Monday, February 1, 2016

Don’t Box Yourself In: A Letter to All Yoga Teachers

by Caitlin Rose Kenney, CSOY Faculty and Development Director, Yoga Teacher in Boulder & Denver, CO

I recently moved back to Boulder, CO after a 6-month stint of working for a tech startup in New York City. In addition to working my full-time job in the city, I wanted to teach a few yoga classes, which I eventually did - but it took me months to get classes and I was surprised by the reason some studios didn’t give me an audition. I was very intentional about the studios I asked to audition with and I spent months “courting” two studios in particular. When I approached the owners about teaching one studio auditioned me and the other said I should take their Teacher Training since they only hire teachers they have trained. For the latter studio, the owner acknowledged that I had a strong practice, knew that I had been teaching for upwards of four years and knew that I had a significant amount of training under my belt with high-quality teachers. But, my qualifications didn’t matter, they only hired from within.

When I returned to Colorado, I faced different challenges in getting public classes at yoga studios. Given that I had already taught yoga in this community getting “in” at studios was a fluid process. But getting permanent Vinyasa flow classes was a different story. Boulder and Denver are saturated with popular yoga teachers and a lot of those teachers teach some incarnation of Vinyasa Yoga, the same style I teach. Six months into my return, I am still trying to add classes to my weekly schedule. I am not competing with my colleagues but I am literally waiting in line for classes to teach Vinyasa at yoga studios.

If I pan out and look at a year’s worth of time and energy invested in getting public yoga classes at studios in New York City and in Colorado, I can’t help but think new yoga teachers have the odds stacked against them if they are hoping to teach in yoga studios. However, the challenges involved need not be disheartening. I now recognize that I have had tunnel vision about where I can teach yoga. After taking Trauma Informed Yoga Training with Comeback Yoga I realized that if I wanted to reach new yoga students who suffer from PTSD and other underserved populations, I probably wasn’t going to find them in a yoga studio. An epiphany presented itself, what if I can serve more people by teaching classes outside of yoga studios?

It took me an embarrassing amount of time to consider that I should look and create outside the yoga studio box for teaching opportunities. I am still grappling with my ego on why exactly I have placed teaching at studios as my highest priority when I could have also been looking to teach teenage girls or recovering addicts, populations that my life experience has pointed me towards teaching.

To be honest, I am still intimidated by trying to teach yoga outside of the studio. What venue will I hold class in? How will people know I am teaching these specialty classes? Am I prepared to teach students who may have physical or mental health conditions that I haven’t seen before?

My dilemma, to find venues to teach in and the confidence to do something outside of the studio, is not just my own. It’s a challenge that nearly every rising yoga teacher will face today and for as long as yoga stays on trend. I’ve been talking with colleagues and fellow practitioners about this: if not the studio, then where do I teach?

I asked and my community answered. I am excited to share the answers with you and that’s why over the next month the Colorado School of Yoga Blog is dedicated to articles about Yoga Outside the Box. You guessed it, that box is the studio. We have inspiring stories from yogis across the world that have brought their expertise in yoga to populations who have never had access to it: veterans, elderly people, kids in poor neighborhoods, sex trafficking survivors, truck drivers, and patients in hospitals to name a few. We have stories about innovation and the challenges and triumphs that come with bushwhacking your own path to teaching yoga.

New and experienced yoga teachers, don't box yourself in! Start thinking about where you can teach outside the box and reach the communities for whom studio yoga is or feels inaccessible! This month, check out our blog, sign-up for our newsletter, and tune in to our Facebook page because we have insights from yoga teachers who have done incredible things outside of the yoga studio - how they started, what they learned and tips for you if you decide to take the road less (or never!) travelled.

Caitlin Rose Kenney is a Yoga Teacher, writer, beekeeper and CSOY alum. She is a RYT-500 and has been teaching for 5 years. She teaches yoga to satisfy the whole being and speaks about the physical practice as an access point for wide spread change in mental patterns, emotional states and connection to spirit. Caitlin Rose is known for holding space with a calm confidence that allows practitioners to move safely, feel, revitalize and heal. Her writing has been featured in Elephant Journal and ClassPass. Learn more about Caitlin at