If you pay attention, you’ll find that the Universe is always sending messages. It’s up to you to take heed and try to parse the symbolic language said Universe is speaking to you in. This week, the symbols have been in the form of blog posts about a particular subject: making a living as a yoga teacher. Just as my own mental rumination on the topic has reached fever pitch, no less than three blog posts in the same day on the same topic came across my radar.
I have been teaching professionally for nearly 2 years. Not a long time in the world of professional yoga teachers. Oh, let me qualify that statement. I teach professionally but I also have a full-time job. I have not become “well known enough” or spread into the yoga world enough to pay my rent. I haven’t even tried yet. Frankly, I’m not ready. I am planning so that soon I will be ready, but I digress.
So I’ve been teaching for nearly 2 years. In fact, the 2 year anniversary of my first class may be any day now. In the last two years, I have learned so much. I have applied myself rather fiercely, if I may say so . I am always in workshops and teacher trainings. I read books about yoga, meditation, chakras, anatomy, nutrition, and yoga philosophy daily, almost to the exclusion of any other material. I plan my classes and am always looking for ways to add more value to what I offer. I live my life with the teachings of yoga as my spiritual touchstone.
I love (adore) yoga and consider my personal practice the reason why I am no longer depressed, why I feel better now than I did when I was 10, 15, or even 20 years younger, and why I feel I have finally found my purpose in life (to help people awaken to their divine nature, to awaken life force energy, to heal and transform). I am completely committed to my personal practice and my teaching.
I recently figured out a solution to a conundrum common to yoga teachers: how to maintain a person practice when you are teaching professionally? By some stroke of luck (actually, it was a teacher training I had to get up at 6am to get to on time), I have re-set my inner alarm and now wake at 6am for an hour of yoga and meditation before I get in the shower. I have solved the personal practice dilemma to a degree, and am enjoying watching this new morning routine unfold (before, I only meditated in the morning, and some weeks would go by where the only yoga I was doing were the few poses I was demonstrating in class) .
I am confident in my skill as a teacher. I feel I have something to teach. I have been practicing for 12 or 15 years (on and off for many years, consistently for about five) and am confident in my “body intelligence,” that is, my ability to feel what’s happening in my body and mind, and translate those experiences into teachable moments.
So back to the subject at hand. This past week I have been a little blue wondering if I will ever actualize my dream of devoting my life to yoga as a teacher. There are several problems with this statement. The first one is that a) I live and work in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the world and b) I could still devote my life to yoga, even if I can’t make a living as a yoga teacher. So there. But I want my life to be about yoga, health, wellness and healing full-time. I want my life work to be healing and transformation, as Ana Forrest says, “the hoop of the people.” You may think this is pie-in-the-sky yoga teacher talk, but the reality of it is, for every one human being becoming a kinder, gentler, more aware person, the world benefits. We all benefit. If I can help more people along that path, I contribute to healing on a world-wide, humankind level.
So I have been asking myself this week, “if this is all it will ever be, will I still do it?” If all teaching yoga will ever be is just another “hobby” or “part-time job” where I must keep a regular job to make ends meet, where the pursuit of this will put more on my plate, perpetuating this hyper-scheduled, always busy, almost no free time life into the unforeseeable future, where I will never have more than ten students in a class, where the paychecks barely cover the trainings I re-invest in…would I still do it? I begrudgingly answer “yes” because while my heart has no doubt about which answer is correct for me, my brain wonders if I can sustain this kind of lifestyle.
So as I have been humbling myself pondering this question, three blog posts in one week appear on the very same subject. If one were to take the collective temperature of yoga teachers from just these three posts, the thermometer would definitely indicate a fever has taken hold, complete with frustration, discomfort, irritation, and intense desire for relief.
Omily Yoga’s post is probably the most clear-eyed. She breaks down the economic reality of teaching in NYC, and the picture is not very pretty. Omily Yoga’s story is much like mine: an experienced and committed teacher questioning her ability to stay in the game due to the very nature of the game. She calls it the “yoga bubble.”
It’s All Yoga, Baby, a blog that is known for it’s no-nonsense attitude (no pixie dust and “yoga bleaching” here, this is a down-to-earth blog) posted on the class divide in the yoga teaching world.Then Good Magazine follows with “Making It As a Yoga Teacher: Not as Zen As You Think.”
Yoga teachers sometimes joke amongst themselves about the cosmic “yoga teacher memo.” We often seem to be working on the same concepts at the same time, in studios across the city, even if we don’t know one another! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working out a theme, concept, philosophical nugget, or something else from the very rich world of yoga inspiration to find that every class I attend or every teacher I talk to is also on the same theme that week!
So following that maxim, I wouldn’t be surprised if teachers all over are wondering and worried about how sustainable this profession really is. One thing’s for sure, seeing these posts has validated my own ruminations (the cosmic yoga teacher memo in effect); these issues are not going away and will probably only grow in magnitude. Perhaps one of the problems is the sheer number of teachers milled by teacher training programs these days. And I’m one of them. Oh, ironic joy.
As I have no solution, and am trying to figure out my own transition to right livelihood, I can only follow one of the most basic tenets of yoga: breath and observe, be with what is, abide in the truth that this too will change.