re-inspired for #realyoga

This year has been on-again, off-again for me insofar as yoga.  While I am always grateful for the small, group classes I teach out of my house, the private yoga biz, i.e,. one-on-one yoga/yoga therapy, sucks.  The highlight this summer was helping one of the top-ranked college hurdlers in the country rehab from hip surgeries.  Her mother found me online and the funny thing is she lives down the street from me.  Small world.  I worked with her twice a week and it was a joy.  But a consistent income from that?  A student increase in my small group classes?  No.  This is the first  year I’ve spent more money on my yoga biz (such as trainings) than I brought in.  Someone tell me again how popular and mainstream yoga is.

After 10 years of teaching I seriously considered quitting this year.  “My yoga” is not popular because I am not mainstream, status quo.  Because I have been burned by yoga studio owners and am tired of all the drama yoga studios generate — and I will add IN MY AREA, but from what I hear, it’s not that different in other parts of the country and sometimes even worse — I no longer teach weekly classes in studios.  The style of yoga that I teach is not about kicking your ass and making you sweat, and if you bust out a handstand when I say “child’s pose”, I’m going to call you out.  I love traveling to teach workshops but as for teaching weekly classes, no thanks.  I suppose I would return to teaching classes depending on the studio AND the owner, but I have to say that even thinking about it brings up a physical sensation that is similar to PTSD.  Seriously.  That’s how badly I’ve been abused treated.  Don’t even get me started about the “yoga community.”

I became certified in teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga this year, a training that I consider one of the most influential that I’ve ever taken, but getting people such as counselors to even consider it has been like pulling teeth.  As I was with eco-garden design with native plants (I am also a garden designer and a certified horticulturist) and thai yoga massage, I am once again ahead of my time.Then I decided to to finally conduct a teacher training and went through the Yoga Alliance rigamaroll.  Instead of being energized about finally being annointed an EXPERIENCED REGISTERED YOGA TEACHER, I became even more depressed.  Finally seeing all my training hours in 10 years — literally 1000 hours — written down in black and white made me think, “what the fuck am I doing?  why bother?”   All my training doesn’t mean shit to a tree, as Grace Slick sang, when it seems that all people care about is getting their ass kicked in a hot yoga class.  It is a rare person in my area of far west suburban Chicago who is willing to pay for private yoga classes — and I live in an upper middle class area.

And please don’t tell me that I am “manifesting” this.  If I hear one more person tell me to “let go of negativity”, “be open”, “throw it out to the Universe”, or any other New Age Secret clap-trap, I’m going NeNe Leakes on your asana.

The fact of the matter is that when one is passionate about  yoga as a path of transformation and all you get are closed doors and little interest, it is very discouraging and frustrating.  My private students understand my frustration and are extremely supportive.  They know I need to go to India because it is there that I am renourished, it is there that real yoga renews me.  Yeah, you read it: “real yoga” — and I don’t care if you don’t like the phrase because I am sick of the political correctness of modern yoga, yoga blogs included.

In all this mix, when I was at my lowest, once again someone whom I’ve never met lifts me up.  A new blog reader — yoga student for 20 years, teacher for 5 — emailed me and told me her story of frustration and indeed, hate, of yoga as it is now taught.  She told me that my writing here is an answer to a prayer and she wanted to express her gratitude.  She told me how her yoga mojo vanished and she entered the dark night of the yoga soul….as what is happening with me now.  She wrote:

“…living in the land of the yoga OBscene, southern california, made matters much worse.  i began to loathe and even used the word hate in re: to yoga.  i officially declared DIVORCE in june of this year.  what had it become?  where are “they” taking it?  who are all these 200 hr YA stamped people who know nothing about, nor care less about, living the yoga??  a friend suggested i stop cursing the dark and light a candle. and arrived.”

Her email overwhelmed me.  I started to cry.  Maybe I am doing something right, I thought, if my writing about yoga can have such an effect.  Aside from my regular weekly students, the support that I receive from those near is practically nil.  Almost all the support in what I do comes from people whom I’ve never met, YOU, out there, globally.  And that amazes me.

This August I finally met a long-time blog reader from Texas and we are collaborating on a yoga project that is going to rock the yoga world, IMO.  I got an email from another reader with a yoga contact in Nova Scotia.  I have another contact for yoga in Cuba.

So should I be depressed that hardly anyone gets me where I live?  Don’t we all want validation, approval from our community, isn’t that human nature?  After I read the above email to my husband, even he said that my home is OUT THERE, NOT HERE.  I just reside here, but I live OUT THERE.  As my friend in Texas reminded me, a prophet is never appreciated in their homeland.  Not that I consider myself a prophet, but I get the analogy.  A long ago private student told me that it’s hard being a pioneer because the pioneers get the arrows shot up the ass.

Ouch.  That’s what that is.

23 thoughts on “re-inspired for #realyoga

  1. i can’t wait to hear about the new project!

    Not that I am happy you are feeling the struggles (don’t get me wrong) but I feel some comfort in knowing that they exist outside of my realm. Creating your own niche is fabulous but hardly a booming biz. Ups and downs appear to be par for the course. Perhaps that’s why yoga is so helpful: some days you rock Vrksasana w/ legs in half lotus, some days you fall on your ass even if your foot is in kickstand. To return to the mat, and your job, can be a challenge but really is what the yoga is all about after all.

    keep us posted!! xo


    1. people tell me “you’ve only been teaching 10 years, I’ve been teaching 20.” well, duh! maybe that’s what’s frustrating because I don’t have 20 years to create my own niche! that would make me almost 70. I did not start teaching in my 20s or 30s like MY teachers did!


  2. I hear ya. I’m in a similar place. I can’t teach any other way to please the masses. I do well privately but am unpopular publicly. Most people aren’t interested in doing breathing exercises or sitting still. So I just sort of live with it. Some “get it” but most don’t want it.


  3. Yeah, you know I’ve been there too. I decided to get a job so that even tho I’d need to cut down my classes I was no longer relying on them for income and the yoga itself could be wholly genuine. I’ll tell you how that one works out lol


  4. I don’t have the slightest doubt that you are a magnificent yoga teacher Linda, and one of these days, somehow, I’m going to get to experience that aspect of you for myself. But reading this blog post, on top of so many others plus your writing on India Mike and elsewhere I was struck once again by how nobody writes about yoga specifically and the spiritual path in general with the combination of insight, irreverence, soul and humor you do. Nobody. Maybe there is an autobiography, a novel – hey, an autobiographical novel – that needs you to write it. Didn’t I say it’d be “Eat, Pray, Love meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” stylistically? Instant best-seller, and you could use the proceeds to finance the life of adventure and seva you already lead. Just a modest proposal from a grateful reader. You deserve some ease!


    1. you’re too kind, Kevin….you’re one of those “globals”! always grateful for your support….


  5. This makes me think of all those artists and writers who were never appreciated in their time.

    I’m curious, are you still training (or going to train) in jungian psychology? I think that would make for a very interesting yoga mix . . . though, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of struggle with that too–not that that seems to stop you!


  6. A teacher has the power to create a yoga class or yoga community that has no room for the before-class intimidating, competitive, show-offy vibe like I’ve seen in the yoga OBscene … with few or no rococo yogic discourses and/or in which the teacher does not pay attention only to the future yoga rock stars …

    or not.

    This is your chosen dharma.

    What you choose to do with it will determine your future.


  7. Sounds to me like you’re trying to make sense of all of your training – stuff you did because of your heart – with your head.

    You can’t place a value on what you’ve learned. Not at all. Certainly not one that most westerners will understand. So you’ve done all this study and perhaps in another field, it might mean you earn more money. Like say, someone having done an MBA or a PhD or something.

    But it doesn’t actually compute. These are heart and soul learnings, not brain and capitalist ones. They don’t mean the same thing which is confusing because of course, doing those trainings costs money.

    And I get the frustration – what you’ve learned, the things that burn bright in your heart just aren’t considered as valuable (to use a consumerish term) as a hot yoga class that’ll help a person “de-toxify”. Okay whatever! It’s like the people who come to my beginners class and want something more “strenuous” because they don’t understand they’re doing the same work anyway, but without getting the butts kicked.

    I know though, that you’re trying to make your living from teaching yoga. And I also know that the money part isn’t the most important. The other thing is just seeing people “get it”. Knowing that real yoga isn’t being lost as much as it appears to be.

    It’s a fine line to walk and feel appreciated. I think we all want to feel appreciated, right? But still I find it’s only on a rare occasion that students actually tell me what they think or feel, or how much or little they liked a class. And I’ve noticed that as much as I enjoy the classes I go to, I pretty much do the same thing. Teaching yoga is a weird game!

    I wish I knew why folks like us have been scattered to the four corners and aren’t closer to each other. Closer is easier. More comforting. But are we really doing the work we’re meant to be doing if we’re all hanging out together?

    Who knows why some of us have it easier than others or why life plays out as it does? Some yoga teachers get famous for no reason it seems, and others are the hidden gems. Personally, I prefer the hidden gems to the famous faces. They usually have more interesting things to say.

    Also – I’d do your teacher training if I was over your way!


  8. I have goosebumps, friend. Honestly. I am so excited about what we are creating. And so grateful to have you as a friend.

    Here’s a very brief recap of my week:
    – a local studio owner redesigned her logo and got a new tagline. Pretty much like mine.
    – a woman that had a Thai session with me and said she had no training now offers Thai Yoga Massage locally. And is a doula. And a documentary film maker. And a 200 hr RYT.
    – I saw an ad for a “fast track 200 hour TT” at a studio in the metroplex.
    – a local Baptiste studio has a weekly class that is set to music of one artist. The teacher posts on that day what the playlist for the class is. And he dresses up like the artists: Willie Nelson, Pearl Jam, Madonna (yes, he went in drag).

    And these people are packing in the students/clients.

    And then there’s us.


    1. ain’t it always something? a yoga teacher who I’ve known for a long time, although I would not say we are friends, merely acquaintances, recently sent me a friend request on FB. I accepted it. So she posts about a yoga thing at the local yoga studio where I used to teach that is the same day as my fundraiser for the shelter, although at night (fundraiser is from 4-6.) I wrote under her post something to the effect, just a reminder about the fundraiser, do karma yoga, go get dinner, then do the free flow thing at the studio. innocuous. guess what? my post deleted and she defriends me! so much for the “yoga community” (the phrase makes me throw up in my mouth!)


      1. It’s just plain sad.

        Now, go to bed. It’s late! And we have work to do for our project (thanks for the email. I’ll follow up when kids are parasite-free).


      2. That happened to me by a local yoga teacher when I posited on her Facebook pictures something about how not all poses can be available to all students … and to posit otherwise is bull.. The third time had been the charm.. thing is, she’s not a bimbo, she’s got an MBA (that she USES in her DAY job); she also teaches a mild, mild form of vinyasa (the only ones more talented along those lines is OM Yoga) … only problem is she’s too dogmatic to have ever sought to hear about Paul Grilley; either that, or that it might hurt her fledgling yoga teacher sideline with the gullible trendoids …


  9. Linda I was so sad to read your latest 2 blogs. Sometimes the world really drags us down but when I read you were also a garden designer and horticulturalist I thought -Ah well you must meet those people – I call them ‘exterior designers’, who want instant results. No patience, no nurturing. Why plant a seed and tend it slowly watching it grow into something beautiful that with care will last for years? No they would rather buy full grown plants in bloom, stick them somewhere they think they’ll look nice regardless of the conditions and then wonder why they don’t thrive.
    So I think it is with Yoga. My first teacher was inspirational. I have moved around and sadly never found anyone else close. She planted a seed that has lasted me my lifetime . I only wish I had known then and told her. I practice at home alone now. I can’t be doing with all the commercialism , I see Yoga as an escape from all that. I would love to find a teacher such as yourself. I am sure there must be more people out there who are not just looking for a quick fix. ‘Hot Yoga’ – whatever next? Some other fad no doubt. Yoga like gardening has been around for centuries. It will stand the test of time as long as there are people like you to keep it going – don’t give up.


  10. you say you “seriously consider quitting” your yoga teaching . . . i am hearing that if your students supported you more financially, enuf to provide you a consistent income . . . maybe you wouldn’t consider quitting. i have been teaching 17 years and know that all teachers go thru the “i’m quitting” dilemma. this myself included. (and most teachers that you are speaking of, do quit). i don’t know what else to do, so i teach yoga. and i make a enuf to live on, $50’s or so. i have never stopped teaching, but teachers do take and need breaks. i don’t think i could do it on just privates. this is ALOT of work, what i do. you ARE doing something right . . . writing this blog.


    1. “your students supported you more financially” — actually no, that’s not the reason, because if it were, if $$$ was the ONLY reason, then I would have stopped teaching a long time ago.


  11. Hang in there. Once all the trendy bullshit dies down (and it will someday when people are off to the next fad), those of us interested in the deeper discipline of yoga will still be around.


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