Change is the one constant of life as a yoga teacher. Very few of us teach in the same place throughout the duration of our careers. In any given year we may teach for local schools, nonprofits, corporate offices, gyms, and in several different studios.
One of the best things we can do for ourselves as teachers is to maintain graceful relationships with students as well as with the people who employ us. Operating with respect, truthfulness, and candor sets us up for success and allows us to honor the yogic ethics that are the foundation of our work.
Think about it this way:
In every yoga pose, there’s a creation, preservation, and a dissolution. Take bow pose (dhanurasana), for instance: You set it up, mindfully preparing the breath and the body; you hold the full expression for five breaths; and then, finally, you dissolve it, resting on your belly when the pose is complete. Ideally, every step of the process will be just as mindful and intentional as “being in the pose” itself.
You want your entrance and exit to be just as conscious and elegant as the classes you offer while you’re there.
A teaching relationship with a yoga studio is no different. You want your entrance and exit to be just as conscious and elegant as the classes you offer while you’re there.
Over the last decade, I’ve taught more than 3,000 classes in 14 different settings, had a baby (and taken maternity leave), left longtime teaching relationships in the Bay Area for the Pacific Northwest, and then moved cross-country to Boston. So I’ve learned a thing or two about breaking the news of a “studio breakup” and I’d like to share them with you.
Here are my tips for leaving a studio gracefully, whether you’re moving cross-country or just moving on.
1. Tell the studio owners (or your supervisor) as soon as possible.
In every case, whether I was pregnant or moving away, I made sure to tell my employers discreetly way ahead of time, in order to give them ample space in which to plan. Managing a complicated yoga studio schedule is an exercise in patience and impermanence, so out of respect for their peace of mind and business continuity, tell the studio managers as soon as you know—even if it means swearing them to secrecy.
2. When you’re ready to announce your move, do so via blog or social media.
Both of the times we moved, I announced the big news first via my blog (which I then shared on social media). This worked for me not only because I was daunted by the emotional prospect of needing to tell beloved longtime students individually, but because I knew the internet would be a more effective means of spreading the word. This also gave students some time for the news to sink in before seeing me in class—when our focus still needed to be on sharing a meaningful practice, rather than chatting about relocation details and trying to process big emotions between sun salutations.
3. Tell students a few weeks in advance. Anywhere from two weeks to a month offers folks ample time to process, squeeze in a few more practices with you, and prepare for the change.
When you’re pregnant, students usually have a few months to get used to the fact that you’re heading for a maternity leave (and to witness your growth along the way). But with our Portland-to-Boston move, for instance, although we knew in advance that the cross-country trek was happening, we could not announce it until my husband gave a two-week notice at his corporate job, so the public transition was quick: We announced our move March 1, and my final class was March 15. In some ways that was ideal, because it didn't stretch out the grieving period, and I didn't have to announce it in every class for a month, taking up precious practice time. However, in the last week of classes, I made sure to do so.
4. If you are leaving for another studio (or a competitor), be respectful of the space where you currently teach and don’t announce the news under that roof.
Keep it clean. Guide students to your website or social media handles and tell them to stay tuned for future teaching announcements there.
5. In your final week of classes, carry a notebook and pen and make it available before and after class.
That way folks can, if they wish, jot down their email addresses in order to be added to your mailing list.
6. Write thank-you notes to the studio owners.
Owning an independent studio is tough and oftentimes thankless (think: overflowing toilets, clogged shower drains, and sour Yelp reviews). A heartfelt, handwritten thank-you note can go a long way. Tell your studio managers what they do well, how they’ve contributed meaningfully to your life, and what traits you appreciate about them as individuals and as business owners.
7. Stay in touch.
My life is richer for every single studio (and the resulting relationships) that came into my life. I relish staying in touch with them all via social media, keeping an eye on what they’re doing, and watching them continue to thrive. You never know when you might be back in town and ready to teach a workshop or two. Take good care of your relationships. They matter—maybe even more than the classes you teach.
8. Speak respectfully of previous employers.
In other words: Don’t bash studio owners you’ve worked for. Keep minor complaints to yourself. Let ahimsa (nonviolence) guide your communication.
9. Take advantage of online portals to maintain relationships with your students.
Technology offers so many possibilities for staying in touch across the miles. Social media is, of course, one great way to do so. Video resources like Skype, YouTube, and MoveWith can also make it possible to continue to “practice together” in different time zones.
10. Be grateful.
Every single place you teach—whether spare or spa-like—will give you more than you ever gave it. Bow to that truth, and offer gratitude for the opportunity to serve.