13 November 2009
"Repeated frustrations and disappointments, Sama, are always a reflection of repeated misunderstandings and presumptions. Oh, darn." - The Universe
Some of the most frequent search phrases for this blog are about "teaching yoga" or "how much does a yoga teacher make" or "I want to teach yoga." I've written before about the trials and tribulations about teaching for yoga studio owners, so this is another taste of what real life yoga teaching is all about. Gather 'round, children.
Besides teaching privately, I also teach at two community colleges and rent a room at a massage therapy business. I will be gone for two months next year so I needed to get subs for my classes. The two colleges are covered and the persons in charge of my classes are very thankful that I did not leave them in the lurch; both wished me well and told me they would welcome me back, no problem. In fact one woman told me that I was the best yoga teacher they could ever have....sigh (hug.)
Some of you may recall my misadventure with a young studio owner which prompted me to find the room that I rent. I started teaching in this space in January and the dedicated yin students followed me there from the studio.
As a renter I am under no delusion that I will be there forever. You rent at the whim of the landlord. It seemed like a great fit since the owner does massage, reiki, has meditation classes, etc.
When I started using his space the first thing I did was invite him to my class on Sunday mornings to experience what yin yoga is all about and to learn more about me. I thought he would be all into it considering he is a massage therapist and teaches meditation classes (in other words, he talks the talk.) He never did.
I told him that I study yoga therapy at one of the leading yoga schools in the world, so I encouraged him to suggest yoga therapy to his clients. I encouraged him to promote the fact that he had a highly trained yoga teacher working out of his space and it could be a win-win situation for both of us. The situation that I describe can really be the best of both worlds for a yoga teacher and a holistic practice if there is communication and give and take between the parties. During the year I also suggested different workshops but he never showed any interest. I am the only yoga in this small town, which will soon have no yoga. A big fish in a little pond with lots of room for growth. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to have my own meditation center that offers yoga (instead of the other way around), I can not afford to rent a space large enough to do this.
I said that I would be gone for two months and asked whether it would be OK to continue the classes (my students were already worried about what would happen to the classes) with my friend subbing. After all, it's not my place, so I teach there at his whim. I asked three times about it and I never received a response. I finally received this email:
"When Metta-Yoga started at the Center, I was thinking about it more from the perspective that it would be of benefit to some of the Center clients. So far, it doesn't seem like there has been very many that have taken up on the opportunity. The additional exposure would have been nice too, but as far as I can tell, there have only been one or two students who have sought sessions. Also, I need to start teaching classes on Saturday and Sunday days which would end up conflicting with the class room use on Sunday. From a philosophical perspective, I am slightly more comfortable referring clients to a style of Yoga such as Svaroopa as it is more spinal and joint opening then core strengthening. I think a restorative / repairative style would be more attractive to some of my older, chronically impaired clients who have spinal & joint issues. Therefore, I am thinking that at the end of the year we should end the use of the space for the classes you are teaching."
Now let me break down this email for you, kids....
1. Other than being mentioned on the center's website, to my knowledge my sessions were never advertised to their database, so how would his clients know what I offer and take advantage of it? I always asked whether my new sessions would be announced and I never received any response. In fact, I used to teach two classes and had to drop one because of lack of attendance. I also could not depend on coverage in the local paper -- the editor told me my press release could always be superseded by an announcement for let's say...a hog calling contest. ahem.
2. As for needing to use the room, I understand that, it's his space.
3. My students did not utilize his services, which is too bad, but I could not help that.
4. But as for the part in bold....HUH?!?
Like I said, even after more than a few invitations the owner never came to my class (which he could have taken for free!) or ever asked me what I teach or how I teach, so he had no basis for making that statement. Yin yoga is "core strengthening"? Whaaaat?
As for Svaroopa yoga, I started becoming suspicious when I saw cards for a Svaroopa yoga teacher next to my cards on the front desk. Hmmmmmm, I thought, what's that all about? I know nothing about that style of yoga, only that it uses chairs and lots of props and is considered restorative. But my point is: the owner never made any attempt to learn what I do or what I can offer.
"Spinal and joint opening"? This was my response to that:
"I do not teach a style of yoga that is "core strengthening." I invited you a number of times to come experience yin yoga, but you never did.
All yoga is "spinal and joint opening" just as all yoga is therapeutic if applied in the right manner. In fact, the style of yin yoga is not only practiced by senior citizens with limited mobility, but is also used in addiction and trauma recovery programs. The concept of "yin" means that it is "still" as opposed to "yang" or moving."
Common sense tells me that if I, a holistic practitioner, was renting space to a yoga teacher with my training in yoga, yoga therapy, meditation, and energy work, that I would want to take advantage of that and work with that person to grow both our businesses. He would have been the only alternative therapy business for miles around to offer yoga therapy. As my friend who was going to sub for me told me, his loss. But common sense ain't too common anymore. What was I thinking?!?
Don't kid yourselves. As much as we yoga teachers like to think that yoga has gone mainstream, that people will be rushing to yoga therapy, or that other holistic practitioners will knock down your doors begging for your services...think again.
So let this be a lesson for you, children, on the ups and down of yoga teaching. But am I upset? Actually I'm not. For some reason that I have yet to figure out, I am relieved. Sure it was a nice chunk of change every 6-8 weeks, but the energy was off. When I offer my services to someone and say let's work together, and I am not respected and worse, underestimated, it's time to get the hell out.
This yoga business journey has shown me time and time again to do my own thing and don't count on (and never completely trust) anyone but me. The words of my astrologer keep ringing in my ears: find my own tribe.