Putting up the Closed Sign

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image by Nick Papakyriazis on flickr.com

I just cancelled a class. The reason: I am struggling to speak.  I am suffering from the  long lasting  after –effects of a cold. I did an hour long chanting session with a fellow teacher yesterday and I think I might have breathing through my mouth last night when I was sleeping ( no NOT snoring!) And then I chatted and laughed my way through an  hour long mentoring session with a student this morning and my voice was really struggling.

All of this seems to have resulted in me losing my voice. (Funny expression that isn’t it? It’s still there, it’s just not very effective)

And so I had a choice.

  1. Show up to class, suck lozenges and sip water and croak my way through, or
  2. Take time off to rest and gargle before teaching class this evening?

My impulse was to turn up. To be there, as I always am, despite how few students show up. (This is a lunchtime class that isn’t very well attended) This is definitely part of what I consider to be my ethos: integrity, consistency and reliability.  But as I walked to the studio this morning, feeling that burning discomfort in my throat I reflected on just exactly who I was serving with this intention. Not myself – as with all teachers and performers – my voice is a precious instrument. And my students? Do they not deserve to have me fully present – voice and all?

I reflected on what I would advise my students and therapy clients if they asked for advice on this situation.

And my answer would  invariably be: rest.

As a teacher, is it  enough for me to give out advice that I do not feel able to also take for myself? When students come to class with an infection or an injury – following that  culturally conditioned impulse to push on and through – then, depending on the circumstances,  my advice is often to go home and rest. Listen to what your body is telling you it needs. You have permission. As a teacher, I realise that it is important for me also to reflect the value of not pushing. If I turn up to class unable to speak, what message am I reinforcing?

Take my advice –  I’m not using it?

We live in a culture of overwork. Despite what publications like our old favourite the Daily Mail might have us believe, we are far from work-shy, quite the opposite. Often justified as a healthy “work ethic” , we work longer hours, take fewer holidays and fewer sick days than many of our European colleagues. No wonder there are so many people experiencing the effects of chronic fatigue. Pushing oneself to the point of illness cannot in anyone’s book be considered healthy.  Those in employment may feel pushed to work long hours for fear of losing their jobs, and self-employed people like myself may feel that they simply don’t have a choice, because there is nobody else to do it. The truth is, despite how indispensible we imagine we are, things can and do survive and thrive perfectly well in our absence . They really do!

I’m side tracking. I suppose what I am getting at is that this work ethic, this drive to “push through” fatigue, illness, injury and pain also manifests outside of the working environment. Even on the yoga mat. I’ve seen it countless times when students show up at class thinking that somehow they are doing a good thing by making themselves go to Yoga. Because Yoga is good for you, right?

I have had students arrive at class with the flu, in the vomity early stages of pregnancy, with fractures (yup), with a migraine, even with a nose bleed and always, I think ( and often say it too) you should really GO HOME ( via  a doctor if appropriate)

(I should say – because it is my area of specialism –  that in the case of chronic conditions, then it’s a bit different.  Happy to discuss.)

In a recent workshop with my friend and mentor Lorna Penney, we were doing some really deep work and I realised maybe half way through the day that I might not have the necessary emotional resources to teach class that evening. I think I actually said something like “I feel like I never want to teach another yoga class!”  – It’s Okay I changed my mind 😉

What Lorna offered was massively empowering and – at risk of sounding over-dramatic – life changing in its simplicity. She offered to put a closed sign on the studio door and if necessary wait for the students to arrive and tell them that I wasn’t going to be teaching that evening. As it turns out I didn’t take her up on her offer because enough processing was done during the remainder of the workshop to bring me out of my funk, but at that moment, it gave me the sense of space that I needed.  If I  COULDN’T teach, then I didn’t have to – simple.

What came after that was an opportunity to reflect on when it is appropriate to put my own closed sign on the door.  It doesn’t happen very often, but I realise that if I am to be of service to my students and therapy clients, then it is better that I work when my physical, emotional and psychic resources are not depleted.









Too busy for yoga?

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photo by liewcf on flickr.com

As yoga teachers, we ride the seasonal waves of classes that are full of enthusiastic yogis or  virtually empty – apart form the three stalwarts that make it rain or shine. New yoga teachers often take this personally. I know that I had a hard time with it when I started teaching. But over the years, as I have seen students come and go, and often come back again, I have learned to see it as part of the natural rhythm of teaching. In fact, it is the natural rhythm of life.

I also recognise that whilst a might be top of my list, for many people it is just one of the many things that fill their lives.

We all know how life happens. And it happens at such a pace, and with so many demands upon our time and attention that sometimes, the weekly Yoga class might just be  the first thing to make it into the trash folder.

I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the reasons that I have been given over the years, and break them down, to see if we can’t just give ourselves a little extra motivation to make it to yoga.  So the next few blog posts will be devoted to this topic.

#1 I’ve just been too busy

It’s a common mantra. I use it myself all the time, and sometimes I even believe myself. The truth is that if I really decided to, I could make space.

We are constantly switched on these days. Most of us carry a  Smartphone which keeps us connected via phone, text, e-mail  and social media 24/7. And this gives the illusion of having to do things all the time, so that there is never a point during the day when you are not available to work. If you are self-employed then I am guessing that this is even more the case.

E-mails arrive and demand our attention when we could be having a little downtime. Sometimes, that e-mail will ping into your inbox ten minutes before you are due to leave for your yoga class, and before you know it, you’ve missed class- again. I know how it goes, I’ve been there. Thankfully, as the teacher, I have the imperative of having to be at class, because it IS my work. How many of us have lost an hour, two hours, more – or Facebook or  YouTube and the like? We all know how these things suck us in.

I read a lighthearted blog post recently, by one of my favourite bloggers/teachers, Leonie Dawson. It was about how to make your creative ideas take shape but it can be applied to life in general. In fact, I have been applying to my life as much as possible over the past week or so.

“…And while we’re at it” she writes  “Get the f*** off the internet. No last Facebook checks to see if anything significant in your life (or anyone else’s) has changed. You have work to do…”

So if it helps – you can say to yourself “Get the f*** off the internet, you have Yoga to go to” Lightheartedly, of course!  🙂

This is my belief. And I know from my own practice that it is true. Firstly, we often sacrifice the very things that are good for us, before we sacrifice anything else in our lives.  I am not going to even  try and unravel the psychology of this, but it has a lot to do with the difference between the feelings of immediate comfort and gratification, and the benefits of long term physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. For example, my favourite comforter is hot, sweet soya-milky chai. And I could easily spend a yoga class’s worth on chai in a day, not to mention the hours sitting browsing Facebook in cafes…

Secondly, if you make time for yoga, you will be less busy. Really.  Because busy-ness is a state of mind. If you have a deadline, if you are working on a presentation, if you feel pressured to spend an extra hour in the office, if you just want to go home after a busy day and collapse on the couch with a glass of Pino Grigio, then COME TO YOGA instead. I guarantee you will feel better, less busy, less pressured and more able to tackle whatever it is that made you feel busy in the first place.

In the next instalment – reason not to come to yoga #2 “I can’t afford it”

You’re Worth It!

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So here it is… Jude’s Guide to Asking for What You’re Worth (for what it’s worth!)

For all my sisters on International Women’s Day!

Firstly, do an (objective) analysis of your skills, qualifications, training and experience. If you find this difficult to do for yourself, ask a friend to do it with you. Someone else will always notice the things that you tend to play down or think are worth less than they actually are.

Find out and acknowledge the top level “going rate” for what you do. Find out what others in your field are charging for their services. You may find that there are people with less experience than you who are charging a lot more simply because they are more confident. I have to say that there is a notable gender divide here! Women are often less confident about their own skills and certainly less comfortable in asking for more money. Self belief has a lot to do with it – but once again, that’s for another post!

Then, add up the pounds and pence. How much does it COST you to do your work? Taking everything into account – include rent, memberships, insurance, training, time for preparation, travel time, transport costs etc. If you had to pay for training to do what you do, include the cost of that.

Assume that you want to earn at least the minimum wage! Taking into account your costs, add the figures up. What is the absolute minimum you can earn in order to cover your costs and pay yourself the minimum wage?

Here is an example. Because I teach yoga, it’s for a 90 minute yoga class

Actual hours worked. You are not just working for the time it takes you to teach the class.

90 mins. teaching

+ 40 mins. travelling to and from the venue

+ 40 mins lesson planning

+ 15 mins prep time

+ 15 mins clear up time

+ 15 mins admin (minimum)

= 2 hours & 35 mins

And this doesn’t include the amount of time you spend promoting your classes, answering e-mail and phone enquiries, updating your website, posting on Facebook etc. I’m guessing nobody is paying you to do all that?

 Let’s say the absolute minimum you want to earn per hour = £7 (really?)

That means you want to earn at least £18 per class after all your costs are taken into account.

So, let’s look at costs

Studio hire = £20

Travel costs = £5 If you drive, take into account petrol, car maintenance, tax and insurance etc.

Parking = £2:50 (if you don’t hang about)

Proportion of other costs (training, memberships insurance etc.) = £6

Let’s assume you will make your own lunch but your subsistence costs should really also come into the equation.

(Conservative) TOTAL = £36

 Costs £36 + minimum earnings £18 = £54

 If you charge £8 per class then you need seven people in the class, to earn around about the minimum wage.

 Uh –huh!

Right, let’s think about private yoga lessons – and this also applies to consultancy work– then going by the same calculations you should be charging about £50 for 90 minutes. Pro-rata, that’s about £35 for an hour.

 I can hear you all gulping but that is how much your time is worth. Pure arithmetic and we haven’t started on the self esteem stuff.

If, like me, you believe that your skills and experience and worth a little more than the minimum wage, then perhaps you will begin to feel a little easier about maybe asking for more, especially if you are now at a level in your career where you have more experience under your belt, and therefore, one assumes, more to offer.

If it helps, think about how much you would be prepared and happy to pay for 90 minutes of another professional’s time. Perhaps bring to mind your dentist, vet or lawyer! The last time I took my dog to the vet (out of hours) they wanted to charge me £100 just to allow her paws to cross the threshold of the surgery. That was before any examination or treatment, just dog into the same room as vet. 100 quid.

Most professions charge more for the time of more senior professionals. Bear this in mind and place yourself honestly somewhere along the Rookie to Guru continuum.

Be bold. Compassionate, loving and sensitive, yes, but bold too! Ask for what you need. Say no to what you don’t need. Be firm with those who want you to work for less that you’re worth (particularly if that = nothing)

Have a price and stick to it. It helps to publish your price list so that there are no surprises. This does not guarantee no awkward conversations, but be prepared for those and practice what you might say… following the following simple rules

 1. Be OK with using the word NO. Everyone knows what it means and there is no room for misunderstanding.

2. Make no apologies or excuses. Why should you? You’re sorry you need to eat and therefore require to be paid for your work?

3. Offer an alternative – there is always something that you CAN offer.

 For example…

“Do you offer concessions for …”

“No, the price is … for everyone, I do offer a block booking discount though”

I can hear your toes curling at the very thought… but as the guru said “practice and all is coming…”

Regarding concessions – if you want to help people who are on a low income then have a price for that too. Have a written policy and stick to it. If you choose not to offer concessions, really, that’s OK. 

If you do want to genuinely volunteer your services, make sure that it is just that, voluntary and that you haven’t been emotionally persuaded into it.

Karma Yoga is a wonderful thing. Doing things as selfless service is a wonderful choice. But, earning a living is a necessity, not something that you need to be ashamed of.

Finally, if the thought of all of this is making you cringe with discomfort, then what about this…

An “Asking for what you’re worth” workshop for women?

 As a little experiment – I shall be offering this workshop on a donation basis. You can either pay what you think the teaching is worth, or pay what you can afford, no questions asked. But as a guideline, for a four hour workshop – I reckon the going rate would be about £30 – £40 per person. If you can’t afford this, pay what you can and maybe offer some karma yoga on the day.

 If you are interested – let me know and we’ll sort out some dates.