Teacher trainings: Earning a living is just as important to sustaining a life as a yoga teacher as knowing Sanskrit names for poses
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST JESSICA LESLEY
I’m a 26 year-old yoga instructor in Los Angeles, where certain parts of the city almost have a yoga studio on every corner. I wish I had some super spiritual tale of how I got here, but the reality is I got fired from my cushy 9-to-5 at a major movie studio where I worked as an Executive Assistant, meaning I got paid lots of money to deal with lots of meaningless crap.
I have never been less happy as the hours I spent at that desk. I could literally feel the cells in my body dying a slow death, along with my brainpower and creative energy. Then one day I got canned. At the risk of sounding like one of those signs you see on the lawn of a Baptist church: I had to lose my job to find myself.
Putting in the time and energy
Just a month earlier, I’d done a 200-hour yoga teacher training on a whim. I had taken a few classes at the studio and saw a flier about an upcoming training. I thought, “Hey, that’s a great way to earn some extra income and inject a little passion into my life.” My “plan” was to teach yoga as a hobby on the weekends until many, many years down the road when I would have ample students and opportunities showered on me, at which time I would gracefully transition from one career to the next.
Things didn’t exactly work out that way. In fact, my journey from Corporate America to Yogini was filled with more than a few mishaps, misfortunes and good old misunderstandings. If you are considering taking a teacher training for yoga, let this be a cautionary tale. If not, by all means, let yourself be entertained at my expense.
First of all, I kinda overlooked what a 200-hour/7-week intensive course in addition to my 40-hour work week (hour commute each way not included) would do to my schedule. I was doing homework and reading assignments at my desk, left early several days a week to make it on time for mandatory lectures and classes. Used vacation time to take 3 and 4 yoga classes a day. No, even I am not THAT into yoga.
Our teacher designed the course to include a requirement that we each had to complete 20 yoga classes with her before the course was over.
Preparing for responsibility
On a lighter note, the training was going along just fine, I loved the philosophy, the mudras, the chakras, and oh the hours and hours of asana!
Finally we got to what I felt was the most important topic in our seven week intensive – The Business of Yoga! That’s right. Yoga is a business. Just like Whole Foods is a grocery store. To me, this is just as important to sustaining a life as a yoga teacher as knowing Sanskrit names for poses. So, I had my questions ready:
How do I market myself?
What goes into a yoga website?
What does a yoga resume look like?
How much should a new teacher charge for private sessions?
How do I get work?
I just knew we would have a great discussion and I would have all kinds of new information to add to my yoga toolbox – WRONG!
Standing up for integrity
I was met with borderline disgust, my teacher and a few of the other trainees looked as though they could not believe that I would dare expect to make a living off teaching Yoga. I was quickly advised to take my focus off of looking for work and instead look for Seva opportunities.
(Translation for non-teacher candidates: Seva is a word meaning ‘string’ in Sanskrit. It may imply the connectedness of all things. Seva may also refer to volunteer work; selfless service and work offered to God. It is said that practicing seva enables teachers to share what they have learned without expectation of recognition, reward, or outcome.)
I felt like a total jerk but I held my ground. I paid for a training – not just monetarily, but with blood, sweat and tears – that stated in the curriculum, we would be covering the business side of yoga. So give me the education I signed up for!
My teacher held her ground as well. She felt strongly that focusing on compensation would somehow make me a poor teacher. My point is that if I am carrying the burden of overdue utilities and an empty gas tank into class, how am I to have the clear mind and light heart essential to teaching yoga, a healing art?
So that great debate continues. Not just between my teacher and me, but all over the media. It’s a conversation I am happy to have, all day long. It beats the heck out of answering phones.
Super sweet and super smart, Jessica is quadruple certified in yoga and in fitness! Trained in anatomy, asana and positive practice, she’s experienced in supporting her students as they get present to their challenges with compassion and courage. When you visit her website jessicalesley.com be sure to read her surprising and powerful personal journey. Watch for Jessica’s adventures in teaching column monthly in The Magazine of Yoga!
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.