The Gym-Phobic Yogi

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I’ve developed a bad habit of only writing about positive things. That means when things are tough, I don’t really have an outlet for my thoughts. Please bear with me, as I’m about to tell you about some of the harder parts of being a yoga teacher.

Even though teaching yoga truly is my dream job, it’s not always easy, and sometimes I doubt my ability to do it well. I’ve been having some frustration with my classes lately. By all external measures, they’re going well. The students keep coming, they say nice things about me, and I get offered new teaching contracts. All these things would suggest I’m doing something right. But something feels wrong.

I recently began teaching at a gym. During teacher training, I heard a lot of negative talk about how bad it is to teach yoga at a gym. Not just my teachers but their colleagues and my fellow students talked about how gym yoga is stripped of its spiritual and philosophical core. They’d say all the students want is hot vinyasa and hand stands and if you tried to put them in savasana for more than a minute you were doomed. Considering that I’ve been too self-conscious to actually set foot in a gym for most of my life, it’s possible that I’ve embellished on their negativity with my own.

This new contract involves teaching at a corporate gym for an amazing company, and it’s a great opportunity for me to branch out professionally. Plus, it pays more than studio classes do. Being a yoga teacher is not just physical work, but there’s a ton of mental and emotional energy involved, and there are times at studios where you earn less than $5 an hour. No matter how wonderful your neighborhood studio is, it’s really hard to earn much of an income if that’s the only place you teach.

I thought I’d outgrown my fear of gyms, but it seems it’s not entirely gone. I get nervous going in to class, forget my plan, stumble over my words, and skip through the centering too quickly when I see someone fidgeting — because I assume they’re annoyed we’re not sweating yet. I find it very hard to teach authentically because I’m worried about what people must be expecting of me. I’m aware as I write this that the solution here is to stop worrying and just teach. But it seems I’ve forgotten how.

I’m not giving up. I know I will figure this out. It just takes a while to figure out a new group and how to relate to them. Until I get it properly pinned down, I’ll be teaching a lot of gentle vinyasa. Finally, I am reminded that every time I meet a new challenge, the answer comes in the form of my own yoga practice. The more I teach, the more I have to focus on my own practice. I have to keep learning and improving if I want to be of service to anyone else.

And with that, I guess I better go get back on my mat.

 

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