Yoga Teacher as Second Career with Namita Bafana
Conversation with Namita Bafana, Yoga Instructor, YogaSource
Yoga Teacher as Second Career
March 27, 2019
1. What is your business?
I teach alignment-based Vinyasa flow yoga. It’s a style of yoga that melds the structure and intention of Iyengar yoga with the breath, movement, and fluidity of Ashtanga yoga. I take the fundamental, basic poses, and I challenge students to take them to a high level of precision.
I can take a seemingly simple pose, like warrior two and make it far more challenging than one would think possible. I do this by breaking down the pose piece by piece. I work from the ground up, focusing on micro movements and alignment. All of this combined takes a foundational pose that is often overlooked into a complex, sophisticated pose that can always be improved.
I truly enjoy crafting techniques and layering things to allows students to explore poses in deeper ways. I try to be hands-on and give my students adjustments as needed. But it is always important to remember that the science of yoga and of body mechanics is constantly evolving. Consensus of how to teach yoga evolves over time.
2. What made you decide to start your business and/or switch careers?
I didn’t have the intention of being a yoga teacher. We had just moved back to LA, I was pregnant and talking to an instructor. I just enjoyed her as a person and her style of teaching. I thought she was incredibly smart. I practiced with her for six years, four or five days a week, and it led to me getting deeper into my practice.
3. Was there one moment that gave you the confidence that this was a good idea?
After two of three years, it became clear to me that I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to beyond asana, the physical practice. So, I signed up for the training and enjoyed the practice-teaching sessions. I enjoyed it, and I felt I had enough raw talent. The teaching part came naturally to me, for others it was the most challenging part of the program.
Once I completed the 200-hour training, I signed up for the 300-hour. Each session took six months, we had meditations, and pranayama modules, practice-teaching sessions, and mentor-mentee meetings.
4. What obstacles did you face in getting started and thinking of yourself as an expert in a new setting?
It was hard to commit to all the training with small children at home. I started the 200-hour when my girls were two and four, and we didn’t have any family in California. It was a lot of time away from my family. It was definitely challenging, and then the 300-hour was exceptionally challenging because I was pregnant. Thankfully, my husband was supportive. He really made it easy for me.
5. Who did you speak to for support as you were working on the idea/launch?
My mentor, Lainie Devina, is also the teacher that I trained with for six years. Our relationship evolved from teacher-student to mentor-mentee. Lainie has been the most vital part of my growth and development as a teacher. She’s unlike anyone else and was able to deeply understand me and gave me her full support and guidance.
6. What are some successes you have had with your business that make you proud?
The first was during my 200-hour program when I really nailed the practice-teach process. It was a very proud moment.
More recently was when I was working to get my own class. You have to start by guest teaching a class, and then you get a chance to audition. These auditions are usually reserved for teachers with one or two years of experience. When I started at a new studio, I really felt like I had found my home, so I asked for an audition before the two-year mark, and the studio owner gave me a shot. She could tell how green I was, but she recognized my potential and put me on the sub list. Within two months I was offered my own class.
7. What are some of your current challenges?
In short, the economics are terrible. The amount of time I spent prepping, working on sequences, refining it, practicing, and commuting, teaching—the economics are in the negative. But I feel fortunate to be able to do this with the support of my husband. As for getting paid, you get a base pay per class and then there are thresholds for the number of students in each class.
Both subbing classes and having your own class have challenges. When you sub, you are walking into a room where students just want their own teacher. I do my best by considering the level of the class, the time of day, the style of the teacher. I can’t make myself be that teacher but I do want to stay true to their style. When you have your own class, especially has a new teacher, it’s difficult to stay fresh all the time. When I sub I’m able to heavily draw upon previous class material and make minor adjustments on the fly if needed. When it’s your class you need to be more creative with your sequences so that students don’t get bored.
It’s also about continually learning, now when I practice on my own it’s really a learning experience. I’m really dialed into what the teacher is doing and her or his style since they are usually more seasoned and have more hours of experience. I think I get less of the mental benefits now because I’m concentrating and learning while in class.
8. What are some of the biggest positive or negative surprises in your business?
The biggest positive surprise is the impact that I can have on my students. Students can walk into class one way, and leave with a completely different mindset—completely blissed out, their minds and bodies transformed. They also leave with a “thank you,” but you can tell there’s more behind the thank you. That has been a positive strife to see what I am capable of giving a student.
This can go the other direction as well. A student’s energy can really affect my teaching. If someone comes in with negative energy it’s hard not to let that get in your head. It can feel like they are unhappy with your teaching. Everyone has good days and bad days and we all manage this in different ways. I’ve talked to my mentor about this and she tells me that it’s important to stay true to yourself and teach the way you teach regardless of the energy in the room.
9. Are you willing to serve as a mentor to others interested in your sector?
Absolutely, I think that’s one of those gifts, if you have a good mentor it’s very valuable and I would love to give somebody that gift that I was given. That was an instrumental part in me becoming a teacher.
Date of conversation: November 7, 2018