Monday, May 21, 2018

Signing Non Competes, Competition, and Ethical Practices as a Yoga Teacher.

I am weary of this conversation and it's a constant topic of discussion. Some yoga teachers think that the studios are living in fear of competition and yoga studio owners (who by the way were once teachers out there working all over the place) are worried about their sub contractors teaching for the competition as they struggle to keep the doors open. What if everyone started putting themselves in the shoes of the other person? How about the Golden Rule?

I'm so exhausted with the "It's all about me attitude"....nope, I'm sorry it's not. We have to get back to thinking about others. Even when it's not easy.

This is my current response to a FB group called  "Yoga Teachers" I am in.
Honestly this kind of hatefulness I am responding to in this post is one reason I am backing out of the public yoga world to some degree.

Full Disclosure: I owned a studio for 2 years (after many years of working as a teacher and yoga director) , closed it when my building was sold and decided not to move. I traveled and taught for a few years and came back to teach in a shared space I rented to offer classes where I made as much money teaching as when I had my studio without the headaches. I have no stake in my opinions as I now work in the corporate world as a contracted yoga therapist, I'm in charge of me and I like it. I still own a very successful school that has been in business for ten years and has trained over 205 teachers to date. I will retire from school ownership in 2019 by choice to focus on my work as a yoga therapist, writer and presenter. 

Courtney Robinson So I've been in the business nearly 20 years and I've been on all sides of this. I've been the teacher, I've been the administrator, and I've been the studio owner. Legally if you're an independent contractor then they do not have the right to tell you where you can and cannot teach. However, I can tell you when I was working for the health clubs and a large nonprofit and hiring and firing people as employees, general practice that is not spoken about is to not hire people who work for competing businesses. This is in the corporate world where they aren't really concerned with your feelings, they see business as business.  We were instructed in both places where I was the administrator do not hire yoga teachers that work for the competing business unless we were desperate. When I opened my own studio I had been training teachers for some time so 90% of the teachers in town had been trained by me, and I had actually hired them in the nonprofit and the gym where I had worked. I simply asked them if they came to work for me to please not offer a competing class at the same time. I also talked to them about the circumstances in which I would be okay with, I had a right as a studio owner to run the studio as I felt was best practice for the business.  I requested that they make working for me a priority over taking jobs elsewhere if they decided to take the job. For example if they were already teaching at the local gym on Wednesday morning fine, but if they were looking for another class I requested that they ask me first and give me a chance to offer them something before they go out and offer something down the street. Because I had been in charge at the other places I knew what they were paying and I offered competitive pay with benefits. As a Studio owner it is very difficult to keep the business afloat if the teachers that work for you are teaching for your competitor. There are often jobs in the studio where you're working if you get creative. You can do admin jobs for the studio or you could offer intensives or workshops or work privately with the clients. You simply would pay a percentage to the studio. *I have had teachers go out and open competing businesses with mine while working with me or within a short time of leaving and I've heard back that they had no idea how hard it was going to be. One told another teacher if she had to do it again she wouldn't. So think about both parties before you rush to decisions. What a lot of yoga teachers who don't own businesses don't understand is that the yoga studio is paying for marketing to get people into your classes, as well as insurance on the building which is huge (mine was $1250 for a year in a midsize town in  Arkansas), not to mention overhead that you're not seeing like bookkeeping, accounting, rent, toilet paper and supplies, the cost are endless. I am fanatical with numbers and tracked every dollar that came into our studio for two years and I can tell you that 73% on average that comes into a studio for a class goes to cover expenses. I was often paying double to my teachers then I was taking out to pay myself. After paying all of the expenses and my teachers I was lucky to make $600 a month. My teachers on average where taking home more for classes than I was. I had low overhead with a family-owned building that I had no rent on. I also had built a clientele as I was one of the first teachers in my community. I write about this extensively in my book in the business section. You can find extensive information out there in my book and for free by putting Courtney Butler Robinson yoga in a Google search bar.
I think it's high time we all consider each other's position what the other party is going through. A lot of yoga teachers decide to open a studio and figure out the hard way how incredibly hard it is to compete when you're dealing with a lot of subcontractors. Yoga teachers often don't understand until they get out there and open a brick-and-mortar. It can be done ethically but it takes both parties considering the other person. 
Have conversations with each other. Talk it out. Think of all sides of the equation. 
One last example for years I worked in a gym, and I worked at a studio that I helped open, as well as working at a local college for 10 years for the health science division as their yoga teacher. The gym and the studio often shared students. I would not teach a class at the gym or vise versa that was in direct competition with the studio time. This may sound unrealistic but I felt that it was ethical. For instance if the gym had a 10 a.m. Monday morning class I would not teach at 10 a.m. class at the studio. I know this sounds crazy to some people but I always considered if that would cause the owners of both places a hardship if students had to choose between the two. I had a large following and I knew that it impacted both places.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Using Yoga Philosophy in Dealing with Tough Relationships

Today I was scrolling through Instagram and I came across a photo that spurred feelings of aversion, attachment and ego. When I thought through this a bit and ask myself "Why do I feel suffering?".I looked to the Kleshas for clarification (Yoga's Reasons for Suffering lined out in the Yoga Sutras) . Quickly I was able to see clearly what I was feeling. First I try to identify why I am suffering, then I will apply yoga as an application to understand and heal that suffering.

First: Identify the suffering. 
For me it is three of the 5 Kleshas: Asmita, Raga, & Dvesa

Asmita: Ego. My ego in comparison to this picture and how I had been hurt by this persons actions. For a moment I made it about me. How could I allow them to hurt me? Wasn't I smarter than this? Why did I continue to find myself in these destructive relationships? How could someone choose to do something so hurtful?

Raga: Attachment.  Sadness at the loss of my own faith in myself to choose to have relationships like this.  A pattern I've seen many times in my life. A person is very charming and kind and caring and then you start to notice a change such as distance, lying, anger, jealousy  (often when they lose interest or the gain for them from the relationship with you is gone). A pattern I repeat in my life from growing up with addiction in my family. There is a lot of manipulation with addiction and this often pulls you in, because drama is familiar.  This type of personality (addictive, self involved)  is often also drawn to a people pleaser or fix it person. That plays out in our relationships, as a child who grew up in addiction drama was just what we called "life". Adaptability is  our form of control and a way to gain love even though we aren't aware of it, until of course we are. These people we are drawn to are often charismatic and loved by many, but always at somewhat of a distance. They tend to run or change when they feel they have let their guard down or become vulnerable.  I am quite sure they are hurt people who do not know a healthy way of dealing with their hurt. Yet that does not mean we have to be a door mat for them to practice on.  I'm a person who tries (or used to, I'm getting better)  to keep peace at all cost because that was the control I once felt I had, hurt me, "Hey it's okay you are hurt so I'll protect you and your feelings even though I am hurt". This only turns inward and it's bad. It leads to being depleted & sick. I personally am in recovery now but it is a lifelong process to let go and heal from these tendencies. You may backslide now and again.

Dvesa: Aversion. I  felt sick when I saw this picture and the description because I felt it to be a false representation. Of course that is "my" perception alone.  I have to be big enough to own that someone else may see it very different.

So I went on over to the Yamas and NiYamas: Also in the Yoga Sutras, these are the guidelines for ethical living. Limbs 1 & 2 in  The 8 limbs of Raga Yoga.

I looked them over for a solution to my problem. Sometimes the solution is simply in the understanding.

A Yogic Application:

Ahimsa: Do no harm. By continuing to talk about this (I've already done that many times with my trusted confidants) I am feeding energy into it, only harming myself and potentially the other person. Not doing harm does not change even if the person is not what you presume to be a good person. Because it's not about them doing no harm, it's about your behavior.

Satya: Truth and Benevolence. The truth is this person was working from their own frame of reference no matter how distorted I think it to be. They have their truth and it is not mine. They may be acting out of fear or greed but I have to act in my truth and so the best thing is for me is to get away from them, detach.

Asteya: Non stealing. I can choose to allow or not allow someone to steal my joy.

Brachmacharya: Moderation and Unity. Keep my focus on thinking about the good not just the bad. Moderation in negative thinking. Being grateful for those good relationships in my life that have been lasting and don't involve drama.

Aparigraha: Simplicity. Keep it simple. Focus on my life. Don't over think it. Take care of Courtney.

Saucha: Clarity and Purity. What is true for me. I have clarity on what is true and good for me today. Be of a pure heart and be loving and focus on loving those who love me and treat me respectfully.

Santosha: Contentment. I have a gratitude practice. Again being content and looking around at all I have and the love in my life takes me away from the anger or sadness.

Tapas: Discipline. I discipline myself to my own self talk. To look at the situation as if I was coaching someone else. To focus on what I want my life to look like and how to achieve it. Such as I don't want this to hurt me and it does,  so I need to focus my mind in a different direction, one towards love and abundance.

Svadyaya : Self Study. Choose to practice my breathing, asana (postures) and meditations and positive thinking. Go to my Alanon meetings and read my literature that supports my recovery from abusive relationships.

Ishvara Pranidhana : Surrender to my God, my higher power. I am not in control. There is only so much I can control and I know God has my back.

Thank you for seeing into my world for today. Thank you for reading this. I hope this also can help you or someone you know.

Take care of you. Self care. Love yourself and be kind to yourself. Now I'm going to the gym!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Clearing Confusion about Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapist.

Hello Dear Yogi's, As yoga explodes in the West and around the globe the confusion grows. One administrator at Yoga Alliance once told me "It's the Wild West of Yoga these days!". That it is.

As with anything, especially in the West, if it becomes popular then it will become capitalized on for people to make money. Money is not evil but often brings out the worst in us. Even ethical people have a hard time keeping up and being competitive when they have made yoga their living.

Yoga is vast and varies greatly from lineage to lineage. The National Institute on Health now recognizes yoga as a healing modality. So how does one determine what type of yoga to take or who to see?  Is a hot vinyasa yoga class as healing as a private yoga therapy session with a certified yoga therapist? It depends on who you are and what you need.

Here I will try to clear up a bit about the difference in a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist.

In the U.S. yoga is not regulated. In some states yoga schools are regulated but yoga teachers are not. That means anyone can teach yoga, with or without training. Most reputable providers now recognize at minimum a 200 hour Registration with Yoga Alliance as the minimum to teach yoga. This means the teacher has had a basic teacher training with two hundred hours of training. A 500 hour registration means the teacher has had 500 total hours of training. A certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT) has at minimum one thousand hours of training.
A yoga teacher can provide yoga that is therapeutic in nature. Many styles and types of yoga can be therapeutic as they can be mentally, physically and emotionally balancing. A yoga teacher can provide private yoga classes and small group yoga that has a goal of providing a better quality of life for the student.

Then what is a Yoga Therapist?

Some two hundred and three hundred (three hundred was once called five hundred because you add the hours together) schools are training people and saying they will be yoga therapist but they are not accredited with the International Association of Yoga Therapist or IAYT so they cannot apply for the C-IAYT credential.  There is a big difference in being a member school and an accredited school. Accreditation means the school went through a rigorous process to achieve accreditation and was approved by IAYT. A member school simply pays a fee to be affiliated with IAYT.

However, teachers who graduate from those 200 or 300 hour schools may have training with a yoga therapy emphasis. I myself have a 500 hour program that is holistic in nature and teaches yoga teachers to work one on one and with individuals and in small groups in way that promotes safety and health and overall quality of life. I train many medical professionals to utilize yoga in their practice from doctors, social workers, psychologist, nurses, occupational therapist and more. I do train people to assess, work and provide private individualized instruction to address the needs of the client.  However, Yoga Alliance will not allow me or anyone else to call a 300/500 hour program a Yoga Therapy school under YA accreditation. There is a lot of confusion on this because a 500 hour program just a few years ago was the highest credential in our field (though there were some programs out there offering yoga therapy until a few years ago there was no accreditation program).
IAYT is the credentialing source for Yoga Therapy Schools that want to offer an accredited program as a yoga therapist, this requires a total of 1000 hours of training, with at least 800 hours in the field of yoga therapy.

So what to do and how to know what credentials you need if you are wanting to provide yoga therapy and what if you want to be the recipient of yoga therapy?

If you are a yoga teacher and you want to work with people in a way that provides overall health and quality of life lets talk about how to do that ethically. Get training in the area you want to work. Lets say you want to work one one with students and keep them safe providing physical and mental balance. Then I would recommend saying something like "Jane Doe: 200 hour teacher providing classes and individual yoga sessions in the are of Trauma Informed Yoga" , assuming you had training in that area, or you might say "I work one on one with individuals to improve the quality of their life using yoga as a therapeutic modality".
How would that differ in what a Certified Yoga Therapist might say? "Courtney Butler: Certified Yoga Therapist working one on one with students offering yoga therapy." I could go on to say what specific areas I work with or put a link to my bio which gives my overall training and credentials.

Simply put as a yoga teacher or therapist only advertise what you are capable of and what you have been trained to do. Always be honest and ethical with a clear intent.

If you are a student wanting yoga therapy then you need to determine your needs. If you have run of the mill stress, anxiety and need to get in better shape but you are not limited by what you can do then you would be fine to find a "well trained" yoga teacher to take classes in a group or one on one. You should ask questions to find out their experience and what the class will look like. Let's say you are suffering from depression and want counseling but also would like someone to incorporate yoga. Many social workers are now being trained to incorporate yoga into their counseling practices.

If you are a person who has illness and has been limited by your doctor on what you can and cannot do then I would suggest you see a C-IAYT or someone with a medical background specific to your needs and yoga training. The International Association of Yoga Therapist has strict guidelines for what C-IAYT's must know and how much experience they have to have. For instance I was grandfathered in but had to provide at minimum ten years of documented experience in my field working one on one. I had to provide documentation of my training in the field of yoga therapy (I had over the 1000 hours) as well and had to be a registered yoga teacher (actively working) for over ten years (for me it was seventeen). Each grandfathered in teacher (only before summer of 2018, this is no longer available) had to prove competency. From this point out each C-IAYT needs to take an additional 800 hours of training on top of a 200 hour RYT to become a Certified Yoga Therapist with an accredited school.

As the field of yoga therapy grows IAYT leads the way in providing the highest standards. It is very likely in the near future yoga therapy will be much like chiropractic care and acupuncture and you will see yoga therapy offices that accept insurance. Those yoga therapist will likely be regulated in the future and will all hold a C-IAYT credential.

In closing, a yoga teacher with proper training can offer a class or a private session to help with many of life's challenges. If you have any type of disease, illness, bone weakness, neurological issues and your doctor or medical provide has recommended you try yoga therapy it would be good to look into someone who either has specific training in yoga and a related medical background or holds the C-IAYT credential. For instance I often train social workers, these folks are more than capable of helping using yoga and meditation techniques to deal with depression and anxiety. I am often sent clients though psychiatrist or neurologist with neurological issues they have not been able to resolve, I work daily with diabetics, cardiovascular patients, and those with cancer. If I am not available to work one on one with someone I will often find a qualified yoga teacher with a complimentary background or specialized training to help them or recommend another yoga therapist.

At the end of the day the responsibility lies on the student or client to do their research and homework and find the person they feel comfortable working with. 

Courtney Butler Robinson
Stress Managment Specialist with the Dr. Dean Ornish Reversal Program
RYS 200, RYS 300/500
Author of "The Mud & The Lotus: A Guide and Workbook for Students of Yoga"

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dealing with lack of support, distractions in the classroom and encouraging diversity.

So I put out on the Internet to yoga teachers, students and yoga business folks to please share with me your biggest struggle and frustrations as well as what motivates you. A dear teacher friend sent me her answers. 
What was frustrating and a bit of a struggle came in two areas.

1. Feeling frustrated when people treat your work like a hobby or a luxury. 

As yoga teachers we know that most of us have gone to school for quite some time, worked and studied really hard to get to where we are and when we get out of school it's just the beginning. Then we have to figure out how to get students to our classes. Some people have had to make the choice to live a simpler life and give up some of life's extravagances in order to teach. We often run to and from job to job just to have enough clients. We sometimes open up our homes and invite people in to give back what has helped us. It is only natural that it would hurt when people make comments that it must be nice to "be able to just teach yoga". Ugh.. 

What I have found is that there will always be those who are either ignorant to what it takes to be good at our craft or maybe they are jealous or sometimes just down right nasty. Most of the time what I have found is it's best to try not to engage, it never is worth it anyway. I have found these things help. 

1. Rather than try to defend, be yourself, do your thing, and when you are with people who don't understand you try to talk about something else. I know this can sometimes be people we are close to and they ask about your life and you don't want to go there. It's also hard when you want people to be supportive and they think you are wasting time or money. Just keep doing you and try to not go down that road. We have to make ourselves happy and not live for other people. 

2. Find people you support you. Talk to other yoga students, teachers, and friends who get you. It's important to have this support so you don't feel alone. When you feel alone or lonely or wonder if you are wasting your time (been there) call your supporters. 

2. Struggles with people who disrupt class. 
Set the tone before class by getting the room the way you want it. Do you want a quieter style class, have soft music, low lights (maybe twinkle lights) and a calming atmosphere and speak in a quite calm voice. If you want a more upbeat class, have the lights at a comfortable level for the practice, or low is fine, however your beats per minute on the music or your play list  may need to be a bit more upbeat. If you want a calm class but the ability to feel like a person can ask questions then give permission language before and after class. Such as "If you have a question please raise your hand or simply ask me to come over".

1. Hand out a sheet with "What to expect or yoga etiquette to new students". They would appreciate it and it will save you some headaches, cover distractions like when it's okay to talk, coming in late, leaving early, body odor, phones etc.. A little planning saves a lot of headaches. 

2. One of my teachers always says "relax your lips" to those that feel they need to be chatty during class while others are trying to focus. This one always works. 

3. When nothing works have a gentle talk with the person and explain your issues as kindly as possible. Sometime they will understand and other times they won't and they won't come back but that may be best. 

3. Motivated to get a diverse group of people or a certain population to class. 
This teacher I was referring to was motivated because she reached out to size 14 and over women to get them to yoga. I need to ask her how she did that, so "L' if you are reading this please give me that info. I
f you want to attract a certain group of people here is what I suggest.

1. In your marketing material reflect pictures of the type of people you want to attract. If you want to reach out to curvy full figured women then put pictures of those type of women in class. 

2. If you want to offer classes that are not intimidating to beginners post pictures of all shapes and sizes doing common postures that are easily accessible to a wide group of people. 

3. People need to see people that look like them to some degree. If you are African American and you want to reach that population put pictures of yourself on the material and or other people of color doing yoga. Also find those populations and start offering those classes in places you will be able to easily reach those populations. 

Thank you "L" for your comments. I so appreciate them!

Love and Light,

Friday, February 2, 2018

Research to help yoga students, teachers, business owners.

Hi friends. I'm doing some research and would appreciate your help. Yoga students, yoga business owners, teachers, school owners, studio owners, would you please share with me by emailing me at Please let me know if you don't want me to share your name.
I'll answer those questions in my blog/vlog and get back to you. Thank you so much!

Please answer these questions: 
What is your biggest frustration? 

What is your biggest struggle?
What is your motivation for practicing, teaching, owning a business etc...?

Thank you all!
Courtney Butler Robinson

Certified Solution Focused Coach

Stress Management Specialist

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Why I wrote this book

Are you a yoga student thinking of becoming a teacher?
Are you wanting to understand more about yoga?
Do you have a yoga school or want to own one?
Are you a yoga studio owner or administrator of a yoga program?
Are you a yoga teacher that has many questions concerning business, keeping students and dealing with burnout?
Have you gone through training and feel you still need support?

This book is for you.
It is available
I guarantee this book can save you the cost of the book in dollars or stress.
I love to help teachers, individuals and business owners.

Please see my website for more info on my bio.
Consulting starts at $75 an hour and is done via Skype, email or phone.