December 9, 2013

10 Sanity-Saving Tips: When Teaching Yoga Full Time is Making You Crazy. ~ Alex Moody

If the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

What if the teacher is ready? Will the students appear?

In February of 2013, I was laid off from a job I no longer loved. Although at first, I hit the panic button, I did feel a sense of relief as I drove away from that phase of my life. I had the choice now to start my own yoga therapy and career consulting business. I could double the amount of yoga classes I was teaching in the Asheville, NC area, become an instructor in a teacher training and create each day on my own terms. It was what I had been wanting for the last couple of months at my job.

I had daydreamed and written goals about it.

And I also never imagined it would be this hard and this lonely.

Here are my top ten tips for not going crazy while transitioning to a yoga career full-time. Keep in mind that this is my experience, and my advice only serves to help you. Take what you’d like and leave the rest for another day.

 1. Be Ready.

If I ever decide to own my own yoga studio, I want to have a sign above the door that reads Are you ready? I don’t mean ready as going to your local grocery store, buying a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread. We aren’t gearing up for the apocalypse.

We are, however, gearing up for a life transition.

And for the real meaning of how you tell your students to find a pose in the transition, how we explain to release attachment. Perhaps this is part of my svadhyaya, or one’s own lesson, but I was not ready. And part of it was because this transition was not done on my pretty little timeline, and part of it is because the market in Asheville, NC is truly saturated with quite talented yoga instructors.

When I first moved here to do my teacher training in July 2008, I was convinced I would prove everyone wrong on this point and be able to make a living doing what I love. And to be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question right now.

2. Love Yoga, Inside and Out.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”


And I mean love it. Loveeee it. Lurve it {Annie Hall reference, anyone?} Sometimes after a day of teaching yoga classes to different audiences and driving all over town to do so, the very last thing I want to do is get on my mat and practice or meditate. I’m always glad I do, and I’m always aware of that resistance.

As an introvert, I’ll get a little anxious right before I teach a class, but I always walk out feeling energized and refreshed. How the heck did I luck out and get this gig? How fantastic.

These are the moments.

 3. Save Money.

The next two points go hand-in-hand. Building a yoga career can cost a lot of money here and there, a bolster here and an office space there, a brand new 500 hour workshop here and yoga alliance fees there. You get the gist. I do believe in karma yoga and donation-based yoga; however, I also value yoga instructors being able to make a living out of doing what they love. A nice bit of savings can feel really great for building your business organically.

 4. Get a Meaningless Part-Time Job.

This suggestion may seem a bit obvious or a bit crazy, depending on how you look at it. In our pitta, go, go, go, culture, the ego can be quite a thing to deal with in these transitions. There are mornings where I feel in complete line with the universe, marketing strategically on Facebook, setting a goal of telling five folks about my class in-person the week before and still only five folks will unroll their mat in my paid per person class at the studio. And before the panic button in my head goes off, before I add up what I am making for this delicately planned class I take a moment and set it all aside.

Because teaching yoga is so valuable and so amazing.

It’s a sharing on a completely different level. It’s showing up for whoever showed up because they deserve it. Here’s where a part-time job can be helpful. Here’s where the adding up doesn’t matter because as you build your yoga career, you will be like that undiscovered rock band who plays a kick ass show to a tiny audience in some bar in the middle of nowhere. And it’ll be a damn good show. Not that teaching yoga is putting on a show.

 5. Knock Out Trainings and Workshops Beforehand.

This seems silly, but it might be the most important one on this list. From my experience, being in my 500 hour therapeutic training while launching a yoga career left me feeling burnt out, confused and financially drained.

I felt like with my training I was teaching something new and different every week according to what I had learned, rather than staying to my authentic voice. I feel like this left some of my regular students just as confused as I was. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved most of my teacher trainings and have learned a lot, but it can be a challenge to train and teach full-time.

 6. Be Organic, Not a Brand.

I’ve worked for a company where brand is absolutely everything. We would constantly talk about how to be the brand and how even on our off days, we still represented the brand and needed to act accordingly.

And that’s the thing: it’s an act.

It’s your best self on Facebook. It’s your most creative self on Instagram. It’s your wildest yoga pose on top of a mountain on a flyer in your local coffee shop.

It’s said time and time again, but the best advice I have here is this: be yourself.

Be that instructor who remembers your students’ names, who plans ahead, sets intentions for the class and knows when it’s best to wing it. The practice of yoga can begin to reveal the layers under the layers so that the authentic self can shine through. The five Koshas, anyone? People will show up for a class with an authentic instructor.

 7. Practice, Practice, Practice.

What’s in a yoga practice? Is it practicing handstand until you stick it? Is it lengthening back into child’s pose for forty minutes? Is it a five mile run to calm the mind? Is it taking a few deep breaths at a busy intersection while driving home from work?

The eight limbs of yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi) demonstrate that there are many, many different ways to find your practice in everyday life. One of the things I love about doing yoga therapy is that the conversation with clients is all about fitting what works best into the context of their everyday life.

A little piece here and there, a kick butt fun class with your favorite instructor in town, and then a pause in the middle of a frustrating conversation—it’s all a part of the practice.

 8. Love Yourself.

“My life has taught me that there is a wealth of strength within us, there is nothing we cannot handle. Life presents its purpose and beauty in all sorts of ways. The trick is to stay open to one’s strength, to not deny or strive to prove it, but rather to simply have it.”

~ Matthew W. Sanford, author of Waking.

This quote says it best. There are two motivators behind all of the decisions we make—love or fear. When we think of things this clearly, we are able to either connect or deny ourselves this strength. Love yourself may look like regular coffee dates with your favorite fellow yoga instructors or a 90-minute massage twice a month.

Find whatever it is and treat yourself! You will be exchanging energy so much while teaching yoga full time that this giving back to yourself is absolutely essential to long-term sustainability.

9. Ignore Yoga Politics, They are in Every Community.

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”

~ Rumi

If you’ve been teaching yoga for a while, full-time or part-time, you’ve come across yoga politics in your city or town. I think there’s this assumption that because we all practice yoga that we are perfectly peaceful, loving beings who couldn’t possibly have confrontations or ugliness, right?

Flash to me and my boyfriend in an argument in Whole Foods over what we want to make for dinner and my face looking around the isle to make sure no one sees this angry side of me.

I connect this one to authenticity for sure. Heck yes, I fight with my boyfriend over white vs. wheat rice. First world problems, indeed. Heck yes, I leave yoga classes feeling irritated or angry. When I think about politics, not just of the yoga kind, I think about this statement: we are either committed to people or our ideas about people.

It is why being angry or mean via text or email can be so detrimental. We see a computer rather than a person’s expression. We see our ego rather than compassion. In the end, we are absolutely all on this journey together. Decide early on how much energy you want to waste on it and then move on.

 10. Don’t Do It.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere-on water and land.”

~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Perhaps the words don’t do it seem rather harsh here and my intention is the exact opposite. Just like accounting or acting isn’t for everyone, teaching yoga full time isn’t for everyone, either.

As a career consultant I see this time and time again. People who are holding onto a career for fear of seeming like a failure. As yogis and yoginis on this journey, we know exactly that.

This is a breath, a moment, a step in a much larger path that extends beyond the physical. You can share your love, enthusiasm and amazing teaching skills without making it a full time gig.

But you’ll never know until you try.

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Assistant Editor: Kerrie Shebiel / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo Credit: Photo: Wael Onsy on Pixoto.

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Alex Moody