THE YOGA MARKETING PARADOX

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This past Sunday I completed teaching my first Yoga Alliance 200 Hour Be Kind Teacher Training program with eleven amazing, open-minded and open-hearted women. We rounded off the last five months of an intense dive into the workings of yoga and the role of a yoga teacher by sitting in a circle in a gazebo by a beautiful lake. We exchanged meaningful gifts and talked about what the experience meant to us all.

I went last. In between each speaker I would ask myself what I was going to say when it was my turn, feeling like it should be something really profound because I was their teacher. I heard people say how they have always felt like they don’t really “belong” anywhere and that now they finally do. Others said that they were at a place in their lives when they knew they needed to make some positive changes in a different direction and yoga has made that possible. They told us how applying the Eight-Limb Path has made them look at all their choices with new eyes. Someone had a hilarious story about wanting to clear some negative energy in her home by burning sage, which turned into an almost alarm-producing smoke screen that her neighbors saw, sealing their idea that she is a crazy New Age freak. And that really didn’t bother her. One woman spoke about being told at work that she was bringing some unfavorable energy with her to the office and that yoga has helped her let things go.

As I listened, I was smiling and nodding my head and completely relating to each story and experience. I was also wishing it was as easy for me to come up with meaningful words on the fly as it is for me to teach an impromptu yoga class. I may be one of the most spontaneous yoga teachers on the planet, but when it comes to communication, I can be pretty clumsy.

When my turn came around, my mouth opened and words came flooding out. One of the truest things I said to that circle of women whom I respect and admire is that I don’t like marketing yoga. I make my living by teaching yoga and owning and running a yoga studio, so marketing is part of my job. But I don’t always like how I have to do it. In this era of Insta-celebs, there are more attention-seeking yogis out there than I care to follow. And by the looks of my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, I rank right up there with them.

The truth is that I am never completely comfortable taking selfies or asking friends to take pictures of me in yoga clothes doing yoga poses to post and use as a way to promote my business and make money. I feel like it gives the message that there is something visual to attain from a yoga practice, and that’s just not true. I do not want any of my students to be attached to any outcome from practicing yoga. I just want them to get on their mat, let me guide them, and feel better when they walk out the door.

But as I told my future teachers on Sunday, I can make myself do it because I truly believe in the possibilities, the healing, the fleeting moments of peace and the connection to each other and the universe that yoga can bring. I related to every story that day because yoga has done all of those things for me, too. I almost cried as I spoke about how happy it made me to  hear each story because I was listening to proof that yoga works!

So if I have to put my yoga practice on display like a performance art to get someone to try yoga for possibly all the wrong reasons, I don’t care. If I get hit on by random Twitter stalkers and Facebook weirdos because they think I’m trying to put some “I’m flexible and ready to mingle and doing this pose just for you” vibe out there, so be it. I will suck it up and deal with it for the chance that someone out there will see something in my eyes that says “I swear, this works. Please try it. You will feel better. Trust me.”

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