During midterm week, my Career and Employee Skills instructor assigned us a project: we had to conduct an informational interview with someone who worked in the career field we aspired to be in. Even though my current goal is to become an editor for a young adult book publishing house, my long-term goal is to become a 500-hour certified yoga instructor and own a studio. I was inspired by the assignment to go beyond and ask my yoga teacher/mentor if she would be okay with an interview. I say "yoga mentor" because she is the one who is leading the 200-hour training program I am currently enrolled in and her studio is the first off-campus space I was able to put roots down and call my second home. So this was my interview with Alyson Foreacre, founder of the Jacksonville-based Yoga Den.
1. How would you describe a typical day/week on the job?
Well, I lead classes and get to be creative with music and sequencing. I meet a lot of people, and for me that's the most important part. The business part is not as much fun, but overtime I have figured out how to ask for help. At this stage of the business now, it’s become absolutely necessary to have involvement from others, so operationally, there’s a team to run things. I have found that teachers and teachers-in-training go along with the development. On the back end, I have time to teach.
2. How did you get into this field?
I went and took a class with my college roommate. At the time I was running a lot, and one day I took a power class and it kicked my butt. I thought I was fit. The chronic little injuries I had cultivated from all the running started getting better. I started to notice my state of mind and the desire to be on the mat trumped my desire to be active elsewhere. That’s what got me on the mat. What got me teaching was that I had a friend who ran and was in charge of a community where there were fitness classes and asked if I could teach, so I got a certification.
3. How did you secure employment in this field?
I went through both 200 and 300 hour training programs to get 500 hour and then in order to educate other teachers you have to get EYRT to get 5,000 hours. I spent a lot of time teaching to get to the point of teaching others. To certify at the 200 hour you need 1,000 hours and 300 hour for 5,000 hours. There is a tiered quota of hours that you accumulate depending on the level of certification you want to offer.
4. What are the most satisfying aspects of your job?
The people, 100%. The students I meet that are coming in 3-4 days a week, which is half of their lives and through the years, I’ve seen students that started in high school, gone through college, and are parents now. Seeing the parents raise their kids there is great. I love the little connections and the sense of community. I love the trainings too because I get to witness the self-discovery that comes with it and tapping into all of the aspects like philosophy and being able to share that and seeing the different people come in from different walks of life. I love seeing what the practice delivers for those people.
5. What frustrations or drawbacks do you experience in this position?
It’s very difficult to run a yoga business. Yoga and business is an oxymoron. Being assertive when I prefer to be passive is difficult. Having critical conversations when I prefer to avoid confrontation is hard too. Having to, you know, make hard decisions. I’m thinking about what’s best for the business while also maintaining the sense of feeling good about the decisions and looking at the big picture. I know sometimes it’s not going to be the most comfortable situation. I’m not crazy about that stuff, but in any business you have to deal with it and be an owner. Sometimes, it’s not as fun. Mostly it’s a blast, but I got to get firm.
6. How much contact do you have with people outside of your organization? What is your relationship to these people?
Certain vendors that we work with by phone where we get our products. The only local vendor that I deal with is the guys who make our t-shirts. Their office is downtown. I will visit to get an idea of ink, color, fabric, and design. Usually, for me personally, I don’t have much of an interaction with them. Chip [my husband] handles the marketing. When a studio opens, he manages the build out and the contractors. Chip, I would say, has more interaction with those people. Mostly, I am on the inside
7. How does your career affect your lifestyle? (amount of work, time for leisure, travel, outside interests, etc.)
In a very positive way. It keeps me feeling humbled. I have gratitude for all the opportunities. I’ve turned my passion into a career that I feel strongly about. I feel like there is a lot of goodness that has come out of it. It keeps me aware of what I’m putting in my body, how I'm going to feel the next day, how I'm resting. Probably, definitely, affected my party lifestyle -laughs-. It has helped me maintain balance. Knowing that I have to show up and have a positive state of mind helps me be selective so I can maintain a positive energetic flow.
8. What skills or personal characteristics, traits, values, etc. do you believe are necessary or helpful for success and satisfaction in this occupation or organization?
Being comfortable with who you are. Not saying that you can’t have insecurities, just not letting them define you. Being accepting and embracing flaws. Some of them we can work toward refining. We have to really have a non-judgement attitude. We have to be open-minded to the other perspective and hold space for that. We have to generally be a people person. You’re going to be around people a lot. Not that we don’t have bad days, but positive energy will help because energy will attract energy and people are coming in looking for positive. When you teach, you have to be prepared to sweat and doing it a lot. The girly-girl thing doesn’t have time to move in. it would be too much effort to keep make up and shoes on because I'm on the mat so much. Being okay with being totally natural and other people seeing you that way is great. The physical layer is going to do what it’s going to do. The sooner we can embrace the natural evolution of existence the more comfortable we will be with ourselves.
9. What do you wish you had known about this career field before you entered it? What about this employer?
Early on, because it was just me for 10 years, I think it would have been to have a more solid foundation in the business aspect, like doing taxes, you know the boring crap -laughs- it would have saved me some headaches had I been more organized and delegated certain things that I don’t have a skill set in. Now that is under control it saves time and energy. Looking back that is definitely an area that could have been more streamlined.
10. Are there any books or periodicals that you would recommend?
The E Myth [Michael Gerber] is a great book. Crucial Conversations [Al Switzler], because some people, especially passive people, need help to carve a field into confrontational talk. We kind of had to move through uncharted territory because of the demographic and not having a lot of examples, but it has been valuable and we’re still learning every day. We had to do everything by trial and error.
11. What special advice would you give to a young person entering your field?
I would say just to really try to figure out what speaks to you when it comes to the style of yoga that you like to teach, not so much what you like to practice. Where do you feel most authentic in your teaching? If you can figure out where you feel natural and what style you resonate with, then your students will be affected and be very relaxed. You will come across a totally different way if you do something that doesn’t speak to you. What you are working towards is finding the authentic self and voice. Organic and natural. For the young person, be consistent. Consistency is everything. You got to show up. People trust in your presence. No matter how much they may like a class, if they can't count on you being there, then the luster will dissipate. If we start seeing a pattern in lack of consistency then that shows the investment isn’t there. I think staying consistent is a big statement.
And there you have it! I was very happy to be able to have a one-on-one with Alyson. She provided great answers that have helped me understand what it is like to have a future career in the yoga industry. I am so grateful to have her as a teacher. The interview has given me confidence about my yoga journey and I hope to be able to put her advice to work.