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/

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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One last savasana

How do you handle grief in the classroom?

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I remember the first time I heard about a yoga student dying. I was just a few years into my practice and the teacher announced the death of a regular student from cancer. She was only 40-something. And, one of a hundred faces I saw in class every day. I never knew her name or noticed when she stopped coming.

But, yogis aren’t supposed to die.

Since then, I’ve had to mourn two of my teachers, Larry Schultz and Sri K Pattabhi Jois. Yoga teachers don’t live to be 108 years old.

Yogis are people. We live. We practice. If were lucky, we grow old and then die.

But, as a teacher, what if a student dies?

I have several septuagenarians and octogenarians in my regular classes. They are amazing and an inspiration to me, and everyone who meets them. But, there have been some close calls. One bad fall, a complication in surgery, an issue with a chronic health condition can be fatal.

When a student isn’t in class for a while, I wonder. I’m afraid that I’ll never see them again.

Coping with loss can affect all of us. How can a teacher hold a space while grieving?

  1. Ask the studio if there is a protocol for handling the death of a regular student
  2. Ask the family or friends if they’d like a special class to remember the life of that student
  3. Acknowledge your own sadness, to yourself and others
  4. Remember, “it’s not about you”. It’s the natural cycle of life
  5. Talk to your fellow teachers. Your community of co-workers can support you

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: yogajoes.com

The more you know :: Brainwork

For better or worse, Yoga is increasingly categorized as part of the Fitness Industry.  There are many fitness professionals who have included yoga in their routines.  And, many yoga teachers borrow from other areas of fitness to create something different.  Kettlebell Yoga comes to mind.

Above all, it’s exercise.  We all encourage people to move and become or stay healthy.

This interesting article from FastCompany gives good info about the positive effect of exercise on the brain.

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Good news morning yogis!!  Keep it up.