The Practice of Business
And there is my business, which has a practice involved, but is a different thing than my personal practice and different from what I consider to be the practice of good teaching. I make this distinction because at least once in every training I am asked the question about how to teach people who don’t want to learn. (You can not teach people who do not want to learn. At best, you can inspire them to want to learn. Once they want to learn, then you can teach them.)
And at least once in every training, someone shares with me the difficulty of teaching in the current yoga milieu and how “good teaching” is not rewarded financially in the current marketplace.
Over the last ten years of training people to teach yoga, these two questions have not gone away.
I personally don’t have any business advice for people and shy away from that subject in my trainings. My Business of Yoga class usually boils down to “keep your day job,” but that sounds hypocritical since everyone in the class is watching me make a good living as a yoga teacher. No matter what I say about how long it took me to carve out a viable business offering, I will sound full of shit and be wide open for criticsm and my life will suggest the opposite is possible. So clearly, I am contributing to the expectations that are so troublesome and problematic. (But that, also, is another blog post for another day.)
I know how I have slowly built my business over the last twenty years but I do not know how someone else might do it. I really don’t. Everyone person is different, every teaching circumstance is different, every city has a different dynamic. What is simliar is that we are in the business of helping people wake up in a world committed to sleep. That is not going to be that billable. And figuring out how to make yoga billable doesn’t connect me to the mood in which I enjoy living. It connects me to panic, fear, disappointment, competition, comparison, fatigue and overwhelm. The shortest distance to burn out for me is to contemplate the current yoga marketplace. The shortest distance to Love is to help people in their practice.
So, look, this little section on the business part isn’t going to end with some new-age shit about “you can have it all” or “just stick to excellence and eventually you will get paid on it.” I mean, you might.
You really might.
You, also, might not.
There really is no way to know how you are going to get paid or even if you are going to get paid.
I taught years of what I thought were great asana classes down the hall from new graduates of a 200-hour teacher training program, and my numbers were always smaller than theirs. I had good numbers for an alignment teacher. Great numbers for alignment teacher, in fact. But I never had the numbers the flow class had. Ever. Still don’t. They have creative flows, fun and good music. I have alignment, rigor and a demanding, sarcastic and preachy teaching style.
And no music.
If I was a student, I might not pick my class either.
That being said, if you have to sell your soul for your bread and butter, do what you have to do to make some money. How is that for practical advice? I used to tell teachers something much more elevated like “focus on being a great teacher and the rest will follow” and “do your best to help people with their practice and they will come back.” I do believe that is still the best advice to follow but so many people have argued with me for so many years and told me that that is an IMPOSSIBLE strategy in the current marketplace.
So I have changed my advice.
My advice is, do what you feel you must do. (Of course, another blog post could be written on the personal and communal consequences of such a course of action, but that, too, is for another day.)
However, I implore you to also teach at least one class each week or one workshop per quarter where you do the thing you love, that you are called to do, that brings together your life of practice with your life of teaching and that has no concern for business outcomes. I encourage you to find a way to make an offering that keeps you connected to the Heart of what it is to teach really amazing yoga. Make a contribution. Feed your soul. Help some people improve. Teach what you feel needs to be taught in the best way possible, even if only two people want what you are offering and are willing to pay the price of your teaching style to get it.
Again, I am not suggesting that you do these things all the time and go broke. I am suggesting that you find a way to feed the soul of who you are as a teacher. I am suggesting that you find the place where the domain of personal practice overlaps with the domain of good teaching and allow the pressure of the business to fade just a little bit to the background.
Your Heart will thank you for it.
And so will those two people.
Christina Sell has been practicing yoga since 1991. Masterful at synthesis, she combines fundamental precepts and techniques from her many years of study in various yoga schools into an intelligent and inspiring experience for students of all ages and abilities. She is passionate about basic yoga postures as a way to open the doors to a greater depth of understanding, increased awareness and physical expression. Christina is the founder and director of the San Marcos School of Yoga in San Marcos, TX where she resides with her husband, three cats and a retired greyhound. When not teaching or practicing yoga you can find her hiking, mountain biking, kayaking or on her SUP. For more on Christina visit her website here.
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