Building a private yoga practice is an extremely powerful way to create sustainability in your yoga career. However, teaching one-on-one lessons didn’t always come easily to me.
My entry into teaching yoga, was anything but typical – within 1 month of returning from the first half of my teacher training (which took place in a 1 month intensive) I was teaching classes at a luxurious group of yoga studios in Vancouver. Call it luck, call it being in the right place at the right time – within 6 months I was teaching up to 17 classes at a week these beautiful, ultra modern and extremely popular yoga studios all over the city. This opportunity gave me a great deal of confidence speaking in front of large groups, the capacity to ride big group energy with ease and the ability to command the attention of up to 50 yogis at a time. Not too shabby for a freshly minted yoga teacher with a fear of public speaking, or so I thought.
When I moved to Sydney in 2011, the yoga landscape looked very different. There were still many small ‘mom & pop’ yoga studios, run by individual yoga teachers with a dream. The first few studios I practiced at, only had space for 15, maybe 20 students at a time. I was intrigued and curious that such a large city still had these small, intimate yoga spaces. I really enjoyed the sense of space and approachability that these smaller studios offered. What I wasn’t prepared for however, was my complete lack of experience working with smaller groups, let alone with 1:1 clients. If I could teach 50 people without a hitch, teaching 1 person at a time should be a piece of gluten-free cake right?
I had been teaching full time for over 2 years before I had my first 1:1 session. I researched, planned and prepared as much as I could, using what little background information that I had for my client. I arrived at her home, with a plan – an agenda, and a burning desire to make her like me. We sat down, and I asked her about her story – her goals, and I told her my background, and how I could help her. But something, just wasn’t right – during the session, the level of awkwardness was actually palpable. I felt vulnerable and exposed. This woman had let me into her home, and was telling me her physical, mental and emotional problems – what if I couldn’t help? What if I she didn’t like me?
Private yoga lessons require a level of intimacy, and vulnerability that you don’t encounter teaching large groups, and this scared the shit of me. My first client never booked her second session, and I had a few more ‘one off’ clients shortly thereafter. They could feel my desire to prove myself which created space between us.
If you have a huge wall up around yourself when you walk into a private lesson – your students will be able to feel it. You’ve got to be open – dare I even say, vulnerable in order to create a backdrop for true transformation to occur for your clients. Being vulnerable requires you to let your guard down, to admit that you don’t know everything – and to be open to the present moment. However, being vulnerable with your 1:1 yoga sessions won’t just be of benefit to your client, it will also teach you a great deal about yourself in the process
Once I realised this, and started approaching my 1:1 sessions with an open (ahem, vulnerable), present moment focus, my clients started having some real ‘a-ha’ moments, and guess what – they were happy to book again. If you want to create a long term relationship with your clients, you have to be open and authentically you – in other words, you have to be vulnerable.
The top 3 reasons to embrace vulnerability as a 1:1 yoga teacher:
Vulnerability fosters trust and honest communication– If you are vulnerable with your client, they will be more likely to be open, and vulnerable with you. Practice active listening – the ability to listen to your client fully, without being caught up in your own mental chatter. This time is about them, not your abilities and knowledge – you don’t have to prove yourself. Give your client the space to be heard – don’t be too quick to offer advice after your client finished speaking. Let their words sink in.
Vulnerability creates connection – One of the most important aspects of teaching, or attending a private yoga lesson is the relationship that forms between student and teacher. In oder for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen. Make eye contact, be fully present and aware of your own body language. Notice if you are closing yourself off in any way, and try to remain open.
Vulnerability creates a safe space – It’s no secret that we hold our issues in our tissues, and this can make private yoga very deep work. There are bound to be times when emotions rise to the surface. If you have created a space for your client that is steeped in non-judgment, compassion, openness and vulnerability – they will have a safe space to feel, and express emotion in a way that is healing and transformational. Without that ‘container’, unearthed emotion may not be fully processed, and your client may leave feeling unsettled.
A word about boundaries…
Vulnerability, is not – over-sharing about your personal life, taking on your clients emotions or problems, or making yourself overly available between sessions. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries.
Vulnerability is fully showing up for your client, and accepting the fact that you will not have all the answers. It is the ability to say things that need to be said, even if your client may not want to be your best friend afterwards. Vulnerability is allowing yourself to be seen, and to hold space for your client to be seen and heard. Sometimes, the gift of your open presence, is the most powerful gift you can give your client.
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