Monday, February 28, 2011

A Modest Proposal

With this title, I tip my hat to Jonathan Swift. I may not be as eloquent or as skillful in my presentation (or as purely sarcastic), but we will arrive at a similar place:

Yoga studios, please stop making babies.  Just for 1 year.

You know the ones I mean.  The ones who pay the year’s rent.  The one’s who fill up the senior teachers’ classes to make the numbers look good.  The golden children who lose their luster as soon as the new crop’s checks clear.  The Teacher Trainees.

You are hurting us all.  Every last one of us that teach.  Including yourselves.

Teacher trainings look good on the surface—hey, I know how expensive it is to rent, how much time is spent worrying about who is coming through the door, and I would want a little extra insurance too.  Except it does not really work that way, does it.

Because if it did, studios should be packed with graduates taking classes with their teachers.  Studio schedules would be packed with teachers who graduated their program.  But they are not. 

Every year studios are left to coax a new group of trainees (and students) in the door to replace the consistent, paying, students that they converted last year, who now have taken all that you have to offer.  Why would they come back?  To learn something new?  They just paid a handsome sum to (presumably) learn all you have to offer.  Because they have the opportunity to teach?  Really?  You think that?  Look at your schedule.  Do you only have your grads teaching at your space?  Look at your graduates’ bios.  Are they promoting your training?  Are they sending students to your training?

Our teeny tiny market is flooded.  Not just overpopulated; build me an ark ‘cause God is p__ed flooded.  And the “teachers” don’t have their own practice (I know, I have them in my classes), and their understanding of the philosophical components of this practice are exponentially more dwarfed than their understanding of the physical practice.  Because no one taught them or encouraged them to teach themselves.  “Juicy” is not a term to describe a practice.  Lotus ALWAYS leads with the right leg first, left on top.  There is a reason for it.  A fundamental one.  Look it up. 

Yes, it makes a difference.

It makes a difference because all the students out there are so bombarded with crap that they cannot even recognize good teaching.  When they are challenged, or a teacher uses Sanskrit (there is a reason to use Sanskrit.  A fundamental one.  Look it up.), or God forbid mentions <gulp> God, they run away.  Mentally if not physically.  Or worse yet, they think “Oh, I can touch my toes and say Krishna, I’ll teach yoga,” and sign up for the next training.  And the market becomes more saturated with less talent because studios are too afraid of loosing the immediate gain to turn away unqualified potential trainees.  Or to fail an embarrassingly unqualified student and have to give that money back.

Every inspiring teacher I have known (as a matter of fact, enter any profession here) has 2 things in common:  They continue to practice, and they continue to study.  Those 14 new teachers that were just ushered out the door with a wave and a smile, who is pushing them to continue to practice, to study?  Who is supporting and mentoring them?  Making sure they are REPRESENTING YOUR BRAND and driving more business your way?  They are not doing it themselves.  How could they?  They don’t know what they don’t know, they are new at this.  These graduates just invested thousands of dollars with you.  It is reasonable that they expect some continued support as they start out. 

If you are doing this, I applaud you.  But are you ? Really?

A yoga studio is a business, and there is lots of competition.  Business grows a whole lot quicker if you keep the current paying customers coming.  Business grows if you utilize your trainees to promote and grow your business.  Give them a class.  Each one.  Let them grow it. More money for you. 

Make them beg for an opportunity, they will hurt your business. They won’t come back for classes; you are now out a long term paying student.  They won’t refer people to you; you are out the best source of free advertising you have. They will try to take your students away; regardless of if they succeed or not, it looks really bad on you, not on them. 

Just one year.  Reach back out to your past trainees and grow them during that time.  Do something to let them know you care about them, their effort, not that their check cleared.  It takes time to learn to teach.  Show your grads you remain committed to their success and their development as teachers.  Grow them and you will grow.  Just one year. 

You are the expert, be the example.  They will copy you. 


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