Temptations of a yoga teacher sell-out

Creative Commons License photo credit: AZRainman

Sometimes my conscience tells me to do something that goes against the grain of my pocketbook. 

Things like, Stick to your guns when it comes to teaching your yoga, don’t sell-out and teach work-out yoga. Yes, Higher Consciousness, Work Out Yoga isn’t worthy of my yogic lineage, my lineage has deep meaning (if not pockets).

Consciousness continues. (It has a voice eerily like that of consciousness guru Jiminy Cricket.) “Psssstt…back to your meditation mat, Barbra. You’re a student of non-judgement.”

Okay, Jiminy, but how am I going to earn a living sticking to your standards? 

I used to be a museum curator. Back then, I would not have kitsch, or “festival art” in my exhibitions. Unless it was part of a political statement, of course, or if the theme of the exhibition was something obtuse (if fun) like “Who let the velvet paintings in the museum?: Camp in Contemporary Art.“ I was paid to be selective. I had a salary, benefits, paid holidays, even something called an IRA. I was paid respectably  to do what I loved in the way I wanted to do it. I had the freedom to present whatever my over-educated mind dreamed up, knowing I’d still get the same paycheck, no matter what. Consciousness and I were endowed, so to speak.

As far as art with deep meaning, what would I tap? Given my druthers paved in a paycheck, what art do I find up to snuff, if not that of the velvet Elvis and “Sunday painters?”

I’d happily “select” the atmospheric installations concocted by Olafur Eliasson. Be sure to view this, you’ll want to explore his work for hours. As Holland Cotter wrote in the New York Times, “Stand Still; A Spectacle Will Happen.” Any experience, be it art, yoga, or a watching the moonrise, that brings spectacle in stillness is “worthy” to me.

Olafur Ellasson installation, Creative Commons License photo credit: uair01

Okay, so I do hold the bar high when it comes to “fine” art, and I do the same with my yoga lineage… which makes my life about as fine as it gets. It’s a yoga tradition that has little to do with that “workout” I know many people want, and more to do with living one’s life purpose — and, no, that is not the most in demand yoga these days.

Damn having to use either art or yoga as a commodity. But what to do about putting tofu on the table?

To keep my integrity pristine, I might, like commenter justthisbreath noted in another Yoga Modern post, make a choice to get a second job. I could work at the corner store (or a Big Box one if times are wearing my integrity a little lean). Or I could spend some studio time crafting things I know people will buy. The fact is, unless one is celebriyogi or blue chip artist, we all have to make concessions of sorts. The vast majority of yoga teachers, artists, athletes, writers, etc., do not make a rotund bank account by doing what they love most.

Untitled, cast-ice zip ties, photo courtesy of Noellynn Pepos

I know an artist who is a master metalsmith, and an inspiring art teacher. Noellynn Pepos’ sculptures and installations don’t fly off the shelves so to speak — they are large scale, which means they are priced right out of the pocketbook of most of us. Whether or not she can support herself with it is not why she stays up all night, mad with ideas, making art. She relies on a sideline business of felting art scarves for her bread and butter. Her soul wants to create glorious installations such as this cast-ice fence. She makes wearable textiles to make a living.

To bring things back to my “enterprise of yoga,” I could, I guess, in the interest of having a roof over my crown chakra teach a kind of yoga just because it packs the studio. I do know there is a middle path. As my teacher, Rod Stryker says,“Give them what they want, then incorporate what you know they need.”

Is it selling out to change the way you teach yoga to get more students in the studio? Would you rather have a “job-job” than “sell-out” and teach a style of yoga you don’t really like just so you can do some version of what you love full time?


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Barbra Brady is the Art Editor at Yoga Modern. She holds an MA in Museum Exhibition Theory & Cultural Studies, which she has exercised as a museum curator of contemporary art, nationally published writer, leader of a venerated nonprofit yoga retreat foundation, and now, yoga with a slant on channeling creative energy. When not practicing or teaching yoga in the tradition of her teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker (as a Certified Level IParaYoga teacher) or as an iRest Yoga Nidra practitioner, Barbra practices the yoga of “curiosity.” The curiosity that fuels her imagination may be through writing, curating, a turn of leaf or phrase, cinema, a century ride on her road bike… She’ll be sharing her curatorial picks and original musings, as she whispers in the ear of the Yoga Modern community: “Hey, look at this!” She lives in Sonoma, California, an Eden which naturally prompts her reflections on nature, food, and yes, wine (in meaningful moderation).

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