As yoga infiltrates the western world more and more- with yoga studios popping up in every town and yoga teachers plying their services everywhere from gyms to businesses to schools to community halls – there is a huge opportunity for all teachers to embody the principles of yoga within the business world.
Perhaps the biggest principle that we can adopt is that of union – the word yoga means ‘to yoke’ or ‘to bind’, and is often translated as Union.
There are many ways to interpret this – one is union of the small sense of separate self with Universal Consciousness.
It can also be read as the union of the individual with the whole – a recognition that we are not separate at all, but part of one large tapestry of life.
Within the world of business, this translates as an understanding that yoga teachers and studios are not in competition with each other, but all working together towards the same aim – guiding and helping people along their yoga journey toward self-realisation.
It is so easy as teachers to get caught up in the material and egoic trappings of being a teacher or running a studio.
We can start to compare how many students we have, how much money we’re making, or how many books or DVDs we’re selling. Under this way of being, another teacher or studio represents a threat because they might take away “our” students.
We forget that we’re here to serve the student. Students will naturally gravitate towards the teacher that resonates with them, and as long as the needs of the student are being served, it doesn’t matter who’s doing the serving. Except to us, the teachers and studios, counting numbers and dollars.
This kind of fear-based thinking, where we’re afraid of other teachers and studios, afraid of losing students, afraid of ‘competition’, is scarcity based – we believe there’s only so many students to go around and so many yoga dollars. It’s also ego-centric because it focuses on ‘how many students do I have’ and ‘how much money am I making?’. It doesn’t embody yoga at all.
From the perspective of yoga, there are enough students to go around, there’s enough yoga dollars to go around, and we teachers and studios are here to serve the student and serve the yoga. Coming from a place of abundance, expansion, and service totally shifts the way we market yoga as teachers. (And remember, to market something is simply “to bring it to market”. Marketing is not a dirty word, and if we want to serve yoga to the best of our ability, we need to bring our services to the market.)
So how do we as teachers and studios embody Union through the way we market our yoga?
It’s pretty simple really, and it starts just by finding out who the yoga teachers are in your town, getting in touch with them all, and inviting them out for a cup of coffee.
Here in Dunedin, I was fortunate enough to move down just a couple of weeks before Gemma Carroll, a local yoga teacher, did just that. She rallied the troops, sent out the emails, set a time and a place and some 14 yoga teachers all rocked up. It was fantastic to meet up with everyone, put names to faces, find out who was teaching where, and just chat about yoga. Gemma’s created a database out of that meeting, with names, numbers, yoga styles and availabilities. This means whenever someone needs a class covered, they can consult the teacher directory. Plus whenever a new teacher moves to town, they can plug into an instant community of like-minded people.
It’s an awesome first step.
Coming together like this makes it easy to get the word out about up-coming workshops.
Send the relevant information to the teacher directory, and each teacher can let their students know. That way, workshops with visiting national and international teachers reach every student in town – not just the students of the hosting teacher. It also makes it possible to coordinate workshops so that two brilliant teachers don’t end up coming down the same weekend, or there’s four awesome workshops in the same month (unless your city is big enough to support this).
That’s a great second step.
The next step is marketing yoga as a collective.
Most teachers working out of community halls and the like don’t have any budget for advertising their classes. It’s posters, flyers and word of mouth. Studios do have more of a budget, but often that is even quite tight. Generally any advertising or marketing is informational – that is, it gives people information about up-coming classes and workshops.
But get a bunch of yoga teachers together, and it wouldn’t cost much to all put in to buy ad space in the local community newspaper. It could be done for a specific event – maybe running a yoga open day with different teachers all leading a free half hour class over the course of a day. Or it could be done to raise the profile of yoga, get the word out about it’s benefits, and just get people talking. It can be so much fun thinking up creative advertising!
There’s other low-cost ways teachers can work together too.
If you’ve got five or so different community-based teachers putting up flyers all over town, it’s easy to create one poster with a blurb about each teacher and the classes, and each put up one or two posters. You spread the printing cost over the five of you, and also the time it takes to put the posters up. This kind of advertising is awesome for students – they come across a poster and can easily scroll down and check out all the classes on offer, and decide which one suits them based on location, style, teacher and cost.
Teachers and studios that offer the same type of yoga can also work effectively together.
I see a huge opportunity for the Bikram studios in New Zealand to come together and offer some type of concession to students who have paid for unlimited memberships. New Zealand is small enough and intimate enough to make this happen. Sure it takes some negotiation and some well-thought out systems to make this happen, but it provides huge value to students and doesn’t cost a lot for studios. I know that Bikram Dunedin & Bikram Queenstown already have a reciprocal agreement in place, and hopefully this will spread to include the other Bikram studios.
Working together to market yoga as a whole can focus on growing the total number of people who do yoga, rather than enticing current practitioners from one class to the next. It’s in the interests of all of us to make yoga more accessible, to publicise the benefits of yoga, to share the transformative stories of yoga, so why not share costs and do it all together? This means yoga teachers are then modeling the union that yoga is all about.
Plus, once you start brainstorming about how to work together, the options are endless. There’s things like:
- Free summer outdoor classes in the park led by a different teacher every week (benefit? highly visible, brings the yoga community together, gets students to experience different teachers)
- Teacher’s master class every fortnight, led by a different teacher (benefit? Teachers get to try out each other’s styles, learn from each other, and connect after class.)
- Hosting yoga events like Global Mala, hooking into the international yoga community
- Teaming up to bring big international teachers to town, minimizing risk by working together, and maximising student reach
- Cultivating great media contacts and getting stories about yoga into local media (at least one teacher in town has got to have PR skills)
- Running cross-studio and teacher thirty day yoga challenges (getting students to commit to more yoga with some healthy competition)
Once the ideas start flowing… the sky is the limit. Anything at all can be created with a little fun. All it takes is someone to take the lead initially, a little bit of effort, and some time invested… but the pay-off is huge.
Yoga teachers that work together create a yoga community right across the town and the country they live in.
It breaks down the barriers between styles, and opens people up to the concept that yoga is really just yoga, no matter how you practice it. A growing yoga community with stronger and stronger connections is an attractive place to be hanging out, which effortlessly brings in new students in the form of friends and family members of current students.
It ends up being a win-win-win for everyone. And that’s a great way to roll.
So if you’re a yoga teacher, ask yourself, what can I do to create stronger connections within my yoga community?
Get talking to each other. Get emailing. Find out who loves doing what, who teaches what, who wants to do what and see what ideas flow from there.
Me? I’m stoked to be living in Dunedin and getting involved in the local community here. We’ve got the Dunedin Yoga Studio opening it’s doors under new ownership next month, Katie Lane coming down from Christchurch to teach an Anusara weekend workshop at the end of June, and Donna Farhi teaching a day long workshop on July 3rd. Plus the Bikram studio is cranking, with over 40 students currently doing a thirty day challenge – some who’ve never done yoga before too!
What do you think? Do you work together with other yoga teachers and students in your area for the good of yoga? If not, why not? What’s stopping you?