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16 June 2010

a high level of confusement


The warehouse manager at my husband's company once told The Hubs that he (the manager) had a high level of confusement. ;) :)

I'm throwing the question out there: as a yoga student, do you get confused when you experience a style of yoga you are not familiar with? Or do you just go with flow and if it resonates with you that's fine, and if not, that's fine too?

The reason I ask is that a yoga studio owner gave me that reason as to why he did not feel comfortable with me doing a workshop. He thought his students would get "confused."

HUH?

As a teacher getting my name out there in my area, I send a lot of emails to studios asking if they would like to offer one of my workshops. It's a simple, standard email introduction of myself, giving them my website link, stating what I can offer, giving them a link to news articles about me, things like that. It's a standard business introduction. A yoga teacher friend told me that when she took a "business of yoga" workshop, the presenter said that you have to get your name in front of people at least 7 times before they connect with you. Sometimes yoga studio owners tell me "let's do it!", but for the most part I never hear from them. Not even a "thanks, but no thanks" response. As my husband the Big Shot Corporate Guy has told me, a lot of small business owners have really crappy personal business skills. They may know what they're doing in their business, but as for people skills, forget it.

This week I heard from one local studio owner who said that he would feel more comfortable if I spent time at his studio getting to know his style and "methods" so that I could "get an understanding of where the students are coming from." Then he said, "I don't mind if students seek out other styles on there own, but if I'm going to offer it to them [workshops], I feel it is my responsibility to offer programing that keeps into alignment [sic] with the other offerings so as to not confuse the students."

HUH?

Now I have a high level of confusement.

The website states that the studio is an "intimate studio that creates a safe environment for exploration into the yogic arts." OK, sounds good to me, which is why I emailed the owner. I happen to know that the owner is heavily Iyengar influenced because a long time ago one of my former students also practiced with this teacher. The studio is not specifically an Iyengar yoga studio and the classes are advertised as simply being yoga classes, not Iyengar yoga classes.

I was amused by the owner's email. I must say that this was the first time anyone ever told me that I should spend time at their studio getting to know their style and methods. From the class descriptions on the website, I don't understand how the owner would think that what I do is so wildly different from his offerings. Obviously I am not going to send my workshop proposals to name-branded studios that only offer Bikram or Anusara yoga or to strict Iyengar yoga studios!

In my response to him I said (tongue in cheek) that I think I know a little bit about classical yoga and therapeutic yoga since I study at Desikachar's school every year. I said that I am certainly familiar with Iyengar yoga and while it is not a style I have studied in depth, I've attended many Iyengar yoga classes over the years. My own teacher in Chicago studied at an Iyengar Institute and also with Pattabhi Jois. If he had taken the time to read my website (and from his response my gut tells me that he did not -- or maybe he did and he was confused!), he would have seen that I've been around the yoga block more than a few times.

I told him that to me, yoga is yoga, and it all comes from the same source which in this modern yoga era is Sri Krishnamacharya. I said that this was the first time I had heard a studio owner say that students might get "confused" if they experience a style of yoga that is different from what they are used to doing. Wouldn't taking my workshop be their choice anyway? If they are curious they will take it, if not, they will pass on it.

I asked him to explain why he thought his students would be confused because I was honestly perplexed by his statement.

In any event, I said that the testimonials from my students speak for themselves on my website, so if he would like to offer his students the gift of another style of yoga that may further them along their path, to contact me in the future.

I will let you know his response.

If it's not too confusing.

22 comments:

Christine Claire Reed said...

This just sounds to me like a guy who is not interesting in 'sharing' his students, Linda. He sees any exposure to something new as a threat -- like they'll find something they like better than what he has to offer.

Sadly, not atypical, as I am learning. :(

Linda-Sama said...

my thoughts exactly, dear....

Kristin said...

A high level of confusement. Riighht. Uh huh. My first reaction was he obviously thinks his students are too stupid to be able to think, reason and explore on their own; and my second reaction was similar to Christine above, that he's very posessive of his classes. They might actually enjoy something different then *gasp!* go to a different teacher!

To answer your question, no, I don't get confused when I experience a style of yoga I'm not familiar with. There are only different ways of presenting, ultimately, the same thing. And yes, some resonate with me, others don't.

Heck, sometimes it's more the teacher than the style that resonates. But I don't know until I go and that's have the fun, the exploration.

Angela said...

I agree with Christine ... I would just let it go Linda, it's not worth getting uptight about really ... people choose to act the way they do for all sorts of reasons.

But to answer your question about yoga styles, I do find it somewhat confusing to encounter a style that languages yoga in a very different way from that I'm familiar with. For example, when I came across Anusara Yoga I was so thrown by the language of spirals and loops ... but to be honest it's not a style that resonates with me anyway (I'm into styles that emphasise internal awareness as opposed to external alignment).

Moreover, I find the "branding" of styles of yoga deeply irritating - but then I originally trained in the UK and never came across all this branded stuff until I moved to Canada 8 years ago. Most of the time I can't help but feel that all these niche yoga styles are just an excuse to try and market yoga differently although I know some will disagree with this!

For me, what's more important is the teacher's personal vibe - I tend to steer away from purists and like people who are affable and curious and experimental. I like people who are honest about how yoga does fit into their lives and the screw up's they make along the way and who tell me things that have worked for them. I like teachers who can relate the philosophy of yoga to their own lives through stories and anecdotes. I like teachers who are fallible - who make mistakes in class, catch themselves and are honest about it. I like people who share their humanness with me.

I did do Iyengar style once - but didn't last long. The teacher was a purist and told me that I couldn't come out of the posture even though my knees hurt and my breathing was ragged. Only time in my life that I've had really sore knees after a yoga class. I took a 6 week course - wouldn't try that style again unless the teacher was less purist.

Angela

Linda-Sama said...

@Angela:

oh, I did not get uptight and I let it go rather quickly! I merely considered his response fodder for blogging. ;)

As for your comment on Iyengar yoga, considering the Iyengar training the owner has (as stated on his website), I thought his comments interesting.

While neither the studio nor the classes are advertised as "Iyengar yoga", I found his comment a bit rigid just like I have found every traditional Iyengar class I have ever attended.

I appreciate Iyengar yoga up to a certain point, after which, it is not my cup of tea.

@Kristin:

kind of had the same reaction you did, in fact, I thought his comment about his students being "confused" was patronizing. as you say, like they can't discern for themselves? isn't that one of the reasons why people go to yoga conferences, to try on styles you haven't experienced before to see what's a good fit?

again, rigid.

my karma runs over his dogma....;)

Linda-Sama said...

CLARIFICATION:

any owner can do what they want to with their studio, have whatever workshop they want to, or not. whatever. I don't care. if I had a studio I'd run it my own way, too.

BUT...

the operative word -- and what made the incident blog fodder -- was the comment about students being confused.

It was a sentiment that I had never heard before in all my years of teaching....

Yoga365 said...

Hey Linda...I have to tell you, I agree with the studio owner. I think he's being very respectful of his students and their needs. It isn't easy making a living teaching yoga and sustaining a studio. By inviting you in . . he doesn't know you from a hole in the ground...just based on an email he's supposed to "endorse" what you're offering? The teachers that I know who run successful businesses in the city here delete emails of the nature that you're mentioning if the student has never been to the center. Those same teachers wouldn't invite anyone to their center without knowing who they are, what they're like, what they're teaching. So to me, that makes "cents"-- and that's just my 2 cents

La Gitane said...

I have occasionally taken a class from a totally different style of yoga (e.g. Kundalini) and it has been a new experience... But I wouldn't say that I came out of it "confused" about yoga in general. Either I'll want to go back and explore more of that style or maybe I won't - but as a studio owner surely it's your goal to introduce people to all the beautiful diversity that yoga has to offer, not tailor it for them and hand out 'your' yoga as the 'only' yoga?

svasti said...

Never heard about students being confused either! Surely if they are, that's their responsibility anyway.

I've done quite a bit of exploring in different 'styles' of yoga. And what I've found is that if it's genuine, then "yoga is yoga". Some may have a specific focus, but the principals are the same so there's nothing to get confused about.

The only yoga classes that have ever made me feel even slightly confused are the ones where I'm not sure if they ARE actually teaching yoga, or some weird hybrid thing. Been to a couple of classes like that and nope, I still wasn't confused about the actual class, just about what the teacher might've been smoking. ;)

I agree with the other comments here, but I'd also suggest perhaps this guy felt a little threatened. And maybe he felt threatened because he didn't know what kind of yoga you do.

In my teacher's studio in Berkley, CA - they ask potential new teachers to run a closed demonstration class. That way, everyone gets to see how the class plays out and whether or not it "fits" with the school. I think that's about the only way you can know for sure what someone has to offer.

Generally speaking though, I think most people enjoy learning new things. And if they find something confusing guess what - they can always ask for a clarification! ;)

Eco Yogini said...

I agree with Christine- it sounds like he's being overly protective about his "clientele".

I have experienced different styles of yoga and was not confused- but grew as a yogini (and person).

However, I do know a few studios who are EXTREMELY narrow minded when it comes to what they consider the "right" kind of yoga.

Honestly, I would have been a bit insulted... as in, does he think you'll teach them the "wrong way" to do postures? I have been told about five different "RIGHT AND ONLY WAY" to get into a posture.

I am definitely NOT a fan of the more restricted theoretical mindset of teaching yoga and have always welcomed learning and growing.

You're right- yoga is yoga. :)

Eco Yogini said...

also, just after reading more comments- I agree 100% with Kristin's observations.

As a student attending his classes I would have been insulted. I think as an adult I can figure out different explanations and language structures for myself- thank you.

sorry- my Karma isn't doing so well here LOL

Linda-Sama said...

@Yoga365 -

thanks for your 2 cents! and I understand and appreciate what you are saying.

you are right. he doesn't know me from a hole in the ground. BUT:

(1) my suburban area does not have that many teachers to choose from to do workshops if another local yoga teacher offers to do a workshop

(2) we have a connection, which I mentioned in my email, of the same student who did my private classes and classes with him. that's a connection. I "know" him via this former student.

(3) I do not SPAM yoga studios or teachers with workshop proposals. I only email people where there is a connection albeit sometimes a loose one. I will mention a name or something.

(4) IMO, it would be impossible for a a teacher looking to do workshops at studios, especially if they are out of state, to visit every studio. I think that is unrealistic.

(5) I also think you can get a good sense of someone from their website.

We all have seen websites that make us go hmmmmmm.....either too much or too little or something doesn't seem right. BUT sometimes something clicks and you say, yeah, I'll further investigate this person, see what's what. My website has some pretty strong testimonials and my yoga bio speaks for itself.

my 2 cents!

Linda-Sama said...

p.s. I also want to say that my teacher in Chicago -- who was one of the first yoga studios to open in Chicago in the 1980s -- has teachers come do workshops who he has no experience with and who definitely are not students.

I guess that's called faith and trust. ;)

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson said...

While reading your post I was reminded of a recent conversation I had with a studio owner who
felt that I was too instructional while teaching my beginner class. Talk about confusion. Isn't that what a beginner class is suppose to be?

She went on to say that her students weren't interested in all that yoga stuff, referring to the fact that I weave yoga philosophy into the classes I teach. Isn't that why they are coming to a yoga studio instead of a gym? --

I thanked her for her feed-back and decided that I wasn't going to compromise my teaching to make myself fit in with a studio.

As long as we teach from our hearts we're honoring the tradition of yoga. That's really all that matters - in my humble opinion.

Linda-Sama said...

one more thing...

as I said, an owner can do whatever they want to in their studio, hire whoever, teach whatever.

but the operative word that was fodder for this post was the word "confused" in regards to his students.

and lastly, it is also his choice to come to one of MY workshops to check me out, which are listed on my website.

Yoga365 said...

Agreed that you have a lovely website and informative bio . . . but who is the one looking for employment and exposure? He has the studio...Ithink it's like any job. You can fire off an email and hope for the best, or you can go, show interest, motivation and passion . . . you dont know what kind of partnership might come out of that. I have built wonderful friendships and business relationships in this way.... but it was certainly me who took the initiative. Now I have my own space and we promote eachother. I highly highly recommend you taking him up on his offer . . . and see if your personalities and energies jive....you can't read that from an email or a well versed web site.

Linda-Sama said...

here is an emailed comment from a friend who is a teacher/owner (permission granted to use):

"Studio Owners: Hmmm...considering I am a studio owner ..even though I don't own the bricks & mortar and certainly don't "own" the students, I do run a yoga biz...here's my take on this.

A lot of people want to be their own boss, they want to make all the money..lol here...from the yoga classes or think they can offer students something a little better. Some of them have terrific people skills and are great teachers. They have NO
business skills or simply have never run any business and are not sure of themselves. There is also the flip side of that. Or the square or octagon...it
could go on and on. They know how to run a business, but they want to be the top yogi and their way is the only way, but their teaching and/or people skills lack.

OR, they want to make money off the backs of the teachers who teach in their studio. We could give this any number of equations.

So in my very humble opinion a yoga business is like any other business. You have to have a great product: well-trained teachers; good business skills (the rent must be paid)m care about the customers (students). treat teachers (your employees or independent contractors) in your studio who teach for you or visiting teachers as you would want to be treated, which means
fair compensation and respect.

And there is another side to this: Teachers who work for and/or visit studios. Consider the area where you are teaching. How much is charged for a class? If the studio is charging $10 for a class, there is no way you can make $7 a student or the rent ain't gettin' paid. Most studios (we are not talking the big city studios here) cannot guarantee a minimum amount of money to a teacher to show up.

Brand new teachers cannot dictate how many students they want in a class. Teachers who do workshops and/or teach for studios should care about the people who show up in these classes/workshops and
not just consider them as dollar signs: How many students/how much money. Be grateful. This is an energy that students pick up on immediately. This especially applies to workshops: Do not be condescending to students! Students feel that.

Support the studio that invites you. Do not complain about their students, the studio owners, or how much you are getting paid. If you don't want to teach there, then don't. Off my soapbox on that one!

Confused or Lack of Open Minds Or Just New?

This is a HUGE issue in the yoga community. Is my way the only way? Is it the right way? Is there a right way? One teacher claims alignment doesn't count as long as you are working the area of the body that the pose is designed to work. Kill the sacred cows, as Paul Grilley says.

Another teacher claims that enlightenment is in the alignment. Who is correct? Does it matter?

Yoga, like anything else in life, is a continual experiment and experience of finding what works
for each of us. Where do we fit best? What is best for my body/spirit at this time, knowing that all things in life change.

I do think students, especially new students, get confused when things are taught differently by
teachers. They have no idea where to put their feet, let alone their minds, when starting a yoga practice. So consistency is important with newbies.

BUT, as a teacher, I think it is important to let students know it's okay to expand their horizons. Try something new,
maybe you will like it. It does not mean what you have learned thus far is wrong.

BUT, when you are in someone's class, you follow what is being taught in that class. Be respectful in a class. As Ramaswami, who learned from Sri Krishnamacharya, tells us: Today in this class, we are doing it this way, no matter how you were taught. (so turn your damn toes.)
......

Linda-Sama said...

CONTINUED.....

"....Isn't that what yoga and life are all about? Life is yoga; yoga is life, right? Life and yoga is about exploration, trying things a different way, and old way, a new way. Maybe you like what
you are and don't want to change...that's okay too...."

Some yoga teachers, just like anyone else, are closed-minded or fearful. How many times do we
hear people say: This is the way it's always been done. Says who? Was the person who taught you that
correct? So for a studio owner to claim that students will be confused? Who dies and left him king? Who would
want to practice at a studio that dictates? Not me.

The best studio, again my humble opinion, offers vastly different workshops every year to students
so they can explore. How wonderful is that? What a huge smorgasbord of yoga to choose from. But it all came from the same origin. What if these original teachers were afraid to try it a little differently?

Linda, this was a great post to get people thinking...Thanks!"

Linda-Sama said...

"How many times do we
hear people say: This is the way it's always been done. Says who?"

I always say, show me the palm leaf in Indian where that's written then I'll believe you....;)

Emma said...

from something i had to deal with.. are you worried at all about him reading this blog entry?

the meditator said...

I am such a proponent for 'many roads up the mountain' that I find it so surprising when others close shop on their own community .. their community of students and other teachers. Are we being 'open' and giving when we hold on so tight to 'our' business, to 'our' students? I have worked the corporate world, I know how to sell and win, but now .. now I share, with everyone, I will support your journey in life in anyway I can. I don't what I do .. I offer my voice as you do yours .. freely and without expectation. As for being a student at that centre - well I would devastated to think I was being controlled as to what I could experience and learn ..

Linda-Sama said...

@Yoga365 -- we can respectfully agree to disagree!

@emma -- no. and my reasoning for that would be too long to put in this comment! and it's late and I'm tired!

@the meditator -- thanks for commenting! and IMO, your operative word is "community." in my experience, in my area, that phrase is not what one might think.