the price we pay

(KYM, 2005)

Yoga teachers need to continuously fill their cups with yoga knowledge in order to teach, at least I believe so. in this way we feed our students, and you can not feed others unless you feed yourself. you can not nourish others unless you nourish yourself.

So yoga teachers go to workshops, other teachers’ classes, more teacher trainings, or to India. there is so much out there to support our practice and our teaching is fed by our personal practice. how can we teach effectively if we are not continually learning and going deeper into the ancient teachings? again, just my opinion. I’m not saying we all have to go to India, some yoga teachers never do, but at least do one training or workshop a year to feed yourself. I can not imagine teaching without taking classes or workshops to rejuvenate me, my teaching would get as stale as day old bread. my teacher Srivatsa Ramaswami studied with Krishnamacharya for over 30 years, so there ya go.

As for me, I need to go to India, that’s my nourishment, that’s what informs my practice. I’ve studied three times at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and I am currently investigating an ashram in south India where I can get personalized training in yoga therapy. I would be gone at least two months, which means my private students won’t have me and I’ll have to find subs for my classes or cancel them entirely. the next time I go to India for two or three months, I have no idea whether I will have any teaching job anywhere when I return — I teach at a studio and at two community colleges. teaching yoga is all I do to pay my bills.

My private students always feel sad when I am gone so long (I stay in India at least for one month), but I tell them that I am also doing this for them because I will become a better teacher (at least I hope so!) however, studio owners and operators of other venues sometimes don’t see it this way.

a case in point is Cara Jepsen, a yoga teacher who I know slightly from the Chicago Yoga Center. she is an astangi and is in India right now studying in Mysore. I’ve read her blog a lot and used it to prep for my first trip to India in 2005.

Cara writes: “This time, one of the venues where I teach cannot guarantee I will have classes when I return from India. I don’t blame them, but this could affect up to 1/2 of my income. Ouch!”

That’s a sad thing. a yoga studio is a business just like any other business but there’s a way to conduct business that is more mindful and holistic, shall we say. and frankly, some yoga studio owners shouldn’t be in the yoga business.

If I had a teacher who studies as much as Cara or I do, or is so committed and passionate about yoga, it would never cross my mind to not welcome them back home to teach. why would I not want such a knowledgeable teacher to return to my studio to teach? why would I not want her students to benefit from that knowledge?

Are yoga teachers just a dime a dozen? does a studio owner think one teacher is as good as another so if one leaves, another can’t be too far behind? that one teacher of a certain skill set is easily replaceable by another?

If a yoga teacher is on “sabbatical” to further their path which makes them a better teacher, get a substitute teacher just like in a school system. there are so many yoga teacher training programs in the Chicagoland area I have no idea where all these newbie teachers are going to teach — that’s your sub market right there. I have a friend who is a substitute school teacher and she works every day — public school teachers take LOTS of time off and no one tells them they won’t have a job if they take too much time off. yoga teachers should be given the same respect.

So for a studio owner or the operator of any other venue to tell a yoga teacher that they might not have a job when the get back…that attitude boggles my mind. talk about putting some bad energy out into the universe.

On the other hand, if a studio owner tells me that they don’t want me to come back after I’ve studied not only to improve myself but also for THEIR business, that tells me that I need to move on, that this is not the place for me and my talents, and that I am destined for bigger and better things. all things happen for a reason.

“If your teacher does not have the correct foundation, how is he able to teach students?…You pratice yoga as a spiritual practice, not in order to become a teacher. Yoga should be like eating very day; it should be like, without yoga you cannot survive.”

A “correct foundation.” that’s the training that we do to continue doing what we do. and without my training I could not survive as a yoga teacher. but that’s me.

If any of you reading this are thinking of becoming a yoga teacher for the money, think again — that shouldn’t even be your motivation in the first place — “many yoga teachers say they don’t make enough money teaching yoga. ‘Then do something else.’ It is your karma to do. Don’t expect anything from it.”

We don’t do this for the money, but I pay the same amount for gas and food as y’all do. and it would be nice to know that I will have a job to come back to.

We all pay a price for our dharma, isn’t it?

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8 thoughts on “the price we pay

  1. Hello Linda.My personal choice? I would pick the yoga teacher that went to study in India. I am new to yoga and have discovered that there are is one kind of yoga that is portrayed to newcomers ~ yoga asana.When I started to practice yoga, which is really not that long ago, I was introduced to the kind of yoga where you only do the poses. Then, by God’s gift, I ordered Sean Corn’s DVD’s, and I found it to be so different, so soulful. So I started investigating it, and that’s when I discovered that there was much more to yoga, then poses ~ there’s so much depth.That is why I would want a teacher like yourself ~ a teacher that can bring in all the depths of yoga so I can ripe all its’ benefits. How can a teacher do that without seminars or India?!

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  2. “How can a teacher do that without seminars…”good question!I am seriously considering moving out of this area (white bread suburbia) because the vast majority of people I encounter just don’t get that yoga is more than the physical practice. Private yoga is a big part of my teaching and to try to communicate to people the value of private yoga as opposed to “health club yoga” is so daunting.thank you so much for reading and for blogrolling me on your blog!peace!

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  3. When I decided to set out from the (relatively) safe shores of academia to try and fulfill my life-long dream of writing full time, I was shocked to find that this would necessarily entail something I’d never dreamed of: being a businessman. The yoga teachers I know seem to feel this tension even more than I, which is understandable. I think the key is to remember which comes first: whether a teacher/studio owner is dedicated to yoga, but prefers not to live out of dumpsters, or is dedicated to making money, and sees yoga as a profitable career path. P.S.Good yoga teachers are definitely not a dime a dozen, and a great one, with whom one really connects, is absolutely priceless!

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  4. I absolutely love going to workshops for just the reasons you stated. It’s a way for me to recharge, to bring back new material for myself and my students, and a way to grow in my own practice. I figure if I can take away one new thing from a workshop/seminar, then it was worth it. Regarding the second bit of your post in observation of yoga studios and instructors taking “mini sabaticals”, in my humble opinion and observations – I think yoga teachers are a “dime a dozen” now. Point – Teacher Training programs. This has become a cyclical conundrum perhaps? An organization decided yoga teachers should be ‘certified’. Studio’s/gyms/fitness centers decided this was a good idea. So, in order to teach you have to be certified and there are a whole slew of students needing those inital hours to become certified because the studios require it…see where it goes? Round and round. And yes, just because a teacher has been ‘certified’ doesn’t necessarily make them a great teacher. It just means they have meet some studio’s requirements, passed a few tests and sent some paperwork in. But that is another topic. Anyhoo. I agree. If a studio says, “Nope, no place for you here after you’ve been away studying yoga intesively for X months…” then it’s time to find a different studio. I wonder if any studio owners would chime in and offer thier side??Thanks again for such a insightful post.

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  5. i thought going to india for 11 months, teaching in japan and thailand, australia, bali…i thought all of that would make a difference. it actually hurt me. i make less money than ever. no one is impressed with my resume. it means nothing to anyone.except for me and the handful of students that i am actually reaching. that’s all we can hope for. that’s just how the world is. anyone can teach yoga. we’re indespensable. you are fooling yourself if you actually think you are anything more. still, i would do it all the same. for me at least.

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  6. Interesting post! And so true! McYoga has changed the way we approach it all: the study, the teaching, the business of owning a studio. I have had several conversations with other yoga teachers recently about how they want to earn x amount per class or they won’t teach. Got me to thinking: if I can pay my bills on less than that, and I am maybe helping some people, sharing my knowledge of yoga a bit, isn’t that enough? We aren’t supermodels, we are social workers…

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