Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today.
About four years ago I quit my full-time job in public relations and dedicated myself to teaching yoga full-time. Amidst the ongoing attempts to perfect my schedule and avoid getting lost in social media mayhem or a comparison trap, I’ve worked hard to remember what it is I love about the practice, what it is that got me hooked. At times it can feel competitive, especially in San Francisco, where so many teachers are teaching full-time, hustling to fill their classrooms, hosting retreats, and seeking those “prime-time” classes.
Now that I'm on the Live Be Yoga tour, the time away from my day-to-day rhythm and regular class schedule has offered me distance, and in that distance I have gained a ton of perspective already. Yet it wasn’t until I sat down with Tiffany Cruikshank that I felt invigorated and inspired to go back to the drawing board and ask myself some fundamental questions about why I practice and why I teach.
Tiffany is the founder of Yoga Medicine and a teacher trainer whom I’ve had the privilege of studying with over the years. I’ve also watched her build an amazing brand and business that is thriving in so many ways. It was an honor to chat with her about yoga’s evolution, hear her enthusiasm and excitement about how many more people are practicing today, and ask her for solid advice for instructors, like me, who are choosing yoga as a career path.
We covered the importance of quality education, what it means to “make it” as a yoga teacher today, and ways to create a positive impact within our communities while staying true to our intention as teachers. Tiffany’s enthusiasm about the ways yoga continues to reach more people was so infectious that, though lately I’d been feeling discouraged, I left our talk feeling hopeful and reinvigorated. I was eager to return to my classes with even more intention and focus, to distill what it is I truly want to share, and to figure out how to do it consistently.
You may question how this happened in a 60-minute conversation. Well, like all effective educators, Tiffany inspired me to ask myself key questions about my path as a yoga instructor. If you, too, are a yoga teacher, I believe you should do the same. Here, several questions to help you dive deeper into what you love about this practice and determine what you feel most called to share.
Navigating the Path of Teaching Yoga? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Are you clear about your intentions?
If you are clear and honest about your intentions, and constantly checking in with yourself, you can lead from a grounded place instead of getting lost in the "race to the top." To do this, Tiffany suggests acknowledging three things: What you love most about the practice; what you’re good at; and what your community needs. “If you put these things together to be of service, many of the other pressures associated with being a teacher can dissipate,” says Tiffany. As a result, you remain sincere, make a long-lasting impact, and create a niche for yourself.
2. How are you defining “success”?
With the rise of social media and digital marketing, teachers have become their own Chief Marketing Officers as they seek ways to “make it” in the yoga world. That means developing a brand and then marketing that brand to grow a following. When you’re constantly striving for prime-time class slots and influencer status on Instagram, it's easy to chase external recognition and validation, and conflate that with success.
Try reframing your perspective, looking toward what will make you feel fulfilled, nourished, and excited. After all, Patanjali did not have fame or followers in mind when he wrote The Yoga Sutras. Instead, measure your success by your acts of service or how your teaching is impacting your local community.
3. Are you committed to your own practice and studentship?
“One harm in yoga today is the illusion that teachers are done after a 200- or 500-hour training,” says Tiffany. “Our dedication to continuing to learn and serve our communities is the single most important thing we can do.” Remaining a student is the most critical responsibility of being a teacher because it is only through your own experiences that you can speak and lead with intention and integrity.
4. Are you remaining open and non-judgmental?
More and more people are being introduced to and embracing yoga than ever before. There are different styles offered everywhere, from gyms to offices, and more people are taking teacher trainings to share the practice that impacted them so deeply in the first place. As you continue to evolve on your path, cultivating non-judgmental awareness is key. “It’s easy to place judgment on one style of yoga being better than another,” says Tiffany. “There’s something to be learned in all the different approaches available today. We have to remember that the essence of yoga is about bringing us together, not creating further separation.”