Creating your yoga teacher identity in 2020
Revision: March 2021
I start my daily routine as an online yoga teacher opening my email to check for last-minute bookings. After testing the mic, wifi connection and positioning the camera, I glance at our Online Yoga Whatsapp Group for any updates from regulars. Mondays and Fridays I definitely post a story on my Instagram to influence behaviour steering curiosity, anticipation or desire to join a class. Yoga has really adapted well to the modern world!
Lately, to create a stronger group bonding feeling, I started to introduce mantras, what was a gradual process and it's going well.
I believe that most yoga teachers have experienced the awkward moment in which we invite the class to chant an 'OM together' and the feedback is a big silence! Well, at least in a zoom format, we are less exposed and can teach the mantra not worrying as much if the group don't join. Chances are that they will chant, what is great, because helping online yoga students to get involved with other aspects of the practice will convert them into frequent attendees, and with dedication and hard work you might be able to attain loyalty- And in the digital world full of celebrity teachers, free apps and famous studios, loyalty is what will save self-employed fitness and yoga professionals from drowning on the sea of irrelevance.
On the flip side, all this variety offers a huge opportunity for growth for independent teachers, but I can't emphasise more: You'll have to work to create engagement!
Pattabhi Jois (the founder of Ashtanga Yoga) has a full guided class on youtube, yet most Ashtangis are not attending to his (totally free) class because in general, we don't have enough desire to follow a yoga routine without real-time feedback.
The power we have is one of creating real relationships!
So if anyone can go online and be guided at no extra cost or donation-based scheme by no less than Deepak Chopra during their meditation, but still, choose to check-in with their local teacher, this gives us an important clue into human behaviour and more precisely about the power of shared experiences and real-time interaction.
Many yoga instructors feel conflicted when implementing Eastern elements into a modern yoga class, however, to form an identity within the field it is imperative to find ways to communicate some of the essences of this practice; my advice is to find a language to assist you to connect without going over the board because being radical rarely inspires but repels people. Develop your style accepting that most people coming to our classes won't become vegan, neither they care to bow before the noblest of sages Patanjali...Equally, is worth remembering that they came to us and not to a Zumba or CrossFit class so they do crave something a little more than the physical benefits and a little less than full lectures on the Upanishads.
Fine lines, I know.
Going forward you don't have to be the best, but you do have to somehow inspire and connect with your audience, treat them with massive respect and gratitude because the consumer is now more than ever spoil for choice, and if we are not willing to go the extra mile, others, with bigger budgets, will!
In recent conversations with colleagues, I hear the same complaint: 'In the digital era, there's too much work for no nothing' I understand but disagree. If I measure the time that I spent trying to figure out the IGTV dimensions, hashtags, TikTok trends and online marketing by the money I am making, I am screwed! But I am not measuring my efforts in how much cash I am generating, why? Because in the digital era attention is a form of currency, and engagement is the ultimate fortune!
If you get 10 likes, ok that is too bad for our egos but ultimately you are building your digital presence for free. In today's world, as uncomfortable as it is everyone is googling you, I guarantee, some of you are using strategies such as 'being invisible on the web as a way to protect your reputations, don't come across as attention-grabbing etc. but depending on the field, people are almost suspicious if you can't be bothered. It gives the impression that 1. you can't do your job as well as Adriene 2. you are hiding something 3. you are disengaged. Yoga teachers fall into that category. Be strategical but post it!
Talking about ego, it is important to build a thicker skin because being ignored over and over again is part of the deal. It's not personal, only the process.
As we progress in our careers we become more confident and able to lead yoga classes with a certain authority that start to define our style and communicate not only our influences but also our personalities. It was like this in a formal environment and crucial when online. Be persistent to form your identity and refine who attend to your classes, because if you attract the wrong guy you might get a bad review, and you don't want that.
In the past, I wanted everyone to love my style, therefore I disappointed people who attended my class to 'relax'. Thank God it was at a gym and the complaint was not on Trustpilot but to the studio manager who happen to be my friend. Before, during and after your online sessions, explain a bit what your class is about. Set expectations correctly because there's nothing worst than tricking sushi lovers into a traditional Italian restaurant, no matter how good the pizzaiolo might be!
Be consistent and aware that your caption is worth a thousand words
Recently I had advice suggesting that my pictures on Instagram were perhaps intimidating and to do more business I should 'appeal for a larger audience.
Wrong! based on my previous experiences. I knew that I was not excluding my clients, but filtering them! Today, I instruct both beginners and advanced practitioners, but they know what they are signed for: a stronger session, arm balances, sweat, progression, transformation. My most sought after class? Inversions on Wednesdays, and the least popular? Yin, I have low attendance because people prefer to hire me to make them stronger, not mellow. Finding your identity as an online teacher is a matter of tuning what you are best at with what your client wants and how they prefer it.
An idea that I am working on to create engagement is to 'educate while entertaining', once you have a language to deliver your message and a style as a guideline, use technology to serve your public. In the video below there's a practical example encompassing most of what is in this blog post.
My last but perhaps most important (yet subjective ) tip is to always, always assume that your client is highly insightful and communicate at this level, consumers are becoming intolerant to messages that underestimate their intelligence but open to those who can deliver what they desire. In the digital world, the client will always get what he wants and a good service provider will be characterized by those who can figure out what that desire might be.
Faster than Google.
Daniela da Silva