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  • Why I cross the line: teaching yoga on my terms

    34 comments Published Feb 19, 13 PM
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    By Lee Anne Finfinger

    There is one comment that leaves me feeling particularly wounded. “None of us are trying to be divas.”

    A yoga teacher friend says that to me while referencing a conversation she’s had with a group of her teaching friends. My face burns hot, because I know she is talking about me. I’m 34 years old. I teach vinyasa yoga full-time. I’m a proud two-time (yeah, I said it) lululemon ambassador. On social media, I regularly share photos of my practice, my life, my yoga experiences (good and bad), the workshops I’m teaching, the “big” teachers I meet and with whom I study, and all of the experiences that go along with being a small-time teacher trying to make it in a big pond.

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    I’ve reached out to the only yoga teaching talent agency about the services they offer teachers like me.

    I’ve emailed Wanderlust, asking for an opportunity to teach for them.

    I often email yoga studios around the country and ask for opportunities to visit them and teach their students.

    In attempts to deepen my teaching, I’m immersed in an advanced teacher training with Elena Brower in New York City. Although sometimes, if I’m honest, I skip parts of the training and sneak off to have drinks at the Mondrian, shop at Erica Weiner’s boutique, or just wander the streets and take in the city.

    I have a personal website and often agonize how much to share about myself, what to include about my teaching, and how to post all of it mindfully. I want to stay in touch with my students and studios without overstepping the imaginary boundary that we yoga teachers have created for ourselves, which divides the line between humble, in-line yoga teacher and the dreaded diva status of a teacher that’s trying to teach in a bigger way. 

    We yoga teachers don’t like to talk about it, but teaching yoga as a career is a hustle.

    We make money only when we teach. We don’t get paid vacations. We don’t get health insurance. We teach back-to-back classes. We often teach for free to get our name out there.

    Here’s why I do it: I love teaching yoga.

    I live in a small suburb of Pittsburgh, and my students and my studio are amazing. I want to always teach there (even when I’m traveling). I show up for my students with 100 percent authenticity and intensity. There’s no room for bullshit. That means that I have to be honest about the fact that I’m trying to travel and teach, and sometimes I feel very “out there,” very public. Because I teach and practice in the same spaces, my students usually know what poses I can do well, what poses I struggle with (or avoid), and what parts of the practice I actually put into practice outside of the yoga studio. If any, depending on the week.

    The thing is, I refuse to feel bad about it one second longer.

    I’m not shying away from sharing what I love just because somewhere along the way this outdated model of what it means to be a yoga teacher in modern-day Western society cracked.

    Somewhere along this path it became obvious to me that I could stay small and humble and quiet, or I could embrace who I am: a sometimes foul-mouthed, too blonde, heavily tattooed yoga teacher with a lot to say and a lot to fucking offer.

    Be okay with the bigness of who you are. We are not doing anybody any good in our role as teachers if we talk about living big and then insist on staying small so as to not offend the egos and tastes of others.

    Lee Anne FinfingerAbout Lee Anne Finfinger

    LA (Lee Anne) Finfinger is a full-time vinyasa yoga teacher based in Pittsburgh, PA. She feels lucky to continue to teach in her hometown studio and teach and assist yoga experiences including classes held at the National Aviary, the Mattress Factory Museum and on the Andy Warhol Bridge. She is a traveler at heart, and when she’s not in the studio, LA can be found reading, writing and planning her next trip. Her website is www.lafinfinger.com.