3 Things Teaching Yoga Taught Me About Business

Practicing and teaching yoga taught me a lot about business. The uncanny parallels and lessons between the two is what I'm sharing today. Here are some potent lessons for your business that I first discovered via practicing and then teaching Yoga for almost a decade.

1. When you first start teaching you teach based on what you were taught. You don't fully understand what it means to teach "your" version of yoga.

Many newbie teachers or teachers who haven't yet made the teachings their own will rattle off the same phrases and instruction that their teacher taught them or that they read in their yoga training course.

The reason for this is they haven't yet developed a complete understanding of the poses and the practice where they are ready to ditch the script and teach from their own experience. It takes time to truly see your students, and to develop a deep understanding of how the poses work and what they are meant to do.

It takes time and practice to truly see your students, and to recognize a hallmark lesson of teaching the poses from a deep consideration that "form follows function" (Something I first heard from Matthew Cohen, and if you're lucky enough to live in Santa Monica you need to go to his class!)

The basic idea is that function is priority. The actual shape of the pose and what it looks like is secondary. But that means you need to deeply understand what they pose is there to do (deep knowledge) versus just parroting what the yoga text book says, or what a teacher taught you, or what the poses looks like (shallow understanding). And like anything in life it takes time to gather depth of knowledge.

The same thing happens in business: At first you're taught a certain structure or template. You're told all these business rules, and so you follow the rules. But with time and depth of experience you start to realize that in order to make your business your own, you need to ditch the rules, consult with your own inner CEO and make your own decisions.

This comes with time, depth of experience, and a willingness to be curious, open to learning and growth. And of course, to never ever follow a guru-mentality where some so-called "expert" or "though leader" says "Follow me, I have all the answers."

2. In yoga, to become a teacher and to get a registration you need to do a minimum of a 200-hour yoga teacher training. This is a foundational course. What happens after this course is many people feel "not ready" to start teaching.

They start to feel that if they only did one more training, or one more workshop they'd be ready.

But the truth is you'll never be ready if you don't go out there, put yourself on the line and teach your first class.

I'll never forget the first time my phone rang, a gym I applied to calling me last minute to sub a yoga class that night -- a few hours away! My initial reaction was to make up some excuse of why I couldn't do it. But thank god I said yes.

Was I ready? Well, not really, but I did it anyways, and you know what? I remember it being the time of my life. I remember thinking "I can't believe I just pulled that off" and better yet, despite being a total newbie, I had students come up to me and thank me, and the next week the gym called me to offer that class to me on a permanent basis.

So here's the deal: you will never feel ready. The only way to become ready is to jump in.

Now let me tell you, the first two years of teaching I was obsessively studying yoga on my own. All I did at home was read books about yoga, watch videos, practice to myself, practice with willing friends, and said yes to as many teaching opportunities that came my way.

As time went on, I didn't even have to think about teaching -- it came naturally.

Now did I take extra trainings? Yes, I took an apprenticeship, I often traveled to Los Angeles to study with my favorite teachers, but that was for the joy of it, and to enhance my own growth and learning.

The one thing that made me a better teacher was the actual teaching.

It was screwing up in class from time to time and learning from my action (p.s screwing up in class means you forget to teach a pose on one side of the body, but luckily your students will often remind you!)

The same holds true for business. Certainly, keep studying about your craft, and about business. Keep learning. There is so much you can learn on your own from books, videos, and when you feel called to it -- from a course, or workshop. But don't do it because you think you're not good enough or because you think that one course is going to be the magic bullet to fix your business problems.

The only way to fix your business problems is to take action in your business and dare to make mistakes.

Dare to create things that may fail, and then learn and move onwards. I am a big fan of continuing education, and I continue to learn and take courses, and go on retreats for my personal self-care and self-development. But I do it for the joy of it, not because I think one more course will fix my problems. Sometimes a course, a book, a program, or a coach can help steer us in the direction we need to go, and give us perspective. However, you do not need to go broke or invest in things you don't have the cash for.

I've seen it in Yoga where the newly trained teacher becomes an incessant consumer of the yoga industry: more programs, more trainings, more courses -- just to feel "good enough" that one day they'll be ready enough and knowledgeable enough to teach.

And I see it in business: people take a foundational business course (because we all need to start with something) and then they think they're not good enough or not ready enough to get started so they keep taking course after course spending money they don't have waiting to be ready to make that one-time six-figure launch, but all the while as they spend their savings on another course, they haven't created anything.

They haven't hustled or gone out of their comfort zone to actually get a client.

They hope that one more course will give them that lucky break.

But that day will never come. The only way to make that day come is to take action. Yes, learn, but then take lots of time to implement and take action. Even if that's as simple as writing a blog post, keeping up with a newsletter, or starting to create your first product or offering. You need to start to make things happen.

3. I hate to say this but sadly, sometimes, you have to be careful who you trust.

People often think of yoga as spiritual and therefore kind, loving and generous.

However, I have experienced firsthand being lied to by a studio, having my intellectual property ripped off, and I've had friends who were duped out of tens of thousands of dollars in business deals gone wrong.

And in the business world, other entrepreneurs will sometimes rip off your stuff.

I don't say this to paint a grim picture because I do believe that most humans are kind. But some people, when they are stretched, their true colors shine (and sometimes those colors 'aint so pretty).

So my advice for diminishing betrayal is: Don't betray yourself.

If you have a feeling like the person you are about to work for or work together with isn't quite right, even if it looks all sparkly and shiny on the outside: well, stay away.

Because if you betray your own intuition and feelings, don't be surprised if you get betrayed by that person later down the line.

This whole notion of betrayal being a reflection of your own self betrayal was something that became evident to me by two sources. One was in an interview where Bryan Elliot interviewed Cesar Millan -- the famous Dog Whisperer -- and Cesar talks about betrayal and the importance of having "your pact." This is one interview I highly recommend, and you can catch it here.

Another place I learned about the power of betrayal was in a book called Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin (totally recommend this too.)

The lesson is: the best way to prevent betrayal in business is to make sure that you are not betraying yourself. Then, if it happens to you -- use it as an opportunity to grow and explore the pain that comes from it.

You know yoga is meant to awaken us, to enlighten -- which simply means to turn on the light. And it does this because it is so confronting. Well, let me tell you it is, and so is business.

Business is the greatest self-development and spiritual journey you can ever go on, if you dare to open to the practice of awareness and learn from what happens to you on the business journey.

If you can learn from the "good" and the "bad" then everything is ultimately a good experience, because it's from the challenges that we grow (even though in the moment it does not feel fun)

It's the challenges that help us become more powerful from the inside out and to trust ourselves at a deeper level, and to act with more honesty and integrity in our own lives.


Tova Payne is a business coach to soulful entrepreneurs who want to create a business with integrity, inner-power and creativity. For a free guide on starting and finishing your business projects and a meditation audio to gain clarity in your business, sign up at