How do you navigate your entrepreneurial endeavors when the content of your work also happens to be the foundation for your spirituality? Answer: Very carefully.
First and foremost, Yoga is a spiritual tradition and practice, but nowadays, it’s also a multi-billion dollar industry. When I started teaching Yoga 15 years ago, the stark contrast between these two extremes wasn’t as apparent as it is today.
Now, with the ever-increasing popularity of Yoga (and a whole lot more Yoga teachers on the market), it’s particularly challenging to blend the ancient art of Yoga with sound modern business practices in a way that keeps your integrity intacted and your bank account full.
Are You the Burnt-out, But “Super Spiritual” Yoga Teacher?
On one side of the spectrum, we have the quintessential do-gooder. Think all mantra and no management. Wishful thinking, prayers, and hope. All good intentions, but no concrete actions to back it up.
I’ll admit it. This was me for awhile (like years) when I first started out teaching as a profession. I was so jazzed to be living my passion as a Yoga teacher that I would happily teach anywhere for pennies. I thought it was the “yogic” thing to do to bring my services to as many people as possible. So, I bent over backwards to meet clients at whatever crazy hour of the day that worked for them. I was constantly wishy-washy with my rates. I felt making “good money” was greedy and un-spiritual; so I resisted marketing; scraped by paycheck to paycheck; and justified my high credit card debt because I was doing it in the name of helping others.
I deeply believed in orienting towards service (and I still do), but I didn’t know how to do this skillfully. So, I blindly handed myself over to these well-intentioned principles and promptly ran myself ragged. I was burnt-out and on my way to being broke.
Is Your Inner Entrepreneur Going Into Overdrive?
On the other extreme, when our ambition and desire for success in the worldly realm takes center stage, it’s easy to get caught up in the Yoga hype. I’ve certainly had my moments here too.
Everywhere we look, Yoga is being commercialized. I even saw a scantily clad Yoga beauty doing a warrior pose in a car ad the other day. Not sure how that improves your gas-mileage or makes your ride safer, but hey, she looked good, right?
It can be incredibly tempting to feel like the only way you’re going to make yourself relevant on the Yoga scene is to plaster yourself all over social media in fancy Yoga poses and use every gimmick in the marketing book to reel in the clients. And don’t forget your Lululemon pants.
At first, it might feel like quite a high. You’ve got a huge client list and the money rolling in. Before you know it though, your practice falls to the wayside. You find yourself more concerned with how things are starting to look on the outside, and gradually lose touch with how things are feeling on the inside.
You may even start to feel trapped in the expectation to “perform” and forget that at the heart of this practice is the opportunity to serve, not only others, but also your higher self.
Finding the Sweet Spot:
To be clear, I have no problems with making a very good living as a Yoga teacher, and nor do I have any declarations about the “right” or “wrong” way to do things. I only suggest that as Yoga teachers we need to take responsibility for ourselves to see how we are balancing the seemingly opposite energies of “Yoga as business” and “Yoga as spiritual practice” to make sure we are in alignment with our highest truth while staying firmly rooted in the reality of our earthly existence. After all, this is a practice of union, right?
Here are some of the guidelines I’ve used to help keep myself in check when I find myself swinging to one side of the pendulum or the other:
1. Always view your business as an extension of your spiritual practice.
Personal growth before professional. Your success in any way in this world will be largely based on the inner work you’re doing. Try applying the incredibly comprehensive principles of Yoga to your business. They will insure you are exercising mindfulness and intentionality, and every business performs better with that framework in mind.
2. Understand your hidden motivations for teaching.
Whatever your “issues” were before, they’re only going to get amplified when you take the seat of teacher, and you’ll perhaps discover even more you didn’t know you had! Are you a co-dependent needing approval? Are you attached to material things? Do have some investment in being a do-gooder, or do you thrive on out-competing others? We all have our unconscious spots that unknowingly sabotage even our best intentions. Get clear on what these weak links might be, and you’ve taken a very important first step in changing them and paving the road to success and spiritual contentment.
3. Be yourself, and your tribe will come.
More than anything else, what’s really going to help you stand out in the world of Yoga teachers is being YOU. Nobody else can do it better, and what attracts clients is authenticity. Not fancy pictures or slick logos. Just good old-fashion realness. I know it doesn’t seem nearly as dramatic; so we’re inclined not to trust it. But I assure you, being yourself will never lead you astray either spiritually or in business.
4. Make peace with money.
Money’s not the bad guy, or the good guy for that matter. It’s just one outward expression of energy, but our world happens to obsess about it. So, its power over us gets very distorted. Get clear what your sticking points are with money. Are you addicted to it? Do you treat it like some magical thing that comes in and out of your life when it wants to? Or do you avoid it like the plague? When you can hold money in right space with respect and reverence, it becomes a useful tool to enhance your higher truth, instead of a thing to just crave or avoid.
Bottom line, perhaps the greatest balancing act we’ll perform as Yoga teachers is learning how to hold the paradox of “Yoga as Business” and “Yoga as Spiritual Practice.” And like any Yoga practice, do it long enough (and keep challenging your assumptions), and one day you’ll experience how things that once seemed so disparate and separate can actually be united once again.
About the Author: Amy Lombardo
Over the last fifteen years, Amy Lombardo has pioneered breakthrough innovations in evolutionary personal growth programming through her work as a Certified Yoga Teacher and Strategic Business and Lifestyle Coach and is regularly sought out by celebrities, entrepreneurs, universities, and corporations alike. A teacher of teachers, Amy offers exclusive online training programs for Yoga teachers looking to solidify their business success through strategic and spiritually grounded techniques that last. Her signature program, Your Yoga Biz, starts June 1st and is currently accepting registrants. For more info click here.