So you want to be a yoga teacher? Well, let me tell you a thing or two. And it ain’t too pretty.
In the past year, I have been asked by several newly minted teachers how to go about finding work as a yoga teacher. I tell them the truth. After all, one of the yamas (restraints) that we are supposed to honor as yogis-in-training (thanks Manorama for that gem) is the practice of satya. I am not one to sugar coat things. After all, it says in the Bible “the truth shall set you free.” (I am by no means big on the Bible, but I appreciate some of its little nuggets.).
Let’s face it. The truth of the matter is that being a yoga teacher is hard work. It’s rarely glamourous. Those posts you see from yogalibrities, the folks who travel all over the world teaching and take their picture in handstand or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana in the farthest most remote places on the planet (think Bali), well, they were just in the right place at the right time. Granted, I know they worked really hard to get there. And yes, hard work is ultimately rewarded, but there is something to be said for being lucky too (or being cute, which doesn’t hurt either). And another hard truth is – most of us just aren’t gonna get so lucky. No matter how hard we work, how much we practice, how many japa mala mantras we say or how many Facebook posts or blogs we post. We are going to be small (underpaid) fish in a big pond.
Now this might not be sitting so well with some of you. I hate to break it to these new teachers, but after being in the business of teaching yoga for nearly a decade (yes, it is a business), I have come to realize it takes a lot of patience (and some suffering) to make it as a yoga teacher. You have to be not only physically strong, but you need to be mentally tough. There’s a reason I study with teachers that are full of tapas (firey discipline). Because not only do I get physically stronger, I get tough enough to deal with the reality that is in front of me. That this is not an easy path I have chosen. I could have chosen to stay in my cushy corporate job that I hated. I could have chosen to stay miserable. I could have chosen to stay depressed and to take Prozac for the majority of my adult life. But instead, I chose the difficult route, knowing full well it would be rocky and miserable at times. But also knowing there would be victories and triumphs along the path as well.
So what advice do I offer to these new teachers? I tell them the reality of the situation. That this is a tough way to make a living. There are a ton of yoga teachers out there, all trying to survive and thrive. And if anyone tells you that there is not competition out there, that we can all thrive if we support each other, well then, that person is either fooling themselves or lying. I believe that the competition is there, it’s present, but no one has the balls to talk about it because it’s “unyogic” to do so. And in my opinion, to be “yogic” means to step into the shitstorm and deal with it head on, not to cover it in fluff.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love teaching yoga. It’s such a gift and a blessing. And I am so fortunate to have a husband that is supportive of my creative endeavor of teaching. But it’s fricking hard. I have to not only play the part of yoga teacher when I step into the studio to teach a class, but I also have to be a storyteller, a poet, a physical therapist, a massage therapist and a psychologist. Not to mention the countless hours of sending invoices, creating fresh classes, doing my own practice , marketing and social media. Wearing all those hats is exhausting. I am getting exhausted just blogging…
I hope everyone who teaches yoga finds their way on this path. I hope that we can all co-exist, that we can all share in the challenges that this path of practice offers. And I really hope that we can all be honest with each other and ultimately be willing to share in the trials, the tribulations and the triumphs of teaching yoga.