I am, in corporate terms, a mid-level management yoga teacher. I have 10 years of experience teaching yoga. I have 15 years of practice under my belt. I have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to study with some of the best teachers in the country. I love yoga. I am committed to the this path, 8 limbs and all that spiritual jazz. So why the heck am I having to prove myself just like I stepped out of my 200-hour teacher training? And for that matter, why am I being paid that way?
A friend of mine recently moved to Seattle and is very much in the same predicament. She spent 10 years devoting herself to the study of Anusara Yoga. She taught all over the East Coast, leading workshops, immersions and teacher trainings. This girl knows her shit. And she’s good. Anusara scandal aside, she continued on her path and moved out here with her partner. She is attempting to build a student base and make things happen here. We were discussing this just the other day, as we have both been auditioning in the past few weeks. She told me about an audition where there were 8 other teachers, all with less experience than her, all younger than her. We shared “war” stories, as both of us have found this auditioning thing to be strange. I never had to audition in Chicago. I did my teacher training at my studio; the owner trusted me and he hired me. He took a chance on me, and ultimately, that chance paid off. I built a student base, taught workshops and even taught parts of a 500-hour teacher training. And I hadn’t even DONE a 500-hour TT myself. And along the way, as I became more experienced and really showed my devotion – to teaching, to the studio, to yoga – I was compensated fairly with a wage that was equivalent to my experience and training.
And then I moved to Seattle. And that was all gone.
And here I am, one year and three months later, still auditioning for teaching jobs that wouldn’t even pay for a week of groceries (much less rent), even IF I taught 10 or 15 classes a week. I feel like one of those middle-age, middle management level corporate folks, many of whom lost their jobs in the recession and ultimately had to take a pay cut or even move down in the ranks, just so they could have a job. And why hire someone with experience, when it’s cheaper to hire someone who has little or no experience, but can basically do the same job? The same phenomenon is taking place in the yoga world. So many teachers are being churned out at such a high rate, and we can all do the same job – teach a yoga class where everyone gets a workout and feels good after. Is that what this path has been reduced to?
It seems, on some levels, yes. That when we, meaning the more experienced teachers, accept getting paid less just because we want to teach. We love to teach. I love to teach. I love to share what is so special about yoga that goes beyond a physical workout – the mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual connection to the practice. And yet, I am not that young anymore. Nor was I ever super-cute, thin and perky. I am that teacher who will push you to study yourself, your motives, why you practice yoga. I am that teacher who will push you to ask the challenging questions. I am that teacher who will kick your ass too, in a subtle manner. And for all that, I would very much like to be paid fairly. So I can actually eat.
I hope that ultimately, this blog will spark conversation. And will create a willingness to have a dialogue over what’s fair, what’s right and what teachers deserve. To make a decent living. To share what they love. To not feel like we have to compete with each other for who has the cutest outfit or the cutest butt or the most awesome pose. Because I may not win any of those competitions, but I will definitely put my hat into the ring. Because giving up and throwing in the towel…well, that’s just not my style.