Am I doing anything wrong?

Via Tobye Hillier
on Apr 14, 2011
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Kilcole, County Wicklow - old main street
Image via Wikipedia

I’m a pretty lucky guy. I’m a yoga teacher with his own yoga studio and it’s the only one in town. Not only that, it’s also got heaps of free parking!

But sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a yoga no-man’s land.

If I was in America with my little yoga studio (the only one in town), I reckon I’d be fairly well out-the-door with cool yogi peeps with the ubiquitous Lululemon/Manduka gear. But here in Kilcoole, County Wicklow, Ireland…there doesn’t seem to be any craze for yoga.

I’m cheaper than the majority of other studios in other towns…I charge the equivalent of $14 for a drop-in, which may sound expensive, but my nearest rival charges $26 for a drop-in and my teacher charges $28 for a drop-in (that’s 10, 18, and 20 euros respectively)

I’m no marketing genius. I did a business start-up course last year and I’m pretty much walking the walk they taught me. My web designer is an old friend and a decent sort, he pretty much did all the work to get me online for nothing and all my SEO stuff is working well.

The few regular students I have love my classes, they’ve experienced other teachers in the area and prefer my prices nearly as much as they prefer my teaching style. But I still can’t get enough people in the door to pay my rent each month—and I only need eight people a week to pay that!

So what am I doing wrong? Am I in the wrong place? Am I the wrong sex? Am I charging too much? Am I charging too little? Am I ugly and smell like cabbage?

Nearly all of these questions I ask myself every day.

I love yoga. Almost as soon as I started practising, I started to learn to teach. I knew that I could learn more about my practice by learning to teach, but I also wanted more than anything else to share the experience and when I qualified RYT 500 in early 2009, I was excited about getting out there and doing it.

So I’m kinda hurting right now.

I mean, come on, I only need eight regular people a week to pay my Landlord Bobby. Bobby rocks quite literally! He’s taken a hit with the recession and everything. There’s not much construction happening here anymore, so he turned his attention to designing and building drum sets. Burnt custom drums are super quality gear, but sure he’s only starting up and the market is less than slow here, so he knows what I’m going through and he lets me off when I can’t make my rent. What money I do get in, I pay to him and he can put gas in his tank again.

It’s difficult, hard work and emotionally draining (at least it is if I don’t meditate and do some pranayama as well as yogasana everyday). I’ve started working out in the gym everyday, as well as doing my practice, because I’m worried that I’ve got to try harder to be the right image for a yoga teacher.

But what’s really holding me back is my focus. You see I started college back in the autumn studying print journalism. I chose print journalism because I wanted to learn how to write. My dream back then was to be a regular columnist for Elephant and see what happened after that. But print journalism is holding me back and directing my focus elsewhere.

Newspaper sucks! I have absolutely no interest in reading another newspaper so long as I live! Kinda silly really studying print journalism then, right? Well, not altogether, because the journalism bit stays the same. The formulas and news gathering and dissemination and all that jazz is just the same. So I’ve learnt good stuff that’s made me a better writer, so that Waylon doesn’t keep shouting at me all the time! Actually, as Editors go, Waylon and Bob are complete angels and it’s because of that…that I’ve decided to drop out.

I never really thought I’d drop out of anything, especially college. But it doesn’t serve my needs. Nearing the end of school year now, I’m going to have to sign back on the unemployment line and look for work for the four months of summer break and if I’m going to get a job, I might as well hang on to it for as long as I can!

And how can I focus on what I really want to be doing if I’m focusing on something I don’t care about? Lots of people have been trying to talk me out of it, most of them are really only projecting their fears onto me though…. things like; What am I going to do if I don’t do that? or, Don’t I want a diploma?

At the end of the day, if I want to serve as a yoga teacher, I have to focus on that.

And if my aim isn’t true, how can I hit the mark?


About Tobye Hillier

Originally from England, Tobye Hillier has lived in Ireland for over 17 years, living in a small seaside town called Greystones 20 miles south of Dublin. A qualified Karuna yoga teacher (RYT 500), Tobye also plays a pretty darn funky 5-string bass guitar and likes to sing in other peoples' showers. Empathic and intuitive, He likes to bend Yoga to suit people and not the other way around.


37 Responses to “Am I doing anything wrong?”

  1. Maria says:

    I like teaching – I love it in fact but the numbers are low ( by the way this is a common feature accross every studio in Dublin, if what the other teachers are telling me is true). I probably have the lowest rate in the city centre for classes (€10 – each wednesday – come along !!) – its not about price. I really dont know what it is about. The Teacher Who Charges €20 I believe I know – if it was about price he'd be out of business. With him, I think its just that he's so well established for so long, that he keeps his students. And its a nice space. In a very affluent part of Dublin. Old money as opposed to the now ex-nouveau riche.

  2. Maria says:

    I also think a lot of people in this green isle are cynical and un-interested – it pains me to say that, because I love my country (most of the time). There is so much anxiousness, apathy and distress out there, you'd think that yoga should be booming!!! But no!! We gotta get the word out there!!

    The only thing that I have been able to hold onto the past year through all my ups and downs is my practise – its been a real anchor for me, even when everything else was quite literally spinning out of control. As the saying goes: practise, practise, all is coming……. well eventually I hope!!!
    (sorry for multiple comments – EJ wouldn't let me post as a single comment!!)

  3. InLovingService says:

    Focus more on living as a yogi than the appearance of one or one that people will be more attracted to . People need and are drawn to those who can give them answers and guide them further along their spiritual path. Focus on the first two limbs. The Yamas + Niyamas, and see what you can strengthen there. According to my teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra, these are the foundation and what true yoga is all about. Share your knowledge with all who are receptive to it and they will find themselves looking for practices that have brought you to that place. Bring your focus back within yourself and all will fall into line according to the divine plan. Live as a yogi and surrender my friend.

    Om Shanti

  4. Colin Wiseman says:

    Now this is me being a west of Scotlander but could it be a religion ting? Could there be issues with people in a small rural town thinking that you convert them to some weird and wonderful cult?

    You could offer say a free class once a week/fortnight/month for newbies only to show the benefit. My mum went to one class and she thought it was all weirdy religion stuff before she went, but now she loves it (remind me to phone her to see how she is getting on…).

    But I feel for you man! It's a tough world out there.

  5. Brittany says:

    Loving all of these articles!

  6. Robin says:

    P.S. Loving your body as-is is the very best image a yoga teacher can have. Stop torturig it, it's beautiful already. 🙂

  7. yogi tobye says:

    You gots it Sarah… keep in tune! Some things are made hard just so the universe can see if we really want them I reckon

    Thanks for connecting 🙂

  8. ali says:

    hi yogi tobye – what if you partnered up with another yogini and lead yoga retreats in Ireland? my dear yogini-friend Elle Potter would most likely be all over this idea … 😉

  9. yogi tobye says:

    At least tyre kickers means the marketing is doing something, right Sarah! Tyre, tire, or as they say in the wet of ireland thyre!

  10. yogi tobye says:

    west lol… it is fairly wet though!

  11. yogi tobye says:

    Elle's funny! 🙂

    Not as bad idea Ali, it's certainly do-able.

    I could probably try some one day workshops for peeps as well… see now ya gots me thunking 🙂

  12. yogi tobye says:

    Good call Evan! Something else to look into.

    I'm virtually next door to Druid's glen golf course, which is a big deal if ya know golf. Could thtrow in some flyers there, advertise yoga for golfers….

  13. yogi tobye says:

    I know what you mean Scott! Peeps want a little romance in it somehow, it's about the packaging. Paul Grilley always talks about finding our yogic USP, what makes us different from other teachers teaching the same thing. It's about finding our uniqueness and going with it!

  14. yogi tobye says:

    I tried a lot with soccer and rugby clubs… the club wants the players to pay for it and the players want the club to pay for it and it ends up being about money. Guys getting injured and spending loads on physio, but with a few yoga classes a month, they could rid themselves of injury and speed up recovery time. They hear what I'm saying but wont commit.

  15. kristen says:

    A few really important points have been brought up here in the comments. 1. Stop killing yourself over appearances because that is not who you are or your best yoga practice. As hard as you can, live the path that you love. Your students want to believe in you. 2. Kristy, Ali, and Evan bring up an important fact which is that if the yogi pool is dry it is worth reaching out to people that may not call themselves yogis. Have you ever thought about trying to teach a class to school teachers? I cannot think of a group of more stressed out people short of new moms. So how about aiming your marketing at family places, local churches, schools, and child care centers. Athletes are great but think creatively.
    I hope that is helpful. Best of luck.

  16. Maria says:

    Interesting re the footballers. I think its an image thing. I've taught some GAA guys…. not the most open-minded bunch of people in the world. I think they think its "girly". i had a few of the smarter ones stick with it and enjoy it. One guy especially who was using it as a theraputic practise when recovering from injury. There is an "in" there with GAA and soccer clubs, but its about contacts as much as anything else….. Why not approach the club, offer a class for free nad then maybe get some kind of once per moth thing going on?

  17. Maria says:

    and then maybe get some kind of once per month……
    PS I'd be happy to join forces if u want to do some yoga in the West of Ireland!!!!

  18. Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  19. yogi tobye says:

    Thanks kristen! All about focus again… focusing on peeps that aren't yogis and showing them how they can benefit.

    Actually, I designed my website in a way that might show peeps what yoga can achieve, hoping that they'd read and say "hang on I could benefit from yoga!"

  20. yogi tobye says:

    link to website is now working!!!

  21. yogi tobye says:

    Thanks Christianne!

    Yes, I could certainly investigate the golf thing some more. I spent some time wroking with the UK's top teaching pro a couple of years back (he'd suffered a prolapsed L4/5 disc) and I actually helped him put a few yards on his long game!

  22. ntathu allen says:

    Breathe. And breathe some more. Thanks for sharing your reality. All we have to do is ask. Are you able to stretch and receive some business mentoring? Find a “marketing/business mentor” and follow their teachings and practices. Good business marketing teachers are out there and give away lots of free useful advise. It is better to focus on one aspect of marketing, master it and move on. If you are interested in some of the business mentors I follow-let me know and I will happily share. Won’t make you an overnight million, but regular application of their teachings will start to help you become clearer about your business goals, beliefs and values-as you rebrand and rebuild your business. Stay focused-have fun and be flexible. Om

  23. Christianne says:

    Hmmm… that is worth promoting, my friend!

  24. Maria says:

    Yey Tobye! "Ask and you shall recieve"… hope it all goes well 🙂

  25. Ben Ralston says:

    Hi Tobye,
    I’ve been teaching yoga full time, professionally, for over 10 years now. I started off in London, and had packed classes most of the time… some places I had 40 / 50 people. Then I moved out of London and saw my numbers fall – but still respectable, and still enough to live on.
    When I moved to a sleepy village in Slovenia… well, you can imagine. I’ve learnt the following:
    – Image is important, but don’t EVER fake it. Give people what you’re passionate about, never what you think they’ll like/want. Be yourself. Don’t compromise on that. People will come back to someone who is teaching from the heart, what they love. They won’t buy into a watered down version – would you?
    – Running a small business in a small town requires constant marketing. Do free presentations so people can see what you’re about, ask questions etc. Have a stack of business cards, flyers, leaflets (yes, costs money, but it’s one of the necessary outgoings of a small business) posters, and just never stop spreading them around. You can’t do too much of it.
    – Get as much free publicity as you can. Local papers, t.v. stations, etc are always looking for stuff. Make a story of yourself and sell it to them.
    – Finally, make your studio as clean, comfortable and beautiful as you can, so that people don’t want to leave, and can’t wait to come back. Hot tea, biscuits / yoga cookies on offer (why not for sale – make some money from merchandise too, why not?) in the hallway.
    – Don’t just offer classes. Do courses, weekend workshops, retreats, etc
    – Finally, it takes a lot of hard work. You’re a yoga teacher and a businessman now, like it or not.
    Good luck mate!

  26. yogi tobye says:

    Thanks Ben!

    Yoga cookies sounds good, as does everything else. I've some great stuff to work with now I can focus my energies in the direction I wish to go!

  27. yogi tobye says:

    My Parents are over in Mayo, so that could be made possible Maria!

  28. tanya lee markul says:

    Ah, Tobye, I think you speak to SO many of us right now! I say keep following your heart, your intuition, the small voice within. If this struggle is a part of it, so be it. You seem to know what you want, so perhaps it's just about redirecting and focusing your effort on where you want it to be. It will without a doubt work out. Much love to you.

  29. Jessica says:

    Hi Tobeye!
    So great to connect with you and thank you for your support! I don't think I can say anything here, that others have already said – I hhave helped to open several yoga studios and the social media age has done nothing but help and create more awareness for the practice, and that was the core of our business plan – outside of having amazing teachers, classes and workshops!!

    I look forward to getting to know you here in EJ!

  30. yogi tobye says:

    Thanks Tanya, big virtual bear hug on the way!

  31. yogi tobye says:

    Thanks Jessica, looking forward to reading more from you :o)

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  35. Tamara says:

    Tobye, i hope you never give it up~even if there is only one student in your class, you're making a difference in someone's life. I recently saw this quote and it helped me in situations like this one: "You may only be one person in the world, but you may be the world to one person."