October 22, 2013

The Business of Yoga: It’s Emotional.

Running a business and being a yoga teacher are one in the same.

If a yoga entrepreneur is doing it right they may spend about 15 hours a week actually teaching yoga—the rest of their 50-hour work week is spent cultivating a brand, nurturing relationships, creating workshops, promoting workshops, training teachers and being trained.

A yoga entrepreneur will pour their heart and soul into this passion and at the end of the month only have $10 left in their checking account.

Their heart will be more fulfilled than it has ever been, but they may not have health insurance—or if they are fortunate enough, they may have the kind with a $10,000 deductible.

The financial aspects of transitioning into a less lucrative, but more emotionally fulfilling career can be planned for. What we can’t plan for is how we are going to feel when we give so much of ourselves and find that some of our own physical needs aren’t being met.

We can’t imagine how broken our hearts will be when we can’t give what we want to give, or when we feel judged for not having a real job.

We live in a society where people measure their worth based on their financial cushion.

As yogis, we start to be able to live free of the constraints that this materialistic society tries to push on us. However, at the end of the day we still operate in this society.

We still get, “Oh you teach yoga? What else do you do?” And as we continue to pursue our teaching careers this journey gets emotional.

Five feelings someone might encounter during this journey:

1. Feeling like we can’t contribute

Whether we’re living with a spouse, a friend, our parents or a sibling, if we’re living on a new yoga teacher’s salary we’re probably not the one volunteering to pick up the toilet paper this month.

If our significant other supports us it is a beautiful demonstration of love—though it can also be debilitating in a society where money is power. Despite my husband’s unwavering support, the guilt I felt about having to purchase a new $70 yoga mat was enough to make me put it off for three months.

Even now, I feel undeserving of every yoga workshop—because every dollar I spend on myself is a dollar that is not going towards paying off our debt or our never-growing savings account.

I feel like I have no place to make decisions about how our household spends money.

How do we work through these feelings?

Look for non-monetary ways to contribute—keeping the house spotless, doing the cooking, being the most inspiring person who lives in that space. Find solace in the fact that with time there will be a little more money, and bit-by-bit, more contribution.

The other part of reconciling these feelings is accepting with tremendous gratitude all that is given.

When our parents purchase a bookshelf for us or when our spouse purchases our ticket to the Yoga Journal Conference, replace feelings of embarrassment and/or guilt with gratitude.

Gifts are a demonstration of love and we are very fortunate to be so loved.

2. Struggling With Motivating Ourselves

Being an entrepreneur means we can set our own schedule.

This freedom can bring a tremendous amount of creative joy, but it’s also been known to keep people in bed until 10 am. This is especially true when we’re not making much money—and in turn feeling discouraged. The 10 am wake up call is often followed by three hours of staring at the computer screen, trying to get inspired to write a blog post, or workshop outline or Facebook event.

How do we get motivated?

Find someone to hold us accountable.

When our spouse leaves for work in the morning, make sure he or she doesn’t leave without getting us out of bed. Better yet, commit to being the maker of coffee (it’s our non-monetary contribution), so that we have to get out of bed. (Everyone wins and it adds to the non-monetary contribution pot.)

Set a realistic schedule for what we’re going to work on each day—set a timer to ensure that we work on it the whole time and make sure that when we realize we’ve wandered off to Facebook, we click the red X and get back to work.

Changing the scenery helps.

Head to the local coffee shop and write an outline for the next workshop.

When I’m home my mind starts to wander to the dishes in the sink, the growing pile of laundry and the dirty bathtub. I’m not encouraging abandonment of anyone’s household responsibilities. Rather, set time aside to clean and then head to the library, or even a park to get some work done.

3. Doubting Ourselves

When we start considering taking the night shift at our local 24-hour retailer to make ends meet, we’re going to wonder if we should have stayed on the path to financial freedom by actually using our accounting degree.

We’re going to fret that after six months of being a full time yoga teacher no one will ever take us seriously in the workplace, and that we’re practically unemployable.

I left a perfectly stable career in corporate marketing to write a yoga blog and teach. I used to get a cushy paycheck every other week, accompanied by health insurance, vision, dental and a 401k.

Did I make the right decision?

Only time will tell, but that doesn’t keep my mind from wandering to that place of, “Can I really make this work?”

4. Struggling With Trusting Ourselves

We trust ourselves to balance on our hands and on our head, trust our gut to guide us, and use our heart to motivate and our head to keep ourselves grounded.

Our practice teaches us to be present. 

Living in the past, or worrying about the future doesn’t do us any favors. 

How do you feel right now?

 We know what our checking account will allow, so we know when it’s time to make a change, or ask for help.

 5. Feeling Exhausted

We’re feeling exhausted—maybe because we’re up all night worried, or maybe because our brain won’t shut off. We’ve got a million and two ideas about how we’re going to make all of this work happen—and another million about what we’re going to do if it doesn’t work.

Sometimes I toss and turn the whole night trying not to lose the brilliant ideas that come to me in between sleep and consciousness.

It’s a blessing and a curse that we have to learn to manage things in order to be the best version of ourselves.

 So,  lets clear our heads and get some rest.

Turn off the computer, put down the book and turn out the lights for at least 30 minutes before we need to be asleep.

If our head starts to spin with visions of asana sequences, keep a notebook by our bed—take a few moments to clear our head by jotting down our stream of consciousness.

Drink sleepy time tea, do legs up the wall and put an eye pillow on. 

Unrest will only fuel a lack of motivation.

Our careers as yoga teachers are based on helping others along their quest for fulfillment. We’ll be much better at this when we’re fully rested.

5. Feeling Desperate

We’ll be flooded with desperation that will inspire us to teach yoga in parks and rooftops just so that we an have the opportunity to teach.

We’ll teach for free. 

We’ll try to write a book, or create arm balance infographics (I may be speaking for myself here). 

We’ll be itching to create something, anything that will pique people’s interest in yoga.

But we don’t need a solution to this—we need to embrace it.

Sometimes desperation is exactly what we need to take our thinking to the level—where there is no box.


Like elephant journal on Facebook

Assistant Ed: Laura Ashworth/Ed: Sara Crolick

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Laura Diaz