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Creating Your Niche

For many teachers, the path from generalist to specialist is as natural as interweaving yoga with life passions. Here’s how to create and market your own niche yoga classes.

By Tevis Gale

Yoga for Depression. Yoga and Chocolate. Yoga for Golf. With such titles littering the schedules of studios and retreat centers, it doesn't require marketing genius to notice that subspecializations are a rising trend in yoga.

"With the huge wave of teacher trainings, many practitioners are now teachers who want to live and breathe yoga. They want to make their passion their work. The natural outgrowth is for each of us to ask ourselves, 'What do I have that I can offer?' rather than just replicating what is already out there," says Traci Childress, yoga teacher and program coordinator at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. The resulting specialization can take one of many forms, from focus on a therapeutic application of yoga to concentrating on an element of the practice. It can integrate yoga with elements of Western culture or address a single demographic.

True to the nature of yoga, these relevant but varied interpretations have always existed. What is new is the diversity in yoga's positioning in the world. This raises philosophical questions and invites self-inquiry. Is specialization a simply a marketing tactic? Is it outreach serving the growth of yoga and the students? Does it bastardize the practice? Is specialization economically beneficial? Exactly when do we know we are qualified to be the expert?

Passion Becomes You

Amy Weintraub's work with depression is remarkable: Open the pages of leading retreat centers, and it's likely Weintraub will be on the schedule. From the student-oriented "Breathe to Beat the Blues" to the practitioner-centric "Yoga for Depression," her work encompasses classes, a CD, workshops, articles, a book, and multiple teacher trainings.

This niche is a marketing no-brainer. The sheer volume of advertising for antidepressants alone attests to the value of serving this population. After all, companies wouldn't clamor to capture the market without a profit motive. But Amy's motivation had nothing to do with economics, and everything to do with her life. "Prior to 1992, I was a depressed journalist with seven unsuccessful novels to my credit," she explains. "With yoga, I found new life."

Her journey began with teacher training at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. Convinced the training had helped her own fog to lift, she deepened her skills by studying internationally with various masters in pPranayama, kriya, and nada yoga. "It never occurred to me that I was doing something different," she says. "Specializing in this was just me being me." Compelled to share her findings, she penned "Yoga: The New Prozac" for Yoga Journal. From that initial article, the first workshop was born.

Over the past 15 years, she has evolved ways to use yoga as a source of relief, both for those experiencing depression and for those teachers who serve them. Her work has benefited yoga as well, as is evidenced by the volume of laudatory articles featuring her in both the yoga and the mainstream press. Now when Weintraub speaks at professional seminars, psychotherapists and other health workers actually earn CEUs for attending. "In the '70s and '80s I was a consumer of mental health services, and now I am considered a leader in the field," she says.

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