Your life as yoga teacher is going wonderfully and so is everything off the mat. You’ve got plenty of love in your life, you own a comfy sofa and your Lulu leggings have never looked better on you. Now, I’m sorry to be Mr Pessimistic, but despite all your positive thinking and no matter how much you've sunbathed your crystals or built a connection with the universe, I’m afraid that easy road is going to become rocky at some point. People will die, relationships will deteriorate, you’ll say something stupid, injuries will happen and that’s just a taster. YTT school didn't tell you how to teach a yoga class, when you’ve ended up at the heart of a maelstrom, did it?
So why I am bringing the ‘bad vibes’ to your day? As yoga teachers we’ve chosen to make, at least a some, of our monies, from teaching yoga. Yoga pays our rent, it feeds us and, lets face it, unless we’re sitting on some gold or have backed ourself up with insurance polices, if we stop teaching, life is about to get problematic. Money, students and regular classes may well begin to disappear, if you do. We need to be equipped to do ‘our thing’, despite perhaps not being in the best place to do so. It's OK to still teach. We’re not superheros, but all of us are simply students who are probably a long way off completely elevating ourselves beyond the affects of the dark valleys and bright mountaintops of everyday life.
In the first 3 months of 2017 I’ve had to ‘keep it going’ though quite a few metaphoric, punches in the gut. One of the finest men I’ve met, my father, passed away followed by my globally loved teacher, Michael stone. A relationship came to an final end and a road traffic incident, left me with a severely broken foot with plenty of ligament damage. On the periphery, I had the joys of stitches in my face, house moving, selling the home I grew up in and lots and of other curve balls. Its been borderline ridiculous. When Charles of Yoga Career Summit heard my sorry little monologue and discovered that I’d only stopped teaching for a week through it, he thought I might just have something useful to share with every other yoga teacher who needs to keep the ‘dollar’ coming in during the bad times.
First step on the ladder, is the acceptance of the situation you find yourself in and the emotions that are coming up from it. Despite what we read in our glossy magazines and self-help manuals, feeling a little crap is fine and being guilty about being blue and wearing a melancholic face, is only going to give you anxiety issues on top of everything else. I’m not saying indulge in your sad-self via a nightly Adele album & Gin combo, but do acknowledge where you find yourself and seek some help to navigate through it. That might be a counsellor, friend, family member or a taxi driver; they didn't agree to getting involved but are happy to jump on board with some advice. Continuing to teach public classes wont make you an imposter yoga teacher who isn't as enlightened as they should be; you’ll just be a yoga practitioner who is working through a challenging situation, just as you might be working towards that challenging press in to handstand.
Next, lets talk about the practicalities, especially when it comes to the physical issues. Work out your commitments and break down what happens if you cant fulfil them e.g. loss of money, reputation, future opportunities or just missing a really cool event. Next step is for some ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking as you work out how you feasibly could fulfil those commitments. As examples, let me throw some of the problems and conclusions I tried to balance out this year:
- Problem 1 : The London Underground on crutches is not a place that’s fast or sympathetic; how can I get to classes?
- Solution 1: Spend money on Uber’s between classes. It will cost a load, but I’ll still make me more net profit than sitting at home
- Problem 2: I don’t want my crutches to land on someones fingers in down dog or groin in savasana; does my insurance cover that?
- Solution 2: Be open with studios. If I demonstrate my verbal instruction skills, I can persuade studios to let me teach from the luxury of a chair. Its worth a go at least!
- Problem 3: I cant fly to Sweden and teach a handstand workshop to 100+ people at Yogagames Stockholm can I?
- Solution 3: Sure I can. Nothing wrong with my hands and I can suck up my pride and ask my mates Marc Hatvani and Celest Pereira to in for support. First to get a Dr’s note, so I can get on the plane, but don't tell them the plan.
- Problem 4: If i don't do strong asana or exercise am I going to put on weight and loose all of my ‘party-trick poses’?
- Solution 4: Probably. You can get over that
- Problem 5: The circumstances during and following on from the bereavement, alongside everything else, are requiring lots of time and emotional energy.
- Solution 5: See a counsellor, talk it out, have some coffees, eat good food, sleep when you can and accept its going to be a hard slog for a little while. When there an opportunity to do something worlds away from the stresses, even a game of bowling on 1 leg, then grab it.
We’ve got the the stage where you've coped well and your mitigations have helped avoid escalation of drama! Now time to look forward and work out how you can begin to rebuild and thrive. Before you time travel to the future, look back on the lessons you can take. My ego has certainly taken a useful beating; falling over on wet pavements and crawling around naked in a public shower with a condom around your cast will do that. My ability to teach for 2 hours sitting down on a spinning stool has done wonders for my verbal skills. I’ve learnt to appreciate that life is ephemeral and anything can be lost in an unexpected moment, so I will savour every second of the life I have and use all the opportunities and gifts available to me.
So its now time to seize that future and come back to your A game; which might be a little different to your A game a year ago, but hey-ho, thats life! For me, taking hold of my future mainly involves pistol squats as I strengthen my foot, with the aim of making it so tight, that it doesn't matter that my lisfranc ligament has gone!
Good luck with your journey back up to the mountain top. You’ll travel though a valley again. Maybe it will appear from the mist and take you be surprise or maybe you see it from miles away. Either way, that next valley wont seem so deep and the trek out will be less arduous. The waves will keep throwing you up and down, but eventually you’ll be able to surf……. or at least paddle.
If you want to hear me talk more about this topic, I’m doing so online at the Yoga Career Summit. If anything evers get too much, give the Samaritains a call on 116 123 (UK) or 1 (800) 273-TALK (USA).
Thanks to the studios and events that gave me the chance to continue teaching, the friend and family that were there and thank you to my teachers Jason Crandell & Michael Stone, for the tools they've give me.