Thursday, June 26, 2008

Negotiating Teaching: Part 2

Ok, neither my chiropractor nor my 8-pound old-lady cat can loosen what is now a tangle of muscles locked up around my spine...though both made an attempt yesterday, for what it was worth. :)

I didn't necessarily think I'd make the topic of negotiating teaching into a series of posts, but it kinda makes sense. We all were told over and over at training that "the journey really starts when you leave here and start teaching." It's true. Lots of things to balance, logistically and otherwise, and decisions to make about where you want to teach (or, in some cases, are willing to teach).

First there is the big issue of 'affiliated' vs. 'non-affiliated' studios. This is rough. You are specifically directed not to teach at non-affiliated studios - however, the reality is for many of us that these are the only option for getting classes. There are many opinions about this - unaffiliated studios typically aren't affiliated for a few reasons: Space is too small or not a rectangle (squares rooms are not ok); no showers; or they teach another style of yoga at the same studio (usually heated Power or Vinyasa Flow). Of the ones that fall into this category here, they all do teach their Bikram classes by the book with only certified teachers. So, this has been conundrum number one for me, as there are only two affiliated studios in Seattle, one of which is my home studio - they don't take new teachers - it's an old studio with seasoned students, and frankly, I think I'd get eaten alive. The second is totally packed with teachers at this time, though there is promise there with some effort and patience.'s a personal decision for each teacher to make, and there is a lot of judgment around it (esp. by folks who live in a city with 12 affiliated studios :) Ultimately, I would love to only teach at affiliated studios, without a doubt. Right now though...

Second, there's the whole thing about "showing your face" - that is, practicing at the studios where you want to teach. This makes all kinds of sense; you know the room better this way, students see you and your practice, and so does the owner/manager. The issue, of course, is running all over tarnation to go to class, and then doing the same thing to teach. And in my case, I still have a strong affection for the place I call home (where I can't teach), just down the street in my neighborhood, and want to practice there, too. This is another thing to juggle plus some studios are a drive and require some sitting in traffic, which with the price of gas isn't exactly a total non-issue. No biggie here, you just do what you need to of course, but it is a consideration as the ball gets rolling...

Third, Work. For me, teaching yoga alone will not pay the bills. New teachers make on the order of $40 - $45 here, or at least that's what I'm seeing. This is totally fair as you are new! Experienced teachers make on the order of (up to) $75 here. Each class is a 3-hour job, 30 min before and after, 90 minute class, and 30 minutes for wiggle room - at $15/hour, I'm not going to be paying my mortgage teaching yoga. I knew that going in of course - I have my own business as a professional organizer/personal assistant, and also take contract jobs. Right now, I've got a few organizer gigs, a couple regular personal assistant sessions starting soon, and a 1/2 time contract job starting up - in addition to teaching the yoga. (And oh yeah, practicing the yoga too, very important to teaching, so I consider that part of my 'work week' in a sense, as in, not optional but required...)

So with all that, I made a decision. I'm feel comfortable saying that I want to be a part-time Bikram yoga teacher. In the opinion of one of my favorite yoga teachers, 5-6 classes a week is plenty to both build and maintain skills - more will get it done faster, sure, but when he said that, I thought, "that sounds perfect to me!" It's also realistic, in that I have to work otherwise, and get at least 5-6 practices in a week, and balance my personal life. Part of this is practicing patience - of course I wish I could have 100 classes under my belt in short order, but it's just not going to happen that way for me. Plus, I met a girl (teacher) the other day who was in one of my classes who said she taught so much when she got back, she burned out after a few months and now just has gone back to practicing and filling in for emergencies. I felt for her - and thought, "I don't what that to happen to me..."

Teaching is exciting and fun, I'm loving it - and, at the same time, I'm back to "real life" now, and I just am putting it all together, realizing that my responsibilities (time, money) are to things I actually really want and care about - my girlfriend, my family/friends, my house, and my business. I came back from training with a validated, solid feeling that I'm set up right now in a way that maps to what I want for myself, I really feel good and at peace with my life. And, as it goes, that life happens to cost more than a yoga teacher makes...and I am ok to work within those parameters.

So, I'm continuing to take whatever chances to teach I can get - ultimately, I hope to eventually have 5-6 permanent classes a week, hopefully sandwiched into 3-4 days, leaving me 3ish days to do organizing work and contract work, with one day off each week (Fridays). Right now, I have 1 solid class/week on Saturday at 4:30; 1 class weekly (roughly) that floats around; and 1 'practice' class that is donation only that Christian and I are alternating on Sundays. So, most weeks that 2-3 for sure; and in time, I'm sure the other 2-3 will come. Plus, I have access to two studios that will let me set up practice classes of my own, should I have a light week.

Bottom line: Again, my training mentality of "Pacing, Pacing, Pacing" resurfaces. I'm dedicated, but chilling out about my initial approach of racing around and trying to force it to happen while also trying to maintain the other responsibilities of my life - instead, I'm going to keep networking and making contacts; take the opportunities to teach that come to me whenever I can; teach with gusto when I do; keep studying my dialogue like a mad woman; and trust that in the end, I will get exactly what I need at the right time. It's been true so far, so based on that, I feel solid in this approach. For now, anyhow. :)


mp said...

hey jenn,
are you open to doing private classes? i only ask because i've been going to what i think is your home studio for about 3 months and i am frustrated with my lack of progress. i feel like i am the worst student in every class i go to and i get soooo many corrections from the instructors! is it really true that the students there are really intense? if so, that makes me feel better! i would love to have one on one bikram help so that i could actually improve my postures and hopefully 'catch up' to other people in the class.

Jennifer Saito said...

hey jenn,
i have been reading your blog as i prepare to go to TT in sept! thank you so much for your words of wisdom. quick question - to be sure, is the lunch buffet included in the hotel fare?
thanks so much for your help,

mwalsh0057 said...


Toddo said...

Yes, the cost of the buffet is included with the fees paid to Bikram. You will eat after the first morning practice (8:30 to 10ish) and before the start of afternoon lectures / classes (12:15ish). You are on your own for dinner and any other food you would like to have during the day.

It is closer to a breakfast buffet then lunch, but as the weeks rolled on the hotel worked with Bikram staff to include more items such as Thai and other Asian dishes. They were not great (you will have had better at home), but the change was nice. The daily soups were very good and grew to be a popular choice with most of us.

While not all of our requests or Bikrams for that matter were met I understand the hotel would try to make changes. I suspect now that the hotel saw what the tastes of yogi's are they will be able to meet these tastes in future TT's.

For those of you who don't eat meet. First off Bikram will tell you as will staff that you should during TT (many people tried to stay true, but in the end gave up and started to eat meat). The options for those not eating meat are limited to the salad bar.

If you have to do a double (this is a result of a variety of reasons such as missing a yoga practice without a valid reason / medical excuse or as simple as not signing in for at the start of an evolution) the yoga class times on Saturday and Sunday cut in to the breakfast buffet times. In that case those who did the double and only those who did the double (if you slept in on Sunday and missed the breakfast buffet this was not an option) would be permitted to eat the lunch buffet and not have to pay extra. The hotel worked with Bikram staff to get a list of names of those who were permitted the lunch buffet at no extra cost.

Also note that you will get a small fridge in your room (one per guest), so you and your roommate will have their own. They were bigger than the typical bar fridge you get in a hotel room, but not a full size. Also some of them had a freezer shelf while other did not.