[Some of yesterday’s comments got me thinking about this thing called “finding your voice” and how it might relate to teaching yoga. I also had this wild idea that some people actually come here to learn something, so thought I’d pitch in and see if I had anything to offer.]
Finding Yr Voice
There’s a bit of a catch-22 when it comes to finding your voice, much like your first server job in a restaurant. You know the deal. You need two years experience to be a server, but you can’t get the experience without being a server. In many ways the same applies to finding your voice. You can’t find your voice unless you practice your trade. And yet, it’s hard to practice your trade without having found your voice.
So, what’s to do?
In my experience, and from what I’ve seen from other people, finding your voice (of which there are many) is something that happens not by looking for it, but rather by working with and through the medium you wish to employ it. For example, if you are a writer, you don’t sit around looking for a voice with which to use. You write through the experience of not having a voice until one emerges from within the experience. It’s not something that is found. A voice is cultivated.
Workshops, seminars, crash courses, and weekend intensives can help, however, the capacity in which they work best is in the role of catalyst. Courses that help you find yourself are great if you’re getting lazy. They’re wonderful if you’re getting distracted. They may even get you to a place where your “you” starts to light up and show itself. Ultimately, however, courses are part of the greater picture. They’re part of you working with, through, and as you, always gathering and organizing new information on who it is that keeps putting one leg in front of the other.
But, then again, that’s about finding your voice. And, finding your voice has almost nothing to do with teaching yoga.
I’m of the school of thought that says, little prepares you to teach yoga but a continued daily disciplined practice of no less than five to seven years, an ability to convey the teachings to the students that come to you, and preferably some sort of blessing from your teacher. Five-hundred-hour courses, while certainly informative and potentially inspiring, mean very little as far as you being able to actually teach, as five-hundred hours don’t even add up to two years of daily practice.
What’s interesting about services like “Brand Thyself,” despite being submerged in the language of yoga, is that they have almost nothing to do with yoga. Your teaching voice being specifically “unique to you” is basically a non-issue when it comes to your teaching. All that matters is that students can understand you. You don’t even need to talk!
However, finding a unique voice is very important when it comes to you selling your teaching. This is why Jess’ website is called “Brand Thyself” and not “Know Thyself.” A name like “Brand Thyself” speaks to selling whatever “unique” voice you happen to stumble upon. In one sense you’re being told that having a unique voice is a good thing, but in the end, it really doesn’t matter. Just like each grain of sand is unique to the point of being insignificant on its own, so too is your voice’s found uniqueness important only to the degree in which it can be marketed.
Brands are meant to be bought and sold. They represent status. That’s how companies get you to pay to advertise them every time you throw on a shirt with a logo on it. Sure, you can infuse branding with speak about “going within,” “getting deeper into your self,” and “experiencing your true nature,” but none of that really has anything to do with conveying the teachings of yoga in a way your students can understand.
In fact, finding and clinging to “your voice” may actually be an impediment to learning, if you plan on working with diverse populations. Sticking to something called “your voice,” by the nature of the attachment, will most likely make it difficult for you to teach to the student, and will probably set up a situation whereby students are forced to learn your language, rather than grow through and within their own.
My advice is to allow your voice to arise on its own. Let it not only manifest out of your “self,” but also out of the environment in which your self is teaching. If what you’re really looking for is to sell yourself, just reorganize your budget to give priority to a great marketing team. I don’t mean that in a snarky way. I’m serious. For those with little skills, marketing is how you get famous. There’s no mystery.
Otherwise, take it easy. Take it slow.