Nuria and I met in Goa two years ago and I was touched by her inquiring and enthusiastic mind and dedication to helping others through the power of Yoga. Enjoy!
The Joy of Teaching for Free
Giving feels good, so does practicing yoga, when you combine the two, it’s magic.
When I first starting teaching yoga I didn’t feel comfortable charging people since I was in essence practicing on them (this doesn’t actually change, you just get more confident practicing on people. It is yoga PRACTICE after all!) so I taught donation classes in a gallery space to a brave bunch of tight and muscly men, many of whom still come to my classes. I didn’t realize it then but by initiating my teaching experience as one without money, I created a setup where I realized that I love teaching yoga and will always do it, no matter how much money I make, because what I get is way more than what I give and there is no way I could quantify this in financial terms,
There is so much emphasis these days on making money, on having a career, that we often forget why were are doing what we are doing to get to percieved outcome! Everything becomes a destination and we lose the magic of the process. By offering something without expecting anything in return, it realigns one to their center, to the core of the offering and not the outcome. When I teach for free I focus more on what I want to teach and less on what I think the students might be wanting and this creates a more authentic experience. One that is actually richer and more rewarding than a class you pay for because it comes straight from my center, my source of creativity and joy to you! For free. No strings attached.
When I teach a paid class, my ego is more likely to get involved. Of course its nice to think about how people enjoy my class and are willing to pay money for it, but I also end up thinking about how great this is and how fabulous I am and how I am making this months rent and the ego just goes on and on. Because, in the end, it boils down to a transaction and like all transactions sometimes we have expectations about the outcomes and sometimes, more often than not,these expectations don’t match up to reality!
Perhaps one of the most touching experiences that came to me while teaching for free was when I taught in Sweden at the University in Uppsala to other graduate students. The yoga blossom is just starting to open in Sweden and the gratitude and love was unbelievable. I taught twice a week. Mats were packed side to side. Many of the students had never done yoga before and the response was so inspiring. Women and men came up to me after class with tears in their eyes and hugged me saying “thank you”, “I needed this so much today”, “that was amazing”. Swedes are notoriously unemotional (I should know, I am half of one) and the fact that I gave and received such openness and gratitude, kept me warm that Winter. I even had a student tell me I that I saved their life that semester. That they were diagnosed with a mental illness and my twice weekly donation class was what kept them grounded. I shudder to think where that student would have been had those classes not been available to them.
I know that this exchange happens in classes where people pay. But realistically not everyone can afford the 15-20 dollars a regular class costs these days, especially graduate students and other high stress/low earners who often are the ones who need the grounding, nurturing and stabilizing effects of a yoga practice the most.
Of course I realize that we have to live, and we need money to live in this world and so I make an effort to find other ways to make money to relieve that pressure from my teaching. Allowing what ever I receive from teaching to be an added bonus. In Anthropology we use the term mutual reciprocity. New age philosophy has a similar concept “ when we give me receive”. Both are basically the idea that as we give we are taken care of in return and I truly feel that this applies to my teaching. I can’t even begin to quantify the amount of opportunities, connections and amazing experiences I have had because of teaching yoga, often for free.
I have come a long way from the humble donation classes in an art gallery and I now teach regular paid classes but I always make a point to teach a free class along side my regular classes, this helps me give back to the community that supports me as a teacher and connects me to why I wanted to teach yoga in the first place. Each class reminds me that a yoga class is an authentic gift, straight from my heart to yours. And what I receive in return is impossible to quantify in financial numbers. It is both of the moment and eternal and way, way more satisfying than mere dollar bills.
Nuria Reed is a yogini/writer/anthropologist. She delights in making the mundane aspects of life full of depth, beauty and excitement. She also delights in the not so mundane, often packing her bag for a far off land and otherworldly adventure. She most recently landed in Santa Barbara, California where she teaches yoga and writes. She has studied these topics with some of the most inspiring teachers around the world and seeks to inspire her students to live a life full of enchantment and meaning. When not falling out of handstand or riding her motorcycle she can be found swimming in the deep blue pacific. For more yoga, beauty and all around fun you can follow her on facebook, but these days she is way more into Instagram.
Want to dive in to teaching this year? Join Rachel Zinman and John Weddepohl in Byron Bay October 21- November 29, 2013 ” The Best Teacher Training You’ll ever do.”