Working With Your Fellow Professionals
I first discovered yoga many years ago, and was interested in all the physical benefits that it offers. After practicing for a while, I then discovered that in addition to all the fantastic physical benefits, Yoga offered a portal to go inward that I hadn’t found in any other way. I began experiencing deep peace and a sense of mindfulness. I also loved the feeling of practicing with other like-minded students and learned to be non-competitive through my focused practice. Once I stepped onto my yoga mat, I stepped into a different world where peace and harmony presided.
Later, I decided that I loved Yoga so much that I wanted to share my love with others and become a teacher. I was ready to serve students by offering them a way into a world of peace and serenity that I had experienced with Yoga. I knew the key was to allow each participant to discover the “portal” on their own so I worked hard at honing my skill as a teacher to gently guide them in. I was bright-eyed and enthusiastic – and I must say, a little naïve. Now I know what I wasn’t willing to acknowledge in my early days….our egos follow us to the yoga mat. This is not helped by the fact that Yoga has become big business. Gone are the days when a dedicated tutor would take on a handful of keen students and work with them for years at a time. There can now be a fierce competition for students, prime-time slots, becoming well known, and simply earning a living. Deep and shadowy feelings sometimes were triggered in me….was I going to make my bills this month….why is that other teacher coming into the same Village Hall as me? …..will I be able to build a following? Fifteen years and a whole lot of work later, I now can honestly say I keep my eyes on my own Yoga practice, my own Yoga participants, and my own passion with Yoga and do not compare myself to other teachers. I don’t allow fear a place in my mind or heart. But I had to acknowledge the issue first, and it was a process to embrace a feeling of abundance and spaciousness in this vast universe of Yoga Teaching.
It is possible to let this competition go once and for all. Despite Yoga’s huge boom in the last twenty years, we can remain humble and in harmony with ourselves and other fellow teachers. Anyone who faithfully practices Yoga knows that ultimately, this is what it’s all about – taking our Yoga off the mat and into our daily lives – yet it’s far easier said than done. As teachers, how can we facilitate this process in ourselves?
Keep It Real
Don’t deny negative feelings when you notice them in yourself. Don’t feel ashamed for feeling the pangs of competitiveness, or inadequacy, or any fear you may be feeling. Just acknowledge it and think, “Aha, here is this feeling. I am willing to let this go.” Breathe long slow breaths, and wish the person well. Then meditate, do some Yoga, and come back to all that lights you up about teaching Yoga. This is your point of strength – what you love about Yoga.
Think Abundance, Not Scarcity
We have a choice in how we wish to view the world. We can open up to the reality that the world is an abundant place and hone our unique skills and gifts, or we can focus on competition and scarcity. The former is a much healthier outlook. Fighting over a limited supply of students will not serve you or them very well. I have had experiences in which a new class I was trying to launch simply did not take off. It did not help me to blame it on the plethora of yoga teachers in my area. What did help was to realise that the venue, or the time of day, or the type of class was not needed at this time, and to move on and offer something that was more of service. We can use our magnificent minds to come up with creative solutions instead of competing for what we see as a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. Identify what you love about Yoga, listen to your beginners, and craft a course or workshop that touches on these things. Learning about our strengths is a great strategy for life in general, but it is a huge help in learning to market ourselves as yoga teachers. We can call the plethora of yoga teachers a problem or we can choose to get creative and find new and innovative ways to reach new students.
Praise Yourself and Others
Yoga’s popularity has seemed to have reached its zenith, bringing constant streams of new and talented teachers into our communities. This abundance of talented teachers can make us feel insecure, catty, and judgemental if we let it. It is ironic that this wave of popularity of yoga brings with it the very limitations and obstacles from which we are trying to free ourselves. Our challenge as teachers is to embody the teachings of yoga in our inner and outer lives, so that we and our students can be inspired to move beyond lack, and trust in our true natures. With awareness (and practice), these fears that show up in our lives can teach us to act in ways that generate union and harmony and ultimately to embody our higher selves.
Yes, I have felt threatened in the presence of a great colleague. But if my threatened self shows up, I immediately look for something I admire about this amazing teacher and praise his or her gifts, either out loud or to myself. When done sincerely this can fill me with gratitude that I am able to receive the gifts of this wonderful teacher, and that my students can receive these gifts as well. There is room for both of us. Indeed, there is room for all of us. When I choose this attitude, love and respect increases and jealousy and insecurity evaporates like a puff of smoke.
Another great tool for all of us as teachers is to strengthen our own sense of self-worth. Really contemplate your own talents and gifts and the unique ways that your teaching, your personality, your distinct delivery of your teachings, benefit your students. You will become more secure in the unique things you offer your students.
Accept Human Nature and Transform Negativity
Competition is highly reinforced in our culture. Remember this before you feel guilty if you feel competitive or any negative emotion. The nature of the mind is to divide, compare, and even judge. It’s what our minds do. The nature of the ego is to engage with this process and ultimately to identify with it. Or, to deny any responsibility for our negative feelings and blame someone or something else. Or, perhaps keep the negativity in the shadow but not allowing ourselves to acknowledge it or shine any light on it. Yoga, is the antithesis of competition and separateness. We can use our practice of yoga to become aware of those parts of ourselves that are competing with others and then begin to work skilfully with these very human emotions. The unpleasant reactions, the pangs of threat, and the potential for feeling inadequate that are all consequences of competition are great motivators to look more deeply at ourselves and to practice being kind to ourselves as we transform these feelings and liberate ourselves.
Suggestions To Help Release Competitive Tendencies
Create Community: It is easier to feel threatened by other teachers when they are strangers. Getting to know others helps develop a feeling of unity. A Teachers Group in your area is a great way to start to do this.
Communicate: Conflicts can easily arise when two people schedule events, training, or workshops in the same area. Do research before scheduling an event, and pick up the phone to check in with other teachers and hosts.
Don’t Compete; Find Your Niche: Remember, there are lots of untapped needs in yoga – prenatal, yoga in prisons or mental health facilities, yoga for depression or anxiety, yoga for the older beginner, yoga for the elderly – the list goes on. There is always “more” and it may be something you have not yet considered.
Be Willing To Let Go: If you find yourself in the midst of a conflict with another teacher, be willing to let go rather than dig in deeper to your own position. Trust that other opportunities will open up to you. Strive to be confident in what you have to offer so that others will seek out your skills and teachings.
Remember, We Teach To Serve: When you teach out of a deep desire to serve your students and keep your eyes on this desire, you will truly enjoy your job and will have little or no feelings of competition. You will focus on helping your students and will be immersed in what originally motivated you to became a teacher. If you are teaching to earn a living or to pay your bills, it will become easy to get frightened or threatened of other teachers. Don’t rely on yoga to pay your bills until that happens naturally. It can take years. Breathe, and tap into your love of yoga.