Seven Reasons Calling Yourself A Yoga Teacher Sucks. ~ Alanna Kaivalya

Via Alanna Kaivalya
on May 29, 2012
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Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga.

I love being a yoga teacher. It’s been an integral part of me and my life for more than ten years. I’m still uncomfortable with telling people that I teach yoga for a living. Here’s why:

1. People basically see us as a fitness instructor. Don’t worry, I’m not hating on fitness instruction. That’s a valuable and  important part of health in our society. However, most of us don’t just lead people through physical exercises. As for myself, I teach philosophy as much as I teach alignment (some might say even more so), and I encourage people to let go of whatever prevents them from being happy and free.

I’ve studied anatomy, physiology, alignment, philosophy and eastern traditions and weave that all through classes that include chanting and live music. I know many other instructors do the same. It’s not just about fitness, dammit! Rock hard abs aren’t our goal, supreme freedom is!

2. People automatically assume that we’re flaky. Somewhere along the line, spirituality and spiritual pursuits got coupled with absent-mindedness and a disregard for the rigors of society. Not so! Yogis aim to be well-integrated members of society.

In fact, many are working behind the scenes and in the trenches to create the conditions for positive change in our communities. Furthermore, many of us pay our bills, respond to phone calls in a timely fashion and show up on time to teach our classes. We can be level headed and responsible. My god, you should see my iCal calendar!

3. The number one response is, “Oh, I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.” Really? Were we required to know Spanish before we enrolled in Spanish class in high school? No. We went to class to learn and develop our Spanish skills. Same with yoga. Flexibility is not a per-requisite. Open-mindedness is.

4. The number two response is, “Oh, wow! Can you put your legs behind your head?” This is often followed by a wink. Yeah, I know where you’re going with that. It can just stop right there, because I’m a professional and take my work seriously. This is kinda like asking a doctor, “Oh wow! So, you see people naked!” Largely inappropriate.

5. The number three response is, “Awesome, so I’ve been having this pain in my (insert body part here), can you help me with that?” Again, kinda like asking a doctor for how to cure your ailments while sitting next to them on a plane. Technically, they’re not on duty, and would probably like to just get to their next destination with relative peace.

It’s not that I don’t love helping people when I can, and I know most yogis are more than happy to bend over backwards (pun intended) to assist folks, but again, let’s be appropriate. If we meet in a coffee shop, probably not the best time. Ask for our card or website and join us for a class, where we can more appropriately address your needs.

6. People assume that I bailed out into yoga because I failed at another career. Not so. For me, this has actually been my only career, the thing that I turned to after graduating college with a degree in physics. Yeah, it was a weird leap and my family is still confused about how I made that transition, but I love my job and chose it wholeheartedly. I applaud others who do the same, particularly those who have been brave enough to exit unsatisfying careers to pick up yoga and carry it’s inspiration and well-being into a new career that they love.

7. People think this career is easy. Ask any full-time yoga instructor. It’s not. It’s a full-time, slogging thought the ditches, often undervalued, day in and day out fight for what we love. We only stick with it because we love the heck out of it and believe in its benefits – because we’ve experienced them ourselves – and want to share that with others. It’s not glorious. It takes a lot of work, a lot of trial and error, and many years of scraping by and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, teaching under any circumstance (sick, injured, personal tragedy). For many of us, this is far more than a career, it’s a calling – something that an inspired person lives for, often at the expense of other things. It’s high time credit be given where credit it due. There are no shortcuts in this industry, everyone stays for the long haul, for the sheer love of the practice.

If, as a yoga instructor, some of these reasons feel true for you, maybe we can do our best to spread the word about the fact that we are in a career that demands smarts, training, creativity, cleverness, perseverance and above all, passion. Yogis, I salute you!


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Editor: Carolyn Gilligan


About Alanna Kaivalya

Alanna Kaivalya is an artistic and inspiring teacher of yoga. Born with a hearing impairment, Alanna learned through the power of vibration at a young age, and was then naturally drawn to the harmonic practice of yoga. Listed as Yoga Journal’s top 21 Yoga Teachers Under 40 (March, 2008), and now with more than a decade of teaching experience, she has developed a teaching style that is a unique combination of her spirit, her knowledge, and of course the teachers who have influenced her along the path. She has a mission: to convey a sense of joy and freedom through harmony and synchronicity, which she does beautifully through her classes, workshops, writing and music. Alanna is known for her ability to translate the ancient practice of yoga into a modern day context. For more information visit Alanna's website or connect with Alanna on Facebook and Twitter.


25 Responses to “Seven Reasons Calling Yourself A Yoga Teacher Sucks. ~ Alanna Kaivalya”

  1. mommyogini says:

    I love this article! So funny and true! Thank you : )

  2. __MikeG__ says:

    Your snarky post is uncalled for. The title of the article references seven reasons, not seven numbered items. There are five numbered items but seven reasons.

  3. MamasteNJ says:

    Hey Alanna,
    Just intro'd on FB:Health & Wellness & Work & Money.

  4. cathywaveyoga says:

    You made a strong statement with #2." people automatically assume…". I disagree highly. People do NOT automatically assume any person is flaky. It is their own bearing and communication as well as many other factors: posture, wording, accent, grammar, cleanliness.. that create fast impressions.
    When I hear someone is a yoga teacher I only know we share an interest. When I see him or her I have mor einfo. When I hear them speak I know more.

    Also I agree re 5 reasons and 7 in title. Clear writing is a means of showing your own clarity or organization.

  5. ManifestYogaJen says:

    love this xox

  6. Lauren says:

    I have to disagree with you on the flakiness point…people DO assume that yoga teachers (and anyone else with remotely "new age" beliefs or habits) are flaky. Heck, even EJ makes a point to say "Non New-agey Spirituality" in their header. Perhaps YOU don't make such assumptions, but others assuredly do. It's a hazard of choosing a path beyond the mainstream, work-a-day lifestyle that so many others follow.

  7. thanks lauren for saying it first 🙂

  8. #3 is my biggest issue too – my example is "so do you go to the gym to lift weights because you are already strong"? but any example will do…I find it interesting that this is so often the response…

  9. as for number 5 I LOVE when people ask me this…and like a doctor I can honestly tell them IF I could help them, give them a little info and then give them my card and let them know when they can start 🙂 Mostly I get "I have low back pain can yoga help?" kind of stuff and if they start to get too detailed the card comes out…although at my last hypnosis conference I was doing yogasana on the breaks with people :LOL

  10. Annie Ory says:

    I have to say, I've never had anyone assume I'm a flake because I'm a yoga teacher.
    Maybe it's the hair? Which is amazing and adorable by the way. At first glance that hair says "flower child" "free spirit" and "giggler" in no certain order, because hair like that can't be a slave to order. I appear efficient and clear. That is not necessarily a correct assumption, though if you're going to make stuff up about me, please make it good stuff. People misjudge one another on all sorts of things. Writing is one of the things that will make people imagine you less organized and less educated than you actually are. A single misspelled word or misplaced bit of punctuation triggers my inner judge and I know many who can admit the same about themselves. Edit. Edit. Edit again.
    Physics?! Wow. See how wrong they all are when they take you lightly? In the end, I agree with Erma Bombeck, Ann Landers and her big sister, and so many other great minds when I quote, "what you think of me is none of my business"

    Good post. Thanks for weighing in.

  11. ted grand says:

    Top 7 reasons I love Alanna:
    1) Funny
    2) Smart
    3) Compassionate
    4) Funky
    5) Awesome teacher
    6) Self-depricating
    7) Bright, shiny, luminescent eyes!

  12. cathywaveyoga says:

    well you changed the article and put 2 more in to make the 7 in the title! Yahoo!

    I still disagree. People decide if they choose to consider one flaky based on many factors- not just profession. However, it if is the author who argued that 5=7.. well.. I rest my case.

  13. edieyoga says:

    Oh my…guess I will weigh in….I liked the article personally. And I write…and I missed the 5 and 7's when I read it and did not go back to measure. Maybe by the time I got here it was cleared up. Either way, as someone who used to manage yoga teachers I find often that as a group they can be more, Vata shall we say? I am extremely organized and punctual and overly responsible, for the all the wrong reasons [if there is such a thing]. But there are many folk who are always late, don't respond to time sensitive matters in a timely fashion and just space out. Is it more common with yoga teachers? Maybe, but we don't stand alone.
    I was a secretary and admin asst and leasing agent before I got to yoga. I hated, as a rule, all those jobs and did not take pride in them and was not all that good at doing them. I was surviving. Today I teach yoga and have been since 2005. I love what I do…I mean I really love it. I teach in studios, gyms, private, corporate…sometimes there's lots of philosophy and history and sometimes not as much….I have also gone thru periods where I taught way too much. But I do love it.
    And I like helping others just cuz that is what I do.
    As far as Alanna goes, I have taken a workshop with her and listened to her podcasts geared to teachers that one can buy on her website. I find them helpful and always looking to hear another point of view.
    And Alanna always responds when I emailed her with technical question promptly and has taken my ideas for podcasts with interest. I know she's doing another book so podcast took a back seat.
    I am not a groupie. I do not practice Jivamukti. I just like integrity when I find it.

  14. Heather says:

    Hm, can I say a few words here….

    Yes, to the flaky stuff….many of my prior students used to make this assumption. They often said OTHER people think yoga people are flaky…..I don´t think people assume it…they just think it until they get called on it.

    As for usng yoga as a fall-back..I do believe most people have the impression that somehow people come to yoga not because they failed or could not get a real job….but because they are seeking alternative ways of thinking, doing, etc….Most if not all people look at their corporate life and think this is shit.

    BUT, I think this view has changed A LOT…….given the popularity of yoga. Remember, BKS Iyengar faced a lot of ridicule while pursuing his dream and passion of yoga. Everyone called him a mad-cap.

    Anyway, Eddie Stern wrote a very interesting article about this. He said he was embarassed to say he was a yoga teacher……Read ~

    Good post!

  15. Jay Fields says:

    Amen, sister. As someone who also went straight from college to teaching yoga, I too felt uncomfortable telling people I was a yoga teacher. I wanted to bolster it up by also saying I do counseling or writing, or secretly I wanted to say why I was different than other teachers who teach "workout" yoga. Even more so, inside I always kind of felt like when I "grow up" I'll get a real job of sorts that makes me more credible in the world. But after receiving a graduate degree and going more toward the end of the spectrum of a real job, I came to discover what I truly, deeply love is teaching yoga. And I'm good at it. More than that, I'm a professional. After nearly 14 years of teaching yoga, this IS my career. It took ME accepting this about myself to not care what other people think.

    I think the more of us yoga teachers who stand firm in our belief that yoga teaching is a profession and who take it seriously, the more the outside world will do the same.

    Thanks, Alanna!

  16. laura kupperman says:

    well done alanna – love you!!

  17. AnnetteVictoria says:

    I agree. Number 5 seems like a great opportunity for a yoga teacher to practice Karma Yoga, selfless service.

    Or maybe I'm just patting myself on the back for doing it. I've been known to demonstrate asanas in meeting rooms, on the sidewalk, in the employee lounge of my car insurance agent, at a party — wherever the conversation is taking place. I love being able to give people a little bit of advice if it helps alleviate some of their pain.

  18. catnipkiss says:

    Well, if you can't admit you can put your legs behind your head, aren't you missing out on lots of admiration? Just kidding 😉 However, when EJ publishes my article about why yoga teachers are better in bed, you might want to read it with a grain of salt!! – Alexa Maxwell

  19. Yep, I thought that read defensive, angry and not very yoga. We all go there, so it's not a criticism, but I'd rethink posting something that sounds so aggressive – it doesn't do yoga any favours to have "teachers" shaming those who know no better – surely we do?

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  22. cathy says:

    well, I do NOT automatically assume anything ever, so I guess by your bblatant statement I am not a 'people', nor are any others who might per chance think as I do.. that a yoga teacher has a common interest, not flaky

  23. omyogaK says:

    Thanks for writing this. I can related myself to Alana's as I've often faced similar situations. But teaching yoga is one of the best things in my life and I feel such privilege to do so. So positive gain overweight more than negative one.

  24. […] I’ve started a gratitude practice myself and it has been incredibly powerful. I’m grateful for so many parts of my life. My friends, appreciation and a career aligned with my life purpose that I’m deliciously passionate about. […]

  25. Alejandro says:

    Dearest Alanna,

    In México we have a beautiful liberating mantra “me vale madres” which basically means. I do not care. What other people think…me vale madres. When one truly knows who we are, and live accepting and loving exactly what we are…we can say with total freedom…me vale madres.

    I recommend you repeat this sacred mantra as many times as you need.

    Then and only then these 7 reasons will fade away.

    With much respect caring and loving