If you're a yoga teacher and the pressure of popularity is getting you down, Kat helps put your mind at rest...
Finding your place
There are so many styles of yoga out there to suit our ever-changing attention spans. We all want diversity, we all want options. The choice we have when deciding on a teacher training course is astonishing. Then when you come to graduate you may feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, competing with what feels like the other hundred yoga teachers in your local area - each teacher seemingly offering something different to you. Finding your place in the yoga ‘industry’ is tough. If you want to teach, you have to run a business and this can feel contradictory to all the principles of your yoga teacher training. But it doesn’t have to be like that...
What do students want?
Western society has turned yoga into a fitness craze. There isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with this; people can still reap the benefits of yoga, even if they are practising solely for the physical advantages. Although this may make it more difficult for 'traditional' yoga teachers who aren’t offering things like goat yoga, or beer yoga classes to sell their services, I believe for every yoga student, there is a yoga teacher out there.
What do you offer?
I find that I fluctuate between wanting to increase my class numbers (because my ego is telling me this is the proof I’m doing a good job) and letting it all happen naturally. I have found that sometimes the less I push my advertising, the more students flow through the door.
Teaching yoga is a conundrum. Personally, I don’t think there is one way to ensure you consistently have strong class numbers. What I would suggest is that you remain authentic in what you teach – whatever style of yoga this may be. If we take the stance that we remain unattached to our financial gain or how many students attend class, we can teach from a much purer place. When we teach from our centre, we give out a certain energy which students pick up on. Have you ever done something that hasn’t felt right? Something that has left you uneasy? Have you had someone notice a change in your behaviour because of this?
Well, this is what it’s like when we teach to please. We send out a subtle message we're not being honest. Yoga is much bigger than just standing or sitting on our mat, bending and contorting ourselves into various shapes. It’s a practice designed to shake your very core.
Yoga is much bigger than just standing or sitting on our mat, bending and contorting ourselves into various shapes. It’s a practice designed to shake your very core.
Yoga helps us clear our minds from all the stress and concerns of our daily life so we can see the calm stillness underneath. It’s this stillness which is our true identity. We only lose touch with it because of external distractions. It’s important to carry this message with us into our teachings. If we ignore this and teach in order to improve our business income, we're not offering our students the real message of yoga. We're not practising Satya, truthfulness – one of the Yamas in the eightfold path of yoga.
What it means to teach yoga
I find it really helpful to remember that it’s a blessing to teach yoga. Yes, it’s a business but you don’t have to get caught up in the material rewards such as income or class numbers. Practise ‘Vairagya’ (non-attachment) in regards to these things. As Patanjali tells us in the Yoga Sutras:
“The consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving from objects seen or heard about is non-attachment” (Book 1 Samadhi Pada, verse 15)*.
For anyone teaching or training to teach yoga, your classes will mean different things to each and every one of you. Every class is a new challenge, a new experience and a blessing. You will never teach two classes that are identical. Every class is a brand new present moment to become absorbed in. It is this we should be embracing when teaching, not the material benefits.
Words of comfort
Never change who you are to impress someone else. The same goes for how you teach.
As Donna Farhi says in her book, ‘Bringing Yoga to Life’**:
“Are we loyal to the spirit of the teachings, or are we abusing the tradition for our own ends?...We may be giving students practices for which they are ill prepared in order to curry favour, like a parent dispensing candy to a child”
It’s important we act responsibly in our teaching. Yoga is a form of discipline and some people are not ready for it. They might come to one of your classes and never return. Try not to take it personally. Donna Farhi offers some words of comfort:
“It is understandable that we may come to feel threatened by the cusp of peacefulness, given the relentless way in which most of us are bombarded with stimuli throughout the course of a normal day…We may unconsciously view disciplined practice or ordering our lives as staid compared to the seemingly glittering attraction of going out to the movies or to the shopping mall…”
Remember: students will find you for you. Just as there are varying yoga practices, students need just as many varying teachers. You are unique.
* The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda
** Bringing Yoga to Life – Donna Fahri
About the author:
Kat Bayly is a yoga teacher based in Frome, Somerset, UK. She completed her yoga teacher training in Goa, India, with the Yogaprema School of Yoga.
She runs weekly classes in Frome, is a guest teacher for Yogaprema and enjoys writing about all things yoga on her blog, http://www.kalindiyoga.co.uk/blog.
Photos by: JasonPB photography (www.jasonpb.com)