The Front Line

yogajoesWhen I started my yoga life, you could earn free classes through work trade.

I checked in classes, cleaned the bathrooms and mopped the studio floor.  I was happy to do it. If there was no one available, teachers had to check in their own classes.

Working the front desk was a privilege.

Today, it’s a job. People apply to work full or part-time, checking in classes and greeting students as they arrive. With retail, class packages, teacher-trainings and such, the job is much more complicated than when I checked in classes.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that the front desk is the front line in the studio. Students trust the person who’s informing them about the studio. Not only about where the bathroom is but also which classes to try.

I’m always shocked to hear about teachers being rude, dismissive or even abusive to those who work at the front desk.

These are our co-workers. And, the people who can make a difference in our teaching careers. Being a professional yoga teacher means being a professional co-worker.

5 ways to be an awesome co-worker

1. Let them know you’re there. Say “hello”.  Introduce yourself if you don’t know the person. When a teacher breezes past the front desk, even if late, it makes their job harder. If they don’t know that you’re there on time, it adds to the stress of check-in.

2. Say “please” and “thank you”. You learned it kindergarten, you know it’s right.

3. Don’t complain if there’s a small mistake. When a studio pays per head, you have to work hand-in-hand with the front desk to make sure the number is right. It’s no one’s fault if it’s wrong. It’s an opportunity to work together.

4. Invite them to your workshops/retreats at a discount. Most studios offer employee discounts. If you have an event outside of the studio, invite your co-workers to come. Offer a discount or an exclusive invitation to do a work-trade.

5. Do unto others. If you have a request or question during check-in or while the front desk is busy with students, be respectful when interrupting. “Sorry to interrupt…” “May I ask…” How would you respond to someone shouting or knocking on the table to get your attention? Sounds crazy, but teachers treat the front desk staff that way all the time.

**Photo credit:

Hustle and Flow

In my first few years as a yoga student, I remember the day when my favourite teacher walked in about 3 minutes before class. He scanned the room, scowled and walked out. We could all hear him berating the front desk staff because there weren’t enough people in the room. It wasn’t worth his time.

We weren’t worth his time.

‘At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.’ ~Maya Angelou

Today, I see teachers behaving in a similar way towards one another.  When I became a yoga teacher, I understood it a little better.  I gained empathy for his situation.  But, I’ll never forget how I felt in that moment then and, too often, today.

As teachers, we’re all hustlers.  We need to get to the next gig. We need to boost our numbers.  We are each an army of one.

The popularity of yoga brings great opportunity for students and teachers. But, in yoga saturated areas, it can be very difficult to pay the bills as a full-time teacher who isn’t sitting on a trust fund or big savings from a past life.

We’re all in this together. 


Tips for for using your hunger to keep you energized without becoming hangry:

  1. Remember that all of your fellow yoga teachers are your co-workers.  You don’t have to agree on everything, just work well together. Some of the best career opportunities come from your community.  The bigger, the better
  2. If you can’t say anything nice, stay neutral.  No one has to know what you’re thinking.  But, if pushed, remember that it’s your experience in that situation or with that person and not everyone else’s. Very likely, someone else can tell a story about you too.
  3. Respect the variety.  Full-time teachers are often dismissive towards part-time teachers. Traditionalists vs Non-Traditionalists.  Experienced vs New.  There are many ways we can divide the industry.  The variety has helped it grow into a multi-billion dollar industry. Without those others, this couldn’t be a career option. The more, the merrier.
  4. Do the math.  I taught at an Ashtanga studio for 3 months before realizing that I was actually paying $5-10 to teach each class. Commute costs and lost time wasn’t covered by what I was paid.
  5. Be real with yourself. Someone else’s success or failure is not yours. It does’t change your life unless you allow it in negative ways. Can you celebrate or support other teachers without being envious?

There’s so much more to say on this topic.  Stay tuned.

Check out this 2015 article from the Wanderlust Blog by Andrea Rice.  More real talk on the hustle and flow.



Be your Best

Email can be confusing. If there are multiple people copied and replying, tangent threads can turn streamlined communication into a maze.

No matter what device you use or how you check or messages, don’t forget that there are people behind the typing. Don’t forget your humanity.

Ahimsa teaches us to do no harm-period. Not just to one self but to others as well. We apply it easily in the classroom to prevent injury but sometimes forget how harmful words can be. We often write things that we’d never say face to face.

How can you communicate with Ahimsa when frustrated by or even upset with a fellow teacher, staff or studio manager? To quote Guruji, “Practice and all will come”.

Top 10 lists are popular right now. Here’s my Bottom 5 for communication.


Bottom 5 ways to begin a sentence:

  1. As I said earlier….

~sometimes people scan a message and ask for information that’s already included.   It’s frustrating but not a big deal. Pointing out the error isn’t taking the high road.


  1. I told you already…

~when you think something is complete but you get a message showing that it’s still in the air, it’s difficult to remain graceful. Would you say this to the person face to face? How would you feel if someone said this to you? Communication is a two-way street. Both parties have a hand in any confusion.


  1. Well, [insert boss’s name here] said….

~at times, the business of yoga is no different than other businesses. When employees feel powerless, they often use the boss as a tool to gain an upper hand. Telling “mom” or “dad” doesn’t encourage dialogue or problem solving. Including everyone does.


  1. Actually….

~sarcasm is never good in professional communication.


  1. No…

~the opportunity to say yes is a gift. It’s one that we can’t always give. Start with your heart. Do you wish that you could? Are you sorry that you can’t? Or, are you holding something negative? A positive beginning makes a big difference.


The more you know :: Scoliosis

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cited a study that focused on patients with Scoliosis practicing Vasitsthasana regularly.  The study was small, microscopic by scientific standards, with only 25 participants.  It is a good start though.

PJ-BY040_RESREP_J_20141027121320According to 2013 statistics from Yoga Journal, about 15million people practice yoga in the  US.  It’s estimated that 6 million people in the US have scoliosis.  There’s a good chance that there is some overlap in those populations.

As teachers, we can see scoliosis that students may not even be aware of having.  It’s good to know what helps and why.

Based on the results of this small study, what other poses would benefit students with scoliosis?

Nice Niche :: Big Fish

In Teacher Training there’s typically a moment when you talk about the business of yoga and they will tell you to find your niche.

In every TT, half the class wants to:

  • teach beginners
  • teach seniors
  • teach children
  • teach “under-served” populations (aka poor, and/or non-white students)
  • teach outdoors
  • teach athletes (insert discipline here)

That’s an admirable but VERY common list.

So, what’s a niche?  The dictionary says…

  1. suitable place for somebody: a position or activity that particularly suits somebody’s talents and personality or that somebody can make his or her own
  2. specialized market: an area of the market specializing in one type of product or service

We focus on the second definition without looking at the first.  Targeting a specific, specialized market can lead to monetary success if that’s your talent.  But, how often to we move towards a career we wish for without being realistic about what we’re good at or suited for?

I saw a story about Big Fish Expeditions on  Personally, I love sharks.  I think they’re amazing, beautiful, misunderstood, mistreated and awesome (kinda like me).  I hope to be a shark in my next life…but that’s another story.

There are thousands of tour leaders around the world who will show you the beauty of the oceans but Andy Murch and his group found a real niche.

Andy is a “shark fanatic”.  He is the creator behind The Elasmodiver Shark and Ray Field Guide.  He is a driving force behind the Predators in Peril Project.  He’s a professional diver and talented photographer.

Big Fish Expeditions isn’t the only group that offers the opportunity to dive with sharks but they are the most passionate.  Check out their site for Andy’s inspiring photos.

passion + skill = NICHE

flickr-Kevin Bryant
Kevin Bryant (Flickr)

As a yoga teacher, you don’t need to swim with sharks to have a niche. Or, maybe you do-metaphorically.

Be honest about what you’re good at, what experience and talent you have and how to turn that into specialized product for your students.  Wishing you could be someone you’re not doesn’t serve your students or your career.