Feel Like the Yoga World is in Free Fall? Here, 6 Questions to Help You Get Clear on Your Purpose as a Teacher

Teacher and author Barrie Risman shares why this is the time to reflect on how the yoga community will rise from the ashes, both individually and collectively.

Yoga teachers, now, more than ever, the world needs what you have to offer. But it’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of a shifting industry. How can you move beyond fear and anxiety, and share with confidence and clarity? Join Barrie Risman for a live four-session series to reconnect with your roots and realign with your vision and purpose. Class starts September 16—sign up today!

These days, like many of us, there are moments when I’m in mourning for the yoga world that was, with thriving in-person communities that bolstered our connections with like-minded others and nourished our commitment to the practice. Throughout retreat season here in Quebec, memories of past events popped up on my feed all summer long. With places around the world slowly opening up, teachers have reached out to me with questions about how, when, where, and if they will go back to giving in-person classes. There are so many questions and very few clear-cut answers.

As I’ve seen some big-name, corporate studios close their doors, I admit that on one hand I’m relieved to see that the unsustainable bubble of chains and teacher-training machines may finally be bursting for good. At the same time, my heart goes out to small, local studios that are struggling. As a former neighborhood studio-owner myself, I know firsthand the commitment and sacrifice that goes into supporting an in-person community, and the tremendous value you bring to the lives of your students.

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Yes, the yoga world is in an undeniable free-fall, like so much else in our society and possibly in our lives. But in some ways, I also see this as yoga’s perfect moment.

If yoga teaches us anything, it’s that we can change, we can evolve, we can shift, and we can emerge from our challenges triumphant. I believe we can all come out stronger and more committed to our yoga practice and teaching on the other side of all of this, whatever that looks like.

But it requires that we all go deep. Now’s the time for us to observe what’s going on within us and around us. Now’s the time to get clear on what we want to create, how we want to rise from the ashes, both individually and collectively.

While the future of the yoga industry is far from certain, what is certain is that there will be a future for yoga. And that future begins with us: our own resolve, commitment, dedication, intention, and vision.

I think of the many friends who have shared with me how their practices are helping them to weather these months. One teacher found herself shaken to the core upon receiving news of a loved one’s death from Covid-19. She instinctively went to her cushion, as she had been doing for decades, and started practicing Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate-Nostril Breathing). Within moments, her state shifted, and she was able to attend to the needs of the moment. A student in my recent Bhagavad Gita course found a lifeline in the practice of remembering beauty and goodness to find hope and to ground and steady an anxious mind.

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While the future of the yoga industry is far from certain, what is certain is that there will be a future for yoga. Its practices and understandings must be brought to bear on the healing that’s so direly needed in our world. And that future begins with us: our own resolve, commitment, dedication, intention, and vision.

Yes, a new paradigm for yoga will emerge and it will begin with each of us. We have our work cut out for us.

Getting Clear on Your Vision & Purpose: Start the Process Now

It’s time to give ourselves permission to question and explore what’s calling out to us and to feel where we’re being drawn to serve. Right now we can get in touch with the meaning yoga brings to our own lives and allow it to serve us. And in order to create our future, we must clarify our needs and values and reconnect with the power of our heartfelt intention. As a result, we can continue to stand strong in what we envision for ourselves and those we serve.

Self-inquiry, or dhyana, is a powerful method of getting in touch with your inner desires and how you want to contribute to the overall yoga community, during and after lockdown. Here, 6 questions you can reflect on in your journal to help you get this process started:

  • What have been the practices that have supported you most over the past six months?
  • Amidst all that is changing and uncertain, what hasn’t changed? What are the lasting truths you’ve discovered?
  • What is one lesson you’ve learned on the mat that is supporting you to meet the challenges of the moment?
  • What have your students told you about how yoga is supporting them right now? How could you build on that in your offerings?