TO BE OR NOT TO BE... A YOGA TEACHER?

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TO BE OR NOT TO BE... A YOGA TEACHER?

Many people take their yoga teacher training as a way to deepen their practice and knowledge of yoga. Surprisingly, very few graduates actually go on to teach, and those who do often give it up after only a short period of time. I’ve heard recent graduates express “guilt” over teaching, and struggle with the dichotomy of a life of service versus making a living. Some people decide to only volunteer to teach. Most teachers who exclusively teach yoga are only able to survive with husbands or partners to support them. Other teachers hold full time jobs and teach yoga as more of a hobby on the side. Still others have to hold multiple jobs if they feel a calling to be a yoga teacher.

As a yoga teacher for the past five years, I can attest to the extreme difficulty of making a living teaching yoga. Despite a full class load and a success of sold out workshops and specialized classes, there has been very little progress in making a sustainable living from this career.

I recently had a doctor contact me who asked if I would be interested in teaching to clients at one of the fancier clinics in Portland, yet she offered a very low rate of pay. A prominent and successful artistic company wanted to hire me to teach yoga to their staff, but wanted to pay me only the barest of minimum wages. I’ve had long-time students who have turned up their noses at my workshops because they think I’m charging too much, yet they have no hesitation spending the same amount of money on one nice dinner or bottle of wine, and frequently share stories of their international travels in classes.

I wonder why this form of healing which has helped so many is still vastly underappreciated in people’s minds. Why is it that a doctor gets paid one of the highest wages for the healing she offers, while a yoga teacher gets paid barely enough to scrape by? Many people who are willing to pay $75 per hour for massage or acupuncture, would only willingly pay $5 for a similar healing effect from a yoga class.

Students leave my classes all the time remarking on how much better they feel… my students are lovely and grateful for the practice, and I am grateful to have them. Without students, I wouldn’t be a teacher. It is an honor to share this practice with others and I feel very blessed to have this life, this practice, and this opportunity.

Yet, a vast majority of people have no inkling of what a scrappy lifestyle being a yoga teacher truly is. Many students and aspiring teachers romanticize the life of a yoga teacher… But did you know: teachers often spend more than an hour commuting to teach just one class (if we are teaching multiple classes, that’s potentially hours of driving each day); studios and businesses expect us to arrive 15 minutes early and stay 15 minutes late — time we don’t get paid for; studios expect us to understand Mind/Body software and use it to take payment, sign up memberships, etc. and they don’t pay us to do this, nor do they give us any formal training; many studios ask us to clean and sweep studios without payment; we are expected to spend countless hours marketing our own workshops and specialized offerings, time we don’t get paid for; we take hours of continuing education each year that we pay for out of our own pockets; most teachers also pay for their own liability insurance and red cross certification; and did you know we don’t receive any paid time off, sick days, holidays, or snow days; AND, most importantly, we don’t receive health care. These reasons and more are why most yoga teachers have to think of their teaching as an act of service, rather than a valid way to make a living. But why can’t it be both?

The history of yoga is complex and how it came to this country is complex and perhaps best left to different article. But essentially, in today’s modern world, studios need to start paying their teachers a fair, living wage for drop-in classes (and encourage/support us to price our workshops at a higher rate), clients need to value and be willing to pay more for classes and workshops, and businesses need to pay an amount reflecting the success of their business and the wage of their staff.

I also hold teachers responsible for the changes that need to happen in the industry. Teachers need to own who they are and be willing to charge more for their classes and workshops. When a teacher volunteers to teach a population that can afford to pay, they are doing a disservice to other teachers. When a teacher undervalues what they are offering and undercharges for a workshop, they are doing a disservice to other teachers. I encourage yoga teachers to value themselves first, and stand up for themselves so that the industry can change and studios, businesses, and clients can recognize, respect, and value the mind/body healing that yoga teachers bring to thousands of individuals on a daily basis…

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Teaching to the Love Your Brain Community

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Teaching to the Love Your Brain Community

I took the Love Your Brain teacher training in Summer 2017 at Unfold Portland to learn how to teach yoga and meditation to the traumatic brain injury community. My mother had had a series of brain tumors when I was a child, and I felt motivated to learn more about the impact of these practices on brain injury survivors.

Since the training, I have taught the 6-week Love Your Brain series a total of six times. It has thus far been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my teaching career. I have learned many things about people living with TBI, including a tendency toward heightened light and noise sensitivity, feelings of identity loss or not being able to get back to who they were before the accident, physical limitations such as discomfort dropping the head below the heart in yoga poses, difficulty with blurry vision and staying balanced, and feelings of isolation, dissociation, and overwhelm. One of the biggest challenges for people living with TBI is that it is often an “invisible” injury… so even though they may look okay on the outside, they are in reality facing many challenges within.

Some of the feedback we’ve collected from students shows the impact of the Love Your Brain curriculum. Here are a few things students have shared that have been helpful for them:

  • The way in which yoga poses are broken down to be practiced and built up over time. This helped me focus on my form, proper alignment, not being overwhelmed by so many parts moving at once and always maintaining balance

  • The sensitivity & attention to environmental factors that are difficult (noise, light)

  • Discussions with other people with the same problems. Validation from the other people in the class. Ability to look at things differently and feel more positive.

  • A warm supportive space to feel safe in. Ability to listen to instruction and do yoga with eyes closed.

  • More confidence overall. Feel more in control. Did reinforce my cognitive challenges, but another wake-up call to work harder, especially with yoga. A positive challenge.

  • Good to devote time each week to something meant to nurture and help me recover.

  • Connecting with others in the same circumstance - by far the best outcome.

  • The yoga practice seemed to settle my system, easing the sympathetic side of my nervous system and helping me feel less keyed up outside of class. The discussions also helped sort out emotional and psychological stuff related to my accident.

As a result of teaching to the TBI community, I have become more skilled as a teacher, more creative with pose modification, more present and aware, more compassionate, and more trauma-informed. I offer immense gratitude to all of my Love Your Brain students for helping me to become a better teacher and a better human being. Namaste.

Love Your Brain information and registration can be found here: http://www.loveyourbrain.com/yoga/practice

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Loving-Kindness Practice

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Loving-Kindness Practice

Sacred and potentially life changing, loving-kindness practice dates back over 2,000 years to the time of the Buddha. The beauty of this practice lies in its simplicity and gentleness, yet it has the power to bring complex and latent emotions to the surface. Rather than trying to get rid of unpleasant or unwanted sensations, loving-kindness practice can offer protection and stability for you to examine and become aware of these difficulties within, bringing with it the ability to heal and let go.

According to the Metta Sutta (the original text written by the Buddha) loving-kindness is practiced in a specific way: we begin with what's easiest to rest our heart into, allowing us to grow the strength and resilience of the heart, and eventually move into more difficult and challenging territory. 

This formal meditation practice can then be brought into daily life, tasks, activities, relationships, and a variety of situations and circumstances with a good deal of individual creativity. Over time, loving-kindness has the potential to slowly but effectively grow the compassion, confidence, and wisdom of the heart.

Join me in Loving-Kindness Practice at Unfold Portland — a 6-week immersion of the heart. This workshop has sold out for two years in a row. Mark your calendars for next January… this one is only offered once per year: http://www.carolgrimesyoga.org/special-events/

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What is Yoga for Joint Release?

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What is Yoga for Joint Release?

Yoga for Joint Release is an anti-arthritic/anti-rheumatic joint release series — a set series of poses where we move one by one through each joint in the body, moving them in as many directions as possible.

As we increase awareness of our joints and improve the mobility through our joints, we prevent and reduce pain and inflammation, decrease the risk of illness and injury, improve our overall health and wellness, and learn how to keep our joints happy & healthy for many years to come.

I teach this 6-week series twice a year because I so firmly believe in it’s effectiveness. My connection began in 2008 when my teacher, Rae Minten, taught this series to me as we practiced together weekly in my living room. I have a strong history of arthritis in my family, and even in my 20’s my joints were stiff and cranky, sometimes inflamed, and basically just difficult to move. I noticed that as we practiced, my joints began to feel more free and I began to move with much more ease and mobility. I also felt more energetically alive, my breath was more present and full, and my joints felt lubricated and loved!

The general structure of the class is as follows:
1. Warm-ups —- designed to relax and strengthen the muscles, so that we may move our joints with more ease throughout the rest of class.
2. Joint Release poses —- this is the anti-rheumatic joint series described above - it takes about 20-30 minutes.
3. Massage techniques & joint strengthening exercises —- to reduce muscular stiffness, improve circulation and blood flow, and strengthen our joints.

Are you a believer yet? Join me and see for yourself… Yoga for Joint Release is a 6-week series offered twice a year at Unfold Portland. See next offering here: http://www.carolgrimesyoga.org/special-events

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GRATITUDE TO MY TEACHERS

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GRATITUDE TO MY TEACHERS

This Spring, I've had the opportunity to engage in both a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat on Salt Spring Island, as well as a 4-day advanced yoga teacher training in Breitenbush.

Just like you, I have my own team of teachers to help encourage me along the path, and inspire me to become a wiser and more balanced human being. Their support and guidance allows me to bring an authentic and sincere heart to all of my classes, so that I can serve my students in the best way possible.

Whether you find a yoga teacher, a spiritual teacher, or a mentor, it is important to surround yourself with as many inspirational and supportive people as possible in your life to encourage consistent growth and to find the right amount of transformation necessary to discourage stagnation and promote creativity. Most of us will find ourselves playing the role of both student and teacher at different points in our lives, sometimes at the same time.

If you have the intention of finding a spiritual teacher, watch that person closely for many years until you are confident in their deep integrity. Don't give all your power to them... even the most realized spiritual teacher is human and can become corrupt and abuse their power in a moment of blindness. If they do falter, a true teacher will be open to hearing the truth and admit their mistake. Although it is important to respect and honor your teacher, you don't need to put them on a pedestal. Remember, if you continue seriously on a spiritual path, it is very possible that someday you will become the equal of your teacher, or even surpass them in spiritual knowledge and practice.

I am grateful for the many wonderful teachers I've had in my life thus far. I wouldn't be where I am today without them...

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RESTORATIVE LOVE

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RESTORATIVE LOVE

I began a daily restorative yoga practice when my meditation teacher told me that there are four ways to meditate: sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. It took a teacher saying so to help validate my instinct to practice lying down on the days when my body was too full of tension, stress, or pain to make sitting meditation possible. 

How is a restorative practice different from meditation? In restorative yoga, we are working on relaxing the physical body with no effort involved in trying to control the mind. As the body relaxes, the mind can follow, often entering into a dream-like state, allowing the natural wisdom of the body to take over and begin the process of self-healing. It's one of the best practices to recover from stress, fatigue, injury, sickness and any kind of chronic condition, such as chronic pain.

Relaxing isn't always easy... when our body relaxes and releases tension, emotions and feelings can rise to the surface that are unfamiliar and scary. This is normal. In order for our body to release, let go, and heal, we need to allow ourselves to fully feel the emotions that present themselves inside us. On the up side, beautiful emotions can arise as well, and often do. It's exciting... we never know what can happen during practice! 

It can help to do restorative yoga with a teacher so that your body can learn how to fully relax, feel, and heal in a safe and supportive environment. My own daily practice helped me to heal from chronic pain, and I love sharing what I've learned in my journey with my students.

Here's hoping you will be inspired to join me in the underrated and underutilized but wholly amazing and fantastic practice of restorative yoga...

Chant, Heal, Restore is a restorative workshop offered twice a year at Unfold Portland. Find next offering here: http://www.carolgrimesyoga.org/special-events/

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Teacher Feature

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Teacher Feature

EB: What made you interested in teaching yoga?

CG: Before I started teaching yoga, I looked successful and driven at surface level, but in reality most of the time I felt unbalanced and unfulfilled. Yoga was the main practice at the time that provided me with moments of balance and wholeness, as well as relief from chronic back pain. With a regular yoga/meditation practice and with the help of a few key teachers, I gained enough courage and insight to consider teaching yoga as a more authentic path for myself.

EB: What do your students say that they love about working with you?

CG: My students often appreciate my calming voice and peaceful presence. I had one student call my teaching style, "yoga candy" because they felt so good in their body after class. Students have expressed that they don't feel pressured in my class, feel as though they've nurtured/taken care of themselves, and feel as though they've been able to make a deeper spiritual connection.

EB: Fill in the blank: I love working with students who ______________?

CG: I love working with students who are dedicated to their practice and are wanting to feel more at ease in their bodies and in their lives. My passion is to work with people who are experiencing pain or illness in their bodies or hearts, and who are seeking a healthy way to relieve or understand their current state of body or mind.

EB: Anything else?

Yoga is an intense study of the self that you can't get from any one teacher or book. You have to practice it and find out for yourself. Teaching is an opportunity to share with others a practice that I believe in, in the hopes that my students will make their own rich discoveries.

This interview was featured in the December 2015 edition of the Unfold Studios Newsletter.

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SERVING TEENS IN CHRONIC PAIN

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SERVING TEENS IN CHRONIC PAIN

Oregon Health & Science University Research Teens with Chronic Pain

Carol Grimes writes:
"Every Tuesday, my teaching partner Stephanie and I teach yoga and mindfulness to a group of very special teens up at OHSU. These are teens who have already begun to experience tremendous physical pain at a very young age and who are wise beyond their years because of it. They are ready and hungry for any wisdom we can offer them, and many of them have already begun to experiment with what they are learning at home. With chronic pain, it's easy to feel hopeless and alone, therefore, one of the most powerful aspects of the group is that they get to meet other kids their age that they can relate to and share their experiences with. Yoga and mindfulness have been the most important tools of my own healing journey. It's an honor to be able to share these practices with others, especially with such an engaged and passionate group of young people."

We're halfway through our first eight-week course for teens and feedback has been excellent. Here's what one parent shared (the teen's name has been changed): 

"I am Mark's mom and wanted to give you some feedback from his Physical Therapist. Since Mark started the class, his PT has noticed an improvement in Mark's posture. Mark has also made significant progress in the last three weeks to the point where the is able to start strength training. I personally cannot believe that in just three sessions so much can improve, but I am so overjoyed that this is the case. One request that his PT asked is if Mark can continue the class even after the eight weeks. Many thanks for your study and I do hope there are considerable learnings from this for everyone."

This is an excerpt from the Peace in Schools newsletter. Click here to read full version...

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