Is there competition?

My experience in the past few years is that it takes a lot of work, self-promotion and marketing to be a yoga teacher or run a yoga studio.  Like other jobs, there are a lot of people applying for the same jobs, as a number of yoga studios have discovered teacher trainings are a great way to make money.   Don’t get me wrong, I think that it’s incredibly hard to run a studio.  The expenses on just the building alone and utilities can be astronomical.  And the insurgence of corporate run studios churning out teacher trainees, even advertising “become a teacher in one week” makes it really difficult for the smaller studio to compete.  Or does it? 
While the rise of the corporate chains have brought more locations, more exposure to yoga and more opportunities for those teaching, smaller studios often have more seasoned and experienced teachers, a variety of styles of yoga and often more pay to teachers.  However, these generalizations don’t always dictate experiences.  While attending a class at one of the chain studios, with teacher who probably had six months of experience, I experienced a deep savasana at the end of one of the classes where I went into that alpha-state of pure consciousness and non-attachment, true bliss.  And at a studio, a teacher with a lot of experience insisted I go into a headstand after I explained about my constant neck injuries resurfacing afterwards, insisting on instructing me the “proper way” and that I had been practicing it “wrong.”  And yes, I was injured afterwards. 
When I was seeking my teacher training the first time, my values were how can I do this quickly and least expensively.  I also didn’t want to wait on a waiting list to get in.  The cheapest and quickest took place over three months.  90 days.  And then I was done.  My values were different that what they are now.  Now, in my second teacher training, I want to learn specifically from a specific teacher that has amassed a large amount of knowledge over decades on the teaching and practice of yoga.  The training takes place over a period of two years.  My values have shifted.  The first time, I needed to finish quickly and least expensively.  Now I value the learning process over a period of time.  I will actually end up paying less that I paid for the original teacher training and I get the value of paying that over two years.
There is a value in each and every experience in life.  Whether it is learning something, the hard way, the easy way, whatever way or having an experience that you normally don’t have.  When I open myself up for something new, I am inviting myself to take a step into the void and experience something that ultimately shows me something.  Wherever I find myself practicing.  If it’s in a gym, corporate studio or a converted garage, I open myself up to the experience. 
And in terms of competition, I read this in my classes sometimes, it was a letter from Martha Graham to a friend:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one you in all of time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.  The world will not have it.  It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. “

On the Mat

Subbing a class is not my most favorite thing to do.
In fact, it’s my least favorite.
This is one of the reasons why:  Last week, I went back to one of my classes that I had a sub for the week prior.  On walking into class I heard this “Oh good you’re hear.”  Suffice it to say, the sub that had taught my class had not lived up to the expectation.  And while there are many reasons for this, which I heard about later and agree with the dissolutionment about, some of it comes down to one key idea:  the teacher did not live up to my expectations of what a yoga class should be. 

Being a teacher for a couple years now, I’ve learned a lot along the way.  And have much more to learn.  There are so many practices of this thing called yoga.  So many blurred boundaries.  And yet, so many “right” way to do things.  There is a swing happening at this moment, an abundance of places to practice yoga, and yet limitations on what is offered.  An abundance of people practicing yoga, an abundance of yoga teacher trainings, an abundance of yoga teachers and things are a little, let’s just say sticky.  A blog that I have recently found and get a kick out of is Recovering Yogi, which does a lot more poking and pointing at some of these problems in the current state of yoga here in the U.S.  But really, it’s for people who have gone down that path and found some not so enlightening things.  Which, are enlightening, surprisingly. 

I find myself not wanting to teach so much at the moment.  Because I’m shifting perspectives.  Coming from a “power yoga teacher training background” and not being so hip on that at the moment, I find myself in another teacher training, “Hatha” with a teacher who has taught Iyengar for over 25 years.  Why, do you say, am I doing this?  It’s my opinion, but going back to what I consider the origins of yoga in the U.S. and going back to these traditions is enabling me to become a better teacher.  Specifically, my teacher, studied directly with Indra Devi and B.K.S. Iyengar who both learned from Krishnamacharya considered one of the main lineages of yoga as we know it in the U.S.  (Don’t ask me how to pronounce Krishnamacharya anytime soon, it’s just a bad, bad, bad job coming from my mouth.)  Another of Krishnamacharya’s students is Pattabi Jois, founder of Ashtanga Yoga.  And later in life, Krishnamacharya’s son, TKV Desikachar, studied with his father, emerging with Viniyoga.  So learning from a teacher from this lineage is going back to basics and fundamentals and decades of experience.   There’s been a refinement to the original teachings, which is where Iyengar and Ashtanga emerged and then more with Viniyoga.  The evolution has brought many blessings and greater understanding of the practice.  I can trust more of what I’m being taught here because there is this vast experience and greater understanding behind it. 

So I go back to the why of my own study.  I had a very false sense of being able to teach when I first started.  It was all about cueing the postures.  “Lift the right leg as you inhale, step the right foot forward as you exhale.”  It’s great, I can do it all day long, there’s an art to it.  But knowing WHY you’re doing it, or where the foot should be besides between the hands when you bring it forward, well, those were things that I’ve learned over time.  And continue to learn.  And above all else, what the hell should I do with a student who can’t swing their foot between their hands on the first try.  What’s stopping them?  And how is it that I should help them. 

My teacher, I recommend finding one that works for you on a regular basis, explains in his very first class to students who are taking yoga with him for the first or hundredth time,  he’s there to learn from his students as well.  His words “we learn from you.”  His humble approach to the practice, to what his role as a teacher is, and his vast knowledge makes him a gem in this world.  But here’s the snag:  If I only allow myself to learn from him, I will limit myself.  I am picky about who I take classes from, but again, if I’m not willing to allow myself to be teachable, I’m pushing away all possibilities. 

Let me take you back a few years ago to when I completed my Yoga Teacher Training.  I just have a few pictures to paint for you about this particular studio setting:  chain, completed the training within 3 months, they complete trainings every three months, about 30 participants at $2000 each, you do the math, the teachers I learned from had about 3 years of yoga teacher experience from what I can gather.  Drink the punch please.  As soon as I figured out that certain members of the teacher training were then selected to become teachers themselves,  I started to see a clearer picture.  This was employee training.  That they were essentially getting the employees to pay for themselves.  Even if you were “selected” to teach, you had to put in 20 hours of free teaching, which essentially was 40 hours, coming in 1/2 hour early and staying 1/2 hour after class.  This was considered “apprenticeship.”  If other teachers took your class, often they did, they would provide you feedback based on your class.  This was considered mentorship.  And while modifications were discussed during the training, what I soon learned is that if you had an injury, limitation or just needed to modify, the class was not modified for you.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, imagine going into a class and having the whole class changed because of one person.  But if you have a group of people with bad alignment, you were to stop, give no more than three clear adjustments verbally, and continue on at the same pace. 
And for those of us that weren’t picked, well, we were “qualified” to teach at any gym or health club a power style of yoga.  What was common was a few things:  a few of us continued to go to these studios and then give our feedback either to the teacher or talk to each other about what we liked and didn’t like; those who started teaching elsewhere (like me) soon realized that what I was taught to teach wasn’t accessible to anyone besides females between the ages of 18-35 with no injuries or limitations.  Step into a gym environment and see who is taking those classes.  Everyone.  Every-body.  With all of their “flaws” and their “limitations.”  And who really has the limitation.  Me.  As the teacher, if this is the style that I’m choosing to teach, how can I safely and effectively guide a student through the practice.  I’m not saying that the style that I was taught to teach was bad, but learning to guide someone through the practice beyond cueing, beyond repeating the poses over and over again without giving options isn’t effective.   And this particular style of yoga, coming from ideally the practice of Ashtanga, is a powerful and dynamic practice.  But it’s not for everyone.  So can I make it for everyone?  How can I do that?    And so I started to question what it was that I was taught to teach.  And how it was presented.  And I went on to dig deeper, take classes from outside the punch bowl.  I started looking elsewhere. 

So back to my subbing.  And how I don’t like it.  And what do any of my ramblings have to do with anything.  My biggest teacher is myself, my own practice.  Navigating on my own mat.  Second, my teacher, who is familiar with my body and can guide me in my practice.  Third, other teachers but essentially those who hopefully have taught for a long time.  I have found them in yoga studios and I have found them in gym chains.  And surprisingly, if I allow myself the opportunity to take a chance on a teacher I haven’t found before, I may learn something, good or bad.  But when I walk into a room, even if it’s a room I’ve taught in before or teach regularly at another time, and it’s not my class, this is usually when I run into a former side of myself.  The one who thinks that yoga should be this way, and not another way.  If you’d like to hear that side, click on Stacia, who will help you understand what I’m talking about.  There is a large number of people in the room that don’t want to be taught any different than what the normal teacher does.  Their experience with X, Y, Z yoga makes them experienced.  I remember one student specifically say to me “Well __________ at _______ says that I should do _________.”  And me saying to her “Well that is not what we’re working on today.”  Needless to say, she never came back to my class.  And I don’t blame her.  I pushed her buttons and contradicted what her teacher said.  Never mind the fact that she had taken the pose that I had her in, converted it into what she thought was the “more advanced expression” of said pose, but really missed steps 8,9,10, etc of the original pose, missing the emphasis on alignment that was necessary for the next three postures.  Ooopssssssssss.  I’ve done it too.  Oh, then I can do this and let me do that, why is the teacher going on to something wait, uhhh. 

So when I’m stepping onto my own mat in someone else’s territory, I’m not there to reinvent the wheel.  But I also am bringing myself, what I have to offer, my limitations and my strengths.  I’m not there to imitate what so and so does, nor am I there to make it harder for you to practice because I am an insensitive and mean person and want to make you suffer.  New teachers challenge in ways that are more mental than physical, in my experience.  I’m not saying there aren’t bad teachers because there are and I definitely was one of them.  But ultimately, where I am now, is specifically using what I’m being taught by my teacher and sharing my direct experience with the pose and hopefully the benefits of the pose.  And hopefully I’m responding to what I’m seeing in the room, a room full of people mostly keeping up with the pace of the class and those that are modifying being supported by me to achieve their expression of the pose.  This is different than saying “just do what you can.”  This is specifically looking at an individual’s body, assessing what they need to do in the pose, and helping them understand what the pose is doing and what they need to be working on.  This is a skill that I need refinement on constantly.  And this is why I’m in another training with my teacher.  After 25 years of looking at human bodies, seeing where they need help, sometimes mentally, he knows a few things.  And I don’t think after 2 years of studying with him, I’m going to have that knowledge.  Maybe a thimbleful.  It’s going to take me a long time to refine.  Decades.  But I’m willing to stay the course. 


Many times in a yoga class I have either read poetry or quotes or had poetry read to me.  I went on Friday to an amazing slam poet Buddy Wakefield whose work really touches my soul.
 The past few days, that experience included, has really brought me into a new frame of consciousness.  I’m shifting paradigms here don’t get crazy about the twenty-cent words, it’s just a new shift and the last time I shifted and felt this sense of awe and wonder and excitement the world smashed and it was a little bloody and broken.  And I don’t think it was that I was in line for the punishment and the karma but the universe had something bigger in mind and I was settling for the great un-great.   If you’ve ever settled for some great un-great, mediocrity doesn’t describe it but good enough with bandaids stuck to it and some toothpicks holding it together with the smiles and nods you’re getting from someone who you want to love you sounds familiar then you know what I’m talking about in this long sentence.  So the rubble which was my house upon the sand became the pathway to the place I stand today.  With the universe saying here’s some new shoes and a key chain and a light, the rest is golden, enjoy the new ride. 

There is a universal song that is being sung in various notes and to various keys.  And I think we’re listening in.  I think we’re tuning in because it plays the chords on the strings that are found in the fibers of our very being and so we know the song to be true. Laugh, breathe, believe…..

The alchemy of yoga

I read this article written by Tim Miller, a well-respected and devoted Ashtanga teacher in Encinitas. 
In the article, he talks about the transformative power of the Ashtanga yoga in terms of asana practice and describes pretty clearly the eight-limbed path or philosophy of the Ashtanga system and how they are intertwined. 


Winter Song

Estes Park, CO
I’ve lived in Southern California for about 13 years now and winter here is definitely not the winter I experienced in Washington State.  At the moment my mother reports a ‘balmy’ 22 degrees in my hometown (that’s farenheit not celcius) and there is snow on the ground and the “north-easter’s a blowin” and supposed to at 60 miles an hour until 4 am.  That, my friends, is what I call OLD MAN WINTER.  But, regardless, the seasons do change here and our winter here has an effect on us.   One of the things I notice is the increase in frequency of colds that coincides with the weather shift.  We move into a cooler season, whether or not we have snow, the weather shifts and with it, our bodies.  In Aruyvedic medicine this is known as the Vata season.  As winter and cooling comes, so does drying of the skin, stiffening of the joints and other issues that I didn’t attribute to a change in the seasons.

My experience with this coincided with my participation in Yoga Journal Conference at Estes Park in September 2009.  I fly into Denver on Saturday and took the bus to Estes Park, CO on Sunday which is 8000 feet in the Rockies.  Monday it snowed.  It was beautiful, peaceful and everything that I needed.  Except for my body.   Things were not going right, let’s just put it that way.  I felt awful, thought it was from the high altitude but it wasn’t getting better and kept feeling worse, digestive and all parts in between.  Luckily, my feeling bad led to not wanting a vigorous yoga practice and I migrated my way to Scott Blossom‘s workshop on Aruyveda.   Taking a more in-depth look myself, I discovered a lot of things, what my true constitution was in Aruyveda medicine (Tri-doshic, mostly Vata/Pitta), more specifically what I was eating that was really irritating me.  Aren’t raw vegetables better than cooked ones?  Why isn’t salad good?  All of those things were answered very quickly and 2 meals later eating different choices, my body felt better.

Which leads me to the season of Winter.  The reasons for eating within the seasons are to help the body adjust to the changes.  I eat more warm things, soups, cooked greens, root vegetables, brown rice, tea, etc.   One of the One Love Yoga Teachers, Lina, suggested a Aruyvedic remedy such as abhyanga . This remedy is traditionally done by two massage therapists doing long strokes of the body with oil.  You can do this yourself, starting with the joints, paying attention and massaging with some almond oil or sesame oil and then working your way around, end with a little meditation and then bathe to get the oil off.    This year, I noticed I was feeling off and not so hot and had been eating a lot of salads.  Remembered to get back to my “roots” and warmth and my almost cold went away on it’s own. 

Yoga Journal sends out a newsletter every couple of weeks and they talked specifically about all of this in their last newsletter.  Made my life a lot easier after reading a few articles. I’ve linked a few to the bottom of this post for further reading.  

Regardless, take some time out for yourself, be kind, stay warm and if you can’t afford a massage, give one to yourself. 

Sending you warm thoughts and warm wishes,


Spiritually fed

I had to share this.
Like a lot of people, money continues to be a struggle for me.  It was difficult for me to write the newsletter this month about finances.   As a yoga teacher, I try to incorporate the ideas, aka practice what I preach.  The art of allowing for space for abundance in my life.  The idea that the universe provides for me.

I’m teaching at another studio in Eastlake this morning and one of the students walks up to me and tells me that she’s practicing spontaneous tithing, and hands me a check.  She feels spiritually blessed and wanted to pass it along.

My heart just fills.  It’s not about the money.  It’s about the practicing of faith.  Faith that my body will feel better after a practice.  Faith that in spite of the many difficulties that may arise, that life will continue, not always as it was but in a new form.   The universe responds in ways that I can’t begin to fathom.  So I will continue to allow it to do it’s job and not question in what form it comes. 

This month, I’m practicing gratitude.  Gratitude for what I have, not what I don’t.  Gratitude for my life in this moment, not what I want it to be.  Gratitude grows, this I know.  Life brings me gifts all the time, if I open my eyes wide enough to see.

Again, I Thank you for spiritually (and literally) feeding me. 

More on the practicing yoga on a budget….

So here’s the deal,  as a teacher, I find it difficult to make my living entirely off of teaching yoga.  It’s a common misconception that yoga teachers make an enormous amount of money.  Trust me, I wouldn’t be waiting tables if that were the case.  I wouldn’t be doing accounting jobs either.  There are times that physically I need a break.  But if I am injured, sometimes I still have to teach.  Which is why I think Jennifer You is a rock star because from seated, she has been teaching with a torn achilles.  Pattabi Jois (founder of Ashtanga Yoga) taught from seated later in his life.  He no longer practiced the vigorous sequences.  Which brings me to my next misconception.  That we have to do a certain style of yoga each time or it’s not “right” for us.  That is a big misconception.  When I am venturing into a new class, there may be something that I don’t prefer or like about a class.  That doesn’t mean that the teacher is bad or that the class or style is bad, it’s just different.  It’s not wrong.  Some people respond to a teacher that yells at them or hits them.  That may be what they need.  It’s definitely not for me.  But it’s not my journey.  Which leads me to my last point or misconception.  That somehow if it’s donation, or inexpensive that it isn’t quite good enough.  That somehow that diminishes the value of the practice.  I have many friends that were not only introduced to yoga at their local YMCA, but practiced for years under a teacher that had DECADES of teaching experience.  So with those things to think about, I give you my latest recommendations for doing yoga all over San Diego on a budget:

Fitness Chains
They have locations everywhere and I teach for them.  Yes, their rooms are not the best for yoga.  No, they don’t have mats.  But with so many locations, variety of teachers to choose from, students come because they love the teacher and they practice wherever.  No, you’re not going to get the kind of instruction that you would at a studio.  You can get a monthly membership for around $39.  Sometimes cheaper. 

San Diego Yoga Collective Hopper Pass
This is available and the best deal in town for this kind of thing.  OB Namaste Yoga in Ocean Beach, Prana Yoga Center in La Jolla and Little Yoga Studio of San Diego teamed up and created this.  Most of these studios already offer a discount, first week or first class free to new students.  What the hopper pass enables you to do is go to each of these studios.  Three classes for $30 or 15 classes for $175.  So you can hopp around and get some of the best instruction, I’ve been to all three studios and thoroughly enjoyed each of them.

Stay tuned…

Money isn’t the object

Get off your _____ and get on your mat!
Here is a list of places, besides One Love Yoga San Diego, where you can get donation based or discounted prices on your yoga:

San Diego Yoga Loft
Downtown San Diego a lot of offernigs at a Donation.

Red Lotus Society
Downtown San Diego, lots of offerings, meditation, etc.

Poses-Yoga, Eastlake
I work here, one of the best deals is for local, Eastlake or Chula Vista residents, 7 days of yoga for $7.  It’s a smaller studio, smaller classes, gives you more of an intimate feeling and more attention than the big “churn and burn” studios.  Local owners, beautiful studio, worth your time to check out. 

Akasha Yoga, La Jolla
Yes, I work here too, but obviously not all of these places I work.  First time students can get a 3 class for $20 pass.  That works out to be a little less than $7 a class and it gives you a month to try out the studio.  They also have different membership levels,offering great discount.  This is a small studio, classes never get too big so you have a more intimate feeling and it’s locally owned. 

UCSD Recreation Department
I know a lot of people who work in the La Jolla area by Torrey Pines in the Biotech ‘farms’ up there.  Rather than get into your car and spend the next hour sitting on Genesse to get to the 5, go take a yoga class up the street.  Most of the classes are in RIMAC, as a part of the FIT LIFE program there.  Yes you have to pay for parking, but sometimes you get lucky and find a spot nearby.  And trust me, everyone is trying to get out of there so you’re more likely to not pay.  The cost varies depending on what class you want to take.  But for example, one of the Saturday classes cost $55 for the quarter.  That was 8 classes for $55.  Do you need me to do the math on that?  There are also unlimited class passes available for the quarter.

I’m going to do a little more research and keep posting these things that I find.  Stay tuned….