One of the most frequent questions I get from yoga teachers today is how to get more students into their classes. My answer? At the core of building a student base is developing a community with and among your students.
I recently had the opportunity to interview California-based yoga teacher Pete Guinosso, community builder extraordinaire, on location in beautiful Guatemala during his recent yoga retreat.
In this interview with Pete Guinosso, we will explore the idea of community and how it applies to being a yoga teacher and building your student base.
Thanks, Pete, for taking the time to talk about one of your favorite topics: COMMUNITY. Can you start by defining what “community” means to you?
Pete: I think of community as a special connection between individuals when they come together as a group. It doesn’t have to be made up of people who are all the same. In fact, I think most really strong communities are made up of many different types of people that have a common bond.
What are the benefits of being involved in a community – to ourselves, to others, to the world?
Pete: Community can bring us closer to our authentic selves. What I mean by that is when we are supported in finding our path, we tend to find out a lot about ourselves – things we want to keep, and things we want to leave behind.
When we start to connect to our authentic selves, this connection really helps us find our purpose in the world. We all need to be seen and heard – and a supportive community can provide that space for people.
I think it’s important to never underestimate the power of community to be a transformative force in our world.
There’s a great quote that I love:
“We are called to be strong companions and clear mirrors to one another, to seek those who reflect with compassion and a keen eye how we are doing, whether we seem centered or off course . . . we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom and healing.” -Wayne Muller
Why is community important to you personally?
Pete: Community is very healing. It has been a big part of my own healing. It helps bridge the divide between us as people, and reminds us of the connection that we all share as human beings. When we show up to support people, it also reminds us that we all suffer, and that knowledge helps break down a lot of barriers between individuals.
Can you give some insight into how community is connected to building your student base and your yoga business as a yoga teacher?
Pete: I think that students follow authenticity, so the most important part of teaching is to teach from your heart and your own experience. Even in an age of Instagram and Facebook, I feel what resonates with people is truth and knowing that they can come to a class where safe space is being held. If you can create a classroom or a retreat setting where people feel that, community will follow.
Is the ability to build a community innate? Or is it something that is or can be learned?
Pete: I think for me, it probably is more innate. I love meeting people and connecting, and I tend to be really friendly and outgoing. But this is also something that can be learned. If you are someone that doesn’t really know how to start building community, it can be as simple as saying hi to someone new at each and every yoga class, or making an effort to make conversation beyond just a hello.
Community also doesn’t have to be a big group. There are lots of different ways to bring people together. The way that I try and do it for my students is just one way of approaching it.
Can you give some examples of how you build community? What are some simple things you do?
Pete: One of the simplest ways to build community is to arrive to class 10-15 minutes early, and set aside that time for connecting with students. This could be asking about their day, or connecting about injuries or things that they are working on in their practice.
I try very hard to know my students’ names and something about them outside of yoga. I also always start out my classes by having students introduce themselves to someone they don’t know – that starts to foster the spark for students building community together. I also like to extend this beyond yoga. I give out “Free Hug” cards to random strangers that I pass by that look like they need a pick me up.
A lot of things that help build community are the same things that also make you a good teacher.
One of the simplest ways to build community is to arrive to class 10-15 minutes early, and set aside that time for connecting with students.
Please share your thoughts on building community at yoga retreats.
Pete: Retreats are an amazing place to build community. People have already set aside the time to be in one space for a few days. Shared experience is a powerful thing, and when people are together in this way, connections can form really quickly.
I like to start my retreats out with a sharing circle, so that students can share something unique about themselves, along with what they hope to get out of the experience. I find that this really helps open people up to learning about each other, and sets the tone for having community as a big part of the retreat experience.
I try to set up additional activities beyond yoga – like group hikes or dinners or day trips. These activities create opportunities for conversation and bonding. Over time, I think people have also started to come on my retreats because of the community that builds on each trip, so students are helping to continue the strong sense of connection each time.
Any final thoughts about community, it’s power, and it’s importance for yoga teachers?
Pete: I think generally it is an innate human desire to want to be around other people. And as yoga teachers, we have the power to foster that desire and create the safe space for others to explore it together. People like being seen for who they are, and most of us like to be involved in something that is greater than just our own life. Community tends to make our world smaller and bigger all at once, by making us realize how truly connected we are, and honoring the value of all our unique experiences.
“Any time we allow ourselves to be our true selves, even if it’s just a little bit, we create a space for others to do the same.” -Pete Guinosso
Yoga classes are a safe space to dive into your authenticity. Pete speaks about how people truly want to be ‘seen.’ These two pieces transform a yoga class into a cauldron of connection and community. As a yoga teacher, you are the person holding the space for this.
Building community is as simple as asking someone their name and remembering it the next time they come. Some people are naturally social people. There are many styles of building community and everyone has their own unique take on building connection with other human beings. Therefore, everyone is capable of building community!
Take time to reflect on the small ways you encourage community within classes, workshops, and retreats and please share them with us in the comments below!
The post An Interview with Pete Guinosso – Professional Advice for Yoga Teachers on How to Build Community appeared first on YogiApproved™.