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Some Necessary and Practical Truths for Yoga Teachers

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Yoga teaching, as a profession, is quite amazing. To make it work, either full or part time, we have to acknowledge some basic and practical truths about teaching. We have to talk about money, worth, motives, karma, feeling good enough, how we teach poses, and a whole host of other issues. I listed my top 4 below but there are many more. Facing the practicalities of teaching helps us grow personally and professionally and allows us to be more relaxed and better informed teachers for our students.

 You are not “on sale”.

Yoga teachers often struggle with self-worth especially when it comes to compensation for their services. I am tired of seeing yoga teachers not ask for and make what they deserve. It is a rare teacher that took teacher training for free, and most teachers have invested thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in their training. Therefore, as a teacher, those who can afford your time and skills should pay you for your time and skills commensurate with your experience and skill level. Don’t let others guilt you into constantly teaching for free or for a very reduced rate in the name of getting “exposure”. Even if yoga is not your primary form of income, you deserve to be paid your worth for providing a wonderful service.

(Let me be very clear. I am not disparaging nor discouraging seva (selfless service). Giving is essential and donating our time and skills is a very powerful way to generate positive karma for ourselves and for the world. I do several donation events every year as a way of giving back. There are also many ways to manage your pricing and class schedule to make your services more accessible.)

But, if we give too much of ourselves and devalue our services without first being able to take care of ourselves, that creates a problem. It is neither loving nor selfless to ignore and subjugate our own needs or worth in the name of being a “good person”. That’s being a martyr. When we martyr ourselves we are not giving selflessly, we are performing so that others will think favorably of us. That’s passive-aggressive manipulation, not love. We have to take care of ourselves well and have our worth acknowledged in order to take care of others with clean and positive karma. Whatever our personal feelings about money, money is a fact of life.

Get paid what you are worth.

What you do is amazing.

Teachers don’t take it on the chin for doing what you do. Yes many of us are “eccentric”, sometimes sanctimonious, and maybe at times even hypocritical. But in general I think we do amazing work. A lot of times the micro-aggressions against yoga teachers such as “That’s all you do” or “oh you’re a yoga person” easily lead to a defeated and self-loathing attitude. Be proud of what you do, it’s not conceited to be proud of your work. Yoga is at the forefront of an incredible shift in the attitudes towards healing in our society. We are all on the front lines of this revolution and it’s really exciting.

Everybody can do yoga, but not every body can do every pose.

I remember when that New York Times article came out a few years ago about the potential dangers of yoga poses. My response to that was of course poses can be dangerous if done incorrectly or taught poorly, but if you were halfway decently trained as a teacher and had an ounce of common sense you’d never allow those things to happen in your class anyways.

But there’s a valid point here. Not every body can or should do every pose. There are some poses that for some bodies are dangerous. There are some poses that some people will just not be able to do for a number of reasons, and that’s ok. It’s ok to not do inversions, or deep back bends, or foot behind the head poses for any number of reasons. It really doesn’t matter because there’s really good news:

(Drumroll) There’s always a pose or a variation of a pose anyone can do!

I sometimes marvel at the chair yoga class at one of the studios where I teach. There are people in that class with severely restricted movement, shaky balance, and some serious medical conditions. Each of them does a full practice using a chair and props for support. Incidentally I’ve taken this class before, and the 82 year-old gentleman next to me smiled and with great confidence said, “try to keep up young man.” I loved it! This man had gained so much from his practice. He was confident, alive, in his body, moved well, it was amazing. He didn’t need to tip into headstand or do crazy transitions to benefit from yoga; he got great benefit from doing what was appropriate for him.

Stop over training.

So many yoga teachers suffer from “never ready syndrome”. They study with teacher after teacher in modality after modality. They pile on certifications from circus yoga to acro-yoga to yin-yoga to volleyball yoga to haiku yoga to god only knows what else. Teachers, you don’t need 40 certifications to teach a well-informed class. Enough. Go teach. Take 3 to 4 workshops per year and only trainings that genuinely pique your interest. Have a mentor who you trust and like who can guide you and answer your questions as you develop your craft. Learn about stuff that interests you rather than compulsively accumulating certifications. Teach. Your classes are your greatest teacher. Your classes are what make you really have to learn. Your classes make you a TEACHER not just a “regurgitator of information.” Relax. You’re good enough. At least in Boston, I know all the teachers you can possibly study with and you can’t go wrong. Any teacher doing 200 or 500-hour trainings in this city can teach you to teach well so take a breath.

Relax.

You’re good enough.

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