Nerd Pose - Teaching Yoga While in Grad School

I completed my 200 hour teacher training while I was in grad school. Friends told me that it was a bad idea, that I would burn out, and that it would keep me from finishing my degree. I disagreed and decided to see how it went. I was done with coursework, beginning my dissertation, and while work kept me busy, I needed something besides research in my life. To my surprise, life became simpler with a dedicated, regular time devoted explicitly to self-care. It’s a popular idea that we should just do one thing and wait for the next thing to come “at the right time.” But how many things do we talk ourselves out of by waiting for “the right moment”? What is the right moment?


Teacher training was through my university and met once a week over 3 semesters. As it turned out, regularly thinking about something besides my dissertation and work made it easier, not harder, to complete the task at hand when needed. I’m not saying it was easy or there weren’t immensely stressed days where I didn’t know how I was going to do everything I was committed to doing. Hardly. Those days would have happened under any circumstances. I didn’t seek out opportunities to teach, but I did pursue them when they came my way. When I was given the advice that I should start out teaching more than one class so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel, I took it.


For the last year and a half, as I finished my dissertation, I’ve been teaching several group classes a week. I’ve done many hours of continuing education with various instructors. I had (or made) the time to do it, and I found it changed my life, and the classes I teach now are simply better for that effort. I was surprised how grounding it is (for me) to teach. I was surprised how much better I became at public speaking. I was surprised at how much better I got at saying “no.” I was surprised how amazingly fun it is to teach yoga. And most of all, I was surprised that I had the time to do a damn good job writing my dissertation. 


As I approached beginning a full-time job, I gave up the idea I could teach 5 permanent group classes every week, sub when I can, maintain my own practice, and move my body in other ways. Perhaps I could show up; but would I truly be present with students? Would I have anything of quality to offer? And if not, why do it? I’ve dropped to teaching one class per week, and I will see how it goes. I’ve read before that teaching yoga part-time is like being a superhero; you change out of your corporate gear, put on your spandex costume and save the day. I don’t know that I suspect I’ll end up in Marvel, but there was some truth to that. 


For anyone considering it, here is what I will say. During a time when professional life demanded that I strive for objectivity while personal life gave me nothing but subjectivity, yoga was my safe place. Learning to relate to people as other humans, and rather than go on about “my research” to shut the fuck up and get out of my students’ way was mindblowing. It was hard to bring the kind of presence and attention that being a yoga teacher demands when brain-fried (which is where I learned to say “no”). Being a beginner at something while becoming an expert in something else is humbling, frustrating, and at times disappointing. Wondering what colleagues would think gave me pause initially, but I found that people I worked with only cared about the quality of my work, and I just became “the yoga guy.” Last, as someone who is a bit “Type A”, I’ve learned to be content knowing that not everything is for me. 


There has been a sense of contentment to not depend on teaching for my livelihood in the changing yoga economy. There are no words for the amount of admiration and respect I have for people who brave it as full-time teachers and studio owners. I have learned I am not cut out for that life. But as I look back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have no idea where this will lead me, but I can’t imagine not teaching yoga, nor could I imagine not being a researcher. Perhaps these two dimensions of my life will collide, perhaps not. What I know is that I would have regretted not doing it, and if it is something you are thinking about, if there is a way you can make it work, you will make it work.