February 15, 2018

More from “Why I Quit – Confessions of an Authentically Fake Yoga Teacher”

Yoga Teacher Burnout is real, and although today’s post may seem a little off-topic, it isn’t. After all, I run a mentorship program for Yoga Teachers. Questions often come up about the realities of the profession of yoga teaching.

Davis Burroughs, author of “Why I Quit – Confessions of an Authentically Fake Yoga Teacher”, struck a cord with his recent blog post, receiving more than 10K hits (a lot for his blog) in just a few days.

He was a student / recent “graduate” of my Anatomy Mentorship, and someone I always considered “authentic”. I was curious to know more about his decision to “quit yoga”, to compare our different experiences as yoga teachers, to support him as a friend and “mentor” and to see what was next for him.  

This video chat is the product of my Curious Cathy-ness (and an excuse to give yoga teachers a super-generous freebie — see below).

But first, a little background for those of you who are not yoga teachers, are brand new yoga teachers, or who have never considered what we speak about below:

“Yoga Teacher Burnout” comes at the center of the confluence that is:

  • Running a business and / or being an Independent Contractor (a minefield in and of itself!)
  • The likelihood of conflict between business aspirations and the Spiritual side of yoga (or the perceived values of yoga)
  • Reality of the Shadow side of Spirituality (“spiritual” people aren’t necessarily “better” people)
  • The genuine love of yoga (or movement / meditation) that yoga teachers either have or once had   
  • Weirdness that arises from pressures around social media, and a sense of competition with other yoga teachers (sometimes encouraged by studios or teacher trainings)
  • Reality of us yoga teachers needing to pay for the roof over our heads, the internet access, the cell phone bill, etc. 
  • Maybe also this: The way that the sands of yogaland are shifting. Yoga doesn’t look like it did 1, 5, or 10 years ago. It’s a changing landscape.

In Davis’s case, he was doing his best to ethically navigate a non-compete contract even as his yoga teaching style evolved and began to conflict with that studio’s philosophy and demands. When I asked him about why he didn’t simply seek out teaching gigs at different yoga studios (as non-competes are unlikely to hold much legal power in the US), he made this very salient point:

“[regarding hiring] For a lot of studio owners, they are more interested in who you are, and less interested in your resume.” – Davis Burroughs

Yep.. #truth.

We are in an industry that depends on personality. Yet many of us feel pressured to be less than authentic. It’s weird and wacky…but it doesn’t have to be gross!

Davis and I came up with a few points on “How to Avoid Yoga Teacher BurnOut”

A brief list of practices that I hope yoga teachers take away from this chat:

Diversity your yoga teaching (locations, populations, etc) – say YES to every opportunity in the beginning of your yoga career. This will give you an understanding of the yoga landscape in your area, and perhaps some wiggle room if any one of your yoga teaching gigs doesn’t work out. Subtopic — be very careful signing non-compete contracts.

Get specific – Specific – meaning know your teaching strengths and personal strengths. My teaching strength is not fast-paced vinyasa, and if I try and teach power vinyasa classes, I believe it will come across as fraudulent and won’t help me in the long term. On the other hand, few people can do what I do around yoga anatomy. That is my magic place, and where I offer the most good for the greatest benefit. 

Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to share who you really are. You don’t have have photos of you draped in a shawl sitting in meditation on the edge of a river next to an expensive green juice. Share what lights you up (or in the case of Davis, what he lights up hahahaha). My Instagram pages for Ariele Foster (me) and for YogaAnatomyAcademy have felt authentic, fun, and creative. 

Don’t use social media platforms that you don’t enjoy. Period. Yoga teaching can be work. But social media marketing shouldn’t be pure drudgery. If it is, it’s not the best way for you to market yourself. It’s that simple. I never log into Twitter. Davis loves writing and blogging

Get some mentorship or friend dates with fellow teachers who can help you process and navigate some of this tricky world. If your yoga community feels too small, search Facebook groups to see if anyone might be going through similar issues and reach out distantly (Davis and I chatted on Zoom, but Skype is a classic) 

Know yourself. Knowing your tendencies is true yoga, true self-inquiry (svadyaya). It allows you to develop a better relationship with the businesses who are employing you.  Take this quiz by Gretchin Rubin “The 4 Tendencies”, to start (it’s only a start. Feel free to comment below with any of your suggestions). Although I identify with ALL of the tendencies, it makes sense that my primary tendency is Questioner. If I communicate to a studio manger “I am a Questioner, so please bear with me”, I’ll be less likely to offend them and more free to be myself.   

– Not mentioned in the video — Stay Inspired. The best way to stay inspired is to keep studying yoga. Although you might — as Davis did — start to change your teaching after learning more. Align your teaching with studios, gyms, etc that allow your teaching to evolve.

Without further ado, here’s our chat:

If you are considering becoming a yoga teacher OR if you are a yoga teacher and feeling “yoga teacher burnout” or simply new or stuck in your career, I actually have a MASSIVE Freebie for readers of this blog. It’s a online course called “Pay for Your Yoga Teacher Training and Jump-Start Your Career“. It’s my download of 16 years of teaching yoga! Click here for access, and thank you SO much for watching.

FREE ^ don’t wait!

6 Comments on “More from “Why I Quit – Confessions of an Authentically Fake Yoga Teacher”

Donna Moon (yes my real married name)
February 16, 2018 at 12:15 am

Wow this resonates with me a lot. I am Pilates certified as well as AFAA group X and personal training. Along the way I started taking Yoga workshops and trainings for CECs because I became bored with more Pilates trainings. That lead me to teach Yoga at several gyms and for a city community center. My classes are well received but I always feel like I’m a fraud because I don’t have the 200 or 500 hour RYT certifications nor am I registered with the Pilates or Yoga Alliance. The truth is no one cares because here in Orange County, class numbers matter more. Sometimes the more educated Yoga instructors are, the less popular they can be with the general public. They try too hard to show off their knowledge or force the participants to do more than they should. I discovered many Yogis and Pilates instructors quickly learn the better money is with Master training and blogging. So many Master trainers create a “brand” to help differentiate themselves from other instructors. Others do anything to get in a magazine or website or video. So zen! Yes, burn out happens once you decide to make this a career. I’m trying to back away slowly but I’m 53 years old. Not sure what to do next. I never intended to make this my only job but it is. Yes, I’m a contractor. Studios and gyms often control how they want you to teach. The whole industry is off the rails with trying to compete and create a phony image to keep clients or convince people that they know Yoga/Pilates better or they add new moves. I leaned too not to believe all these workshops that promise to deepen your practice or help you know more anatomy. To be really frank, I don’t think Yoga is that hard to teach and it’s not as deep or mystical many in the field try to make it. I’ve been a mom 16 years and instructor for 13. I never dreamed I would still be doing this. I do love many aspects mind you but the industry can get to you.
Thanks for your honesty. I could write so much more but it would turn into a book.

February 16, 2018 at 10:26 pm

Hi Donna,
There’s a lot to unpack in what you wrote, but I wanted to respond to a few points:
– You are not a fraud because you don’t have a “Yoga Certificate” so long as you genuinely enjoy yoga, study yoga and want to share what you know in teaching. In fact, my friend just messaged me the other day to say she was hoping to teach yoga to minority communities, and I encouraged her to just start! She’s a ridiculously fit black woman with a background in teaching fitness and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology. She doesn’t need any stamp of approval to share what she loves to any human who can benefit.
– My guess is that somewhere deep down you love movement and you love helping other people move — otherwise you wouldn’t have gone down this career path in the first place
– Burnout is not inevitable, and if you take a step back and follow the bullet points in the article above (and take the free class offered at the bottom), you might be surprised to feel a little creative and inspired again!
– You have so many options — be creative and try new ways of teaching or locations or populations. Or take a sabbatical. It’s possible you’d miss teaching
– As an anatomy teacher, I have to say YES YOU CAN learn anatomy (rant over) and it can help your yoga teaching. The more I learn about how the body works and the brain works through the body the more excited I am to connect the dots and get back on my mat trying new things
– As for being an independent contractor, don’t forget the perks. I for one am grateful that I don’t own a yoga studio. It wouldn’t be my thing.
Thank you again for reading and commenting 🙂 Come back any time for inspo.
– Ariele

Jean Morra
February 22, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Love this discussion! I also love Richmond! Davis was in the same Yoga Anatomy Academy session I was – so sorry to hear he stopped teaching. Thanks to you both for your openness and frank discussion. I love teaching yoga – but the challenges are not insignificant.

February 22, 2018 at 9:26 pm

Hi Jean 🙂 You sum it up well: “The challenges are not insignificant.” I think this could be said about many jobs, but yoga is a special one for sure.

August 1, 2019 at 6:11 pm

Working for a studio, or several as just a teacher will get you homeless. Yoga is not a career, it’s a hobby. The only way to make money is to own your own studio. To have a full time job and do this as a side gig is fine, BUT most people just get carried away with this life style.. and most of these yoga people are very fake.

August 2, 2019 at 10:46 am

I understand where you are coming from, and I’m sure there’s a lot we can agree on. But owning a studio is definitely not the only way to make teaching yoga your career (or a guaranteed way). I recommend reading Amy Ippoliti’s book “The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga” – for lots of clear talk and inspiration if needed. I am also a fan of teaching yoga as a side job, BTW (as it sounds you are). SOOO many good reasons to do it that way. Finally, there is a version of “fake people” in every profession: financial advising, medicine, massage therapy. If you allow them to take your attention, you are losing out on the opportunity to focus on doing your own best. My 2 cents 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.


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