work hard. Have fun. Be yourself. Realize that you probably won’t get famous on Instagram or on the festival circuit. Accept it. Move on. There are plenty of folks out there that can be served by yoga, in any way, shape or form. And realize that it will happen if you are truly willing to get off your ass and do the work.