I found my passion. Now what?

Ashanga yoga has an interesting reputation. Those outside of the practice, or those who aren’t suited for it, often demean it.

“It’s only for 12 year old boys”

“It’s just hard for the sake of hard”

“Ashtanga is only about the gross body, what I teach is more subtle, more powerful”

“That’s yoga Type-A people”

I’ve heard so much rage, so much judgement from people, from yogis, over the years. The one thing I understand is that Ashtanga is one of the few branches that demands discipline. You’re expected to be on your mat 6 days a week with a few exceptions. You are on time.

While assisting a Mysore practice with Clayton years ago, we had to arrive at 4:30am to practice before the doors opened to students at 6am. If you showed up at 4:31am, you found the door locked and you didn’t assist that day.

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“Follow your passion” is the worst advice for any person starting a new career.


I know. “But, I love yoga and I want to share my passion with everyone!”

I know. I understand.

That spark that ignites the passion is critical. Passion gets you to your first step. There has to be more. Much more. Discipline is key to reaching your goals and dreams without burnout. Passion gets you to the door, discipline opens it!

How do you find discipline in your teaching career? Here are a few ideas.

  • Take notes…create a practice diary. We teach what we practice. Do you still practice? What does that look like? Do you make excuses to avoid the mat?
  • R&D…research new themes for your class and develop sequences that support the theme. Real research isn’t just searching the net for what someone else is doing. Make it unique, from your heart.
  • Take another one…teacher trainings are time consuming and increasingly expensive but a training or a teacher intensive can be the catalyst to get your passion back on the right track and create good work habits.
  • Clean up after yourself…What? Seriously. When you exit the studio, leave it better than you found it. Be an example of selfless effort. When a teacher leaves their props behind for ‘someone else to use’, so do the students. It makes a mess that the next group has to clean up.

Check out this passionate article about the value of disciple from Christian motivational speaker, Scott Cochrane:

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http://www.scottcochrane.com/index.php/2018/05/29/what-to-do-when-you-discover-that-passion-alone-isnt-enough/

Right thought | wrong speech

We all do it. We all excuse it.
When is gossip right speech and when is it just wrong?

In many teacher trainings, discussions about the Yamas and Niyamas are often condensed into easily digestible concepts.

Satya = truthfulness, right speech, non-gossip…sorta. It’s much more complicated than that but it’s a good start.

Every workplace, including yoga studios and fitness clubs, has a policy against malicious gossip. If you’ve ever needed to go to human resources to address it, you know that the line between malicious and unintended is broad and mobile.

When is gossip a positive? Here are three areas to consider:

Are you sharing your personal experience or speculating about others?  Malcolm Gladwell talks a little about the other minds problems in his book, What the Dog Saw. That’s the phrase psychologists use to describe our innate curiosity about the interior lives of others. How often do we ask, what do you think about this? Tell me more about that? It’s fact vs fiction.

Are you exploring bigger concepts or just looking for angry allies? Discussions that are often, and sometimes rightly, avoided at work can be had with close work-friends with respect and integrity. Talking about cultural antagonisms, social movements or even the weather can be an honest exchange for deeper understanding. But, phrases like “don’t you agree that…” are a form of peer pressure that are often used to gather support an unstated agenda.

Humour vs snark. Many people love a catty sense of humour. It takes time to get to that level with work-friends. Friendly jabs at those who are present can be fun. A friendly jab at someone not present who has already heard it directly on other occasions can be on the line. A ‘friendly’ jab at someone called out or named, who is not present and has no idea tends to go over the line.

We all do it. We all excuse it. When is it right speech and when is it just wrong?


Check out this interesting article on how to “Gossip Like a Leader”

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I quit! And, you’re fired!

Have you ever left a studio?

Of course, schedules change or you need more time for yourself.

But, have you ever quit?

Sometimes we forget to look at the big picture when where excited about teaching each class.

I once taught at a local Ashtanga shala near my home. It was just a 15 walk away. How wonderful! But, the dynamics of the city changed. And, as the studio struggled to maintain students. I saw my paychecks shrink. Being paid per head is great when the room is full.  But, it was just a short walk down the street. The class time was convenient. I love teaching. What’s the problem?

I did the math.  The numbers revealed the ugly truth. The pay no longer covered the time and energy I spent getting there. I was clearing less than minimum wage, far less than the normal rate for a senior teacher. So, I left.

It’s not always about money though. I taught at another studio that paid a fair flat rate. I was really excited to be a part of the community. This studio was renown throughout the area, the world, and had a legacy. But the community wasn’t welcoming. The addition of a “power yoga” class was sneered at by existing teachers. Yes, air quotes were often used and not so subtle references to “trendy yoga” and “ridiculous poses”.  What I taught was different and many teachers in the space weren’t capable of the vigorous asana. So, they belittled what they were afraid of. It was pretty toxic. So, I left.


“We often say ‘yes’ with regrets.

But sometimes, we have to say no.

Sometimes, we have to walk away. “

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Have you ever fired a student?

I know, I know…it sounds like self-sabotage.  It’s really self-preservation.

I volunteered at the International Film Festival for years. There were several dedicated volunteers who had been with the festival for decades. When I was invited to join the seasonal staff, I used them as a valuable resource for best practices. Things would go well if things went their way. Too often, new volunteers found themselves iced out and discouraged from coming back.

One year, the operations director uninvited dozens of long time volunteers from the festival. It was scandalous. They were fired. And, we were better for it. The general atmosphere was more welcoming and friendly to everyone. A heavy weight was lifted from everyone’s shoulders.


Sometimes, students need to leave your class for their own benefit or for the benefit of your teaching. The student who stays in the beginner class because it’s safe or easy, needs to move on. The regular student who dominates your time and energy before, during and after class is interfering with your serving the other students.

We often say “yes” with regrets. But sometimes, we have to say no. Sometimes, we have to walk away.


Check out this interesting article from James Altucher about the realities of selling oneself…pay close attention to points B and I.

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…in with the new

Every January, teachers, trainers, instructors all talk about the surge. You know those people who make New Year’ resolutions and show up to class en masse for a few weeks.

Some teachers thrive with the crowds.  The more the merrier. Others are caught off guard with a room full of people who don’t know thew cues or understand the language.

Regular students are greatly impacted too. During the first week of January, I had a regular student declare the he “hates those resolution people”. Hmm.

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The New Year is a dynamic time in the club or studio. There a a lot opportunities to get it right and to get it wrong. Here are a few things to consider during the influx of new students.

1. Humility. Keep your ego in check. The larger class size is not about you. People go for what time, place and price are most convenient.

2. Clarity. Regulars know your tone and cues, sometimes even your sequence. Be as clear and direct as possible as if you have a room full of strangers…because you may! Feeling confused or lost can drive people away.

3. Empathy. New students can get guidance and empathy from regulars who are welcoming. Offer up a story about your own first class or first breakthrough to help remind regulars that everyone has a first time some time.

4. Loyalty. Not every one will stick around. Schedules change or some other class is preferred. But to keep class retention high, offer solutions, not just resolutions, to new students showing up in January.


Check out this interesting article from INC magazine about customer loyalty done right.

https://www.inc.com/alison-davis/cvs-pharmacy-just-took-a-big-step-to-increase-customer-loyalty-heres-how-you-can-use-this-idea-to-meet-your-customers-needs.html

Measure Twice, Cut Once

As teachers, we teach what we know. Sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut of teaching what we’re good at. I’ve taken classes with yogis who have dance backgrounds and very flexible hips. Every class explored hip openers. Every class featured the teacher demonstrating the “right way” to do a pose.

What about the rest of us?  How can a student find his or her individual practice when, as teachers, we preach right vs wrong poses and only teach what we can do well.

We all come to the mat for different reasons. And, every body is very different. Someone handed me an article about a decade ago that explained why some people will never get their hips to the ground in virasana. NEVER. It’s not about flexibility, knee health or dedication to the practice. It’s about the shape of the pelvis and its relationship to the femur head. Bone against bone. I constantly meet students who have become convinced that they aren’t “really doing yoga” because their hero’s pose doesn’t look like the picture in the magazine, the teacher at the front of the room, etc. So, what’s right and what’s wrong here?

By relying on what’s easy for us, we can involuntarily teach our students to measure themselves against our personal standard instead of what’s right for them.

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I recently taught an inversion workshop during a period of time when my own handstands weren’t very stable. I still had to demo the action of lifting up instead of kicking up. I fell backwards and sideways every-single-time.

I was embarrassed but it was what it was. I got the point across.

Thankfully, one student remarked that she was terrified of trying a handstand without a wall until she saw me, the teacher, fall …fail. I wasn’t perfect. I did something I wasn’t good at and it helped the class.

There is no right…just right now.

We should often try to teach those poses that we don’t love or aren’t proficient in. The students come to benefit from the wisdom of our journeys. If that journey is long and difficult, the wisdom we share may be deeper and more impactful in a positive way.

Every time I teach pincha mayurasana, I tell the story of getting unilateral direction for success. I tried to follow that direction for over 8 years and never went up. EIGHT YEARS!!  Then I noticed another teacher doing it differently. I tried it and I’ve had a stable pincha mayurasana ever since. But, it works for me. The other direction works for others. I teach both and everything in between so students have the opportunity to find their own practice and not just watch me do it the right way at the front of the room.