Published Jul 27, 08 AM
By Toni Grates
Having worked with both, I can honestly say that yoga instructors are a lot like actors. Some are humble about their talents, easy to work with, and grounded; others are high maintenance, self-absorbed, and delusional.
We went through a fair number of instructors in the first four months of our studio being open. Partly, we weren’t sure what we were looking for and there were so many varieties to choose from. Most of them put in a month or two with us and then left because they lived too far from the studio, were headed abroad to study with a master teacher, or couldn’t work for us unless they were guaranteed back-to-back classes for financial reasons.
A few left for more profound reasons, specifically, that they were not being honoured. “Honour” is to the high-maintenance yogi what “exploring the craft” is to the high-maintenance actor. Honour in this context is not merely respect. Rather, it’s otherworldly admiration and awe that the instructor feels he/she deserves after all the books he/she has read about the Yoga Sutras and the workshops he/she paid hundreds of dollars to take with the descendants of the yoga gods.
Reading lots of yoga books and doing a 200-hour teacher
training program does not make you a yoga guru.
Talking about other people’s “energy” is still gossip.
One instructor informed me that she was known as an “edgy” instructor around the city. I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant, but she was keen and I liked her so we gave it a whirl. When I realized that “edgy” meant that she had a trucker mouth in class, I had to talk to her. She explained to me that her language was an extension of her authentic self and that to change her energetic vibe would be inauthentic. I then had to be super authentic and let her go, which resulted in a palm-to-palm namaste and subsequent Facebook de-friending from her.
Let’s not forget about the instructor who approached us wanting to help when we first went independent. At that time, I erred more on the side of yoga than business, and I thought his offer stemmed from friendship. He said he’d be willing to put his name behind the studio to endorse us as good people so that some of his instructor friends would graciously allow us to pay them to teach at our studio. He also said he’d be happy to let us pay him to teach five classes per week and spend one day per week at the studio fielding calls and brainstorming ideas.
The businesswoman in me didn’t understand why he would be willing to help us, considering we had no money to pay him, but the yogi in me was proud to be a part of something where community came forward in times of need.
It was only a matter of time before this instructor was asking for company shares in exchange for his “energy.”
I immediately stated that we couldn’t promise anything based on the fact that we were operating in the red and shares needed to be retained for actual money. Besides, considering Ernesto and I weren’t paying ourselves, shares were all we had. The instructor and Ernie told me not to worry because we would “figure something out,” and then the instructor headed off to the Himalayas to study.
I knew well enough that you had to be clear in business, because “figure something out” is synonymous with “this is going to end poorly.” I also knew I had to take matters into my own hands. I wrote a letter to the instructor saying that we could not give away shares in exchange for his “energy,” no matter how wise and magical it was. The instructor was not happy. What resulted when he returned back to the city was more bizarre than anger. It was his need for me to listen and witness him as he explained to me how betrayed he felt. “You don’t see all that I am! You don’t honour me or my energy,” he yelled, as if honour was going to pay the rent or the phone bill. “Thank you for your energy,” I responded, thinking that gratitude would calm him.
“I don’t give a f@ck about your thank you. I need to get paid.”
So much for goodwill and friendship.
That was one of the pivotal moments in my understanding of the fact that, yoga or not, this was still business. From there on in, I made it a policy to only hire instructors who were grounded and down to earth.
I realized that it doesn’t matter how long an instructor can hold a handstand if they’re a pain in the ass to work with.
About Toni Grates
Toni Grates opened a yoga studio because she thought it would solve all her problems. After 13 months in yoga hell, she shut the doors and peacefully went back to the real world. She’s a mom and bonus mom (so much nicer than “step-mom”) who loves all things creative. Post-studio, she has gone back to her love of writing with more material than she ever thought possible. You can follow her adventures at www.namastebitchesblog.com.