why do you want to teach yoga?

I’m just throwing the question out there.  I know why I teach, but why do YOU want to teach yoga?

I suppose this goes back to the “how much is a yoga teacher worth?” question, and for those of us who don’t want to return to the corporate life, yoga teaching is my vocation, my avocation, and my personal dharma.  I know more than a few teachers who also do massage or another holistic practice or their yoga teaching is a “sideline” and they rely on another’s income (and health insurance.)

I know very few yoga teachers who totally support themselves by only teaching yoga. because of a life-changing decision I have made, I may have to get a part-time job.  but I know I will never stop teaching yoga and Buddha/Kali/Shiva willing, I will do this the rest of my life, either in the US or in India.  I still need to finish my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training at Spirit Rock, and in October I start Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training. in late 2009 I plan on living two months in an ashram in South India studying yoga therapy with a swami.  this will require me to give up two steady yoga gigs, or at least get subs for them. as I mentioned in another post, for those of us who do these lengthy trainings, there is no guarantee we will have yoga jobs when we get back. this is the reality of the yoga biz. but this is my commitment to myself, to immerse myself as much as I can — at my age I have a lot less time on this earth than if I would have started this path 30 or even 20 years ago.

everything I earn gets plowed right back into my yoga biz (I’m incorporated.) I am over 50 and this is my life plan and nothing will keep me from it. I know this is my path and I have given it up to the Universe to follow this path for the rest of my life.

what will you give up to be a yoga teacher?

I live in the Chicago area where there is a plethora of yoga teacher training programs all costing beaucoup bucks. this is where the yoga money is made, in teacher trainings and offering workshops.  a well-known American yoga teacher who was on the same retreat that I was told me that she rarely teaches group classes anymore, that she makes her money on her branded teacher trainings and traveling the world doing workshops.

when I was certified in 2002 there were only four training programs in Chicago that I knew of.  now almost every major studio both in the city and suburbs, and some not-so-major, have teacher training programs that train you in “their” brand of yoga.  and of course there are the weekend programs (become a yoga teacher in 16 hours!) and the online yoga teacher training courses where voila!…anyone with a computer can become a yoga teacher.  of course, not everyone who does a training wants to be a teacher, some do it to deepen their yoga knowledge.

for a while I thought of starting my own teacher training program, which would actually be unique in my area because I would incorporate yoga therapy and Buddhism, no other local training offers that. but I decided I don’t want to be tied down with that right now…my next two years are going to be for my own yoga sadhana culminating in the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, India in 2010.

so where are y’all going to teach?  after spending thousands of dollars on your training will you be happy making $4 or $5 or $6 when one student shows up to the studio?  I made $12 again last night. I used to teach at a studio where students paid $5 for their first class and the owner did not pay the teachers for those students because she would “lose money.”  some months I had so many first-timers in my classes I lost over $100 in monthly income. I’m not crying about this, this is the reality of the yoga biz.

people want yoga for the same fees that they are paying with their gym memberships. and everybody — every spa, chiropractic center, gym, and physical therapy office — wants in on what they view as big bucks to be made in yoga. the yoga biz in America — a gazillion dollar business according to Yoga Journal.

but who’s making the dough and where’s the dharma?

I have a friend who’s convinced that everyone doing teacher trainings nowadays are delusional, that they’ve all drunk the Yoga Journal kool-aid about becoming a yoga teacher.

have you?

getting back to yoga

(Dr. NC @ KYM, The Power of Yoga, March 2006)

I guess maybe it’s about time that I start writing about yoga again. but then again, maybe not, as I’m beginning to think that my yoga thoughts are too radical to be accepted calmly by some people. I told my students this morning that I’ve always felt like an outsider and now, returning a third time from my yoga life in India, I feel even more radical.

Every time I go to KYM to study, it always brings home to me how much I dislike about the state of yoga in the west. Maybe “dislike” is too strong a word — I will rephrase: how certain things about the state of yoga in the west bug me. Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I am not saying that one is better than the other, i.e., east v. west. I’m saying that to me there are marked differences between the two and I know which one resonates with me in a much more profound way.

KYM is known for yoga therapy or what was formerly called viniyoga. Desikachar no longer refers to his father’s style as viniyoga. We each met with a yoga therapist and received a consultation for whatever ailed us, physically, mentally, or emotionally, then an appropriate yoga therapy practice was prescribed for us. That practice became our private asana class with a therapist, and we took the daily classes in pranayama, meditation, and the Yoga Sutra-s together.

I came to India with a painful back problem that I’ve had for about three months. My ego was telling me I’m a loser because of course as a teacher I’m not supposed to have any physical problems because I do so much yoga…right? One day in October I woke with severe muscular pain on the right side of my lower spine and I had done nothing to my back like pick something up the wrong way or get up from a chair the wrong way, and it certainly did not happen doing yoga. I just woke up one day in severe pain. The pain would go away during the day as I moved around and I was still able to teach, but it served as a reminder of one of Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of the Body, and that no one escapes sickness, old age, and death.

My consultant at KYM was Dr. NC (we call him Dr. NC because he has a last name with about 26 letters) who taught the yoga therapy classes in the intensives I took in 2005 and 2006. I explained my problem and my pain and he had me do some asanas and examined my spine. He asked me to squat and asked if I noticed anything. At first I said no, then he told me to repeat the squats and to pay attention. I noticed that my left side felt like it weighed a ton and my right side was very light. I told him this and he said yes, that I favor my left side to the detriment of my right. He said my spine had curved to the right and that the right side of my pelvis is higher than my left.

I was horrified. How could this happen, I asked, I’M A YOGA TEACHER! (as if we are supposed to be invincible.) Dr. NC said that walking a certain way, sitting a certain way, standing a certain way with a hip hiked up and out, constantly carrying a bag on my left shoulder, all of this contributed to a spine curvature after 50 years. It just happens, he said, it’s just the way it is.

So after he said that it’s wonderful I am so flexible and in such great shape for an old broad — OK, he did not say “old broad” but he was amazed at my uttanasana — he wrote a yoga therapy program for my back that is simply amazing and wondrous. He said if I did the practice every day for 3 months my spine should be back into alignment.

I did the practice for 5 days with Usha, one of the KYM yoga therapists. She was also wonderful, adding a little something every day to the asana mix, so I came home with five different yoga therapy sessions. I did the practice every day in India until I got food poisoning and I have not done it for two weeks now, but I started again from square one yesterday and I will build it up again.

It is an amazing practice because I can literally feel the change in my spine and pelvis when I sit in sukhasana. At the beginning of the practice my right sit bone is off the floor. At the end of the practice both sit bones are firmly grounded and I have no pain for the rest of the day. Before I started doing this practice, I would wake up at night in excrutiating pain when I turned from my right side to my left side and now that no longer happens.

So what does this have to do with yoga east v. west?


how to be a yoga teacher for $49.99

How do I get certified?

“The process of getting yourself certified is very simple. All you have to do is buy the ExpertRating Yoga Instructor Certification for $49.99. Log in to your ExpertRating account using your password. Go through the Yoga Instructor courseware (which could take you from 1 week to a month depending upon how hard you work) and take the certification exam at your convenience. You can take the exam within 1 year of buying the certification. The result of the exam appears as soon as it is completed, and your certificate is mailed immediately.”

damn! I wish I would have known about this before! Would have saved me two trips to India and THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS!

This would be funny if it wasn’t so freakin’ sad.

cool countdown to India

As you can see over at the sidebar, I’ve installed a countdown clock — my countdown for my third trip to India in days, hours, minutes, and seconds! But who’s counting?…:)

I booked my flight today — leave for Chennai in December and will spend most of January in 2008 in Tamil Nadu. First week, yoga school in Chennai for private lessons, then travel by train to Thanjavur area and Kerala. This time definitely one and maybe two of my yoga students will come with me, taking the classes with me. I’ve also been invited to a wedding in Chennai where I will wear a sari! I’ve always wanted to see how I would look in a beautiful sari…

AAARGH! I haven’t even finished blogging about my SECOND trip!

The wave of feeling that I felt when I clicked “book flight” on the Lufthansa website could only be described as “I’m going home…”

Also in the sidebar is a little award graphic announcing that this blog has been selected as Coolpick.com’s Cool Site of the Day! Coolpick says that every day they pick “one extremely high cool factor web site worthy of your esteemed clickage” so that’s me!

Woo-hoo! I’m cool in cyberspace! And at my age!


emails home

Unfortunately, during my first trip to India in September, 2005, I did not keep the emails I sent home. Y’all will have to be satisfied with my musings and rants from my second trip in March, 2006, including those I wrote for IndiaMike.com, where I am now a moderator…


the first pic is me with Suresh’s three darling daughters, his nephew, and a neighbor boy….such a simply sweet and beautiful day…..

the picture of me and my very large friend was taken in September 2005 in front the temple in Pondicherry….the blessing only cost me 1 rupee! definitely the money shot!


…the intensive is going to be awesome, of course! this time we have Desikachar’s senior senior teachers teaching us and….Desikachar himself is teaching the meditation class and his son, Kausthub, is teaching the class on how the Sutras teach us how to transform ourselves.

This is a yoga teacher’s dream — at least for a teacher who believes that this is the heart of yoga. We chanted with Desikachar this morning, and he told us we sounded “fantastic”….

Once again, being here confirms for me that yoga is not about the body, but about transforming the mind. And once again it confirms that no one can put their own name on a 5000 year old tradition — not John Friend, not Ana Forrest, not Bikram….

This morning they talked about how true personal transformation, on a deeper level, can not come from a group class, it can only be done on an individual level, one-on-one, like Krishnamacharya taught. It can start in a group yoga class, but can only reach culmination, one-on-one.

As I laid in bed this morning in the throes of jet lag, I realized what coming here does for me — India integrates me, takes the yin and yang and pulls it together into the One that gives me peace. It is hard to describe, but when I realized it, it literally felt like two halves melting into one.

mmmmmmm……my India …..

first weekend of traveling…

woke up this morning in Pondicherry . Starting walking at 7 am — to beach on the Bay of Bengal , taking my time….. stopped to make “happy birthday” call to hubby while I was drinking REAL indian chai for 3 rupees a cup — had 3 cups. 44 rupees to $1 so figure it out!

There is a Ganesh temple in Pondicherry — the temple where the elephant blessed me last year. On my way back from the beach, they were walking the temple elephant thru the streets to the temple, her face decorated, her “ankles” wearing bracelets. They took the real Ganesha into the temple and walked her around. Following her were the priests beating drums, blowing horns, and pulling a movable altar with a statue of Ganesh covered in garlands. They walked her around the temple about 5 times or so, then took her outside. Every time she passed me I said OM GUM GANA PATAYAI NAMAHA, Ganesh’s mantra. The whole experience was awesome. And yes, Ganesha blessed me again…..when I gave her a rupee. The elephant is 15 years old by the way, still a young temple elephant.

I had breakfast on the beach in a tiny restaurant, 30 rupees. Idly with chutneys and a sweet lassi, of course…..

My trip is a bit different this year — I realized that now that I see the underbelly of India , last year, I saw only the good thru rose colored glasses. Now I see everything more clearly, the garbage, the shit — dog, cow, and human — on the streets, the starving dogs, the beggars holding puppies or babies to get your sympathy. There were two little girls, one holding a little puppy not more than 2 months old, so of course I gave them all my rupee coins and 30 rupees in paper money, how could I resist? I told them to feed themselves and the puppy. Who knows if they will feed the puppy?

But in spite of this, I love it here. I am a true buddhist when I can see reality as it really is, not as I wish it to be with no starving puppies and little beggar girls and no shit on the streets! This morning I called from the beach on my cell phone to Madurai , the temple town I will visit in two weeks, called 2 places to reserve a room. I have a reservation at a 1000 rupee hotel and a 118 rupee guesthouse next to the temple…..guess which one I will stay at??

well, think I will go back to hotel now, to shower, and go out for another walk. Will head back to Chennai about 3 pm or so…..

bye for now — and think about elephant blessings…. and all the other blessings you have in your lives…..


…it was a great theory class today, all about the bandhas, so interesting!! once again, being here re-confirms for me how this is the pure, traditional yoga, the heart, anything else is just faking it…..and anyone who puts their own name on yoga…

the teachers keep emphasizing how personal transformation is the true goal of yoga, not getting the yoga butt or abs, but personal transformation, changing our states of mind, replacing negative tendencies with positive ones, and connecting to the True Self, how ultimately this can not be done in a group yoga class, it can only be done one-on-one with a teacher, as Krishnamacharya taught.

They showed us the sequence on how to teach the bandhas, starting with jalandhara going down to mulabandha, and how people should be able to inhale and exhale at least to a count of 10 or 12, before even attempting to work with the bandhas. Also told us about contraindications. Again, once more this emphasized for me, what NOT to teach in a group class, because everyone is different and everyone will have a different reaction to it — uddiyana bandha aggravates vata for example.

We were told that Krishnamacharya did not believe in kriyas. He said pranayama practice — properly done — was effective enough to cleanse the body of impurities. Desikachar was with us last night and he told us stories of his father, about how Krishnamacharya stopped his own heart for 2 minutes — it was only then that Desikachar took up the practice of yoga, when he saw the power of it. Until then he was not interested in it. This was in 1962 or so.

I’ve have gotten pretty good at chanting the Gayatri mantra….I don’t sound too much like a howling dog anymore!

other than that, was in a very minor rickshaw accident the other night, but was not hurt. Went out with a South African student to a bookstore and in search of sweet lassis. A Muslim woman on a scooter turned into us, her front wheel ended up underneath the rickshaw and she fell off. no one stopped to help, but the guy I was with got out to help her up. She just got on the scooter and took off like nothing was. We were lucky — two other students were in a rickshaw accident where the rickshaw rolled over. Lucky for them that they escaped with only bruises and scrapes, nothing broken.

This is India….


I just got back from another beautiful day in Chennai, thanks to my rickshaw driver, Suresh. I used his services last September. He usually hangs out at The Woodlands Hotel (a hangout for Westerners in Chennai) but is available for hire for the “American madam”. Thanks to Suresh I got my best photos last year, when he took me on my last day to Chennai’s veg/fruit/flower warehouses….

Suresh does not speak the best English, but we communicate. At the beginning of this week he invited me to his house for Sunday (today), and kept reminding me about it — “wife make fish, good, Madam…” with a big smile. He said he would buy a fish, and his wife would use a little oil (because he knows I don’t like “grease”) and some spices, and his wife will cook us a feast! He picked me up and I knew it would be a traditional South Indian meal when he stopped to get some banana leaves (banana leaves are used for plates.)

I kept thinking about how our relationship has changed since last year. He invited me to his house so he must think I will not be judgmental of him as a poor rickshaw driver. Many people I know would scoff at the idea of sitting on a concrete floor eating a wonderful meal with a rickshaw driver and his wife and kids (none of whom speak English!). Many higher caste Indian would not even consider it….

The fish was great, with steamed rice and a veg salad, and a dish of mutton besides. I hoped that his wife would not be insulted that I could not eat all that she gave me — I don’t eat much, and after a few slices of fish, I was full. The funny thing was that they gave me utensils and I said, no, I will eat with my right hand, south Indian style. The kids tried to use the spoons — they sat up nice and straight looking proper, and I motioned for them to forget the spoons, just eat Indian style, which they gladly did, immediately. It was a good laugh….

It amazes me how Indian women, no matter how poor they are, always look beautiful in their saris and gold jewelery, and we Westerners always look like refugees. With many there is a certain elegance as they glide through the dirtiest and dustiest of streets, seemingly without a drop of sweat on their brows….

We got to his house (two rooms, and the Indian squat toilet is outside in another room of the building, clothes washing is done in a bucket, and pounded against the ground), and of course the neighbors had to come to see the American (I don’t think too many westerners visit this part of Chennai.) His place costs 1500 rupees per month, the one across the way costs 3000 rupees/month — for “rich people” he says (44 R = $1)

He told everyone I am the American yoga teacher he drives around. They were all interested in my tattoos, especially the kids. Suresh has three daughters (which is a curse for a poor Indian man, he must come up with a dowry for each one when they marry), and I also met his nephew. After lunch, we went up on the roof where the laundry was blowing in the breeze, and the kids started posing for pictures. I took a ton of pics of the kids and some neighbors. It was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon, to me, the “real India”. I felt honored to be there, on the roof, running around with the kids, showing them the pics on the camera, it made me want to cry. These Indians I was with, none of whom speak English, treated me like family, someone who they will never see again….how many of us would do that?? It was a day I will never forget.

I heard the kids calling me auntyji, which is a term of respect for the older “aunty” in the family…..

this is my India ….tomorrow night on to Madurai, and more Indian adventures….