This originally appeared on my email list, but so many people wrote me about it (and shared their own big yoga failures), I thought maybe more people needed to hear it. There is no shame in that failure game.
When I got my first yoga teaching gig, the studio owner emailed me every week to tell me things I should work on: “You have to practice with your students, so you know how the poses feel in the body. But make sure you stop to assist them. Play music. Now, play different music. Your class is too hard. Have you tried going to the other vinyasa teacher’s class? Teach like her.”
I ended up leaving that studio, because I thought I had failed at yoga teaching. At a new studio, I felt like I fit in more, and things were going pretty well. One of the popular teachers ended up moving, and her Saturday morning time slot was available. It was a regularly full class, and I was lucky enough to get to teach it. For a while it was great, but then the class attendance started to dwindle. (No big deal, it’s just summer and people are out of town…they’ll be back) Then, fewer people came. (Hey, when the back to school rush is over, they’ll be back). Then, I get the phone call.
“I think we need to switch up the schedule.”
I had the most popular class, and I had managed to run it into the ground somehow. I felt like the worst yoga teacher ever.
It took a while, but things improved. I learned to take criticism a little better. I got some more training, and most importantly I worked on fostering better relationships with students. Simple things like learning their names and asking them if they had questions after class (Yeah, I had failed at customer service 101.) I had a lot of social anxiety to get over.
Then I moved back to Arkansas, and while it wasn’t completely starting at square one (I mean, I at least know to learn people’s names now). I had to learn to fail again.
I took over classes, and people stopped attending.
I planned elaborate workshops that no one wanted to come to.
I sat in my private teaching space dozens of times alone because no one showed up to class.
And maybe this weekend was the toughest of all the fails. A workshop I had been planning for months, wrote a training manual for, spent money on Facebook ads, and yelled about from the mountain tops, was finally happening. I had the minimum sign-ups. Everyone had pre-paid. Yes, it was going to be small, but it was going to be amazing.
And only one person showed up.
I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. And as much as I know I should be all “4 Agreements” up in this bitch and say it isn’t personal. I was feeling the reality of very much taking it personally.
And it’s not even about money, since I’m still getting paid regardless. But, I still felt like I was in second grade and on the swing set alone because no one wanted to be my friend. Yeah, I was that dang sad about it.
Part of me thinks this is all karma. Before I was a teacher, I would always sign up to go to my favorite teacher’s class at 5:45am. I actually only made it a handful of times sometimes because of wine, but mostly because I would rather sleep. Eventually, her early morning class was cancelled. In my most self-involved times, I wonder if my yoga fails are payback for every time I hit the snooze.
But it’s also a source of comfort. If people could no-show for that lady (literally one of the best people and yoga teachers ever), then it probably could happen to anyone.
That’s what I hold on to when I’m feeling really down on myself. In spite of what you might see in the online highlight reels, everyone fails. With this many yoga teachers around, competition is tough. Hell, life in general is kind of a roll of the dice. Yeah, we shouldn’t take it all so personally, but when we do, maybe it’s all right to throw your second grade tantrum, eat some brownies, and cry a little.
I’m not ashamed about it.
I cried over a yoga workshop. I cried real dang hard about it.
I just wish we could all talk about failure and disappointment without having Voldemort-level fears. (He-who-must-not-be-named) It isn’t contagious. It isn’t always your fault. But it’s difficult to have the failure conversation without someone interjecting how positive you should be about it or telling you to quit bitching, dust yourself off, and get to work. And I agree that we all should get back to work, but sometimes you have to let your skinned knees hit the ground first before you can start the process of dusting yourself off.
Nobody wants to talk about our shame around failure, and hyper-positive yoga people DEFINITELY don’t want to talk about it. #theuniverseprovides On Instagram, everybody’s posting pictures of their full classes, or they are announcing “only a few spots left” when there’s probably all the spots left. Not many are saying, “Golly, I only had four people show up, but it was the best group ever.” Packed rooms = great teacher, right?
I’m not sure what the point of this post is other than to say, this self-employed shit is hard, but don’t feel too sorry for me though because it is also pretty amazing. It’s just sometimes your new projects feel like you are putting your hearts and guts on the line, and it leaves you vulnerable for the general public to stomp on your dreams. It sounds dramatic, but it also FEELS dramatic.
But there’s always stuff you can learn.
Everyone of those yoga fails taught me lessons and made me a better teacher and business person. Each one revealed a blind spot. And maybe if I get super good at failing, eventually I’ll get excited about it. “Hot damn, I sucked at something again, how can I make myself better?”
Maybe we’ve got it all wrong that these super full classes are the definition of success. I don’t think cave-dwelling yogis two thousand years ago were crying because no one was hiking through the jungle to learn pranayama. But I don’t live in a cave. I’m a house-holder, modern lady with attachments, bills to pay, and occasionally hurt feelings.
I’m doing my best, and it’s all I can do.