by J. Brown
Continuing education for yoga teachers is in high demand since the proliferation of yoga teacher training certification has reached epic proportions. No one expects someone to be seasoned after merely two hundred hours, and technological advancements have enabled newfound access and resources to anyone with an internet connection. More than just a knowledge of yoga, or adjunct skills for teaching, these offerings often purport to give practical career advice that will help graduates succeed financially. Unfortunately, business advice for “yogapreneurs” is often grossly misguided.
Now that yoga teacher training is such an essential part of a yoga center’s ability to survive, and completion of the programs sometimes requires little more than attendance, a sea of certificates has flooded the market. For as long as I can remember, I have inquired into the prior practice experience of every new student who comes to my daily drop-in classes. And the percentage of people who sheepishly reply: “Actually, I did a 200 hour training” has become undeniably striking. Even more telling is how often the misgivings about the trainings are written in the embarrassed or shameful expressions on their faces.
Anyone who claims to have the keys to a successful yoga career is full of it.
Having made my living in the yoga profession for more than twenty years now, and discussed it with a wide range of those who have come before and after me on Yoga Talks Podcast, I am convinced that no one is immune to the changing times and economics. Just the other day, I came across a Facebook post from a long-established teacher who was making a public confession that he is no longer identifying as a yoga teacher. That it had become unviable as a livelihood, and resorting to licensed massage therapy for income to survive was necessary.
Even seminal teachers, who charted the course for yoga in the mainstream, are having to face the fact that yoga business has become scaled to the extent that long-standing institutions of yoga can no longer always compete. As independent centers are acquired by new mega models, and the yoga-going public is looking for more of a spa experience then a spiritual education, those who have managed to garner any amount of notoriety are leveraging their reputations in the new world of online video and training intensives.
Nothing could be more disingenuous than convincing people that creating a mentality of abundance, or a cadre of social media profiles, leads to prosperity in the yoga profession.
With all the uncertainty and shifting in the economic landscape, earnest practitioners who have sought yoga as a life direction, and completed a training, are being heavily marketed to courses in professional development. It’s quite ironic the way some people are looking to build a yoga career on teaching others how to have a yoga career. Especially when their success as a yoga professional did not come about through many years of grinding the pavement as a teacher, but was arrived at or bestowed by other fortuitous means.
Shifting your mentality around money might be a good thing to do but doesn’t change the odds, or teach you how to play the game effectively. Despite honest efforts to distill and make it more practical, the dark art of making money has always been elusive. Creating false expectations, and then playing into them, is certainly an effective way to sell things. Sometimes these means hope to be justified by well-intentioned positive ends. But while the benefits of yoga are certainly helpful, and sometimes crucial, in creating a life that is healthy and prosperous, you can’t just envision your monthly rent into existence.
Yoga careers start with practice, and are determined by life’s situations.
Everyone I know who is managing to make their way in the yoga profession is doing so not because they have mastered an abundance mentality that is allowing them to manifest their dreams. Almost always, being a yoga professional was not the original intent. They started out just wanting to practice and find themselves. Often, that process created changes in both behavior and life situation. Sometimes those changes led to relationships that, in turn, meant taking on the role of being a yoga teacher. Being effective in business does require smart strategy, and teachers are wise to seek the counsel of others. But successful careers in yoga are a by-product of practice more than an attainable goal.
As we continue to navigate through uncharted territories, likely facing a continuation of pressures and ongoing struggle, let us not kid ourselves that anyone has answers for anyone outside of themselves. And may each us of find a source of strength and fortitude from within, such that we might become less susceptible to manipulations and the tyranny by others of less than admirable persuasion. Our power lies most in our humanness. For if, or when, the systems fail and tragedy befalls, treating each other with honesty and transparency, in our hearts and minds and bodies, will surely be our only saving grace.
J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer, podcaster and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY. His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and across the yoga blogosphere. Visit his website at jbrownyoga.com