When yoga's not yoga

I'm going to light a match here and open up a real conversation about teaching yoga. I play both sides of the fence in the yoga game - I am a teacher and I often produce events for other teachers. I see a lot. Something that has become very evident to me over the past few years is that although yoga isn't a sport technically, it does have one major characteristic that is shared among all other sports.... competition.

Except the competition that you see in yoga isn't played on the field. It's an inside game. It's insidious. It's sneaky, it's silent and unfortunately, it is the nature of the our current yoga culture. 

Being a yoga teacher is a hustle. I say this to every single person who asks me about getting their certification. Until you make it "big" - you have to keep your day job. And even when you make it "big", you have to do everything you can to stay on your toes. It's a crowded marketplace. There are dozens of teacher trainings going on at all time, each churning out hungry fresh teachers who will teach for cheap, in addition to the myriad teachers already out there.

photo cred: matt roy

photo cred: matt roy

So these nuevo teachers hit the ground running, wanting to cut their teeth in the yoga world in any way that they can. They build relationships, teach free yoga classes to get their name out, create Facebook pages, start blogs and they are hungry. And the seasoned teachers, the ones who have been around a while, get anxious. They see someone else got a gig or is teaching a shiny, new event and they get worried. There is basically zero job security in the yoga world. Someone comes out with some fresh twist and BOOM - it's the next big thing.

Remember, this isn't corporate America. There are no salaries, no insurance - just a bunch of freelance work and w9's cobbled together that maybe will cover the rent. Teachers get paid per class, and often paid per student, so the unfortunate reality is that teachers are incentivized to get as many students as possible in your class. Their eyes are peeled to see what is happening in other classes and other studios. And all of these free community classes just drive down the demand to pay all teachers what they're worth. 

I've been both the new teacher and the seasoned teacher. Neither situation is awesome. You're either struggling to get relevant or to stay relevant.  It might not be a teacher's natural state, but the current situation is a culture that breeds competition. Absolutely, there are exceptions - this is not the case with every teacher, but it's definitely common. The majority of yoga teachers are constantly working to stay in the game, to get you to go on their retreat, to come to their classes, to pick their event. It's a silent rat race from the people you'd least expect it from. There is jealousy. There is some serious ego. There is more focus on the teacher than the student. There's a shitty system in place.

And as a result we lose sight of what yoga really means... union, connection, respect and ONE love.