If you’re struggling with getting yourself out there as a teacher, this will help.
For a long time, I was content to be anonymous as a yoga teacher. Despite teaching for nearly two decades and co-owning a reputable studio, I was uncomfortable talking myself up. It felt too scary and vulnerable. Over the years, I watched other teachers with less training, experience, and skill become Lululemon ambassadors, headline large festivals, and benefit from the platforms these opportunities afforded. I didn’t necessarily want what they had, but I couldn’t deny that I yearned to grow my teaching platform. Yet the idea of marketing myself felt downright un-yogic. I was afraid of seeming egotistical, desperate, or, worse, interested only in numbers and money. Insecurity and fear also played a role. Despite my success, a dubious inner voice persisted: Who am I to tell people I have something to offer?
But in 2016, when I sold my studio to focus on writing and self-publishing my book, Evolving Your Yoga, I knew that I needed to make peace with self-promotion. I sought out a business coach and mentor who told me something that changed my perspective: Sharing my thoughts on teaching and yoga wasn’t aggrandising—it was an act of generosity. Marketing my work didn’t have to come from a place of ego or neediness. Instead, it was about making my offering visible to those who would benefit from it. The energy of marketing shifted from one of selling to one of serving, which felt easy and natural for me to embrace. I created an online mentoring program—dubbed the Skillful Yogi—to help yoga teachers integrate and put into practice all the skills they received in training. I also started a blog to share my purpose, which I distributed to my mailing list and social followers. I wrote about my interest in asana, not only as a physical discipline but also as part of an integrated stream of practices within the larger context of the yoga tradition. Practitioners who felt the same way commented that they, too, were committed to integrated experiences of yoga. This started meaningful interactions that allowed me to further connect with readers. Five years later, I’ve built a thriving online community of teachers and students around the world. Last year, when I embarked on my organised book tour, I met students in Vancouver, New York City, London, and Milan. I’d never felt so at ease inviting students to my events. Each of us comes to the mat with a unique set of skills, circumstances, and challenges. When we stand in our own experiences and articulate our passions and purposes, we discover what we bring to our teaching that’s uniquely ours. We serve the people we’re meant to and carve out the niche we were born to inhabit. I know that for many of us, it takes time and courage to develop this muscle in a way that feels genuine. So here I’m offering five simple and actionable ways to discover (and unleash) your unique gifts:
SHARE WHAT YOU KNOW
Your story is yours alone. Look back on your path and identify the significant experiences you’ve gathered over the years—the watershed moments, memorable teachers and trainings, and gems of wisdom you’ve acquired. What do you want your students to know about the unique shifts yoga has created in your life?
TIP: Make a timeline of your journey, and identify significant turning points that shaped you. Try writing about each one separately in a series of essays to publish as blog or Instagram posts.
WRITE—AND SHARE—AN OPEN LETTER
What can students expect from your classes? What do you expect from them? Create an authentic connection with your class by writing an adoring message about what happens in your classroom space.
TIP: Hang your love letter wherever you teach to set the tone for your classes. If you’re teaching online, send it out before class or in your thank-you messages. Keep it up on your website.
NAME AND CLAIM YOUR BRAND OF YOGA
Go beyond hot, Yin, Power, restorative, Accessible, and all the other standard types. Aside from the style you teach, what do you bring to your classes? What’s unique, personal, and different about your offering? I call my style Alignment-Based, Heart-Centered Hatha Yoga to reflect the philosophy that infuses and contextualizes my technical approach to asana instruction.
TIP: Add your new style name to your online bio and your social media profiles to help you stand out from the crowd, and formulate a tagline and hashtags that encapsulate your distinctive approach.
DEFINE YOUR MATSIDE MANNER
What are the values you want to be known for? Do you want to be generous, sensitive, and caring? Professional and organized? Responsive? Casual? Prepared? Be intentional, and decide how you’re going to check each box. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your students which qualities they appreciate about your teaching—and trust what they tell you. This is how I got comfortable embracing traits such as well respected, unpretentious, clear, and knowledgeable.
TIP: Write a list of your core values to hang in your workspace as a reminder of what you stand for. Make sure all of your business decisions reflect them. Then, share blog and social posts that support your list: inspirational quotes or poetry, nature photographs or works of art that spark contemplation, or even a personal story that reflects your values.
WELCOME NEW PRACTITIONERS
As you get busier, you may forget that beginners are essential to a thriving student base. Skillfully welcoming new students into the practice can create loyalty for a lifetime. Revisit your own start in yoga: What brought you here? What kept you coming back? What were the things you needed to hear? What encouragement helped you?
TIP: Add a section to your website devoted to beginners. Record a video message that specifically welcomes new students and offers information they need to feel prepared and comfortable for practice. Finally, be sure to create a warm, approachable atmosphere for newcomers at the start of each class.
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