I can no longer handstand in my underwear.
Technically, I never could. I never completely mastered the intricate skill and beauty of full handstand without the support of a wall. And though—when I first became a yoga teacher—I posted an endless photo stream of myself contorted into whatever positions I was capable of in order to draw attention to my personal brand, I never did it in my underwear. Probably because I was too self-conscious.
I was strong though. I am strong. I can do all the fun arm balances that the mastery of—let’s be honest—is one of the main reasons a lot of us are drawn back to yoga class over and over.
When I started teaching yoga, social media was just about to explode. Facebook was brand new and not the all-inclusive cyber-world that we know it to be today. It was used primarily to connect friends and share pics. Businesses weren’t promoting on it yet, and people in the “spiritual” industry of yoga and wellness certainly weren’t flashing their wares on it to grow in popularity. Twitter had just been born, and the social media of choice—as only people schooled in public relations would know—was simply blogging about and reviewing products and services.
I had just finished graduating from Corporate Communications and, not being passionate enough about promoting in and of itself, I decided to follow my real passion and become a yoga teacher.
A previous background from my former life as a nightclub promoter backed by enthusiastic support from my spiritual guru helped me in the ‘shameless’ department, and I quickly figured out I could use Facebook to promote myself as a yoga teacher. I was one of the first in the market.
I created events that I was to teach at, and I’d invite everyone I knew, including tastemakers from Lululemon. It worked. Studios saw that I had a lot of interest in my yoga classes and began calling me to get me on their schedules. Eventually, I built my brand through social media.
A clever ‘’Jock Yoga” photo shoot I did in a gym with a toque and sneakers added a twist to ordinary yoga pictures and garnered a lot of social media publicity for me and my brand.
I became an ambassador for Lululemon (twice), Skechers and for Genuine Health. I began to teach high visibility classes with Lululemon—after one of which the Toronto Star contacted me for a feature. Following that feature, Global News called me, then CBC, then CTV and it snowballed from there.
Fast forward a few years, five Jock Yoga teacher-trainings, several certified teachers and an established brand in the GTA fitness and yoga market, I’ve been questioning what I can do now that is innovative in promoting my work and brand.
You can’t throw a rock in Toronto without hitting a yoga teacher who has their own personal brand. Everyone is posting pics everywhere on social media now—some on Instagram have hundreds of thousands of followers (I question the legitimacy of some of those numbers however, as it’s well known that people buy followers and likes to improve brand presence).
The social media yoga culture has grown from apologetic teachers hesitant to promote themselves in a ‘spiritual’ industry, to non-stop photo ops in every contorted pose possible—each personal brand trying to one-up the previous in pose-intricacy, complexity and sexuality.
So, I suppose it’s smart to use whatever tactics you can to stand out in the crowd and make yourself seen. If standing on your hands in your underwear or wrapping your legs behind your head in a bikini gets you more buzz for your brand—all the power to you! Yoga teaching is a livelihood and we need to eat and pay our bills.
I feel that in having done photo/video promotion for so long, and also in being 41 years old, I would like to promote what I do through a different vehicle and see how it goes.
What can I offer that’s different than sexy bodies in sexy poses?
Well, I suppose to begin with, I have the personal experience of someone who knows what it’s like to live on this planet for 41 years. I also know what it’s like to live in a human body for 41 years. And I’m still very athletic, so I can attest to the fact that you can remain capable of remarkable abilities in relation to fitness up into your 40s and beyond—as demonstrated by many of my super athletic students who are well into their 50s and some even 60s!
My therapist reminded me that 40 is a significant number/age. Many religious and spiritual practices require the ‘ripe’ age of 40 before allowing an individual to partake in certain studies, meditations and practices. My therapist used the story of the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years before reaching the Promised Land as a metaphor for me, as I also seemed to have wandered for my first 40 years through obesity and addiction before settling into my new life of yoga, athleticism and personal development.
I have never been one to preach ancient spiritual principles in my classes, nor by any means am I suggesting that I’m evolved to any extent. I have, however, learned some hard personal lessons mentally and physically that I am very happy to share if and when the timing is right.
I have also more recently recognized my passion for writing and photography. And though writing and sharing my truths—and my art—makes me feel vulnerable, it also fulfills me at the same time, knowing that perhaps I have made a slight difference in even one person’s life.
Now that I’ve learned how to post content on my blog, I suppose sharing my experience, the science of Jock Yoga, and my own passions is the new means by which I can promote my brand off the mat.
And although promoting (a little more intimately) the quality and theory of what I do seems to be the best means by which to garner real interest–and not just social media ‘likes’–I’ll admit, a great photo accompanying a blog post is still the best way to capture attention. So, perhaps I’ll continue to add the odd arm-balance snap for visual stimulus—I’ll just be the photographer more often than the model!