Chinese artist and renegade Ai Weiwei has created something I for one can’t wait to witness:

Yoga and the Human Flow

I’ve been fortunate enough in the randomness of my advantages that I can dedicate time to a practice of contemplation and calm. I can step onto the secure space of my yoga mat, move with relative ease and strength, enjoy the peace of my environment, and rest. Many years ago my father, working in Yemen at the time, would say upon his return to Canada that “we live in Disneyland over here”. Still so true. Ease and freedom and peace are fantasies to much of the world’s people.

When I meet life outside of this Disneyland, I inevitably ask myself, What am I practicing? What does what I do actually do? Well, my yoga practice is a way of me living the kind of life all of us should be able to enjoy. It’s my personal practice of stepping up, moving through, staying focused, and training a state of balance in myself which helps me function well. Humans need to move.

Beyond this personal practice, though, is this other kind of human flow, one that’s forced, violent, destructive, destabilizing, alienating, one that Ai Weiwei has brought into focus. We’re still so incapable of taking care of ourselves and each other. We’re still so driven by aggression and self-protection and fear. We can’t be separate from it because we ARE it, we are all in this bonded human flow. We are all so lost until we can all rest in some degree of safe, free movement – from within our own primitive bodies to the vastness of our cut-up continents, until we can each have a secure space to move with ease and strength, and enjoy the peace of our spaces, until we can all rest.

How Can We Flow Together?

Are there too many of us? Are we too chemically driven by underdeveloped brains to survive ourselves? Are we incapable of freedom? Do we only know how to learn through suffering? How do we make positive change in the face of such a vast diaspora?

I don’t know.

Can it start on my mat, in my movement practice? Can I feel empathy while focusing on my breath? Or do I want to hide there in my safe space? Do I resent the idea of having to think of others in that hour or so of time I’ve set aside to take care of myself? How can I connect my yoga flow with this human flow without being pulled apart by the riptide?

I start here, with this simple practice:

Sitting, imagining one person in the middle of such destruction across from me, I look them in the eye and say:

 

May you be at ease in the world (and I consider what that might mean)

May you feel safe and strong (and I consider what that might mean)

May you forgive and be forgiven (and I consider what that might mean)

May you love and be loved (and I consider what that might mean)

 

It’s toothless, but it’s a start. It changes my mind and heart. It moves me. Unless I take it off the mat, it does exactly nothing for anyone else. How do I take it off the mat … this is my next movement, my next flow …

Metta meditation with Pranalife Yoga May you be at ease in the world/ may you feel safe and strong; may you forgive and be forgiven; may you love and be loved.

Is being a yoga instructor a good fit for you? That depends on your answer to this one question:

What do you value?

[Post summary: What’s to love/know about being a yoga instructor; a snapshot of the life of an instructor; how you can make money & how much money yoga instructors make; designing the yoga instructor lifestyle]

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training with Asia Nelson

My Life as a Yoga Instructor

I can’t tell you what being a yoga instructor would be for you. But as a full-time yoga instructor for over a decade now, I can tell you my experience: I love my abundant independence. I love getting to travel pretty much whenever I want, for as long as I want. I love that I’m constantly learning. I love being able to design and steer my career, the creativity of being an entrepreneur, having two-hour long lunches with friends almost anytime, getting to build new courses, classes, workshops and whatever other creative venture I dream up. I love being a part of a community of teachers who want to be better people, and help others do the same. I love that what I do involves laughter, growth, fitness, stress-relief, and making people healthier and freer.

I couldn’t really care less about having a huge house or $800 shoes (though I have been known to indulge in the occasional killer coat). The Joneses’ Chasers and I don’t have much to talk about at any bizarre cocktail party where we might find ourselves thrown together. I haven’t invested in a lot of the things that tend to require a steep financial commitment and long-term consistency (marriages + mortgages + kids + brick-and-mortal businesses + etc.) so I’m able to stay light and mobile, prepare for the rough times and enjoy the good times as they come.

I also have a high tolerance for taking on the risks of running my own business: not having a paycheque show up every two weeks or a Project Manager to set out what I’m working on now and next. I don’t crave or need a regular routine (though I can design my life to have that if I wanted it) and I work well without a boss to make sure I’m on track (when I need an ass-kicking, I hire it or create something that forces me to deliver). I also have a partner who supports and enjoys the benefits of my choices without needing anything different from me.

Your Life as a Yoga Instructor

What about you?

My description of my life might delight or deter you, and that’s based on what you value. Mine is also only one example of how you can design your lifestyle as a yoga instructor. Whatever your goals, you’ve got to get clear on what you value before choosing this – or any – career because it’s going to be how you spend a lot of your time and make your money. Better to go into it with eyes wide open. So let’s get real.

As a Certified Yoga Instructor, you’ll be paid in (at least) three key ways:

  1. In money. Presuming that you follow a more traditional career initially, expect within your first few years to make about $25-60/class x however many classes you teach, and assume you’l take 2-6 weeks off/year (most yogis do). So,
  • If you teach 8 classes/week at $25/class, you’ll make ~ $10,000/year (and work ~ 10-15 hours/week).
  • If you teach 12 classes/week at $60/class, you’ll make ~ $34,500/year (and work ~ 15-25 hours/week).
  • If you add corporate/private clients at $80-$160/class, you’ll make ~ $50,000/year (and work ~ 25-35 hours/week)

It’s not exactly you rolling up to the curb in your new Ferrari but it ain’t too shabby, and in terms of money earned per time unit ($/hr), you can do pretty well. You can also earn back your teacher training investment within your first year (many of us can’t say the same of our university or college training!). Beyond weekly classes, you can earn income through myriad means like selling products, being an expert in fitness sectors, or creating courses/workshops/retreats/events. If you approach this career as a full-time gig, you can break into six figures. It’s not common, but it’s doable if you’ve got the gusto and discipline.

2. In time. Here’s where this career can really pay off. Time is a non-renewable resource. Being a yoga teacher gives you the ability to control so much more of how you spend the hours of your days. Even if you’re teaching 12 classes a week, you’re likely working less than 30 hours/week total between marketing, admin, prepping, teaching, biz growth and client management. It’s fairly easy to integrate teaching yoga with other part-time work, take time off when you need/want it, and enjoy a leisurely weekly schedule that affords you more hours to spend doing things you enjoy with people you love.

3. In experiences. Getting to enjoy your time and money is the difference between imagining the life you want and actually living it. As a yoga instructor, you may not be making the six figures of Bay Street (though you could), but you also won’t be working their hours or harbouring their stress. YOU determine where you work, and with whom. In my decade+ of teaching, I’ve rarely worked with people I didn’t enjoy knowing – and when I did, I simply ended the contract. I’m in a small market and I’ve thrived; you can, too. Imagine being able to spend your working time with people who inspire you, value you, and give you opportunities to share your gifts. You’ll also have a flexible schedule to write that book, take that trip, hang out with your kids, or hell, just get couch-shaped and watch a boatload of Netflix if you like. It’s up to you – and that’s the point.

 

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training with Asia Nelson

Me in Ronda, Spain when I moved there in 2008 for the winter.

 

Being a yoga instructor is a lifestyle choice that offers you simplicity, time and freedom. If you like the idea of having a lot of flexibility and the ability to control your work schedule, to hustle and chill when you want/need it, to travel/study/get the time you want with people you love, and to turn yoga surfing retreats into your new “conventions”, then you’re gonna love this gig.

You’re also gonna need to be self-driven, be able to handle the ups and downs of solo-/entrepreneurship, and know how to get what you want. With Pranalife Yoga, you have a support structure built in and our community of graduated, certified teachers is second to none; still, that push to get’r done has got to come from you. If the mantra, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” resonates with you, you’re very likely exactly where you should be right now. Keep reading.

With Pranalife Yoga training in particular, you’re able to design your lifestyle to include creativity, evolution, and independence. You won’t be confined to a static set of postures, or to teaching only one style of yoga in one kind of studio. With Pranalife Yoga training, you’ll get the tools for lifelong growth – on your mat, in your classes, tailored to your style, and supporting your career.

Now that you’ve got an idea what being a yoga instructor looks like, you can decide whether it’s for you (because not everyone wants this kind of life – seems whack, I know, but it’s true). Whether it’s a part-time supplement or a full-time passion fulfillment, Pranalife Yoga will help you turn your vision into reality.

Ready to apply

I was recently inspired by a quote from a recent interview with Pavel Tsatsouline of StrongFirst notoriety (a Special Forces trainer known for bringing kettlebell training technique out of the former USSR):

“Use strength, find space, spread the load … and breathe through the tight spot.” ~ Pavel Tsatsouline

Pavel’s techniques are globally known to be powerful ways to progress with attaining physical strength. He goes into some detail about each piece:

Use Strength

Rather than just dropping into a movement, actively move yourself, constantly. If you’re squatting, don’t just drop into the squat but actively lower yourself there. Don’t just slide into the splits, actively press your feet apart. In other (yogic) words, move consciously and deliberately.

Find Space

Addressing fascia specifically, Pavel uses the metaphor of pulling a post out of the ground. If you just grab hold and pull, you won’t have much luck. But, if you “wiggle” it loose, work it from all angles, ease the grip the ground has on it, it’ll slide right out. In movement, don’t just jam into a joint and push; rather, ease in and out, come at it from different angles, and most importantly, RELAX as much tension from your body as possible.

Spread the Load

Make the movement/shape holistic. Don’t just focus on one joint, but explore how you can make the movement happen throughout your body.

Breathe Through the Tight Spot

Holding your breath tight or restricted will tense your entire body. Be patient, be persistent, be good at practicing.

 

Taking these principles to the yoga mat, here’s how this might change how you move:

Pavel’s Approach, on the Yoga Mat

All of yoga is a practice of balancing strength and ease. Strength and ease in balance feels comfortable. Too much strength = pushing/effort, strain, loss of energy. Too much ease = loss of focus, lack of change, resting into (and putting a lot of un-countered force through) your joints. When you’re first learning a yoga posture, use your inhale to focus on strength, your exhale to focus on ease. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to find this balance consistently, with strength and ease infusing every inhale and exhale.

Finding space in a pose can be done in a few ways. I love to teach this principle in terms of imagery: As you practice, imagine the wave of your breath creates a subtle wave throughout your entire body. Feel the expansion and increasing energy of your inhales and the relaxing let-go of your exhales as though this happens through and between every cell. This wave can become quite kinetic, turning your posture into a dynamic movement. In cobra, for example, this could become lifting and lowering through the spine, or emphasizing the front and back ribs expanding and sinking into your body along with your breath.

You can also just start “wiggling” around the joint/s. In Frog Pose (straddle), go between squeezing your knees towards each other and pressing them apart. Rock your pelvis like you’re drawing a line up and down the back wall with your tailbone. Shift your weight forward into your forearms and back into your hips. Dance in, out, around, and through the posture.

Another way to find space is what Pavel touches on in the final point: Breathing through the tight spot. Keep your body fairly still, but get energetically focused. Each inhale, try to expand your entire body – or a specific area you’re looking to loosen. Each exhale, fully relax while still holding the shape.

Spread the load by practicing yoga as though your entire being is doing it. Be fully engaged. This doesn’t mean applying extreme effort until failure. It means be present, extend your attention from one point in the pose (say, your hips in Triangle) to all joints in that pose. Play with shifting your weight over different points (getting more support out of your back foot in Triangle, or using your hand on your shin – and your shin pressing up into your hand – to bear more of the weight that’s taxing your low back/side waist) or changing your pose to take weight differently (bend and straighten your lead knee, reach your arms in different directions).

What I love about this approach is not only that it’s smart, but it’s so PLAYFUL. We’re always taking shapes in yoga. It’s a movement practice. But what we’re really doing is practicing a quality of approach. Not just what are you doing, but HOW are you doing it? Relax, enjoy, breathe, and do the thing like you love it!

Pranalife Yoga Asia Nelson Teacher Training yoga classes workshops Waterloo Kitchener Cambridge Guelph Toronto