Teaching troubles, or how Les Mills is taking over the world.

I have resisted blogging about this for a while – mainly because I want my blog to be a positive space, and this is kind of a negative topic. But it’s been frustrating me, and I think it’s time to ask my blog friends for some advice : )

I decided at the end of July 2009 to register for Level 1 teacher training. So I spent the month of August contacting every gym and fitness center in town, asking if they’d have any yoga positions open in the fall of 2009. I sent lots of emails and made lots of phone calls, and I found two gyms that seemed pretty excited about me teaching, as well as a couple of “maybes”.

My Level 1 training was at the end of October, so about midway through that month I got back in touch with everyone who seemed interested. This time, I got some lukewarm responses and went in for an interview at one gym.

By the time I got back from my training I was doing my community service teaching, which took me through the beginning of December. During that time, I focused my efforts on the two gyms I thought were my best bets, and working with my local parks and rec department to get something going.

It’s now early February, which means I have been working on starting a class for more than 6 months. Both gyms that thought they’d have a class for me have fallen through. There are lots of gyms in town that used to offer yoga but are now replacing it with BodyFlow. The more I talk to group fitness directors, the more it seems that Les Mills and similar programs are taking over the world. My local parks and rec department is very willing to promote a yoga class with me, but we are both at a loss about where to hold it.

It seems so easy – all I need is a few feet of open floor and some willing participants – but the logistics have proven to be somewhat of a nightmare. Finding a rent-free space hasn’t been as simple as I thought, and none of the gyms are hiring at the moment. On a whim, I posted my information on an internet board at work, just to see what happened.

In the past month, I have been contacted by two women, one in my town and one in Bloomington, where I work, who are interested in organizing informal classes. These would be classes consisting of their friends, held at their homes, in church basements, free community center space, etc. I am thrilled about the possibility, and really hope it will work out. I’m hoping this is the way to finally get some teaching going. But I have to admit, I wish this process were moving a bit faster.

Is this a pretty typical experience? There were 12 people in my Level 2 last month, and I was one of two who didn’t currently teach a class. Is it just that this community isn’t very yoga-friendly? Bloomington-Normal has a combined population of over 125,000 people, and one yoga studio. What’s the deal with that?

Thanks in advance for what I know will be thoughtful advice and encouragement, and keep your fingers crossed that these two possibilities work out!!



16 responses to “Teaching troubles, or how Les Mills is taking over the world.

  1. I live in a rural area and had some trouble too. For my internship at my TT, I taught at my work at the time, a local Job & Family Services. The class was free, so people knew me and I had participants. Do you need to start a paying class now? I wasn’t sure from the post. At any rate, you may try the local hospital or university, especially if you have a branch campus near you. I stayed away from the gym environment for my own personal reasons. Sometimes Senior Centers and churches will also host classes for the public. What requirements do you have? Posting that may help as well. Good luck. I’m with you. Why isn’t EVERYONE doing yoga?

    • Yes, I would really like to start a paying class. I taught 8 hours of community service classes for my Level 1 certification. I’m not looking to make a killing, I’d really like to keep it affordable for the participants. But I don’t want to volunteer my time, either. I don’t really have requirements except that I don’t feel qualified to teach children or seniors at this time. I have struck out at local universities, and the hospitals have a pretty solid program, but I haven’t actually contacted them. Thanks for the ideas : )

  2. i agree with heather’s suggestions. and my only advice to you would be to exercise patience! your class with the ladies from work sounds like a good option. perhaps, rather than waiting for them to self-organize, you could set a time and place and ask them to show up.

    i’d also suggest developing relationships with other, more established teachers in your area. is there anyone who would be willing to let you sub for a session?

    good luck, and i hope you don’t get too discouraged! it can be difficult to start something from scratch…

  3. I think the hospitals and perhaps other community centres are a great idea- those nurses and doctors are STRESSED and could use some yoga :)

    you could also create a webpage for your private yoga teacher services- put up posters around the town at local health food stores, etc. having a webpage makes ALL the difference. then you could consult for small groups and private yoga sessions.

    another option- try child-community centres. not for the children teaching, but to see if they have parent support groups or programs that they run for the community. They may be interested in running a parent-yoga group and subsidizing the cost (or you could make it by donation).

    I would also approach some private clinics. as the health care system is so different where you are, i’m not exactly sure how it would work… BUT…. there are other professionals other than doctors and nurses… like physiotherapists, occupational therapists, audiologists and of course my favourite, speech pathologists :) Here in Canada they mostly all work in the public health system in the hospitals, but there are also smaller child centres and private clinics.

    These professionals would have more time to commit to a class and be able to pay. (I find a lot of my colleagues are interested in yoga or practice).

    finally- what about the school boards? A few school teachers were subsidized to get their yoga training here in Nova Scotia in order to provide yoga to their students but also inservice yoga to the teachers.
    You could always approach the local school board about an inservice or yoga workshop for teachers :)

    good luck!

    • I definitely need a webpage, you’re right. Maybe soon! Medical professionals are another great unexplored venue, and school boards could be a possibility, too. PS sometime we should chat about healthcare, I’d love to hear your opinions : )

      THANK YOU!

  4. Yes, yes, yes, Jamie, even more great tips. If you do a website, you could also publicize Employee Wellness programs, offering a 6 to 8 week class at a particular business. I’ve done this before. Once the class is over, they may follow you to the next place.

    One other place I taught was at a local art studio that has classes, poetry night, art/music lessons, etc. Just a hodge podge of events and word got out through the place itself.

    Finally, like girlwarrior said, try not to get discouraged. I just wrote a post today that reflected on many things, one being that you can plan as much as you want, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Trust. It will all be okay! We are rooting for you!

  5. Jamie, you are so ambitious! Heather mentioned local art studio and I thought of your old employer. I think I’ve seen a community center in your city, what goes on there? I wonder about a library having a community room. When you get your pregnancy training maybe you can approach some OB/GYNE doctors. The Hospitals are a good idea, they have classes like Lamaze. How about the health department? Girlwarrior is right, you must have patience. Sorry if you didn’t get the patience gene, it’s probably my fault.

  6. Awww- I wish my mom commented more on my blog- lol. She reads it, but I think is a little nervous about commenting haha.

    Email me anytime with questions about healthcare- i’ll try my best to answer! I have all these thoughts perculating in my brain about the yoga-healthcare world… and am a little nervous about writing about it…..

    thanks for the wonderful comment on my space, so appreciated!


  7. Hey lady. I’m a true believer that the universe gives us exactly what we need. And, that is usually when we least expect it. Sounds like you are looking in all the right places. You got some great advice from this post. I would try going to the gym yoga classes and some classes at the studio. Get to know the teachers. Some opportunity might develop out of that. And, at the very least you get to experience lots of yoga! If there is not a yoga teacher’s group in your town…create one. Invite teachers to meet with you once a month. I get offers to teach at retreats and I let teachers know about offers I get to teach at the hospital or openings at the gyms where I teach. Community is always a good thing. Best of luck to you. I’m sure you will find exactly where you are meant to be!

  8. Eco- Don’t be nervous! Haven’t you always had the best responses to posts you’ve been nervous about? : )

    Babs- Thanks for all the advice and support. I’m sure the universe knows what it’s doing : )

  9. GreenVeggie911

    It saddens me to hear that gyms are choosing to offer only BodyFlow classes, instead of “yoga” classes. I teach in several gyms in St. Louis, and thankfully they offer all 3: BodyFlow, Yoga, and Pilates. I’ve taken several BodyFlow classes and while some may love the class since it blends some Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi, it is not a true yoga class and I don’t leave the class feeling like I do when I leave a yoga class.

    My frustration with the BodyFlow classes is that since it is a choreographed class, the instructors may (or may not) know how to offer options for those who aren’t ready for the asanas presented. For example, in one class that I attended, during the ‘yoga’ segment, they took everyone into ‘wheel’. Are you kidding me? No options given, no contraindications, nothing. I glanced around the room and obviously, some were not even able to come close to going into wheel. Sadly, many were trying to balance on their head since they didn’t have the strength to go up into wheel. There is no working into the more advanced asanas, you take what you get with BodyFlow.

    While BodyFlow may have it’s place and many may love it, I’d much rather take a yoga class.

    Good luck on your journey!

  10. I also teach yoga in a gym that also offers BodyFlow. Luckily, the managers are open to having “regular” yoga, but many members were upset when one of my yoga classes replaced a BodyFlow class during a popular time slot. I encouraged them to try yoga, but they seemed resistant. I even had some people walk out when I said it was a yoga class. Their loss!!!

    Am I the only person on the planet that isn’t all gung-ho about Les Mills? I call it “McFitness” because it’s such a cookie cutter approach to classes. I love coming up with my own routine and music because I am a creative person. Unfortunately, Les Mills is EVERYWHERE!!!

  11. I have notice that most Gyms have replaced group classes with Standardized Programs like that of Les Mills. I’ve been taking group exercise classes for a very long time and I am having a hard time conforming to the Les Mills program the same music and routine (my life is to much of the same thing). I had a hard time staying awake in a Body pump class. But the one thing in notice about the Les Mills body pump classes it brought in the members that only workout on the treadmills and I find the treadmill very boring.
    When I’ve ask the group coordinator at my gym about these Standardized Programs like “M.E.” and Les Mills I get a “Stepford wive” answer “everybody likes it” everybody loves it” and you will too! Also when you search the web for other reviews of Les Mills there are no other viewpoints about this program – its as if other viewpoints are blocked. And in my are there are 4 major Gyms that have the same Les Mill program – maybe it’s a legal reason why Gyms have gone with this program.
    (Northern Virginia)

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