Why I cross the line: teaching yoga on my terms

Published on February 19, 2014 by      Print
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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.

Lee Anne Finfinger instagram


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.

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  1. Nick says:

    Be big, be bold and own your greatness!

    Well said.

    Teaching yoga full-time is definitely a hustle. Here is a short video to make it easier.


    Keep on keepin’ on.


  2. Olivia says:

    Good for you! Love this…

  3. Flying Yogini says:

    word sister.

    I could literally write this word for word.. I have so many of these same experiences and feelings. You’ve hit the nail on the asana.

    I was listening to the radio today and they were talking about how in some states that $15 is minimum wage. I thought.. many yoga studios around where I live pay $25 per class. So that might be $25 for an hour and fifteen minute class. which is in actually $19/hr. Not much above minimum. As someone who has been teaching a while I’m past that minimum, but still, it’s a constant struggle.

    I am a mom and a writer on top of being a yoga teacher. But I spend so much time using marketing via social media to spread my teachings and to expand my stretch outside of my local area because it is free and available. I too have reached out to some of those you have cited and am also eternally contacting studios where I travel.

    It’s the hustle that they don’t tell you about in your 200H. I adore my job: I love teaching yoga, I want it to support me, but after a week of no classes because of snow I am reminded how challenging it is despite all my best efforts. Thanks for the “I hear ya” post. You might not have been speaking to me but you were definitely speaking with me.

    Kudos and keep on keepin’ on.

    • LA Finfinger says:

      Thank you for reaching out via all of the social media platforms! I’m lucky that I teach for some great studio owners that are generous and understand how much work goes into all of it (the FB, the instagram, the twitter, the website) on top of all of the trainings and actual teaching!

      But really – thank you for being so open and sharing and being so kind.

  4. Jenifer says:

    Yes, it most certainly is a lot of work/hustle. :)

    I just moved to Pittsburgh from Wellington, NZ (where I had a studio). I’m relaunching here. I’d love to get together, as I have met some wonderful RYs in my time. If that would be cool.

    Just to hang out. To meet other people.

  5. Why I cross the line: teaching yoga on my terms | LA Finfinger says:

    [...] Click here to view my new article on Recovering Yogi! [...]

  6. Trish Tillman says:

    I’d rather have people be themselves, and be loud and vivid, then be bland and falsely humble. Plenty of falsely humble peeps out there in the yoga world :D

  7. Mary Beth LaRue says:

    LOVE your honesty!!!

  8. Val says:

    Really enjoyed your perspective…I am also self-employed and can relate….wishing you lots of success, LA!

  9. Move the Yolga way says:

    Actually, marketing ourselves as a yoga teacher takes much more time than the actual teaching and practicing. Being honest and investing to the people we teach can bring great return but unfortunately, when teaching is the only source of income we need to put ourselves out there more. We are also very different form one another and the ways we choose to carry ourselves and our image is something very personal. You are all passionate about what you do and that’s what matters at the end and what will keep up going!

  10. LA Finfinger says:

    Trish – thank you! I agree – fake humble is even worse!

  11. Christy says:

    When something someone says resonates, whether negative or positive, it’s usually for a good reason. Being out of the situation it’s easy to be objective and see that this was actually a positive for you in that it reaffirmed what you are about and the direction you want to head towards. Otherwise, it may have been time to readjust some things. I haven’t seen you in years but you were always genuine and full of integrity. Don’t let them shake you. I love what you are doing and that you are willing to be vulnerable by putting it out there!

    • LA Finfinger says:

      Hi Christy! So true! There’s a reason that we freak out for a minute, right? Thanks for taking the time to write and I really appreciate your kind words. I think being vulnerable lets me be tough too but without the mix I wouldn’t be either. Thank you for supporting me.

  12. Shaun says:

    Be true to yourself. A strong, invaluable lesson I’ve learned over the past year and some change. You are everything you choose to be.
    Anyone’s opinion of that or about that, is just that…an opinion. Whether positive or negative, they are welcome to it but it doesn’t change who you are.
    I’ve taken your classes and can honestly say that they are led with enthusiasm, care, and humility (not to mention difficulty) that you are without a doubt one of my favorites in the city.
    Kick asana and take names.
    Breath…and enjoy life. The rest will take care of itself.

    • LA Finfinger says:

      Shaun, Thank you! I put a lot of effort into crafting my classes and being completely accessible while I’m teaching. Teaching yoga is sort of an obsessive passion for me. Hope to see you in class soon!

  13. sarah says:

    Get it, grrl. ‘Be okay with the bigness of who you are’ – love it!

  14. Zara says:

    Fantastic. Thank you for this graceful, honest piece. After I completed my yoga teacher training, I was so insecure and vulnerable from having my heart cracked wide open with the comprehension of what Yoga really is that I was too intimidated to teach. I never felt as calm, peaceful and enlightened as my favorite yoga teachers appeared as they taught class. I appreciate your honesty about the ambivalence teachers (well, you anyway) feel about success/recognition/the hustle of self promotion and teaching/living yoga.
    Honestly, I hear myself judge successful teachers out of insecurity and some odd spiritual materialist envy. It’s lovely and a comfort to hear your perspective.
    A good yoga teacher, I realize, like any good artist, makes the work appear easy, natural, effortless when in truth it’s hard work.

    • LA Finfinger says:

      Dear Zara, Thank you for your beautifully crafted comments. I hope that you are teaching. I think that people who feel ambivalence towards the balance of “hustle” and craft should be the ones doing the work. I have to share: I often hear feedback through the grapevine about how calm I am when I teach – it’s not how I feel at all. I feel confident and strong but I am not calm. Teaching yoga has helped me see that others often see traits in me (good and bad) that I don’t have. Thank you again for sharing.

  15. Kat says:

    Hi, I really loved reading your post. I think everyone goes through this to a greater or lesser degree. Always be your authentic self. It’s the only you that you can be. People will learn to love and adore you because you are YOU! You are your own brand of unique. Namaste xo.

  16. LA Finfinger says:

    Dear Zara, Thank you for your beautifully crafted comments. I hope that you are teaching. I think that people who feel ambivalence towards the balance of “hustle” and craft should be the ones doing the work. I have to share: I often hear feedback through the grapevine about how calm I am when I teach – it’s not how I feel at all. I feel confident and strong but I am not calm. Teaching yoga has helped me see that others often see traits in me (good and bad) that I don’t have. Thank you again for sharing.

  17. Zee says:

    Honest post. Thank you, I enjoyed reading it. :-)

  18. LOVETOBEND says:

    Take action and do it girl!!! Spend less time in front of the computer telling us what “you’re going to do” and as Nike says… Just do it!!! Your honesty is awesome though. Stay true to you!

  19. VQ2 says:

    I would say, spend MORE time in front of the computer – get a production assistant if needed, or a webcam or Skype … a yoga Master I once “followed” runs his own Google Helpout (personally not interested in it–but others ARE) for example. He had snubbed all forms of remote media (or mass media, for that matter) in reaching out his practice … sometimes a teacher finds themselves up against a wall – as are some (non-target-market students); and class (or one-on-one or a few…) meets online through streamings, downloads, dvds, whathaveyou …


    Yoga Video Consumer that Supplements Home Practice

  20. Shelly says:

    This totally made me want to come to one of your classes! Looking forward to meeting you!!

  21. Olivia says:

    Hi there, thanks for sharing your experience with yoga so far. I wish you luck for your future, have a great life ahead while you continue to practice and teach yoga.

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