3 Reasons Why Yoga Teachers Need Each Other
As a yoga teacher and psychotherapist, I am part of two powerful communities that share
similar delights and struggles but are very different in ways of coming together for support. In
the psychotherapy field, consultation groups and online support forums are wildly popular: we
turn to each other for help with questions about insurance, how the work is impacting us
personally, sharing resources and recommending books. In the yoga teaching community, I
notice online groups are used mostly for advertising but few opportunities to discuss the real
stuff: how to grow classes, concerns that come up about students, and sharing helpful
resources. Perhaps these spaces to connect are less popular because we are so busy teaching
or have other support systems in our lives, which is great, but there is a certain healing magic
that comes from gathering with other yoga teachers in a non-judgmental space to catalyze
growth and self-awareness. Below are some reasons why we need connection, and steps on
how to bring it into your life:
1.) We are not each other’s competition. The more we see each other as resources, the more
we can shift from the perspective of scarcity and into a perspective of being enough. In the
therapy community, I know I can refer clients to my friend Barney for internet addiction issues,
Daisy for career counseling, and Ruby for eating disorders. The more interdependent I feel upon my community, the greater I feel I can support my clients. We have lots of specific issues out there in the yoga world, too, so it’s good to know who specializes in what. If a client might not be the best fit for your class, let them know who would be better. The more you refer out, the more likely others will hear about it, and refer out to you, too. Remember — you can’t be the best teacher for everyone, and that’s okay.
How to build your list of resources? Define what your ideal specialty or demographic is first.
Elders? Twenty-somethings? Yoga for stress reduction? Know what you have to offer. If this is
hard for you, ask friends to take your class and hear how it helped them. Ask for testimonials
from students to see what they like about your style. Reach out to other teachers and see what their specialties are. Let them know you will refer students out to them who fit their offerings,
and let them know what you specialize in.
2.) The news these days is pretty awful. We recently experienced the worst mass shooting in
contemporary US history; we we are bearing witness to spontaneous executions of Black and
Brown people all over the country; we are shifting into a global trend towards isolationism and
protectiveness over freedom and connection. Where does this leave us as yoga teachers? It
only amplifies the importance of our role as helpers by being yoga teachers in our communities.
As Fred Roger’s mother once told him, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the
news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are
helping.” We are in demand right now, and our presence is needed. We need to be around one
another to affirm our role as helpers in these trying times, to support one another and the clients who come to us.
How to be more supportive? It begins with you. How are you dealing with the recent upsetting
news in the world? If you are feeling ungrounded or overwhelmed or in grief, reach out to
someone. Seek out counseling. If you need affordable therapy, try Open Path or Reflect,
programs in San Francisco that provide low fee services. It can be helpful to “zoom out” and
remember your role when you dismiss moments to fill up on self-care. We need to be present
and show up for our yoga students. People need safe spaces to connect with themselves very
much right now, and they need you to hold that for them. In order to do this, we need to practice radical acts of self-care. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself because you are so important to the community right now.
3.) You can’t do this alone. To be a successful yoga teacher in contemporary society not only
means knowing how to teach, but knowing how to do your own marketing, social media, event
planning (if you run retreats), and embody the courage and risk-taking of an entrepreneur. Most likely we have limited time and resources to become experts in all of these fields. Meeting with other teachers — learning what helped them, and sharing your own — will save everyone a lot of time, money, and grief in seeking answers that another might already have. Most importantly, reach out to others and know that you are not alone in this work. In times of challenge and controversy, it can be easy to isolate. As yoga teachers, we can’t afford to do that. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
How to connect with other teachers? Join our community! We have a Facebook page.