I was 22-years-old. I had just moved to New York City to be a dancer and had finished a 200-hour teaching training program at the wonderful OM Yoga Center. I had been deeply changed by my experience in teaching training, and was brimming with excitement to share all my knowledge with the world. My main goal when I moved to New York was to stay out of the restaurant business, so I needed work teaching yoga immediately.
I made an incredibly thorough list of every yoga studio in Manhattan and Brooklyn, organized by neighborhood, and color coded, of course. I bounced around through a sweltering New York August, tiny resume in hand. “I’m Francesca! I am so cute and know 200-hours worth of stuff! Hire me!” was basically my pitch. It took about three full days (and 20 yoga studio visits) to learn the cold and hard truth. Nobody cared. Nobody cared, at all. Most studios had their own teacher training program, the ones that didn’t were not interested in a young and inexperienced teacher. This new found realization that just being 'excited!' and 'hard working!' wasn’t going to cut it was a total bummer.
If you are a yoga teacher in New York City, then this story is probably very familiar so far. But then, something happened. A friend (and truly excellent teacher) with a full schedule passed on a private client to me. “She really likes to chat and she is kind of lazy. It is a pretty easy gig.” My friend told me. “Ok,” I thought, “I can do that.” At that point I needed the money. I had just barely squeezed myself onto a few substitute lists, and was subbing classes at 9am on Sunday mornings for $25. So far, teaching yoga did not feel like a sustainable way to make a living. But a few sessions into our work together, something was shifting for this client. She was trying new poses, and proud of the changes she was making. She was working hard, and was excited about the connection she was feeling between her mind and her body. She didn’t seem lazy at all. She seemed like someone who needed to have her voice heard, so that she could be challenged in the way that made sense to her.
She had such a powerful experience she recommended me to her two best friends. And they both felt that I had changed their lives (although it wasn’t me at all, it was them) and insisted their husbands try yoga... with me. And their husbands' golf game improved so much their co-workers insisted on practicing yoga with me. And that is how it happened.
Since my early days, I have done much more study, specifically in the areas of anatomy and therapeutics. I have also had several of my own injuries, which have been incredible learning experiences. That said, my business did not grow because I am the best asana teacher in New York City. I can guarantee you I am not even close. My clients did not come to me because I am the teacher best able to interweave dharma and asana, create the most interesting sequence, or demonstrate the fanciest poses. They came to me and recommended me because they trusted me. They bonded with me because I supported them and challenged them on physical and emotional levels, in ways that were accessible to them. I have created a thriving private practice business by building deep relationships with clients who are committed to their practice and have created huge changes in their life as a result.
Really excellent yoga teachers with more experience than I, often ask me what my marketing and advertising secret is. I do not have one. I never have.
Teaching privately in a deep and fulfilling way is something any committed yoga teacher can do. It is a wonderful way to reach a population who may not usually try yoga and support them as they make meaningful changes in their life. It is also a way to bring more abundance and financial freedom into your life, allowing your generosity and service to others to grow. Teaching and finding lasting success with private clients requires a very different skill set than teaching group classes. I believe these seemingly intuitive skills can be taught as a science to anyone who wants to learn.
To learn more, please join me for the Art and Science of Private Yoga Teaching mentoring series in New York City on Mondays starting on November 12th.