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Getting Creative with the Competition

How to work with, not against, your fellow yoga instructors.

By Sara Avant Stover

Praise Yourself and Others

Yoga's popularity has seemingly reached its zenith, bringing streams of teacher training programs—and their graduates. The abundance of talented teachers (and sometimes not-so-talented teachers) can make us feel catty, insecure, and judgmental.

"The wave of popularity of yoga in our contemporary culture," asserts Muir, "brings with it the very limitations and obstacles from which we are trying to free ourselves.

"The real issue is for us, as teachers, to embody the teachings of yoga in our inner and outer lives, so that we and our students can be inspired to move beyond ignorance and to trust in our true natures."

With awareness of our actions on—and especially off—the mat, yoga can teach us to act in ways that generate union and harmony. Ippoliti shares specific ways to embody these teachings in professional relationships.

"When I find myself in the company of a great colleague," she says, "if my threatened self shows up, I immediately look to and praise [my colleague's] gifts as a teacher and a great being."

"This fills me with gratitude that students are able to experience that gift, one that perhaps I could not offer. When I focus on it from this perspective, there is truly room for the two of us. Love and respect increases and any threat dissipates."

Then, to strengthen her own sense of self-worth, "I contemplate my own talents and gifts and the distinct ways that my teaching and personality offer an angle that could benefit my students in a whole other way," Ippoliti says. "It's all about becoming more secure in the distinct things we offer the world, which is exactly what yoga teaches us."

Think Abundance, Not Scarcity

As human beings, we can choose how we wish to view the world. We can focus on limitations and scarcity, or we can open up to the reality that the world is infinitely abundant. In the long run, the latter is a much healthier outlook.

"In my studies of yoga, I have learned that one of the promises of the manifest world is that there is always more," says Ippoliti.

"The best example of this is the energy crisis. We are running out of fossil fuels, but if we are creative enough, we can use our magnificent minds to come up with innovative ways to harness energy. Fighting over what is left of our fossil fuels makes war, but creativity creates solutions."

We must employ this perspective in all our endeavors—from how we run our cars to how we market ourselves as teachers.

"We can call the plethora of teachers a terrible and lamentable problem," urges Ippoliti, "or we can choose to get creative and find new ways to reach brand-new students."

Take the High Road

Amy Ippoliti offers teachers the following advice:

  • Remember that we teach to serve. When you are teaching because of your deepest desire to serve your students, not to earn a living, then you can truly enjoy your job and focus in the highest way on helping others feel good about themselves. Don't rely on yoga to pay your bills until that happens naturally. Take on another job if you have to, or investigate alternative streams of income that can support you.
  • Be willing to let go. When you find yourself in the midst of a conflict with another teacher, be willing to let go rather than cling to or become overly invested in your own position. Take the high road, and trust that other doors and opportunities will open to you. Strive to be so confident in what you have to offer that others will seek out your skills and talents.
  • Create community. It is much easier to feel threatened by or separated from other teachers when they are strangers. Getting to know others helps develop feelings of unity while celebrating diversity. Another key tool to creating peace among teachers is meditating as a group to foster harmony and love.
  • Communicate. Even internationally, conflicts arise over workshops and trainings when two people schedule events in the same region at the same time. Do extensive research online prior to booking events, and pick up the phone (rather than turning to email) to check in with other teachers and hosts. This keeps lines of communication open between every possible person involved-and showing that kind of respect goes a long way.

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Reader Comments


Very good an important advise, useful for whatever business one is in.

I understand competition can be part of human nature but so it is cooperation, so it would be great if we used it at every level. Cooperation as a marketing tool could lead to the development of creative and refreshing tactics that can greatly benefit both businesses and consumers.

The documentary I am made me think about this on a personal and a professional level. If you’re interested in cooperation living you should watch it:

Lynn Felder

What a great article about responding yogically to our natural and cultural inclination to competition. My current studio co-director, Judi Maloy, and I were friendly competitors before we went into business together a year ago. Instead of going down the old road, "divide and conquer," we cleared a new path - "unite and thrive." We've had a wonderful year in our blended studio in the Downtown Arts District in Winston-Salem, NC, and we'll be celebrating with a party and free yoga all weekend Sept. 18-20. Om shanti! Lynn Felder



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