March 25, 2013

Yoga Community Means What, Exactly? ~ Jenn Falk

The topic of competition and what truly is community has been on my mind for a long while now.

I mean years. 

Lately, it’s resurfaced from a piece I saw on Heart to Heart Collective with Kris and Jess.

And then today I took a workshop from one of my all-time faves, Elena Brower, who opened the session with her meaningful truth: she plays no favorites when choosing what studios to do workshops with and that she deliberately tries to pick new ones each time to spread her message and welcome all communities. Bravo, Elena!  She went on to talk about how as yoga teachers, we are all here with the same message of spreading the yoga of love, service, compassion, truth…whatever part of it that works for you, so why not just accept one another and all of the different studios and teachers in your city.


I saw a colleague post something on her Facebook page a couple of months back with a similar sentiment that made me smile.

The fact that some people are into upbeat-flashy-music-blasting yoga, while others love silent meditation. Some love using props and learning detailed alignment, while others are more drawn to the emotional release. And still others love chanting and ancient philosophy, while some prefer to flow and breathe without a trace of mysticism or religion.

I could keep going with these examples forever! The point being is: there are teachers, practices and studios out there that you will be drawn to, and then those that you won’t. And maybe you’ll fluctuate around town and with different energies as you go in and out of your own life cycles and choices.

This is the beauty of the practice! And, this is true for most communities and practices in general—I hear it and see it all the time from friends in other circles of business.

We all crave acceptance and yet we all crave abundance—I believe we can have both as a yoga community as a whole.

We all can love and embrace our differences as teachers and practitioners, without judgment. We have such a beautiful array of experienced teachers in every city, it’s amazing. I’ve lived in the Boston area for seven years and the whole time I have been a teacher building my own practice/teaching, and shifting with whom and where I like to practice.

I’ve only taught in Cambridge and Somerville all these years, but I consider myself a part of the entire Boston yoga community. My choice to teach on my side of the river has been out of convenience and ease to my lifestyle and what I can handle. Plus, something happens when you teach in the same local community studio for years; you feel like it’s more of your home and you see the same regulars coming to class all the time—it becomes lovely, and you become loyal.

Maybe the students do, too—it’s one of my favorite things to run into someone who attends my classes while out at the local market or cafe.

This being said, I suppose I often don’t feel a part of the community of yoga professionals in this city. Don’t get me wrong—I have a fantastic group of yoga teacher friends and acquaintances that I can count on as support and positive vibes. I guess it’s just that it’s a far fewer number than I imagine for myself, for the entire kula.

Some teachers put themselves out there a lot more than I have. I used to think this was the reason I didn’t feel as connected to other teachers in Boston, since I typically stay close to home to take others’ classes. I now realize that was just an excuse, as I’ve taken part in many the global malas, yogathons, workshops and more over the years.

Plus, when you’re trying to teach full-time yourself, it can be hard to make it all over the city to other classes. We all know those things that get in the way of connecting with our peers.

However, since the evolution of Facebook and other social media, it’s been easier to recognize faces and learn about other teachers and studios. This makes it easy for me to smile at said teachers and maybe even introduce myself if we’re in class together. I guess I’ve been disappointed that more often than not I’m not greeted back with the same warmth.

And for an introvert with a friendly personality, this can feel particularly awkward.

So far the places I’ve chosen to teach and my schedules over the years have been just right for me. I am beyond grateful and proud to have taught where I have and I look forward to where my journey will continue to grow.

My body and practice have continued to evolve and change, my life has changed, and my style has become more of a fusion—I like it that way. I do feel like there are lots of great options to explore and that once I’m through this stage of my life involving the care of a young child…maybe I’ll seek more exciting ventures and collaborations in our community.

I’m excited now more than ever about all of the intelligent prospects of teachers, trainings and options to both take class from and study with. And hey, maybe be friends with?!

The point is that we all ebb and flow, grow as teachers, and move in and out of circles…sometimes making mistakes along the way. If we can be more supportive to one another in these transitions, decisions, growth periods, then our community will succeed as a result.

I’m putting this out there simply because I believe we can and need to improve as a community. Let’s try to put an end to competition and rivalry between one another.

It all stems from fear, of course. Fear of not being accepted, fear of looking a certain way, fear of not succeeding.

It doesn’t matter who was voted “Best of” in the city or who is leading trainings or retreats; whether as a studio owner or as fellow teachers, or whether you don’t like that “so and so” teaches at a studio you don’t jive with, etc. We can all do better at forgiving one another and moving forward to progress and honor our world.

Heck, maybe we can all collaborate more too! The yoga world is only getting bigger and this means the tendencies to hold this so-called fear over the heads of our peers will continue to be a growing risk.

We all need and yearn to make a living in this beautiful work of teaching yoga that we do. We all want to hold successful workshops, host successful retreats, and regular classes. But we are all also leaders in the change that needs to happen in our culture and world, and so we can push against the grind and choose to love; to share one another’s success, to share when we admire and feel inspired from a peer, and to share events and classes that we support. I feel this from many of you already!

We can all—including myself—improve in our honesty and work towards accepting all styles and teachers.

I thank Elena and my yogin friends so far who continue to push one another on this path of acceptance and truth.

You’ll find me continuing to strive for this—I may even friend you on Facebook and “like” your posts, without having taken your class or maybe without formally meeting. But simply knowing that you’re in my kula, tribe, whatever you choose to call it…simply by being in my city and having mutual teacher friends and colleagues.

And when I see you in person and say “Hi” with a big smile, there’s nothing behind it than simply to say, “Hey, we’re friends on Facebook and I acknowledge you as a fellow yoga teacher and peer!”

I’d love a warm smile in return.

Om Shanti Love.


Thirteen years of yoga practice and seven years of teaching have helped Jenn move through major transitions such as finding her calling and voice, partnering (marriage) and childbearing (her son was born in 2011). Jenn is passionate about fostering confidence, curiosity, and openness to yoga practitioners, especially women, of all ages and to learning how to support one another as we enter new life stages in this complicated world. Her practice has evolved from hot power yoga after years as a collegiate athlete, to needing slow flow, hatha, and yin as she entered a new phase. She now teaches a fusion that embraces all of those forms of yoga based on what the class needs, and a little to do with the moon cycles.


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Assistant Ed: Edith Lazenby/Ed: Bryonie Wise


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