Guest post by Yoga Teacher Alexa Nehter. Note from Brook: Alexa is one of my business coaching clients who’s recently returned from touring Europe, in between leading retreats in Fiji and, shortly, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Alexa been brilliant to work with – energetic, receptive, compassionate and with a deep integrity and respect for the yoga tradition. Over to Alexa …
Have you ever asked yourself: How can I be a true yogi and an entrepreneur at the same time? How can I run a business if I’ve always been an employee? What is effective marketing and how can I get noticed without selling my soul?
These were questions I wrestled with before taking the leap into the world of being a professional yogi.
As I reflect on the lessons learned during my first years running a yoga business, I remember the words I said to my teacher and mentor Eve Grzybowski when the topic about Brook McCarthy at Yoga Reach, and professional aspirations came up: “Yoga and money just don’t fit together.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, Eve quickly turned away to talk to some other students who were about to leave. I sensed her (loving) disagreement. Standing there, I heard those limiting words echoing, and for the first time, thought that maybe I should reconsider my beliefs.
In my gradual journey from being a high school teacher to running the yoga business of my dreams, I’ve made huge discoveries about what it really takes to go from yoga devotee to fully-fledged yoga professional. And I’m still learning.
If you’re as passionate about yoga as I am, and already dreaming about running your own yoga business, here are some lessons I that will make your journey easier.
Lesson 1: The epiphany. Have faith and devote yourself wholeheartedly
One day it clicked for me. And I mark this profound turning point not just from yoga student and teacher to yogipreneur, but to a deeper devotion to yoga. I always loved teaching yoga, but one day I realized that there was no turning back, that I am a yogi on a serious mission and that teaching yoga is my dharma. It was a bit of a shock.
For those who don’t know my story, I didn’t come from a place of wellness and a natural understanding of healthy, conscious or spiritual living. I smoked, drank beer, partied and was everything but fit and radiant. I felt depressed, was overweight and not really in control of my life. It was only through surfing, and the studies and the teaching of meditation and yoga, that I am where I am today.
Now I re-commit to my dharma every day. What changed was that I decided to become pro. That’s pretty much it.
I’m not saying that I’m flawless, but I’m highly motivated because I made this one decision and I’m very aware of choices and actions that are not ‘pro-dharma.’
Pro-dharma is for me the continuity of passing on an ancient tradition. I owe a lot to my teachers and the tradition of yoga.
Teachers who’ve taught me in the past and teach me today, haven’t held back a piece of information from me. They listen, watch, ask questions and compassionately guide me. So the benefits and growth I receive through my own practice can’t be separated from their work. I believe it is my wholehearted duty to pass this knowledge on – mindfully, confidently, and respectfully. And I believe it’s your duty too.
Before all else, it’s important for you to figure out if you are committed to becoming a teacher, if it just sounds good, or if you just love your hobby so much that you want to do it all day. Before you give up your day job or forget about other gifts and talents you have, try to go a explore this question deeper.
Lesson 2: Resistance leads to the stretch: embrace mindful marketing
I had immense resistance to market myself as a yogi. This is not “yogic” I thought. It’s actually pretty embarrassing. What would my teacher think of me? How can I be authentic? How do you guard yourself against being perceived as a money-hustling sales woman? I hate sales pages! I am so put off when I find something too salesy. I prefer to look for the contribution behind the façade.
And I know a lot of teachers who still believe that marketing and yoga have nothing to do with each other.
If, like me, you want your students and the world to understand that you are not teaching for the money but that you also need to make a living, then you need to continue your mission to bring more yoga into the world like a pro.
This means, you and your work simply have to begin to express your essence and your mission clearly and confidently. This is (like a new asana or sequence) not always comfortable, but with time you’ll make bigger leaps and get over yourself more often, because with time you’ll identify your true mission as being more important than your ego imposed fears and insecurities. (FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real). And like a new yoga asana: if you approach the pose intelligently, sequentially and frequently, you’ll learn to do it your own way. You will own it. Yes!
Am I happy to get out in the world and be a little bit louder?
What are the thoughts that hold me back from getting out there?
How could I overcome my fears and doubts?
Lesson 3: The advantage – you are a unicorn
In order to reach out to potential clients I had to make sure that the real Alexa will be translated accurately online. This didn’t mean I have to reinvent myself, but I had to make sure the true, authentic Alexa shines through my online presence.
There’s so much common yoga slang which we think works well and so we fall into the trap of saying things the same way. In this way, we become a cheap copy, and this is a problem. Same-same yogis are likely overlooked. And you are unique. Your personality, journey to yoga, practice, style and way of teaching is outstandingly unique, so why hide it?
At the beginning it might seem difficult to bring your unique message to light. Relax – this is an ongoing journey. In the beginning you need to focus. With the right questions, you look inside yourself rather than at your influencers around you.
It’s important to ask yourself focused, precise and goal oriented questions to help you define and redefine the words, messages, images and even colours of your personality.
It can be tempting to not worry about how you’re portrayed online, but your writing (your copy) and your website design will communicate to your potential students who you are. You want to make sure they get to know the authentic you, online as well as in real life. This is where Mindful Marketing helps. It’s a way of going inside (like as you do in your yoga practice and meditation) and then expressing and articulating yourself, your passions and beliefs, more authentically as well as confidently.
Here are a few questions to ask:
- What do I really enjoy doing?
- What do I totally rock at? What am I better than anyone else?
- What is it that can I provide that no one else is providing? (A friend of mine is a really good singer, she sings in her classes and people just love it! I’m good at breaking things down, explaining scientific and yogic concepts in a simple to understand way. My classes are always different, and I rock at creative yoga class that weave together scientific know-how and traditional concepts.)
- What is absolutely remarkable about me?
- Do I have an unusual combination of elements? What is it, and how can I underline this point of difference?
- What do you think are people annoyed about in the yoga industry?
“Become known for something – rather than trying to become known for everything. Because frankly, that’s impossible.” (Ashley Ambridge.)
German-born and raised Alexa Nehter is a science and sports educator turned yoga teacher, surfer and author. In her teachings Alexa weaves together her experiences and knowledge of yoga, human biology and physiology, surfing and mindfulness meditation. She inspires people around the world with her relatable and encouraging approach to yoga and mindful, soul-fuelled living. Alexa facilitates retreats, courses and workshops to inspire true ownership of yoga and life that is optimistic, curious and courageous.