Hello, Inspired Yogis!
So, I was talking this week with someone I am mentoring, and I thought the conversation was worth sharing.
We all go through very similar struggles as we seek to bridge the gap between our yoga teaching vision and our yoga teaching reality, right?
This teacher has been trying to get a new class started at her studio on Friday nights that incorporates a little tribal dancing at the end. Now some of you may know that I have a class that incorporates my love of dance as an extension of yoga —a more free-form moving meditation, so she knew I had some experience in this area!
But this was her question: After 5 weeks (that’s five classes) of trying this new offering, she wanted to give up because it wasn’t a raging success…
Listen, of course certain ideas sometimes don’t work and it is good to know when to let go —but I want to inspire you to keep moving in the direction of your dreams, keep trusting your authentic creative impulses and sharing what you feel called to share.
A funny little thing happens on the way to living our dreams: we come to the intersection of inspiration street and reality boulevard.
Being grounded in the reality of what it takes to bring an idea to fruition, to share that idea with a community and build something beautiful and successful can actually be a key component of keeping your dream alive.
Here are three suggestions:
1) Be about one hundred times more patient than you think you should be… This business is about word of mouth, building a reputation and creating relationships. It takes time! And yes, it is super vulnerable. If you care, if you feel passionate about wanting to help people, and wanting to sincerely share what you love, you are putting yourself out there in such a vulnerable way —so the potential to feel rejected, disheartened or self-doubting is HUGE.
But that’s why we want to take this path, right?
Because it is meaningful, because it feels more true to who we really are, because succeeding carries so much fulfillment! The price of this is the vulnerability of letting it matter to you and being ok with the risk.
Patience combined with humility makes all the difference. There is no short cut, and no instant gratification —but hey, you probably tell your students that about the practice of yoga, right?! 😉
2) Be humble. Accept the fact that not everyone is going to think you’re the bomb. You cannot win everyone over, and some people just won’t “get” what you are sharing; it simply won’t affect them in the way you want it to.
But that’s OK. You can’t please all the people, all of the time, and the truth is that if you are being really authentic, some people are flat-out not going to resonate at all!
But the people who do pick up what you’re laying down are going to REALLY love it. Those are your students.
Listen, I know a thing or two about being a round peg in a square hole…. I was the only male teacher at my first studio for the better part of 11 years.
I was the first teacher at that studio to use music in my classes. I brought my own little boom box and a CD case to every class (how distracting!), along with my poetry book. Oh yeah, I was the only person who read poetry at the end of my classes too, and I invited people to be aware of their emotions on the mat in a way no-one had heard of before at my second studio —and to sigh the breath out on certain exhales, which all the other teachers openly talked about as being very weird and “not real yoga!”
And then I started a Friday night class that is half yoga, half dance. Super weird!
All of this was me finding my way into sharing what was authentic to me, and the truth is it wasn’t for everyone, which was hard to accept at first.
But after 20 years teaching, I now have this amazing community of students who love what I do. They sell-out every retreat, they all know each-other, they sing along with half of the songs I play, and know the poetry I love by heart, and there is a level of loyalty and shared experience that is so touching and beautiful.
I am proud to say I earned that reality by sticking with my authentic expression, even when it was judged, rejected or misunderstood, and even though it took time to find my people.
3) Get articulate.
What does that mean? Know that introducing new experience to people (whether it is downward dog and ujjayi breath, or meditating on the words of Rumi, or transitioning from sun salutations into ecstatic dance) requires trust, and your job is to talk about what you are inviting them into in accessible, compelling ways that inspire the leap of faith necessary to open up.
Practice writing and speaking about why you are passionate about what you want to share. Cultivate friendships with colleagues who are similarly lit-up about teaching. Support one-another. Meet for lunch and discuss your ideas. Send each-other emails with potential workshop or class descriptions, or the new version of your bio, and ask for feedback. Your language in class should be an effortless extension of your conversations and thought-process in your daily life. That’s when it starts to feel really authentic, second nature and like you are living it in your own bones…. That’s when your students will follow you anywhere you lead, because they trust the relationship you are forming.
I hope these three pointers have been useful and illuminating! Please feel free to share any of your experiences or responses in the comments section below and I’ll see you soon.