“Winning isn't everything, but wanting to is.” ~ Vince Lombardi
Have you ever thought that filling your yoga classes would be so much easier if you had the whole market to yourself with no competition from other yoga teachers? Do you ever get riled up when other instructors teach at the same time of day?
Come on, admit it, you know you’ve gone there.
As natural as this feeling is, let’s take a good look at “turfi-ness”(which ultimately makes you feel unworthy and like crap) vs. good old-fashioned healthy competition(which is meant to be light-hearted and promote personal excellence).
When a teacher is "turfy," she’s focused on herself rather than the students. While it is important to look out for yourself, it is also important to do so tactfully and in ways that everyone wins.
Here’s the thing: students don’t want to see their yoga teachers getting petty. They deserve to choose whichever teacher they like and to have teachers who are self-confident enough to handle multiple colleagues in the marketplace.
The way I see it, a little competition is not only a good thing, it is a GREAT thing for yoga teachers and students alike.
Here are 9 reasons why:
Reason #1: It helps grow the yoga market and generate increased demand A key purpose in my life and work as a yoga teacher is to get more people on the mat. More people on the mat is a good thing, since yoga is such a powerful tool for happiness.
When there are more yoga class choices available in a given location, market awareness of yoga increases in greater proportion than the number of available options.
A variety of class offerings shows potential students that yoga is a health option worth their consideration. Also, variety shows that a community is serious about yoga and, therefore,the potential student should be too.
With increased market awareness, would-be yoga students are more likely to take a class. Think about it: would a town be considered a foodie haven if it only had one restaurant?
Therefore worrying about whether your yoga class at 6pm on Monday is going to conflict with your colleague’s class at the same time is not a good use of your time.
Staggering yoga classes so as not to “compete” with each other keeps market awareness of yoga very low and does not give students options.
Reason #2: It’s natural
Animals do it; children do it; it’s the way the world works. Yogis try so hard not to be competitive, and cringe when they are.
Instead, why not acknowledge that we have inherited this healthy drive over millions of years and be OK with it? Once you accept competition as a natural instinct, it is a lot easier to embrace the opportunity competition gives us.
Reason #3: It helps all ships rise on the same tide Rather than feeling threatened by your peers, collaborate! Co-teach a workshop, brag about each other on Facebook, attend each other’s classes, and honor the other’s presence in your class by announcing it.
Be friendly and trust that there are enough opportunities for you and your colleagues. A number of teachers rising up and practicing with each other will bring out the best yogi within each of them.
Reason #4: Being OK with competition makes you look like a hero Turfi-ness often slips out in the form of possessiveness (of students or timing of events) with an unappealing sprinkle of entitlement on top. And guess what, this kind of behavior only makes you look bad.
And besides, it’s SO unflattering, believe me.
Sometimes yoga teachers can get overly controlling of their students and even ‘dis’ newer, up-and-coming teachers. Unattractive!
A yoga director at a big studio recently told me that she purposely did not invite a particular instructor to teach a training there because she was so turned off by her possessive behavior. Yikes!
Another colleague told me she was asked to give up her classes at a studio when the owner decided she had had enough of the “combative politics” in my colleague’s style of yoga and did not want that energy in her studio. Ouch.
Yoga teachers, listen up: if this sounds like you, it is time to let go of being protective of your turf. Otherwise you end up alienating yourself from strategic opportunities and looking like a jerk.
If instead you “roll with it” and trust that there is enough for everyone, you’ll be offered the best gigs, touted for your willingness to share, and praised for thinking about the student first. You’ll become a role model, and not only will your following grow, but other teachers will rally to support you, too!
Reason #5: We live in a big free world.
I’m going to get a little feisty now: Yoga teachers can teach when/where they want and sometimes it will conflict with another teacher’s classes! This is OK!
Yoga teachers that get upset at the overlap need a little dose of reality. If all professions applied the same tenet that they can’t do the same job at the same time as another, the whole planet would be unemployed.
The premise that another yoga teacher can control the time or place that you teach is kind of silly. Does that mean that dentist A can’t fill a cavity at the same time as dentist B on the other side of town or even a block away from each other?
I used to get seriously uppity about conflicting events diluting each other. When I lightened up and let go, everything worked out for the best long term, and the market actually grew (See Reason #1).
Reason #6: Provides an alternative for students who are not a good fit for your classes Students are free to experience multiple styles and having more than one teacher helps them index their yoga preferences. For example, one yoga teacher might not want to teach the 20-something uber-bendy yogis but can better serve the 50+ crowd.
If her colleague prefers the 20-something demographic, then it is a win-win for both teachers. Now they can help cross-refer clients to each other. And the students will be happy to find the right teacher for their needs as well.
Reason #7: It forces you to be creative
Many yoga teachers fall into the dogma that they must set strict standards or hold onto ancient teachings to the point of becoming rigid and even elitist.
Rather than trying to be the best at the same-old, same-old, be creative, innovative and experimental with your offering, and then be the best at your own special version of your yoga.
You’ll stand out from the crowd not by being better, but by simply offering something different that does not necessarily take away from any other yoga teachers.
Reason #8: Variety is the spice of life. Some teachers are so protective of ‘their’ students that they inadvertently hold these students back from developing as yogis. Getting exposure to a variety of teachers helps students gain insights and tidbits to help their practice move forward. Insular groups tend to stunt their own growth, lose motivation, and plateau.
I encourage my students to try other methods, try on different teachers, and study. Ultimately their gratitude for my openness makes them quite loyal.
A community of yoga teachers can better serve a yoga student than one territorial-“dissing-other-teachers”-yoga teacher!
Reason #9: Ultimately, it helps you get better. Throughout history, the fiercest competitors have spurred each other on to greatness. If you have no competition, you can become complacent and at best be mediocre. Someone’s got to raise the bar! So welcome the challenge and be excellent.
Now before you leave that comment…of course not all competition is good — and at some point too much competition just clutters the marketplace and confuses clients. That being said, instead of immediately getting protective and jealous, see how things change for your teaching when you start welcoming and encouraging competition in the yoga world.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear if you’ve ever had some of these territorial feelings and how you handled competition between yourself and your peers.