Why I’m providing a donation (dana) option for my yoga classes

I’ve been teaching yoga for what I feel is a long time….. I did my first 200hr YTT in 2003.  I fell in love with Ashtanga and like any relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs and a few little breakups, but I’ve always come back to it.  In more recent years, the way I’ve learnt this system of yoga has not been militant or egocentric but more therapeutic (yes I said Ashtanga can be therapeutic).

As a yoga teacher, I have always taught for different studios under an old school studio model.  By that I mean I followed the mandate of the studio and was compensated for teaching in accordance to how the studio set their pay scale.  Feels weird to talk about “pay” and yoga doesn’t it?  Now I am in a position where I am more independence and have the freedom to charge according to my values and beliefs.  This is harder then it sounds!  I have had some very interesting conversations on this very matter with other teachers and business coaches.

Over the last 15 years I have watched the culture of yoga change and sometimes it makes me sad.  Ok, not just sometimes and its more of a combo of sad and frustrated.  Yoga is a service and there is an energy exchange and while I do feel that needs to be acknowledged and should be compensated somehow, not all things are created equal.   As the popularity of yoga has risen, so has the cost to the consumer and teachers.  There are soooooo many yoga studios and teachers now.  It seems most studios charge flat rates to their students regardless of a teachers experinece/knowledge base and whether or not they have the teacher maintains his/her own practice.

I’ve talked to newer teachers that have quit their corporate jobs to pursue a career in yoga.  I do think this is a brave pursuit, but at what cost.  I’ve heard stories from  teachers trying to teach as many classes as they can wherever they can, and sharing tons on social media so that they can get known and build a reputation and a “tribe”.  It almost feels like a popularity contest.  Is this what we are teaching our new teachers and at what cost?  Teachers have shared with me that they “want to get back to their practice and that its hard because they are working so hard at building their yoga career”.  When did we sacrifice being a student to pursue our life goals?  Shouldn’t they be one of the same?

How does this all relate to my story?  Well…. I sometimes find myself getting sucked into the same vortex of monetizing and popularizing yoga.   I start to feel stressed, my practice diminishes and I just start to feel out of balance.  As September came upon us, I got caught up in this “business” mindset and was losing my balance, but at the time I wasn’t sure why.  So I sat on my cushion and took the space/time to breath.  Then it hit me.  “I’m in the vortex!  Get out now and get back to why you do what you do!”  I guess that’s where I am lucky.  Teaching yoga is not my primary income source.  My life is dedicated to helping others heal through movement  and prevent future injuries, through many forms. Teaching yoga is one aspect of how I do this.  For me, being able to learn through my own practice and to continue to be a student is so very important.  I believe that I can share something amazing with people.  As an Ashtangi, I have been taught to observe and teach with my hands more so than my eyes and voice.  I want people to experience yoga this way.  To feel the energy of a the practice when you are in your body (not your head), breathing, moving, sweating and unaware of what your neighbor is doing.  There is so much tradition in this practise and I really do believe in it and want to share it.

Sometimes I struggle to monetize my worth in combination with my “why”.  A business coach once told me, don’t but the dollar amount on myself, put it on the goods/service I provide.  Well, I have 15+ years of yoga teaching experience, have studied and continue to study with some of the most sernior Ashtanga teachers in the world (no joke) and I essentially have a masters degree in human movement and healing (physiotherapy). I continue to learn through various yoga, physio, healing and communication courses; as well as learning through mentoring, my students/clients and my own movement practices.  So yes, I think I have something to offer that is valuable and unique.  How do I make what I offer accessible and yet get compensated for my worth? Well, I’ve decided to take a risk here and let my students decide. ~ Namaste