Well, it is a glorious day outside. I do hope to get outside some today to revel in it.
I spent a lot of yesterday doing a bunch of work on my computer and going to yoga. I practiced in Matt's Ashtanga class at noon, came home, ate some food, did some work and then met Anne for Peggy's int/adv. class at 3:45. Then we met up with Genevieve for some dinner at Central Market which was really great. A pretty fun day off, all things considered.
It has been an interesting few weeks in a lot of ways. After deciding to resign from YogaYoga I have had all kinds of doors open regarding local teaching opportunities that I am really excited about. While these things are opening up around here I also had several out of town gigs cancel which always throws a certain wrench in things for me as usually by the time an out of town workshop cancels it is too late to actually replace the work and so it can be a little nerve wracking. I have been thinking a lot about the business side of teaching yoga and the demands of being a one woman show with it all.
Don't get me wrong. I love teaching yoga. I love having the good fortune of my dharma and my vocation being so closely aligned. There is nothing I would rather do; I have no other hidden professional dreams right now. Just this week the financial realities of it all have been in the forefront of my mind and giving me lots to consider and to clarify. It can really be a "walking in two worlds at once" kind of task.
It is funny, in the recent teacher training someone who was reading my book found out that at the time I wrote the book I did not make my living as a yoga teacher. In fact, I have been teaching yoga since 2007 or 2008 and it has not been until the last 3 years that I have done it full time. She said, "Wow, I had no idea when you wrote this book that you were not a real yoga teacher!" It was interesting because that comment revealed a certain bias I think we can often fall into. Like there is some trajectory of what being a yoga teacher looks like externally: 1. get certified, 2. teach yoga, 3. quit day job, 4. make living as a yoga teacher, 5. open a studio, 6. become a national sensation, 7. consider yourself successful.
The truth is being a yoga teacher has nothing to do with all of that in my opinion. There is no one way that it has to look, no one way for success to manifest and for the project of teaching yoga to be worthwhile. In fact, many people who do not make a living at teaching yoga have A LOT more fun teaching because they are free to just share their love, passion and joy of the practice without it being tied to a financial reward or compensation, etc. Anyway, being a yoga teacher is not defined by those externals. It is about taking a seat inside ourselves which John Friend teaches us is a seat of worthiness. We must decide we are worthy of sharing whatever wisdom we have accumulated with others. We validate for ourselves that we have something of value to offer. We claim the seat and in so doing invite the universe to help us become more aligned and more able to serve according to our dharma. And everyone's dharma is different.
Some people are intended to have large spheres of influence and some are supposed to work invisibly behind the scenes. Some are supposed to work with children, with seniors, with "normal folks", with yoga geeks, with the physically challenged and so forth. Some people have the dharma of motherhood, fatherhood and their teaching function is less in the classroom of a yoga studio and more in the classroom of family life. It goes on like that. But my point is that the external form can vary greatly and the gauging one's success by an external form and according to society's conventional views of success is a trap for the yoga teacher.
My spiritual teacher once commented, "You know, not every best seller is a good book. And a lot of great writers never get discovered." Many really popular teachers are not teaching great yoga, in my opinion. And just because "people like it" doesn't mean it is great yoga, in my opinion. Some of the best teachers I have been in class with were teaching in small studios to a dozen people and they and their students are some of the most knowledgeable folks around. And obviously, I know that at the end of the day the mortgage company doesn't give a crap that you remained true to a tradition and taught something "unpopular but good" and so you are less profitable and cannot pay your bills. Believe, I get it. I am a realist. But I also believe that part of our dharma as yoga teachers is to educate people in what the practice is and take a certain kind of authority that is beyond "giving someone what they want." But of course, give someone nothing of what they want and you never see them again! And there is no one way to do all of this.
Anyway, whenever I consider "success" as a yoga teacher and what it means I think about my colleague who once told me about teaching nadi shodana at a community center to a group of under privileged women. She said that several years later she ran into a woman from her class at the store in the town where they lived. The woman pulled her aside and told her, "You know, that yoga helped me so much. Because of that breathing exercise you taught, I was able to stop hitting my daughter."
My friend looks at her, raises and eye and is like, "What?"
The woman continued saying, " Well, every time I got mad and wanted to hit my daughter I would lock myself in the bathroom and do that breathing until I would go out and not have to hit her. It really worked."
So whether or not this teacher is ever famous, every able to support herself 100% as a teacher or ever teaches another yoga class in her life, in my book she is highly successful. We are successful when we make a difference. When our love for this life inspires someone in such a way that they move closer to their heart and to a life that is aligned with who they really are. Money- well, as important as it is and as scary as the lack of it can feel, is really not the best gauge of what we are up to.
So the question is, as a yoga teacher, what are you up to? And what is the best gauge for that?