Dear Yogi Marlon,
I’ve spent 4 years training as a yoga teacher, and I’ve been teaching part-time for the last year and a half. I want to teach yoga full time, but the studios do not offer enough money even pay my rent. How can I follow my passion without starving?
Santa Monica, CA
I do remember being at that same crossroad some years ago. The manager of a Santa Monica studio offered me a Monday & Wednesday 7a.m. class, which was 30 minutes drive from my home. When I inquired about the usual attendance, she said in summer sometimes up to five people, sometimes none, yet my job was to start first week of January before daylight. This manager was ready to seal the deal before salary was even mentioned. I calculated it would take me 3 hours to earn the $20 guarantee offered, and that I could hope for little more on that schedule.
At that point I had studied very diligently and wanted to teach every opportunity I could. It took all my composure to muster the strength to tell this woman “I had to honor what I do and myself more than that…” even if she would not. So there I was turning down my passion for preservation. I knew then I had to find another way to sustain myself doing what I loved best: yoga!
Soon after, I began integrating the skills of my prior profession. I lived bare bones and proceeded to produce 50 episodes of my own yoga cable TV series out of sheer passion for sharing what yoga had done for me. I went on to create 22 yoga videos. I studied more, practiced more and worked more, until finally I have national distribution of the Ask Yogi Marlon DVD series.
What is important here is not my own success story, but how I approached it. I assessed what I thought I could do that other yoga teachers could not. I looked for a unique way to teach that would eventually support me with dignity and on my own terms. I was also willing to work many, many hours without any pay because I knew I was building something for myself that would ultimately help others.
Similarly, I know a man whose company specializes in marketing people in spiritually oriented careers. I know a wonderful woman who does graphic design often for yoga-related companies and products. A few others have written books on yoga. In all these cases, their knowledge of yoga makes them excel at what they do and represents yoga authentically.
My ultimate advice to you is to expand your definition of teaching yoga, and transition into that vision over time. Be willing to alter that vision as you go. And, if you have to work for peanuts for a while, make sure the shells are going in your own back pocket. Ultimately it will serve to carry the torch of yoga best if your well-being and dignity are not compromised. So be passionate, be creative, be diligent, and don’t ever be a martyr. When it all looks discouraging, focus on the masses of negative karma you must be burning away by persevering through difficulties, so yoga’s tradition of teacher to student education lives on.
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