Carol is a local yoga instructor and artist, her writing can be found on her blog[dropcap]Looking back on my journey to becoming a yoga instructor, I realize how much it has shaped me and freed me as a person. It’s hard to believe that nearly a whole year has passed since I taught my first class and completely fell in love with sharing the gift of yoga. In the last twelve months, not only have I strengthened my practice and learned a lot about the art of teaching, but I’ve also stripped away many layers of veneer from my soul in a constant effort to get to the rawness and power that lies beneath.[/dropcap]
I’ve come a long way from being the scared newbie at the front of class, barely audible to my students because I was choked with fear, to the less-scared, lightly seasoned instructor that I am now. Yet I still marvel at the fact that I get to do what I do, because I still feel like such a curious and new student myself.
The beauty of yoga is that it is a perpetual lesson. We can never fully master the art of yoga; even those who have attained “guru” status still speak of being humbled by their practice. True, we can delight in accomplishing a pose or connecting with a student. But we are never done. Just as one stretch of our path ends, another unfolds before us, each one more challenging than the last. It is important to retain a beginner’s mind, and bring an empty cup to the mat every day, ready to be filled with a drop of the infinite knowledge yoga can unlock for us.
My newest challenge is balancing teaching as a source of income and teaching for the pure joy of it. It’s easy to get caught up in the politics of it all – competition amongst studios,
instructors vying for prime teaching times, students not liking your style, etc. I often worry that I will not fill my classes, that I will not make enough money, or that I will be confronted with my own lack of skill or impotency as an instructor. When class sizes drop and threaten to get axed from a schedule, or when a new rock star yogi shows up and dwarfs my practice or my teaching, I panic. I’ve put my heart and soul into being a great yoga instructor, but no matter how much I love it, the yoga business is fundamentally that – a business – and at the end of the day, the numbers need to reflect positively in order to keep me at the front of the class.It seems unfair. It costs a lot to do trainings, it costs a lot to run a studio, and consequently it costs a lot to be a student. Sometimes I wish yoga could be shared freely, given and received as abundantly as sunlight. I’ve spoken to several teachers who feel stressed or pigeonholed, when all they want to do is share a gift. Sometimes it feels like in order to express their passion, they have to jump through hoops while holding their foot behind their head in skin-tight bright clothing. Sure, we look serene on the outside, but some days all I want to do is huddle under my wool blanket, clutching my bolster in fetal position, and take an extended sivasana.
It’s so easy to get in our own way and forget to let the yoga speak for itself. As my guru, Nikki Doane says, “We, as teachers, are simply the conduit for the information which is timeless and authorless.” Yoga is not a vocation. However, if we desire to make a living from being a yoga instructor, we have to take a stand and demand that we get paid what we are worth.
It’s tricky. In order to be the best instructor that I can be, I have to treat it as a full-time job. Yet with the volatile nature of the industry, that means taking risks. Should I quit my full-time job to focus on my practice, my sequences, and marketing myself? What if I fail? Then I’ll just be another rolled up yoga mat in the pile, so to speak. But as with any great risk,
there’s usually an impressive pay off. When we follow our dreams and passions, whether we fail or not, it’s always worth it.What I’ve learned is that we have to trust in our own worth, and know that we are bettering the lives of others through a unique and specialized skill set, just like a doctor or an architect. We have to believe in the effectiveness and necessity of our gift, and join as a community rather than compete amongst ourselves. We also have to believe in the strength of our practice, and its ability to hold us above water even when it feels like we are drowning. When life seems to have cornered me, financial crisis looms overhead, or I begin to doubt myself, I come back to the mat and let go. It’s here that everything comes into perspective, and the reality of abundance floods back. On a practical level, maybe I’ll have to tighten my belt while I build a new class, or maybe I’ll surprise myself with how well it does and I’ll be able to pay my bills sooner than expected. We can never predict what life has in store. It’s our job as instructors – and enlightened members of society – to hold the space and take life one breath at a time.
Truly, I learn as much from my students as they do from me, and I am flushed with gratitude after every class, faced with the glowing lights of those who have just trusted me with their bodies and shared a soul-space with me. This is truly the reason I teach – not for the money, not for the excuse to wear stretchy pants all day and write them off as “work clothes” – but to really connect at a soul level with other human beings as we stumble along this path of life. When the going gets tough, the tough do utkatasana. Come back to the mat. It’s always here, it’s always home.
See you in class. Namaste.