To get to the answer, let me take you back a few weeks when I was chatting with a yoga teacher in training. I knew she was about halfway through her program and was interested in how she was doing. After our chat, I asked if I could share a bit of our conversation, because much of what we spoke about had been on my mind lately. I wanted to write about it, but questioned if it was even relevant or mine to share. When we sat down, I could sense she had a lot to get off her chest. I started making small talk, asking what her latest class was about and if she'd completed anatomy yet. She gave me some brief details and then asked, "How do you do this day in and day out? I'm working my regular job, going to weekend trainings and then getting my observation hours in and subbing to gain experience. I go to some studios and the classes are packed and then other places only three people show up. Even when I'm observing I feel overwhelmed. Every teacher is different, but basically it seems all the same. We are all fighting for a space in this yoga world. I'm just starting to wonder if this is for me."
As I took a sip of my coffee, I smiled. I wanted to encourage her because I know where she is in the process, but I also felt a responsibility to be honest with her. I told her that any time we are in the process of learning it is completely natural to feel overwhelmed and the training she is participating in is condensed which makes it even more challenging. Then I asked her, "Why do you want to be a yoga teacher?" She said that before she started training she would have had no problems answering that question, but now she wasn't sure.
My first thought is everyone wants to be a yoga teacher. I had an experience where someone came to my class recently and raved about it so much she told her friend after class, "I want to become a yoga teacher and teach yoga in the park and all sorts of people will come!!!" By the way, that person has never returned to class. Maybe people think it's easy money. Or maybe their teacher makes is seem effortless and glamorous. This has caused a huge increase in teachers. Even the Wall Street Journal wrote an article two years ago stating that the number of teachers is out pacing the number of students. Since I began teaching, I have watched countless teachers take a stab at it and quit. For many, they still have a full time job while they build their student base, so teaching yoga isn't their first priority. They get off work at 4:00 and rush across town in traffic to hit the studio 5 minutes before class starts to a room of three students and all that energy turns to exhaustion quickly as they think, "I didn't make my minimum to get full payment so I just lost money." Then they become resentful because the studio should be doing more in marketing. Or they have one class a week and they are paying rent in a cooperative space, but because they only have time to teach one class they can't get the students because most people want to practice more than once a week. So you can see it can become a difficult cycle. And if what the Wall Street Journal reported is true, then of course there is competition. On top of there being a yoga studio on almost every corner running a groupon so students can jump from one studio to the next, we've got Goats, Bunnies, Beer and Wine now in the picture. Studio owners and teachers are trying to get their piece of the $16 BILLION being spent on yoga each year. So again, I'm back to my question, "How do I set myself apart without sacrificing my purpose as a teacher?
My mentor asked me to find out why others take this journey with me. She said, "Ask your students, why they take this journey with Jeannine. Not just why they do yoga, but why they do it with you." I knew what I'd hoped the answers would be. In my mind it all stems from a safe, supported and inclusive yoga community. Here are some of the responses: personal attention, your voice, you care, you take time to know each person, I feel safe, I don't feel intimidated or pressured to go beyond my ability, purposeful, dedicated. All of these responses warmed my heart and also gave me a bit of anxiety and brought back the questions again. I want to continue to provide all of these things for my students. Is it possible to do so while serving more people and possibly having my own studio in the future? Are there enough people out there that are interested in what I teach and how I teach or is everyone looking for a deal or a gimmick? Is it possible for ONE person with a true passion to make a living without sacrificing their truth? I believe the answer is YES. I may not know exactly what that looks like yet, but yes I believe. I believe in my purpose 100% and I believe in my students 100%. Your commitment makes it all worth it! I know I am blessed with the support and encouragement from my students. It is my commitment to continue to follow my passion, to share my gift and live my truth.
I recently read this post from a teacher in another state and wanted to share her message. What the World Needs Now is NOT Another Yoga Teacher. It is a very interesting post about, what I'll call "factory trained" yoga teachers. The post is not what you'd think based on the title. It is about what it takes to be a successful teacher / studio owner and how we should take a step back and look at training not just teachers, but yogis.
I look forward to continuing this journey with you and I'm excited for what's to come for all of us. And if I were to have any gimmicks to attract more people, it would have to be dachshund yoga! Just saying...