2 months later… everything I’ve learned from teaching yoga (so far)

Day 60 and the CrossFitters, and football players have started to accept me as one of their own…

No but really, I’ve learned a lot in these past 6o days. More than I ever imagined. Realizing that I only graduated from teacher training on April 3rd of this year has reminded me of what a baby I actually am at this whole yoga teaching thing… at this whole life thing actually. But there have been a few key lessons I’ve been wanting to write about. So, without further ado…

First of all, as cliche as it has begun to sound, yoga truly is for everyone. I have come to believe this so firmly that my writing has even been reflecting it. Visit the “article’s archive” tab on this website to read about why CrossFit Athletes and Military Veterans should practice yoga. And keep your eyes peeled for a Bad Yogi piece I’ve titled “Dirt Road Yoga”… about how I include myself in the “not a traditional yogi but yoga is still for you” category.  Over these past two months I’ve had the pleasure of teaching at three different locations. All different but still all good. I’ve been teaching at Studio Share II on the northside. I love meeting dedicated yogis who all smile and nod during my fumbling attempts to theme my classes, but who have still shown up the following week to practice with me again… including breast cancer survivors and girlfriends who bring their boyfriends to yoga, and boyfriends who leave with “that was harder than a work out” comments. I’ve taught at Ultimate Performance gym downtown where I’ve met young volleyball players who prefer to do their yoga to rap music, and minor league football players… who take my “you might have tight hips” comment so seriously that they message me after class to make sure they’re practicing pigeon correctly. And I’ve been teaching at Devil Dogg CrossFit Gym where I’ve met veterans who surprise themselves with how good they can be at this yoga stuff, and kids who restlessly make it through my class and enjoy renaming the yoga poses (nappy pose for savasana has been my favorite so far.) And not a single time throughout these two months have I heard an “I can’t” from any of these individuals, moments of struggle have been defined by goal setting and expressions of a desire to spend more time doing yoga… and frankly that inspires the shit out of me.

Different locations present different challenges. This has been a surprise to say the least. I don’t know if I expected every class to be the same as the classes I practiced in during my training but I swiftly  learned that was not the case. No class has been bad, just different. For example, kids don’t always respond to cues like “rotate the biceps laterally” or even “squeeze your glutes” but they really do like to make the noises that go with “cat” and “cow” poses. Nothing makes my heart smile more than a gym full of kiddos doing their best cat, cow, cobra, and dog impressions. Kids are awesome yogis. I’ve also learned that adults can be pretty difficult. I’ve even had a few that refuse to lay in savasana for the full five minutes or who decide mid class that yoga just isn’t for them. Not an easy moment but an essential part of my journey and theirs. Now I understand why during training we were always told “teaching at a gym is hard” it is but it can also be very rewarding.

I’ve also learned that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Just because you have a class doesn’t mean you’ll have students. I was overjoyed at my partnership with two different gyms and my favorite studio and the opportunity to teach 5 plus classes a week. But I quickly learned that just because you have an allotted amount of time you are given to teach yoga at a gym doesn’t actually guarantee that anyone will show up. I’ve had more empty classes than I’d like to mention which has resulted in several “I’m going to cry my eyes out while I eat this Taco Bell burrito” afternoons. But several 7 layer burritos and teary phone calls with my best friend and mom later and I’ve learned that an empty class shouldn’t be taken personally. The truth is, teaching yoga requires building a following, like anything else and planning classes requires a certain amount of strategy. Having people who support you and are willing to work with you on this is also essential. Getting a full yoga class might be something that baffles me for the rest of my career. One week I may have 20 students and the next week… *crickets chirping*. It’s all part of the journey.

You don’t have to take every opportunity- and for god’s sake don’t beat yourself up. At the beginning I was so overjoyed about receiving a response to my email inquiring for a yoga teaching job that I became inclined to believe that if someone emailed me back it was just “meant to be” and I would end up teaching there. But in reality I quickly learned that I just didn’t click at some places. I spent a week crying until my eyes were swollen because I declined an opportunity to teach cancer patients at St. Mary Corwin Hospital. I’ve had a phobia of hospitals and getting my blood drawn (which is a requirement so that they can check your health before you can become a volunteer) for as long as I can remember. And I realized that all of this combined meant that, in that setting, I’d probably be a pretty crummy teacher. And that I just wasn’t ready to teach there… It’s okay if you think I’m a wimp, I know I am but I’ll get brave enough one day and that will be when I am “meant to be” teaching at St. Mary Corwin. I also declined a job at the YMCA… It was shorty after getting teaching jobs at the two local gyms I’m at now and I realized I just prefer the “rough around the edges”, “nothing official” kind of jobs as opposed to the “you’ll have to do X amount of hours of training” and red tape that comes with larger corporations. But, again, that’s just were I’m at right now.

You can be a yoga instructor and an entrepreneur at the same time… if I could give advice to anyone who wants to start to build their career as a yoga teacher I would tell them that there is absolutely nothing wrong with making business cards. It sounds kind of awful when you imagine an instructor in a temple-like yoga studio finishing their class with an “om shanti shanti, namaste…. now here’s my business card.” But knowing when and how to market yourself is essential. And it is something that I’m still learning. It does make me smile, though, every time I lock up one of the gyms and see a stack of my business cards by the front door… or when I grab a chai at The Daily Grind and see my card clustered with the many others on the cork board. Following your dreams means doing something that you are proud of and that you want to share and having the mindset of a entrepreneur has helped me to form relationships and reach more people than I thought possible.

The most important yoga, business, and life lesson I have learned so far is that having people who support you is worth more than words can say. This sound cliche too but it’s so incredibly true. I am so grateful for Christina and the nonchalant way she told me she wanted me to teach at her northside location… she was the first person to support my dream and she did it in about a million ways. I’m grateful for Melissa, who welcomed me with open arms my first day of teaching. I’m grateful to all of the women in my teacher training and all of the instructors at Studio Share who continue to read and share my writing and occasionally attend my classes. I’m thankful for Paulo and all of his encouragement and instruction, and for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. I’m grateful to James and Julie at Ultimate Performance for reminding me to never give up and that building a following takes time. I’m grateful for Chris at Devil Dogg CrossFit who has been my supporter and dedicated students since day one. His belief in me, and in our ability to create and grow a yoga program at his gym inspires me. I’m grateful for Calee and Cora who are also on this adventure of “how can we get veterans and athletes to come to yoga?” with me. I’m eternally grateful for my parents who come to yoga classes as often as they can. They have and always will be my biggest supporters. I’m grateful to all of my friends who have decided to start yoga again, or for the first time, and have made it to a few of my classes… out of all the amazing and capable instructors thank you for choosing my class. More than anything I am grateful to all of my students! I will always learn more from you all than I will ever be able to teach you.

Here’s to many more months of this crazy, beautiful, adventure.

The light in me sees, honors, and unconditionally loves the light in each and every one one you. Namaste.

Alexis Kristan (10)

 

 

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