|Posted on 14 August, 2015 at 18:30|
When I graduated with a Dru Teaching Diploma in January my next step was to start teaching. The problem was who to teach and where. During term time it proved to be impossible – my plan to teach other teachers at the college where I work (my “real” job is teaching ESOL to adults in Ilford) never happened because no-one, myself included, had enough time. There was plenty of enthusiasm and good intentions but quite honestly, with OFSTED breathing down our necks, we were all too knackered to make time.
However, the Bandstand at Raphael Park on Sunday mornings has turned out to be a winner. The Bandstand is a perfect location and Sunday mornings work for me, especially during the summer when I don’t have ESOL classes to plan. My first instinct was to do the classes for nothing. I’m just grateful if people can spare time to join me and although the extra income would be nice – did I mention I don’t get paid in the summer months? – the thought of setting up a proper business and the admin nightmares that go with it isn’t something I’m ready for yet.
But mindful of my yoga teachings stopped me. Free classes might sound like a win/win no-brainer but could there be karmic repercussions? Yoga isn’t just an exercise, it’s a way of life and the reason I decided to call my “business” Body and Soul Yoga. Yoga is wonderful for the body but the soul aspect is much more important. We are, as I’ve got on my homepage, souls with bodies, rather than bodies with souls.
I decided to look at the Yamas and Niyamas which form the first and second limbs of the eight limbs of yoga. The Yamas are guidelines for ethical standards and moral restraints listed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. The Niyamas are observances and disciplines. Both the Yamas and the Niyamas are divided into five different sections. To put it simply in terms of Western culture there are parallels with the Ten Commandments so, in fact, they are not as complicated or confusing as they sound. So how do they fit in with my decision not to make the classes free?
The first of the Yamas is Ahimsa – non-violence, non-injury: consideration and compassion for all living beings including yourself. Gandhi is particularly well known for this Yama but Ahimsa is not just about non-violence. It needs to be interpreted more widely than that. A free class would be great for the participants but what if it stopped them from paying another yoga teacher? That teacher might be relying on her classes for an income and my free classes would harm his or her business. And what about myself? Giving my services, which I have trained and studied hard for, free would be not considering my own value. If we do not value ourselves how can we expect others to? I have practised yoga for many, many years (40 years in fact!), paid for gym membership and additional yoga classes, completed the British Wheel Foundation Course and then teacher training at Yoga Professionals and Dru Yoga. I pay for insurance and membership of both the British Wheel and Dru Professional Network. I spend many hours planning and promoting my classes. Surely all this must have a value and to give it away free would be under-valuing my own worth as a qualified teacher.
Having considered all this (yes I spent many hours awake at night struggling with the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita to get to these conclusions) I decided that I should charge but that the money should go to charity. So which charity to choose ...
I decided on First Step Opportunity Group. This is where the second of the Yamas, Satya: truthfulness, non-telling of lies: living with honesty in behaviour, thought and intention, comes into play. The fact is that First Step is a brilliant charity. It is local and small so I feel that the money won’t get lost within some giant and complex organisation. It helps normal, everyday families cope when they have a disabled child to care for. As a mother myself I can only begin to imagine how difficult it must be to accept the extra challenges a child with disabilities bring. I have a friend who has struggled all her severely autistic son’s life to get the support and help that he needs. Without organisations like First Step I know her life and many others would have been even more difficult. So yes, I do feel that First Step is a worthy charity for me to help but truthfully helping them is a win/win for me. They very kindly helped me with the legal aspects explaining how to set up my Just Giving site, pointing out the finer points of my risk assessment (I thought about people maybe slipping on the steps but forgot that collecting money in the park could put me at personal risk (Adhimsa again). By choosing First Step I was assured that everything put in place was done correctly and quite honestly (Satya) that’s very important to me. I like to do things properly, legally and safely. First Step helped me with all that.
Asteya is third of the Yamas – no stealing, no jealousy; cultivating a less materialistic view. Stop desiring what we may not have. So how does that fit in with my classes? For me to give classes free would be, in a sense, to “steal” from other teachers who need to charge. But what if people come and don’t pay ie donate to the charity? This is something I have very little control over. It really has to be up to their conscience. At the end of the day, it’s their karma and not mine. However, I believe I should do my best to explain why donating is so important and make it as easy as possible for them to donate. If I do the classes free I’m stealing from other teachers, if people accept the classes free they are actually stealing from First Step and also from me because they are not valuing my worth. The classes are not “free” I am simply asking participants to donate my fee to First Step on my behalf.
This is moderation, chasitity; non indulgence of the senses. Not using sexuality and flirtatiousness for self reward, ego and/or gain. This is less easy to see in the context of my classes. However, accepting a free class might involve indulgence of the senses. For me to have lots of learners will certainly flatter my ego (teachers have a lot of ego, believe me!) but if they’re not paying then really it’s just self indulgence for me.
This is the final Yama and concerns non attachment, non accepting of gifts; judge your success by who you are, not by what you have. Appreciate all that you have such as health, happiness, family, time, love etc. I am fortunate to have time to give on Sundays (especially, as I said, during the holidays). I appreciate all those who join me on Sundays and spare their time. I know that we are all busy people and it is difficult to take even an hour or two out of our hectic routines.
So how can participants make their donations? For legal and safety reasons I am not allowed to accept money. There might also be moral implications – if I take money could I be accused of keeping any for myself? First Step advised using the Just Giving website. Unfortunately, it seems to suggest very large donations by default. There’s nothing I can do about this and I think it’s very wrong that they set it up like that. I want to make it clear I don’t expect large donations. Initially I suggested £5 a class because that’s average at the lowest end of commercial classes. £3 could be more realistic (after all we’re in the park and I don’t have the overheads hiring a hall involves). £2 is the lowest amount JustGiving accepts but that’s fine by me. The amount of the donation is entirely up to individuals and they should give whatever they feel the class is worth and they can afford.
Texting might be easier for some and should only take a second. You don’t need to give card details – it goes on your mobile provider bill. The Just Giving site is actually very easy once your card details have been recorded. Really just clicking a button once a week.
Should it be weekly? I think it should. I want payments to mirror real classes as much as possible. In September I may start to charge and then I will ask money in advance (for a discount) or weekly. Payment at the end of courses isn’t usually acceptable so I don’t think it’s a good idea in this case either.
I hope no-one is put off or offended by this article. I really wanted to explain my thinking regarding donations. Thanks to everyone who has donated so far – 31 of you have (many of you have been donating weekly and very generously) and I am extremely grateful. It looks like I’ll easily reach my £300 target. In addition, it’s boosted by the tax reclaim option. By agreeing for the tax to be reclaimed, tax payers actually donate an additional 28p for each £1 at no cost to themselves whatsoever!
Does it matter how much each person donates? Of course not! Every donation is important and helps First Step. Some people might be able to spare more than others but that doesn’t make their donation any more worthy. Being grateful for what you have (Aparigraha) comes into play here. There’s no need for the amount to appear on the website (although it can be displayed if you want). Personally, I’d prefer people to hide the amount however much or little they give but type in their name or initial – just so that it’s clear that everyone is contributing but there are no judgements on how much.
Remember, yoga is non-competitive and it is for the Soul as much as the Body.
With grateful thanks for all donations to First Step.
OR Text YOGA85 £__ to 70070
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