Teaching Yoga is Hard

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Not that long ago I was chatting with a student before class and in all sincerity she said, “Teaching yoga is hard.” Initially I was a little taken aback. Most people have this idyllic fantasy of what it must be like to teach yoga. While I love what I do and honestly cannot imagine myself doing anything else at this point in my life, it is not always peace, love, and namaste.

Let’s start with the fact that most yoga teachers do not teach at one location. Sure, it can be a gift not to be stuck in an office all day, especially on warm, sunny days. I treasure getting to take walks outside throughout my day and venturing into neighborhoods I might otherwise never know about. Traveling all over the city can also be exhausting and miserable when it is pouring rain, freezing, or scorching hot. On Mondays I schlepp from my apartment in Brooklyn to a neighborhood in Queens over an hour away. Then I take a train and a bus to another neighborhood in Queens. Next up, a bus and two trains back to Brooklyn. Then, off to two different neighborhoods in Manhattan before heading back home to Brooklyn for the night. Tuesday, I ping pong between Brooklyn and Manhattan twice. It’s just part of the job.

Then there is the schedule. I work when everyone else is off work and have free time when everyone else is working. This can mean early mornings and late nights with large chunks of time in the afternoons free. I also work on the weekends, I have yet to meet a yoga teacher who does not, at least on occasion. The weekdays can get lonely and the weekends can get overbooked. I also content with the blessing and curse of having lots of private clients, which means accommodating everyone’s schedules can sometimes feel like a never-ending, losing battle.

Next up, yoga is not free of awful bosses, mean co-workers, and cranky, demanding, ungrateful clients. Yoga teachers, yoga studio owners, and yoga students are human after all. Currently, I only teach at one studio, owned by two sisters who are a delight to work for and with. I have taught at more than one studio run by owners that were less than yogic, and less than enjoyable to work for. I have dealt with other yoga teachers being mean to me, undermining me, and throwing me under the bus in attempts to get me in trouble for things I did not do. I love my students and have great respect for them all. Students can be incredibly draining, though. Teaching yoga is an exchange of energy, which can be simultaneously energizing and exhausting. Most of my private clients are very open with me, they share their joys and triumphs as well as their disappointments and tragedies. I have witnessed and shared in both hysterical fits of laughter and gut wrenching sobs with private clients, as well as a whole gamut of emotions in-between. The one big difference between teaching yoga and most other jobs, however, is that I rarely see or have to spend time with my co-workers or bosses, sometimes this is a blessing and sometimes this breeds disconnect and feeling a lack of support or community. I also get to choose not to work with private clients that are not a good fit. The random, disruptive, disrespectful student showing up to class at a studio, I do have to work with.

In New York City the average cost of a yoga class is $20. Walking into a packed room it would be easy to assume the teacher is making a small fortune. The reality is, teachers only take home a tiny percentage of that – rent, utilities, liability insurance, management and front desk salaries get paid from that $20 as well. Some studios pay teachers a flat rate per class while others offer a base pay then a certain amount per student. Private students can be lucrative, but unstable. People go away, get sick and injured, have family emergencies, schedule changes, etc. Bear in mind too, we do not get paid sick and vacation days or benefits, all of that comes out of pocket. That being said, I am one of the fortunate ones able to eek out a decent living teaching full-time, something I am truly grateful for.

So yes, teaching yoga is amazing. Teaching yoga is also hard. No job is without a downside or aspects that are less than enjoyable. I think the most we can hope for is a job that is fulfilling more often than not. And for me, that happens to be teaching yoga.

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About DjunaPassman

I practice and teach yoga. I attempt to carry what I learn on my mat and through my students into the real world. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am grumpy and less than kind. I started life as a dancer, moved on to choreographing, worked as a dance/movement therapist, then realized the wonders of a regular yoga practice. I am a realist - whether the glass is half full or half empty you are bound to spill its contents if you are wearing white (this is why I wear black so often). I am not an expert on yoga, life, or anything else for that matter. I do my best to keep my mind and my heart open every day (some days are better than others).
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