Yesterday we went on a walk on the greenbelt, ate some lunch and I met Gioconda for a practice before she taught. We did some lovely back bend work- nothing major but good deep opening with the four pillars of back bending (according to BKS Iyengar) accomplished- urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana, kapotasana, mandalasana- all very fun. I think I will have to do a back bending series sometime with those poses as our aim. That would be fun. When is kind of the question....
After that Kelly and I met up with Sam who will be house sitting for us while we are gone and doing some work for me this year. (Yes, finally, an assistant! Oh. My. God.) After that we made a lovely pasta dinner. After dinner I made a flourless chocolate cake, Gioconda came over for a visit and we watched some Star Trek episodes. A very mellow day off.
So today I will do some asana and then pack up to head out to Georgia to visit mom and dad for a few days. I am very excited to be spending New Years Eve and New Year's Day with the lovely folks from City Yoga in Columbia, South Carolina. I think that is one of the funnest things about what I do- getting to meet so many amazing people in so many places and participate in their communities. It is really a very fun thing.
So- that is kind of a brief check in for the day. I have been thinking a lot about teaching these days but more from the business side of it than from any inspiring pedagogical inquiry. I have had several conversations lately with yoga teachers about the difficulties of making a living as a yoga teacher and I have some interesting discussions with yoga studio owners about the difficulties of owning a studio and making a living. So it seems that while this is amazing work to do in the world, it is not easy work. There is the challenge of the work itself -- of teaching people to wake up and be conscious in a world that assists us in slumber at every twist and turn. There is the very real issue of yoga studios popping up on every corner and creating competition and so on. There is the cost of training to become and remain a good teacher. There is a tremendous amount of "free time" one must have and devote to personal practice to be and remain a good teacher. There are just so many costs in the business. And when we tie this thing we love into our livelihood the pressures multiply and the distractions mount and the temptation to turn this art into customer service over and above good teaching tends to win.
So there is a lot that could be said about it all. I think it is an amazing cultural trend that so many people actually can endeavor to earn a living wage teaching yoga. I didn't make a living at this until 3 or so years ago. I have taught fitness since I was 18 years old and yoga since 1998 but it wasn't until 3 1/2 years ago I looked upon it as a primary source of financial support. I am glad for that because I think had I been a new teacher who was just discovering my way in the art of teaching and I had the pressure of it being my livelihood, I would have had a lot harder time figuring out for myself how I wanted to teach and who I am as a teacher. It would have been a lot harder to be clear in all that if it was coupled with the pressure of making a living. Having said that, it is an awesome thing to really get that we are supported- literally, financially supported by the money our students pay us to learn yoga- and to allow that reality to penetrate into our consciousness at a very deep level. For me, that was a profoundly healing realization of Universal Support being manifested at an immediate level.
Anyway, I think about these things a lot as I listen to so many different sides of the conversation regarding money and yoga and the business of teaching yoga. My experience is that well, it is called work for a reason. And believe me I love my work- but I am not of the new age mindset that work should not be difficult or that work should not make you tired if you love it or that work is somehow, not work if it is your dharma or life's calling. I have never really had work I liked that was not challenging. One of my favorite feelings these days is after a 6-day Immersion to get on a plane and I am tired and I feel a bit used. To be exact, I feel used well- like my energy, my attention, my talent, my skills, my passion, etc. all went to something that was good and profoundly transformational. That is what I love about it. I like spending my life's energy in that way.
And so anyway- more could be said because I think we also get confused that "successful yoga teaching" means "making a living as a yoga teacher" when that is simply not the case. Successful yoga teaching means that your transmit the art of yoga in such a way that your students come to the practice with passion, dedication, endurance and maturity over a long period of time. Being a success as a yoga teacher is to represent the lineage of your yoga with clarity, precision, authenticity and integrity. Being a success is teaching someone to breathe, to remember their greatness, to pause before acting, to reflect after acting and to learn on a little rectangular piece of rubber (or whatever it is) how to be who they most truly are. Being a success as a yoga teacher is to contribute in a positive way to the ever expanding conversation that is yoga.