Yoga With Leo

7 Keys To Being A Successful Yoga Teacher

Teaching YogaLeo Cheung1 Comment

Length: 7 Min Read

I'm here to share with you key areas of development that have led to the success of achieving my goals. If your goals are to teach yoga full-time, make a decent living from it, be confident as a teacher, be supported and feel connected in a community and grow as a person (very vague, I know) then you might find these suggestions helpful. If you're goals as a yoga teacher are different, great! You just might not find everything you read here relevant.
 

1. Presence / Voice

Presence is how you show up in the room, and your voice is how that is expressed. If you're presence is grounded, confident and strong, then it will likely be expressed through your voice as well. By enacting those qualities physically through the body, the brain will register the corresponding emotional and mental effects. As mentioned in my other article: 3 Confidence Tips for Yoga Teachers, you can create the state of confidence by doing such things as placing your hands on your hips or holding your wrist with one hand behind your back while teaching. This helps to calm anxiety and eliminates fidgeting with the hands. Feeling the ground with your feet and doing everything 20% slower is another way to cultivate a powerful presence. For me, the purpose of presence is to create a state which is conducive for holding space and being an anchor for transformation in others.
 

2. Teaching Technique - Hard Skills

These are the types of skills that most teachers learn in their 200hr Teacher Training. However, depending on the training, skills like verbal adjustments, cueing, sequencing and demonstration may be brushed over due to lack of time and require refining through practice, practice, practice. Ways to improve this area of teaching is taking more training (even another 200 hr, I took two) with teachers who are skilled in these techniques. I learn best through experience and modeling myself from teachers who demonstrate these skills in their teaching. Other ways are going to teachers classes and making mental notes of how they teach and what stands out. If I find a particular method of doing something effective, I'll use it in my own teaching. Through trial and error, I discover what works and what doesn't work for me. Teaching technique is like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get (but be sure what you're doing is a habit you want to reinforce.)
 

3. Leadership, Communication, EQ- Soft Skills

These skills are often less taught in teacher training, (and life in general), unless they're asked, yet I think they are equally as important when handling yourself professionally. As teachers, we're required to be leaders and make smart decisions that honour the students in the class and the overall working environment. That means showing up early before class and ending on time, communicating issues to management, handling situations with front desk or in the classroom, phone calls vs email/text communication, wage negotiation, organizing the room, conscious listening... the list goes on and these details could make the difference between a student having a great experience or a horrible one. I think that many of these aspects of conducting oneself are learned through experience working in an organization, which is something I don't conventionally have, and for that reason, I have several business mentors who I go to for consultation for many of my decisions or getting feedback. There isn't a clear set of standards for what the best practices are in any given situation, thus mistakes will be made. The most important thing that I've learned is having open, honest conversation with whomever involved, to create understanding, to extract a learning lesson and then to hug it out. 
 

4. Relationship / Community

Having good quality relationships and being a part of supportive communities is what makes the experience of teaching pleasurable and rewarding. Like many scenarios, it's not what you know, it's who you know. But just knowing someone doesn't help, it's who you ARE in relationship to them. What has helped me build relationships, whether it be professional or personal, is the quality of time spent, the level of communication, and the positive attitude I carry. Some small details that go a long way are the following:

  •  Instead of emailing, make a phone call/in person meeting with your manager, especially if the content is sensitive or complicated
  • As a teacher, be present 10-15min inside the classroom before you start so that there's opportunity to create a connection/relationship with your students
  • Then, shake their hand and ask them their name, then remember it, because they matter!
  • As a student practicing, interact with the student next to you, they're probably not a serial killer.
     

5. Self-Promotion / Marketing

As a independent contractor and an ambassador of yoga, it is in my best interest to promote my services. Unless you are selling snake oil, there's no shame in marketing your services if your offerings are genuine and valuable. My goal is to help strengthen the commitment of a student's practice and that requires other forms of learning outside of public classes, like workshops, private sessions, retreats or teacher training. If students do not know what you have to offer, then they will never have a chance to invest in their practice with you. Here are some important business practices / tools to consider:

  • Make a website! This is the best way for people to get up-to-date information about your offerings. From my experience, this is the easiest, best-looking site builder out there: Squarespace
  • Promote on social media - be tasteful in your posts so that you're not annoying to others - divide up the content between information / inspiration. Peak times to post for optimal viewing: 12pm / 5pm
  • Give a short 30 sec plug for your offerings at the beginning of class, not at the end when people are in an elevated state after savasana - they either want to be in silence or hurried to leave. Bring business cards/flyers so they have something to take home with them if they're interested. Give a quick mention to pick one up at the end of class.
     

6. Personal Development

Whether you're a teacher or not, this is a non-negotiable with me. Teacher training is great, I've experienced a lot of growth, but some things like mommy and daddy issues are better dealt with therapists or counselors. I think everyone should have a therapists, but that's just my opinion. The quality of my teaching (way of being) is a result of the various events/workshops I've been involved in: Landmark forum/advanced course, silent meditation retreats, men's group, personal therapy, transformation workshops, yoga teacher mentorship, Artist's way group facilitation. Anything that would benefit my well being and evolution are open to consideration. The quality of teaching is the quality of studentship. 


7. Personal Practice

As a teacher, the importance of having a personal practice is not a new idea. Nonetheless, it's an incredibly challenging thing to maintain in an age of overwhelming superficial distraction. Maybe you should be practicing right now instead of reading this blog! Any long term commitment of real worth will always be confronted with resistance, and we could analyze, rationalize, plan this, read that (War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a good book on overcoming resistance), BUT, at the end of the day, Nike had it right - JUST DO IT! Sit for 5 mins in the morning after you get out of bed, do a practice if it's long over due, even on youtube if you can't get out of the house or distracted doing it on your own. I try to remind myself that my relationship to personal practice isn't about beating myself over the head if I'm inconsistent, but also to remember that if I'm avoiding the practice because it's uncomfortable, to remember that the practice is not about being comfortable, it's about personal discovery.  

Tell Me... Are Yoga Teachers Artists Too?

Teaching YogaLeo CheungComment
YOGA TEACHERS ARE ARTISTS TOO!(1).jpg

Length: 4 Min Read

I'm not an artist by the conventional sense, but I do enjoy writing, making music and concocting meals out of last weeks leftovers. I'm sure you're some kind of artist too: a daytime dancer, a wool knitter, a paper napkin cartoonist, a youtube documentarian or a smoothie blendista.

And if you're none of the above and truly believe you're not creative, I have a feeling that years ago, you've once drawn a picture to put on your family's fridge. That's art too!

It's easy when you're five and anything you made was showered with praise and validation. It didn't matter if you drew a square shaped banana with a blue crayon, you were loved either way.

It's not so bright and beautiful out there now, in the "adult" world, at least not in my internal perception. If I write a song or make a fried egg, my friends will tell me (if they're honest, which I hope they'd be) what they think. "You got to work on those high notes, maybe play in a lower key." "Not enough salt, and the eggs are overcooked. Just saying..."

Is teaching yoga like creating art? I walk in with a sequence, pair it with a playlist that complement the poses, and throw in a theme to chew on. Mix and match them all together to create what I'd call a yoga class and hope that people enjoy it...? Kind of not really.

Now I've heard that for artists, that one should do it for your own self satisfaction and not for any particular audience. That if a writer changes his script because so and so would approve, that it would eventually lead to resentment and artistic burnout. Knowing this, I still can't help it (actually I can, but sometimes I choose not to) but to consider what my students want and what would please them. There is a part of me that just wants to be liked. There's no doubt about that. What I need more of is Leo liking Leo.

I continually remind myself that the honour of being a yoga teacher is the opportunity to practice. The practice is being able to show up and express myself artistically through my words and my body as a means of understanding who I am. Like any other type of art, there will be preferences. Some styles of yoga are like an abstract Picaso, others are like cosmic surrealist Dali, and others are real and raw like Herzog photos. Everyone has their favourites, and someones like or dislike has nothing to do with my self worth.

I think everyone has a gift of some kind. But are some artists (yoga teachers) better than others? Is it true it's "just a popularity contest?" If I post more photos of me on social media and get more virtual followers, would more students come to my class, and my art would be grow in considerable value? Are yoga teachers ill-fated like artists too, with money mismanagement, internal self-sabotage and substance abuse (coconut water, mala beads and herbal incense to name a few...)

I'm not really sure. Sometimes I question why a white canvas is art, or why turning my food into foam is special. It doesn't always make sense to me, but I have heard that some types of art are meant to provoke an emotion or internal experience. Ever have that feeling of walking out of a movie and being in deep thought, of having your world flipped upside down? Ya... the trailer never warns you.

And kind of like our fleeting feelings, the art of teaching begins and ends in that hour. No one really remembers the sequence, who was there, what was said. You can't hang a yoga class up on a wall, or rewind it to watch it over and over again. The teaching of yoga is the moment, another day lived, one each never the same.

Perhaps I have a similar intention, of creating an internal experience of deep no-thought and flipping your wild downdog upside down. There are times I've walk out of class and considered a perspective I've never considered before, or felt a part of my body I've never felt before. Best of all, been present with another person I've never been so present with before.

I've heard a chef (David Chang) once say in a podcast, that if a meal arrives at his guest's table and the couple eat without saying a word to each other because the food is that damn-fucking good, then he's done his job. I too savor the silence of sitting post Savasana, but my job is done when I've put myself out into the world, with a disregard for validation and a high regard for celebrating who I am. The practice continues...

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3 Reasons Why Teaching Yoga Is Uncomfortably Rewarding

Teaching YogaLeo Cheung1 Comment

Length: 6 Minute Read

Now, I love my job of teaching yoga, but there are certainly those days where I don't want to get out of bed. It doesn't matter how many jumping jacks Tony Robbins tells me to do, I can't deny the feeling I have for staying in and getting the breakfast courier to deliver all my meals.

In the long haul though, knowing the reasons why I teach yoga (or do anything) helps to propel me into action and have less of those self-indulgent days. I've discovered (and continue to do so) my reasons for teaching yoga, and the reasons aren't always easy to swallow. 

Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) said that with great power comes great responsibility, and Francis Bacon also said, knowledge is power. So my intelligently well-constructed theory is with greater knowledge of oneself (reasons for doing something) comes a greater responsibility to oneself, the community and the world at large - and if carried out, is rewarding, but long gone are those comfortable days of 4-day weekend TV marathoning. 

I acknowledge that these reasons are mostly for my own personal gain, and that hopefully by working on myself, it may indirectly impact others in a positive way.

1. Teaching Yoga Is A Call for me to Be Present

There are very few things in life where I am 100% focused and present to the task at hand. You may experience this through activities like playing an instrument, cooking a meal, making love or sitting in deep meditation.

When I step into the studio to teach, there is a call for me to be present. Present when I shake a student's hand and ask their name and actually listen and remember who they are. Present with my choice of words and the power of influence I have as a teacher who is granted with authority. The subtle nuances of communication that occurs in the room, what the students want and need, AND don't want and need, is a complex language that calls for my clear, objective observation.

The challenge now is to bring this presence into my classes, each and every time I show up. I am challenged to stay present, even when my mind is consumed by figuring out how to pay for a 30 year mortgage, or containing the excitement of a new relationship, or managing increased levels of stress from sitting in a box with four wheels.

The beauty of cultivating presence in the practice of teaching yoga is I get to bring that into my everyday ordinary life. Am I really listening in a conversation, to not only her words, but also the subtle nuances of what her body and face are telling me? How often am I distracted by the beep bopping buzz of my cellphone? How present am I on the road, to the stop sign, to the cyclist, to the emotions of restlessness and impatience that arise?

The call is to be AWAKE, fully conscious, even if it's to my not-so-pleasant and uncomfortable ways of being.

2. The Act Of Teaching Is An Opportunity To Look At Myself

Aside from looking into the mirror to fix my hair in a hot class, teaching yoga is an opportunity to check in and to take a sharp look at myself and how I am behaving. I look straight into the eyes of my ego and ask:

"Am I saying this out of arrogance or for validation? Am I not saying something that I believe to be important because of fear of rejection or vulnerability?

As a result of teaching yoga, there are numerous things that I've had to take a hard look at. Here are just a few:

  • The insecurity of not being liked by my students
  • The feeling of my work not being good enough
  • The anger, resentment and greed that arises from competition with other teachers
  • The self-aggrandizement that comes from recognition and status as a teacher
  • The panic driven fear of not knowing what the f*ck I'm doing (am I just making shit up?)

I'm grateful to experience these things on the teacher's mat, because the lessons learned there is what's also needed at the doormat of my home.

  • The insecurity of not being liked as a partner, friend or lover
  • The feeling of my Self not being good enough
  • The anger, resentment and greed that arises from wanting more from life
  • The self-aggrandizement that comes from "winning" in life
  • The panic driven fear of not knowing what the f*ck I'm doing with my life, I'll just make shit up, appearing to others like I've got it all together.

I often tell the students I mentor, that by being a yoga teacher, I've become a much more serious student. Never did I imagine that teaching yoga would have such an impact on my life, and this is what motivates me to continue down this path.

My teacher, Michael Stone so wisely said (something like this...) - "Your yoga mat is never rolled up", and that always stuck with me.

3. Making friends with Resistance

Resistance and I haven't always been friends. We're starting to get along, but don't get me wrong, we still have our fist fights and childish quarrels, but now I'm more apt to have a civil conversation and tell Resistance to shut the f*uck up!

Steven Pressfield, author of War of Art, writes poetically about the force of resistance that occurs when pursuing anything from a work of art, a commitment to a spiritual practice or carrying out an entrepreneurial project. Every living being experiences resistance, and it's no fun to bump heads!

What Pressfield suggests is that when resistance (fear) shows up, its a telling tale to go forth and embrace it.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

If your stomach churns when you're at the front of the room doing a demonstration, then you may have drank too much the night before, or resistance is being a bugger and telling you "who do you think you are?"

If I listened to my fears, you certainly wouldn't be reading this blog post, nor would I have achieved anything of value. Overcoming resistance isn't so much as to prove to myself that I can do it, and have trophies on the wall of all my accomplishments. It's a recognition that I am of worth, and to respond to the self-critics questioning of "who do you think you are?" -

"well....I'm a HUMAN BEING, GOD-DAMMIT, and I'm free to be me!"
 

Want to create confidence and overcome Resistance? - Click here

3 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Teaching Yoga!

Yoga TeachingLeo Cheung6 Comments

I've been mentoring teachers for a few years now and the same questions have been coming up again and again. Here are my opinions to help resolve these questions and what I believe will save you time and reduce anxiety around teaching when starting out in your first couple years.

1. I LOVE IT WHEN TEACHERS THEME IN THEIR CLASSES, SHOULD I BE THEMING IN MINE?

For those that practice and are trained in traditions that do not theme, theming is using an overarching teaching, such as stillness or courage, a life experience or spiritual wisdom, to instill a mood or bring awareness to an aspect of practice. The theme is often presented at the beginning of class and is weaved into the teaching of the poses.

My Recommendation: Do not theme in the first 6-12 months of teaching

Unless you've made a cheese omelette 1000 times, don't go on experimenting with ostrich eggs and parsley infused foam. Unless you're proficient in your teaching of asana, keep theming in your tool box, for now, so that you can focus all of your attention to instructing good quality postures. Most students' expectation is to practice asana, so let's be sure to cover that basis first, then everything else (like theming, adjustments, etc.) will fall into it's place, if that is something you'd like to offer.  

Themes based on virtues like calmness or love can be expressed through your actions and conduct, and don't necessarily require a 10 min monologue at the beginning of a class. Plus, there's an inherit magic that happens in Trikonasana, a visceral awakening in Ujjayi Pranayama, and embodied wisdom in a still Savasana that can't be taught with words. 

So don't feel you "have to" theme, it will come.
Actions speak louder than words
Let the poses do the talking

Less is more, cheese and eggs, that's it.

2. I Love it when teachers have a rad playlist, where do I find good music?

When the Buddha was sitting in meditation under the Bodhi Tree, the ancient scriptures spoke of him listening to the top 40's with his Dr. Dre headphones. There he became one with the cosmos, and the music. 

Having a playlist in yoga classes is a recent western addition to the practice. I have two perspectives on this, you can take either one, or neither none.

My Recommendation:

1. Don't play music - the sound of the breath is the rhythm and the beat. I'll agree, this is a more challenging way to teach and for students to practice. There's no escape, it's just you and the students. There's less places for their minds to go. Stillness may arise... how foreign and scary is that!

2. Play music - I don't want students to listen to words, I want them to listen to my instructions so I play music that's instrumental. It's music that assists me as a teacher to be focused, calm and present in the room.

To save me time, I make two awesome playlists, one for a slower and another for faster paced classes. Once every two weeks, I change a couple songs if I don't like them anymore. I used to spend lots of time looking for new music and worrying that students would get bored if I didn't have a different playlist each time. Now, I've let that go, this is what I'm playing today, take it or leave it, because in all honesty, music is on the fourth tier of my priorities when it comes to teaching good yoga.

I use an app called Rdio and I pay a small monthly subscription to get access to all kinds of music. Here is one of my playlists:

Thank goodness for MP3, or we'd be burning CD's every night to make a new playlist!!!

3. I love it when teachers have such creative sequencing, how do I do that? 

The muse arrives when it feels like it, and sometimes it feels like being in her PJ's and watching a whole season of the Orange is the New Black and doesn't show up for a while. So what do you do? Stick to teaching good, simple yoga postures that could do no evil!

Bikram and Ashtanga yoga practice the same sequence everyday and there's something to be said about that. So far, I haven't had a student tell me they're bored of doing Malasana, so I'll teach it today, and the next, and the next, and probably every class and forever. It's okay to teach the same poses, again and again, because repetition = proficiency (generally), mastering the basics is a lifetime practice, offering students familiarity is the passageway into leading them into unfamiliar, unknown places!

My Recommendation: I'll share with you my secret recipe, passed down to me by my great grandma who never did yoga - 75% the same poses, 25% new. The poses in red are the meat and potatoes (if you're a vegetarian, it's your humus and kale) of the practice. Majority of those poses will exist in my class because a majority of the students I teach require practice in this poses, including myself.

Here's a sequence I taught last week. 

This sequence isn't something I hold firm to with a death grip, but I'll use it as a template to work from. Depending on what my focus will be (backbending, twisting, etc.) I'll change up the "new" poses. Try this, and see how you like it.

If you'd like to learn more and dive deeper into these kinds of topics, check this out!

Please leave comments below and let me know how you're progressing in your teaching!!!

Top 3 Life Skills A Yoga Teachers Should Have

Yoga TeachingLeo Cheung5 Comments

Over the many hours of yoga teacher training, I've learned a sh*t ton of techniques on sequencing, postural alignment, cuing, adjustments, you name it! But what I've had to learn (and continue to learn) from personal experience are these lessons that have been integral to my growth and success as a teacher.

People Skills

Growing up as an introvert and creating fantastical worlds of castles and pirates ships made out of Lego was great for my imagination, but not so great for developing people skills. It was not until University that I learned in business school how to interact with others in a professional manner. Even then, it had it's gaps, as the way of relating was mostly out of self interest. "I need to meet this person, because then she'll introduce me to that person, and then I can get hired for that job, and it will look great on my resume. And if it looks great on my resume it will help me get this other high paying job and then I'll have lots of money. Success!" Truthfully, my experience with networking was a dreadful habit of shaking your hand, getting your business card so that I felt like I achieved something, and then quickly going back to the appetizer table and stuffing my face with disgusting Costco hors d'ourvres so that I didn't have to talk to anyone. I was still very uncomfortable with being around other people I didn't know. 

I graduated and added a lot of friends to Facebook, but was still very scared of the world. I traveled instead of worked, and during my 2 years away, I learned how to really be with people. I learned how to hold space in a conversation, how to listen, how to give my authentic opinion, how to have a voice, how to understand and relate, how to have compassion, how to be present with another person. I am still an introvert at heart, but now I have some understanding of how to create deep relationships with my friends, family, intimate partners, and colleagues. In my experience, the essence of teaching is creating meaningful relationships with my students. A simple and powerful way in which I do this is, I go to each of my students and shake their hand to give a warm welcoming of their presence and ask them a few questions that help me discover who they are and why they are here. I'm passionate about community and it can starts from me learning a person's name.

As a teacher, going to student to talk was the most frightening and liberating thing I learned to do.

BUSINESS SKILLS

Yes, I went to business school, (and maybe I should have payed a bit more attention) but I feel most of what I learned about marketing and business practices, I learned later from trial and error.

I learned that sometimes a phone call or an in person meeting is better than a chain of 10 emails. I learned how to be "less" annoying on Facebook with the promoting of my retreats and workshops to people on the other side of the world that don't give a f*ck. I discovered what I'm worth as a teacher, converted the value that I bring to the community to $/hour and I am not afraid to ask for it. I taught myself how to create a website, newsletter and business cards for less than $20 a month. All of these lessons have been a fun, creative process that makes teaching rewarding.

I've often heard when conflicts between owners and teachers arise or when studios fall apart that the conclusion is yoga and business don't go together. Seems to be quite a broad statement. What do we mean by yoga - the cosmic bonding of body-mind-spirit or holding Warrior 2 for five breaths? What is the sole purpose of the business - the exchange of goods and services for profits or the mission of bettering the world - and are both possible? 

I know that for me, the illusion of yoga and business not being able to come together surfaces when I've been out of integrity with my way of being. When I forget to show up to a class I was suppose to sub, when I don't start and end my classes on time, when I don't communicate to my managers my needs and desire for change, when I forget to sign in a student and it costs the studio $10.50 each time, I'm out of integrity, (the state of being whole or undivided). The practice of integrity is yoga. When I'm not present in my class and it's reflected in my teaching, the student feels their experience was not worth the $20 drop-in they paid, they don't come back and throw their hands up and give up on public yoga classes - and as an ambassador of yoga and it's future livelihood, I hold myself responsible.

A lesson I'm learning when conducting business (or being in any kind of relationship!) is to build trust by holding myself accountable when I've f*cked up, AND to hold others accountable when they've been out of integrity too. In these situations, I take off my business hat and put on my genuine, imperfect person hat and speak with honesty "Hey, that was my fault, I should have... can we consider doing this next time, I think this would help make things smoother." 

It often ends with us hugging it out.

Self Reflective Skills

When I first started teaching yoga, I made a contract with myself. I pledged to teach yoga as a full-time job for 1 year and if after a year I was still living at home (nothing wrong with living at home!) and wasn't able to make a living from teaching, that I would then consider doing something else. This was necessary for me, because I know I could have easily talked myself out of teaching. For example - on the drive home after a class:

"Why did that student leave early? She's never coming back..."
"Was my music too loud?"

"Wow, he looked angry... what's his problem?"
"Oh sh*t, did I lock the door?"

"That was the worst class ever, why am I even teaching?"
"That was the best class ever, why didn't I start teaching earlier?"
"No one thanked me after class, what the hell???"

That's just crazy talk, ain't it! To the yoga students who think your teachers have got all their sh*t together, well, we don't, at least not in the first year of teaching. It's not until after hours and hours of teaching, did it start to sink in - my thoughts aren't true and resistance will arise in the form of self-doubt and sabotage. 

Here are some reminders I tell myself when fearful thoughts arise:

- Not everyone is going to like my teaching, big whooping deal. I don't like everyone's teaching and that's totally normal!

- Just like there will be sunny days and rainy days, I'm gonna have good days and bad days of teaching, so don't cling to the results. Nonetheless, give your gift each day.

- A student is still a good person if they can't do a handstand, therefore, I'm still a good person if only 3 people show up to class.

- No one thanked me after class because maybe they're not feeling very thankful that day. Or I don't look very inviting at that moment, or they just don't feel like talking to me after class, jeez Leo, get over yourself!

Resistance is a denying force to strengthen the will and prepare the mind for life's next lesson. So I welcome resistance while moving forward, because its revealing to me there's an adventure ahead.

I continue to practice self-observation by asking myself the question: "Is this true? If not, let it go, if so, does this mean anything about me?

What I end up finding out is, most of what I think is meaningless...

3 Myths Yoga Teachers Must Stop Believing

Yoga TeachingLeo CheungComment

The yoga community is huge, millions of people are practicing yoga today. And although it's widespread across the world, there are common threads of beliefs that float around from circle to circle. I've bounced around with ears open to observe what people are sharing, and then I bring it back to myself to see how that sits with me. These "myths" are my own perspectives based on my experience of interacting with the yoga community and I welcome your comments as my mind always requires daily stretching.

Myth # 1: Yoga Teacher's don't make good money

Sure, I'm not rolling on the floor in 100 dollar bills, (I'd rather keep it in the bank anyways), but I can still afford a green smoothie from time to time. I'll agree, there's a lot of yoga teachers who are running around from studio to studio and teaching as many classes as they can to pay the rent (I've been there, and to an extent still doing it). But if I continue to do this, then yes, as a yoga teacher I'm not going to make "good" money. But the myth just isn't fully true because there are yoga teachers who do make good money.

You don't have to sell your soul or wear clothes you don't wanna wear, you just have to provide value. The more you give, the more you get. What job out there makes good money, but doesn't require hard work, that doesn't require your full attention and an all-encompassing heart. 

There are many teachers doing this for a "living" and so let go of the belief that yoga teacher's don't make good money. Holding on to this myth was a great excuse for me to not put myself out there. As many poses there are invented in the past decade, there are the same number of opportunities that you can create. Just don't let this myth hold you back from trying. Invest your heart, your money (energy) and your time into your work and you will be rewarded. 

Myth # 2: I can't find Teaching GIgs, it's too saturated

5 years ago if you asked someone in a major North American city if they have done yoga before and they said no, you would be shocked. That's the same now, but with being a yoga teacher. EVERYONE is a yoga teacher, and that's great! A family member wants to do yoga - awesome, pull out a mat and teach them Trikonasana in the living room. There are always opportunities to teach, because there are always people wanting to learn! 

"But I want to make money teaching yoga!" OK, refer to myth #1, you can quit your day job, you just need to eat, breath, sleep yoga. It's not a 9-5 job, but it's still 8 hours a day, half of it on the computer or out networking at the studios/cafes. There are many yoga teachers certified to teach, but there aren't many that are seriously committed to teaching yoga as a full-time job.

So the real question that needs to be asked when you're a yoga teacher with the consideration of looking for opportunities is, do I want to teach yoga for fun or as a living? The difference is one is a hobbyist and the other is a self-employed entrepreneur. The great thing is both are exciting!

MYTH # 3: YOGA IS ABOUT COMMUNITY, NOT COMPETITION

In the highest ideals of yoga and humanity, we strive for community. And, in our modern manifestation of practicing yoga postures in an economic environment where money is exchanged, there is competition. There is competition between studios, between styles of yoga, between yoga teachers, between instagram superstars, and... honestly, it's kinda fun! It's a game that's fun to play, and I'm not here to crush anyone or take anything away. I'm interested in creating competitive advantage - "offering consumers greater value by providing greater benefits and service."

We're in the service industry, so I'm constantly asking myself - how can I provide a more valuable experience to the consumer (students)? And as part of the yoga community, I'm big on sharing my "competitive advantage," because if it helps you provide better service, then we are in collaboration in achieving a similar goal - helping others live a better life.

Am I in competition with you for the class at peak times? Yes, of course I'd like to have a busy class. But if you're teaching it and the students love you and keep coming back because they benefit from your offering, then I want to come to your class and learn from you!

3 Confidence Tips For Yoga Teachers

Yoga TeachingLeo CheungComment

What is confidence really? Well, here's one definition: "the state of feeling certain about the truth of something." Now let's break it down in regards to teaching yoga

We're certain about the truth that:

  • You're certified to teach based on the fact that you've completed your 200hr training

  • If you're given the opportunity to teach by someone with the knowledge of your background and experience, they have given you their trust in your capabilities as a teacher

  • If you've created your own opportunity and students are willingly showing up, they have given you their trust in your capabilities as a teacher

Everyone has a different skill set and unique qualities about their teaching. Some teachers are quicker to learn, and others require more practice. Nonetheless, the truths above apply to anyone who's a yoga teacher. The studio owners believe in you, the students believe in you, do you believe in you? Are you certain about the truth that you are a yoga teacher?

There's a likelihood that uncertainty looms above your head with thoughts like: what do I know? I only have 200hrs of training! What if I say something stupid and people don't like me? Look at so and so, they're such good yoga teachers, I'll never be like them!

And these thoughts may continue as you progress further as a teacher - I want to teach at this or that studio, but they don't know me, I'm just a nobody! I want to teach a workshop or go international, but I don't have street cred, who would pay money for me?

Whether you're teaching yoga or making a souffle, the rules of confidence are the same. Do you have a belief in yourself about the possibility of success? Although they make crappy cars, Henry Ford did have something smart to say - "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."

So let's get down to business about how you can create confidence as a yoga teacher:


1. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

Ya okay, so you're not the most skilled yoga teacher out there, but neither am I! What we all have in common is the possibility of achieving our highest potential. However, the internal saboteur doesn't always allow us to believe that. So "faking it" lets that part of ourselves know that I'm going to play the part of my greatest self, even if the saboteur doesn't think I'm all that great.

Faking it is not being inauthentic, it's actually a recognition of our worth despite our self-doubting. Fake it enough times, and you'll make it a conscious belief that you are a valuable yoga teacher to your students and the community. Seeing yourself as worthy is having confidence. So I'm not talking about faking a smile or puffing up your credentials, I'm talking about walking into the room powerfully to greet your students, present and ready to serve because you're worth it (Thanks L'Oreal).

Watch this video by Amy Cuddy (Ted Talk) about how to feel empowered instantly


2. TAKE ACTION, NOW!

- To be a teacher, you must have students. To have students, you must take action. Take action and you create the possibility for accomplishments. Accomplishments acknowledges your worth which equals confidence.

An example of taking action: write out 5 steps to get into Warrior 2

  1. Lift your arms up to shoulder height and step your feet wide, as wide as your wrists
  2. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in slightly
  3. Bend your right knee into a square
  4. Turn your head to the right and look past your finger tips
  5. Breathe

An example of an accomplishment: wrote out 5 steps to get into Warrior 2

You now have more confidence teaching Warrior 2! Bam!

Now go out and do something. Email that email you've been wanting to email. Teach that class that the studio has been begging you to teach. One action a day will keep the doctor away...  


3. STUDENTS WANT YOUR GUIDANCE

I've mentioned this above, that students come to your class because they trust you as a teacher. And if they don't, that's okay too. Not every student and teacher are a fit, just like not every person is fit to be my friend (poor me...) So the students who do show up are there because they want to and are openly seeking your guidance in the practice of their yoga postures.

I have to remember that the students are not my enemies, they're not there to judge me, they've paid money to learn from me, and so I don't need to be afraid and anxious. I can be confident because the students have given me permission to be their teacher. Yay!