Yoga is for everyone!
Albeit a narrow one. This entry is, in a way, about my Dharma the way I see it, or my purpose in Life, and in another way, about Chakra One, which governs our ability to feel sustained by our environment, to be provided for by the universe, to feel that we have a right to be here. By examining these things I feel aligned with the Universe, and I invite you to conduct a similar analysis of your Dharma and see how it aligns with the larger scheme of things.
Let's begin with Chakra One. Feeling financially secure is a great way to nourish Chakra One, but prosperity is also a mental state, not just a bank account, so Yoga helps me to keep in perspective what I need to feel prosperous, and if I am honest with myself, I don't NEED all that much. What does that mean in a large scheme of things? Who is this "I"?
I have always thought of myself as a practitioner of Yoga first, and a teacher second. Maybe that is why I am not very interested in making tons of money teaching Yoga, although I would love to make enough for a modest living. I do believe that I am providing a valuable service to my community by helping people find a peaceful mind and a healthier body, and I think it is okay to be paid for such a service, since it allows me to devote more time to studying Yoga (I have spent thousands of dollars on my studies) so that I could grow as a teacher, therapist, and practitioner.
I often come across workshops on the business of Yoga, how to make more money running a Yoga studio or a private Yoga therapy practice, how to market oneself, etc. I also often hear many Yoga teachers say that they are not good at self-promotion. I have heard myself say that many times as well! It is true, I could probably do more to advertise myself. Why don't I?
Here is a thought. Just because a style of Yoga is popular or a studio is popular, or a Yoga teacher is a world-renowned teacher who travels about almost like a rock star, doesn't mean they are teaching better Yoga than I do. Some of them do, for sure, but not all of them. What they are better at than I am is self-promotion. They have become a wide door, through which many people can enter the world of Yoga - they have a global reach, they are out there on book covers, in Yoga Journal Magazine, on Youtube, everywhere. They are charismatic people who are able to attract a great audience. That is great! The more people find Yoga, the better for the world. But the wider the door, the more people walk through it, the less a particular individual stands out in that crowd, the less personal that Yoga becomes. It works, but to a point. At some point a serious Yoga practitioner wants the eyes of the teacher on them, because it is that relationship between the teacher and the student that allows both to grow beyond what either thought possible.
I think of myself as a narrow door. I am a boutique off the beaten path. When you come in, you are the only customer here, and you get all the attention. This kind of boutique would scare some people away, those who feel safer in a crowd at a department store, who maybe want to blend in rather than stand out. A boutique is also more expensive than Macy's, there are no sales, so there is the question of a budget. A private Yoga session is more expensive than a group class.
Who would go to a boutique? Someone who is interested in a custom fit, who has decided that they are going to invest in themselves a little bit more money, because they can afford to do so, but mostly because they know they get a higher quality product. Someone who is not afraid to be the center of attention. A private Yoga session with an experienced teacher is like being fitted at the tailor - every curve of your body is examined and acknowledged. You end up wearing a custom made piece that fits you to a tee. Nothing chafes, rubs, pulls, bunches or pinches.
And that is what I enjoy making the most. I don't like making one size fits all Yoga, it makes me feel empty. What makes me feel full is to take my time with the details, with the quality materials, with unique one-of-a-kind features. I feel fulfilled and I know it is my Dharma to do it this way.
I enjoy teaching small group classes, too. I usually know the names of all my regulars. I offer modifications and variations to suit a variety of needs. But my tailoring skills can truly shine in an individual setting. I derive a great satisfaction from getting to know my student as a person, and from designing a practice for them that can take them beyond what they can even imagine. I am a guide on a long journey, a journey that never ends, as a matter of fact, but the point is in following the path, sometimes getting somewhere unexpected. You can walk on this path in a large group of people, or you can walk on this path together with just one companion - your teacher, and then eventually, by yourself. That's why having a personal guide is so important in these early stages or when you feel lost. Someone who has been where you are and who knows the way.
Yoga has always been for me an individual pursuit. I am in it for myself. I see myself as a door so that my soul can travel from the infinity without to the infinity within. And that door is as narrow as my single-pointed concentration. I have been traveling back and fourth for a long time and can help people who are new or need guidance, but my ultimate goal is to set them free to walk fearlessly forward alone. And here is where we come back to Chakra One. Fear. It is the most primal emotion that is often behind all others. It is a driving force in our lives, but where is it driving us? What road are we being driven on by fear? Are we doing our Dharma or is fear stopping us from entering a Yoga boutique? I used to be gripped by fear that I will never be able to make a living teaching Yoga. Maybe I should try to advertize myself more, teach more group classes, attend money-making seminars? So much anxiety. It is common to be afraid of failure, afraid to lose what we have, afraid we won't get what we want, afraid of being stuck in the same miserable place and yet afraid of change, afraid of making the wrong choice. I am no longer afraid, because... and it is getting a bit mystical here... but that is Dharma for you...
...I have been getting this feeling lately that people come to me for a reason. I am a narrow door that only a few would seek, a few would notice, and a few would dare to open. Not everybody can go through it, and not everybody should. Only serious customers need apply. I like this image of myself, and when I see myself this way, I feel aligned with a higher purpose and there is no fear.
This is not to say that a wide door and a department store Yoga is bad, far from it! But there are other teachers who are better at that kind of Yoga than I am, it is their Dharma, obviously, and they should do what they do best - market Yoga to the masses and teach to the lowest common denominator. If it sparks an interest in deeper exploration in one of those thousands, then they have done their job well. I will take it from there. Meanwhile, the Universe will provide.
P.S. The above is my Dharma statement - or my purpose in Life as I see it right now. What is your purpose? Sometimes it is useful to ask yourself these things.