What makes a successful Yoga teacher?
What makes me, as a Yoga teacher, successful?
Ok, apart from authentic connection with students.
Ok, apart from the potential to affect real and lasting transformation.
The ability to show up?
Ok. so I think we all know the real answer here: Brand ambassadorship.
I’m kidding, of course I’m kidding.
However, a well-heeled owner of a retreat business did once advise me (at that time, a baby Yoga teacher of 5 years) of how this hierarchy of success supposedly works in Yogaland. Listen up. “You see” She says, “it goes like this…”
You get the classes (hopefully LOTS of them - maximum in front of students time, please). After a while doing that, you build up a sturdy enough student base for a workshop. If that goes well, a workshop series or a perhaps a UK tour. Then, festivals of course. Then a festival with a hot tub. A retreat comes next, then a retreat with a pool. And guaranteed sunshine.
If all this goes well, you’re probably spinning through those Insta-followers. A few thousand at least of all those folks you have connected with on your path to Yoga teacher rockstar-dom. You’ll need them.
The only way to go now is ONLINE. Now there is no need to connect with ACTUAL people. Your essence has been distilled to its ultimate pedagogic potency. You are now downloadable, immortalised on the iPad. Only the very fortunate (friends and family excluded) now have access to you in person. Your actual student-seeing eyes, student-hugging arms and student-assisting hands come at a premium. A teacher training, a booked-out workshop in a capital city.
You have done it. Well done. The circle of YTT life is complete. You have reached the zenith. The climax of your teaching career.
“Let’s speak again in another couple of years, ok?”
This is all tongue in cheek of course. There are humble, grounded teachers headlining innovative, exciting online platforms who teach the festival circuit with such grace and humour while turning up as consistent community touchstones in a way is in gobsmackingly inspirational to me. Of course there are.
I mean, I know this hierarch of success is silly but this wheel does spin in my head though. (This is a very particular hamster wheel of people-pleasing and popularity that I have done the odd spin class on, much like most of us do, ever since Primary school).
As in any career there is of course a desire to measure success as teachers, but despite so many efforts, is this actually quantifiable? In hours taught? Practiced? Studied?
So what is it that I have learned so far? There is no real hierarchy, no absolute measure of success. No ultimate path to saying ‘ok, you’ve totally got this now’, no (despite my many attempts to connect with a brand that will ‘guarantee’ a learning journey…) failsafe ‘levelling up’.
I have also learned that this healing pathway is a choice, and it is one of service. It doesn’t mean we have to be poor hermetic yogis but this path does often demand that we forge our own unique path determined by those we are called to serve, it demands that we carve out our own scale of success.
What helps? To seek a mentor who guides us towards deeper self discovery, more authentic connection and more attentive space holding for wild and visceral transformation. Someone who holds space for us, so that we can create space for others.