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Lockdown was a time when the alternative medicine market witnessed an alarming rise of professionals.
From acupressure to nature cure, everyone was signing up for courses against the clock, including me.
As if drinking cloud-coloured ash gourd juice, cooking in earthen pots, soaking in the metropolitan sun twice a day at the age of 34, and sticking mustard seeds and poking pins into the different parts of our body were going to undo all the torment inflicted upon it.
It might just—since optimism is beginning to blossom this year.
January ain’t January without New Year’s resolutions.
Like every year, we have weight loss goals, gratitude journaling, eat-more-fruit resolutions topping the charts, followed by uninstalling shopping apps (read spend double the amount supporting small businesses), learning a new skill, and calling our family more often (and doomscrolling while they expound their views with regard to babies).
Right at the bottom, we have people creating coffee budgets (to avoid spending half of their frugal fortune at Starbucks), resolving to unfollow the Kardashians, and stop googling symptoms (because it is inevitably going to tell them it is cancer).
Like most yoga teachers, my goal is to read more spiritual books (if everyone from Manto to Murakami permits), learn Sanskrit mantras verbatim, and quit the rat race on social media.
But there are five special resolutions that I’d like, or every yoga teacher—amateur or seasoned—who’s pouring their heart into healing people, to make a note of:
1. It’s okay to post ordinary pictures.
“How’s yoga going? Haven’t seen too many posts lately,” is an exceedingly common snarky remark from people who haven’t signed up for a single class of ours, but follow us for the sake of entertainment.
They’ll tell us that our outfits are too simple for the camera, that they need to be a lot more vibrant (read revealing). They’ll also send us gymnast yoga challenges that’ll make us sink into depression (but save us serious hip problems because we’d never attempt those).
Such people will never understand the unnerving task of making a reel on our own (only to see our head cut off, the cook waiting for our instructions, and the cat eating grass and puking it all out because we didn’t give him food).
Remember that you’re enough. You’re more than enough because you’re willing to share a piece of your homemade knowledge cake with a section of the population that feels secure when they see you the way you are—the messy bun, the dimply thighs, the breakouts—all of it.
2. You do not have to justify your fees.
Just yesterday, I was speaking to someone who was looking for a private prenatal class for his wife. He began to blatantly negotiate the moment I told him my charges.
Now, had this been five years ago, I’d have still considered (which I still shouldn’t have ideally), but as teachers, we evolve over time. The fee we charge is for the rich experience we have gained, for the investment of our time, energy, and moolah, for the creation of a safe environment for others to breathe and be themselves, and there’s nothing wrong in charging well.
It’s important to stop being accommodating all the time and set a standard for ourselves. People don’t bargain when they eat at fancy restaurants; they shouldn’t be bargaining with us either.
If you’re a good teacher and dedicated to making a difference in your students’ lives, you have to draw boundaries.
“No” is a hard word to say in this profession, but you must learn how to say it. Remind your students to pay their fees on time. You have your outgoings, too. It’s high time people understand that teaching yoga is a real job, and you must be paid for it.
3. Practice for yourself.
Most times, we are forced to document everything that we do—every course we sign up for, every book we read, every retreat we take our students to. We feel that if we stop running the race, there’ll be other people who will win.
And in the course of that, we simply forget that yoga is really about watching our own breath and pratyahara (withdrawal of senses). There’s no way we can withdraw, knowing that there’s a certain device that’s constantly tapping our activities.
Before being teachers, we are practitioners, and as practitioners, it’s important to cultivate a sense of Mudita, being genuinely happy for others and accepting the fact that there will always be people who do it better than us.
Pure joy that is unadulterated by any kind of self-interest is something that a lot of people, especially gurus, lack. Doesn’t matter if someone is more graceful, makes nicer reels, or has fancier pants. We have a universe within us; we have a mat and a safe space to practice—that’s more than enough.
4. Take time out.
Continuous exchange of energies can leave us feeling drained. It’s okay to take a small break in between two months of teaching.
Remember, self-love isn’t selfish. Merge two classes once in a while. Delegate classes to junior teachers. Online classes can be exhausting, and it’s important to take walks, read books, or simply rest your physical body.
Back-to-back classes don’t allow us to absorb moments of grief or digest emotions well, and when life gets hard, the teaching gets harder because not only do we have to push ourselves, but also support so many others in their physical, mental, and spiritual practice.
5. It’s okay to ask family to pay.
You’ll have brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles simply hopping into our class and not paying for them. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon when we open our own business. We’ll have a bunch of distant relatives asking us if they can “try” our yoga class.
What’s more, they’ll ask us for discounts and drop into class as per their mood. It’s worse when we’re too kind to people—been there, still there.
But I must tell you this: stay strong and do not entertain this behaviour.
If your family really loves you, they’ll be willing to compensate for your time and effort. Your family isn’t your family in class. They’re your students, and you are their teacher. And trial classes are a downright “No.” No one has been able to unravel the beauty of a mindful practice in an hour, and we definitely don’t want people to swing by and disrespect our discipline.
If you’re still reading this, I truly hope 2022 brings you a tidy sum of sincere students. Here’s to wishing you a full house in all your batches, countless Zen retreats, and a heart overflowing with peaceful wilderness.