April 20, 2011

It’s Sexy to Teach to Three

Surfing the Web the other day, or maybe I was on Facebook. . I can’t quite remember. Anyway. A yoga advertisement caught my eye:  “Teach Yoga to Overflowing Classes!”

A LOT of importance seems to be placed on teaching busy classes these days. Teach to a lot of people and you must be doing things right. At the same time,  people want to quit their day jobs and jump right into teaching yoga full-time or open up a studio asap, with the assumption that it will work….immediately.

Yet we never know how many students will show up at our classes in the beginning, or who we will be aligned with as teachers.  (Which is why this move can prove fatal. Rather than teaching yoga, you end up saying to yourself:  I need more students so I can make more money!) The truth is, when we let our egos get the best of us, when we make business decisions out of fear of competition or desperation for money, things never turn out the way we hoped. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for large classes, for teaching to the masses to spread the yoga word–but should overflowing classes be our ultimate goal?

At our studio, I’ve seen packed classes: men, women, young, old, experienced and new students alike. I’ve also seen a class with just 15 students, all women in their mid-50s.  The packed class was fun, exciting.  But in that smaller class something special was happening too.

This is possible, in large part, because at our studio we pay teachers a flat rate. Pay is determined by experience and training, but also showing up with joy and enthusiasm (easy if you love to teach), and most importantly, teamwork. Class attendance factors very little into what an individual takes home. Sure, packed classes happen for some. But with this system, competition between teachers for “prime” time slots is minimized.   Those who are better suited to teach a more sparsely attended 6:30am class can know they are contributing just  as much as those who teach a full 5:45p.m. class.  They know the early birds appreciate their yoga just as much as the after work crowd.

What gets lost in the desire to teach to BIG classes is the fact that some students thrive in a smaller, more intimate space.  As teachers, it’s easy for us to get caught up in our pride, to feel a false sense of success, or inadequacy, when we focus on attendance.

The truth is, teachers teach best to the students they align with at that moment in their lives and their teaching. Just as it is beautiful for students to practice being content and grateful, the practice for teachers is the same! Not trying to get somewhere but instead sucking the juice out of that singular moment in their teaching lives. Right now, there may be 100 people in your room or three, but those three might not be doing yoga at all if it was not for your unique approach.

In the long run, far more important than attendance is a passion for teaching, patience, dedication, commitment, and a willingness to share your enthusiasm and joy. The numbers will be what they are meant to be….

Making mistakes and taking risks is an essential element of the yoga teaching ride. Where things get dicey is when we let our egos and money influence and put pressure into our classes. By minimizing the money and pride factors, we can enjoy a patient journey through our teaching lives.

So if you’re teaching to three, remember: you’re still sexy!

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Sean Conley  |  Contribution: 1,000