Business as Usual

It’s been a while since I’ve given much attention to this blog.  One of the last times I wrote on it (and, actually, one of the first), I spoke of my disillusionment as a yoga student and teacher, and the fact that I needed to take a break from teaching yoga altogether.  Then recently I announced my return to teaching after a long and much needed hiatus.  I find myself now at a point where I have decided that a self-imposed yoga teaching retirement is necessary, or at least a retirement from teaching within the capacity I am used to.  I’ll have to figure all of that out but, for now, I am, again, not teaching at all.

It’s the business end of yoga that concerns me the most, I think.  I have talked about this on this blog before.  Of course, yoga, as we understand it today, is very much a business.  Or it has become one.  And a big business at that.  There are people that make a lot of money in this “business.”  And then there’s everybody else.  There have been times for me when I have made a lot of money teaching yoga, primarily while overseas.  And then there’s the rest of the time.

It takes an investment of money (and quite a significant one), time and commitment to become a yoga teacher, as well as an ability to keep up with one’s own training and practice beyond just the initial teaching certificate.  It also takes a substantial commitment to others, namely students. To a student, we become teachers, mentors, and also, at times, therapists of sorts.  Sometimes these relationships on the mat lead to friendships off of the mat.  I’m certainly blessed for all the students that have come through my classes and for all the friendships that I have made along the way.

So what went “wrong”? I have been at this for the last 13 years, admittedly sometimes more off than on, as motherhood and my own academic pursuits have taken me to other places.  But, when I have taught, I have always been doing it from the heart, fully present, and from the best of my ability.  I started down this path thinking that it would be possible for me to teach full time.  And who’s to say I couldn’t?  I really did try for a long time.  Perhaps not hard enough?  Or long enough?  Perhaps not with the commitment that I truly needed to succeed?  Or perhaps not having the capital from a more “secure” position was the downfall.  That certainly played a part in all of this.  I ask myself these questions often.  Am I giving up too soon?  The reality is that I have not been in the location I am in now very long at all so perhaps this is the case.

But then there’s the other side of all of this.  The side that says I am WORTH more than this.  I want to preface this by saying that there have been studios that have realized and respected my worth as a teacher and to those studios and those people, you are what have kept me strong and on this path and I am so grateful for you.  But, unfortunately, you have also been the exception to the rule for me as more times than not my perception of my own self-worth has been challenged, and challenged greatly, in a seemingly more important attempt to not let the students and studios down.  I feel strongly that I should at least be bringing in an hourly wage that is more than, or even equal to, minimum wage, and feel that is not too much to ask.  My own self-worth as not only a teacher but as a person comes into play here.  I have been doing this for 13 years so should I be expected to settle for a wage that does not even come close to what a professional (which, really, after all the experience I have at this, does make me) in another field would make, just because I have decided to be a yoga teacher?  I am not naive enough to think I should be making bucket loads of money for the services I provide.  But I do feel that I am entitled to make the sort of money that should help me provide for myself and for my family.  And, certainly, the type of money that will cover my own expenses.  And now, when it is not covering even these expenses, and when this is not the first time I have found myself in such a position, I have to make a choice.  It is the nature of this business, unfortunately, especially in today’s economy where non-essential activities, such as yoga, are the first to be cut from someone’s budget.  And I get that.  There’s not much more to say about it, really.  Except to say that I cannot undervalue and undercut my own training and my own experience as a teacher anymore.  It makes teaching a hard thing to do and it affects my own relationship with yoga, which I do value very much.  I’ll admit it’s discouraging because I do love teaching and I think I am pretty good at it, really.  But I do not foresee a future for myself teaching in such a capacity any longer.  As the studios continue to bring in more and more teachers, expanding their own clientele through schedule expansion, individual teachers sometimes get lost.  While we are encouraged to keep at it and told “it takes time to build a class’ (which it does), the reality is that our own worth as teachers can  be undervalued. The other reality is that life, for us as individuals outside of yoga–as professionals in other fields; as spouses and parents; and as yoga students ourselves, a luxury many teachers do not always get to enjoy as much as we’d like as the costs for us can, at times, be too expensive–does not wait.  Things still must go on, bills need to be paid, obligations fulfilled.   Although I do not, and will not, pass the blame on to others as certainly I am largely responsible for my own current situation, I will say that such an environment makes it quite difficult to be a yoga teacher.  And, because I have been down this road more than once before, I kinda feel like it’s time for me to say enough is enough.

If anything, it’s time for me to enjoy yoga again and start owning my practice.  Yoga, beyond the business side, can give us so much. Teaching has really reminded me of this.  I do benefit greatly from helping others go deeper into their practice.  I now look forward to helping myself go even deeper into the practice.  I’ll keep on writing about this when I can, as well.  I’m at peace with making this decision.  It’s not to say I’ll never teach again.  It is to say that I will use this time to step back and ask myself what it is that I need from not only yoga but from teaching.  It’s never all about the teacher, but when things become so out of balance that the needs of the teacher are not only not being met but are no longer being considered, it’s time.

So, as always, I leave you with a song.  Not even sure which one to choose here so I’ll just pick one that I like and leave it at that…