When your passion becomes your livelihood


Sri Lanka TTCIt’s a pretty special thing when you get paid to do what you really love. To find ‘the thing’ that gives you purpose and meaning, as well as an income. More than ever before, we’re stepping off the hamster wheel and out of survival mode to question what it is that we really want to give ourselves to? What it is that lights us up? And what it is that brings us joy while also making a positive contribution to the world in which we live?

And thus, more people than ever before are embarking on the journey of a Yoga Teacher Training Course.

In the midst of the 3rd week of the current one we’re running, and in the 12 years since the first course that I taught on, I’ve noticed it’s so often these questions that are bubbling away in the minds of our participants, and a big part of why many of them have come to train. Yoga has been the vehicle for the waking up process that started all the questioning in the first place, and they’re hungry for more.

This is a wonderful thing.

And as a result there’s a course happening on practically every corner of every street in the world, or so it feels from here in Ubud where there are almost as many ‘teacher trainees’ as there are palm trees swaying in the breeze. Bankers, doctors, advertising execs, graphic designers, chefs, school teachers, mothers, small business owners, and all the rest are taking ‘a month off’ to dive into Yoga.

And then, after as little as 200 hrs training, we’re certified to teach, and turn our passion into our job and means of livelihood if we choose to.

It’s potentially the beginning of a life-changing journey, but, like all good stories, not without some anti-heroes and misadventures. When we start to ‘sell our art’, whatever it happens to be, we’ll probably have our values tested at numerous points along the way.

This isn’t a bad thing, but a chance to get to know ourselves in our entirety, for better or for worse. As Yoga awakens our higher chakras, the business of Yoga shows us where the lower ones are struggling to keep up. In the end it’s all good, and it’s all Yoga. Meeting our shadows is part of the path, and what will eventually make us a truly good teacher.

I’ve made a list below of what I feel to be the best, and most challenging aspects of making Yoga your profession:

The Good Stuff
– The more I teach the more I realise that I am eternally the student. If I shied away from the challenge of teaching (as I often want to), then I would lose that chance to continually learn and grow.
– Teaching means having to step up, show up, commit, and be prepared to serve. This helps to ‘organise’ my practice and life in a way that most definitely serves me too.
– Sharing Yoga is a great honour and hugely rewarding to make a living doing something so beneficial for all involved.
–  I love the freedom of sharing a service, as opposed to selling a ‘thing’. What is transferred is subtle, there’s no need for any ‘stuff’. The student realises that what they’re looking for is already inside of them, and absolutely free of charge. Whilst they might pay for some instruction sometimes, the keys to the door of the heart are theirs and available anytime they choose to go within, thus breaking the cycle of excessive consumption.
– I get to hang out with really lovely people in a sacred environment, where masks and pretensions can safely fall away. There’s a lot of potential to really meet people, in a very deep, authentic, and intimate  way.
– Flexibility in a teaching schedule often means greater balance between work, and all the other things I love to do with my life.
– Opening and surrendering to be moved, guided, and inspired while teaching puts me in a very receptive and grateful place. It’s so obvious that “I” am not doing it alone.
– I often make enduring friendships with students and so get to witness the huge life changes that so often follow a training or retreat. This keeps me both inspired and ever-humbled by the power of the practice.

The Stuff to Look out for… (I don’t wanna say ‘bad’, because in the end it’s all good if we can catch this clever ego and refuse to play it’s games)

– Marketing wants to make you a Somebody, while Yoga wants to make you a Nobody.
This is not an easy challenge to reconcile. There’s no good in hiding your light under a bushel, but at the same time let’s try and keep it real. Honesty and humility are beautiful things. There’s no need to excessively big yourself up.
– Don’t box yourself into a Yogic stereotype – be who you are.
Promote yourself as honestly as you can. Especially if you’re a new teacher, just share the facts of what you’ve studied, and maybe something personal about what you love about Yoga and why or what you want to share. That’s much more appealing than all the internationally-recognised, highly-regarded, sought after, most advanced practitioner, Yoga master blah blah blah.
– Keep putting yourself in the position of student.
There’s a sweetness and an innocence in ‘beginner mind’… in not knowing. Making Yoga our profession can make it all a bit serious, and burden us with thinking that we need to know more than we do. When we feel like this it’s good to go and be the student again, as well as keeping up other interests.
– Put your money where your mouth is: when your Yoga gets entangled with your finances, business principles can start to take precedence over yogic principles. So don’t sell out. No amount of money or success is worth losing your Soul for. Trust that integrity will always be rewarded.
– Most of us fall a little bit short of the person we really want to be, but this tension helps us learn and grow. Don’t let it drown you when it rears it’s head in any of the following ways:
Disappointment – being bummed that only 2 people showed up, or your class was a bit off.
Impatience – for a level of expertise in both practice and teaching that takes time, persistence and humility to earn. One day at a time.
Fear – of not having enough… students, knowledge, money, reputation, success.

I can only write this list because I’ve experienced the temptation, or fallen prey to just about all of these things at one time or another. And you probably will too, because that’s how we learn.

After 18 years of practice and 14 years of teaching, I am massively expanding my definition of what it means to live and share Yoga. The asana, pranayama and meditation are just the tools that we use, after all, to connect us with that state of being in which the heart’s deepest desires and aspirations are aligned with our words, thoughts and actions day-to-day. It’s not necessary that we teach these tools to be living a Yogic life. In the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita I sincerely feel that if we do our work, whatever it is, with love, dedication, and detachment from its fruits, then anything can be Yoga.

More than teachers of Yoga we need sincere practitioners of Yoga, doing whatever it is that they do best – art, business, building, healing, farming, caring, or teaching, with as much wisdom, compassion, and integrity as they can.

And if you feel drawn to teach Yoga then you should. Go and share this precious practice with as many people as you can, using it all the while to polish your own heart and mind, so that your actions rather than your advertising serve to brighten and enlighten this world.

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” ~ from The Bhagavad Gita

Om Namo Narayani