Lemurian Quartz meant to be a healing agent, and create better insight with intuition. But what if your insight scares you? What if the things you want to say and who you want to say them to have so much power over you? What if your insight shows you you’ve been focused on the wrong things, the wrong parts of your practice?
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about what’s been going on with the ALO Yoga clothing company and what has been called by some to be “bullying”. We see these pictures presented to us of tall, thin, white women who seem like they have it all together and yoga is their reason for peace. But what we don’t see is their sponsorships, the truth that they are flown all over this country to take these gorgeous photographs, that some sponsored yogis and yoga models are paid up to $15,000 per sponsored post! A fact that I recently just learned as I read a piece on Elephant Journal by Kino Mcgregor. These advertisements create an unrealistic standard that I have been struggling to think I am meant to keep up with. They have created the image that has been accepted as what a yoga teacher is meant to look like. This unrealistic fantasy world that is unattainable for most. The average yoga teacher starts at a pay of $20/class and even over time and experience only end up making their hourly pay rate go to $50-$75 an hour. When hosting a special event or workshop many times the split between the yoga teacher and the studio is 40/60, and yes, the teacher receives the smaller amount. a very well-to-do yoga teacher recently told me that after being in the business for 15 years she now has a 70/30 split with the studio, but again that took 15 years!
So here I am only 4 years in the business, looking at these pictures of these beautiful women, smiling with their advanced practice and perfect bodies, selling the image that yoga brings peace but here I am over in complete turmoil all because of the business of yoga, the pressure of the yoga industry. I have certain jobs that haven’t given me a raise in four years, I’ve asked for a raise but have been denied, in kinder words leaving the message that rings “I can be replaced”. Places where students follow me through my weekly schedule to other places, come to all my workshops, places where I have the highest number of attendance out of every class the entire week, but still I hear a rock-solid NO. I used to work for a mom and pop regional yoga chain that was bought by a national corporate yoga company and when they came along they cut my hourly pay nearly in half. In two years I have not received a $1 raise. I run around all day class-to-class, no company insurance, no contract agreements of not being let go, just doing it out of pure love and truth of knowing this is what I love. But due to keeping such a busy schedule just to make ends meat, I am not free all day to practice like these yoga models I see, I don’t go to exotic places to take beautiful pictures, and I do not make enough to buy expensive clothes and live up to looking the way that has been created to be the uniform of the professional yoga teacher. I have shown up to class looking, well, the way I look. My face is my face and I can not change it, I can not look prettier, I can not change to be more accepted. I can not make more money just so I can show up in big name brands.
All of this is going on while I receive company emails asking about the numbers of my classes. Are your students happy? are you marketing enough? Has anyone mentioned that the class is too early, too late, too long, too short? Should we make the class be at 12pm instead of 12:30pm, should it be 75 minutes instead of 90? What do you think needs to be done to make your class more popular? There is so much pressure. There is so much competition. My intuition telling me this isn’t yoga, but it is, it is the unseen business side of things. My intuition telling me to continue being myself but these other smaller, quieter voices telling me to change.
I was told that if I wore big names brands, which a lot of my students wear, it may creating a bonding experience for us, something to talk about, exchange when there are sales and even go shopping together. I didn’t want this to effect me but it did, it absolutely did. So what did I do, I went shopping, yup, I caved, but did I go to some big name brand store or even shop at the studio, Nope! I went to Marshall’s. I tried to buy what I could on my budget, but either way I felt like a fraud, I knew it was what was said to me that made me even go their in the first place.
The other week I couldn’t teach one of my classes due to a personal reason and I had another teacher sub the class for me. When I saw her later that week she told me she played rap music during class, Rap Music!?? She literally said, “I hope they don’t mind curse words, I played Andre 3000 and Lupe Fiasco.” Me on the other hand, always plays soft, subtle music, such as Karunesh, so when she told me she played rap I was not only surprised but I was also slightly disappointed as this is so far off from my own practice that I offer, and I didn’t want the class that substituted my own to be so vastly different. The next week when I came back to class I was told it was fun and exciting, it was new and it was different. It made me question my own style, If I didn’t play such subtle music, classical music, or “yogaesque” music would there be more students? So though I will never play rap as I do not listen to that genre of music I thought maybe I should attempt to play music which has a little more of an upbeat tempo. I decided to give it a go and it just felt so unauthentically me, I knew I was striving to create an energy that wasn’t my own but rather was just trying to emulate the good that someone else brings.
Just a few days ago, the manager of my studio mentions another yoga teacher and says, ” she’s the hardest working yogi I know, she’s definitely the most successful, she’s all over social media, and she gets all the young yogis to come.” Again I do not want these words to affect me but as soon as they fell to my ears I was automatically hurt and right away comparing myself to her practice. She looks like that “instagram model”, young, blonde, fantastic shape, she teaches a “work out” style class, plays top 40 music, wears all the big name brands, and is always all over social media. I right away feel as if my own career has been looked down upon, once again the pressure is on, the competition is present.
So I guess after all of this my point is how do I teach yoga, all of yoga not just asana, when the business side of things create all that which I teach students to try and let go of. I tell student’s to let go of their work when they enter the room, to try to practice detachment of earlier moments that have rattled them, but here I am at the top of the class still thinking about that email I got about changing my class times and making my students happy. I tell my students to arrive onto their yoga mat, their micro-cosm, allowing the practice to be the evolution of what they create on their four corners rather then comparing themselves to others, but here I am wondering why my class isn’t as successful as others, why don’t I fit the Yogi Model look that’s been created.
I ask my students to be authentically themselves, to throw away labels and to find their truest identity, yet I am quick to try to play music that worked for someone else or go shopping to look like someone else. So am I bullied? It is hard to answer this with a solid answer. But to say the pressure isn’t there or that the large companies themselves aren’t contributing would be false. We sell this idea of yoga but than are asked to work like sharks. We may wear yoga clothes but the intensity and inner company competition is just as high as what I’ve experienced in corporate life. So do I stay true, to myself or do I enter the ring? Do I raise my class numbers by including more planks and playing Taylor Swift? Soon enough another email will arrive about my numbers, I will be “bullied’ to believe that I must do something to meet the company standards or face the fact that I can be replaced.