Lessons from Yoga: How to Deal with Failure

Over the last few months I have had two big ‘failures’. The first was my second ever yoga retreat failing to get enough signs ups to be viable. The second was having to postpone my London workshop for the same reason.

Over the last two years of running my yoga business, I have taught poorly attended classes, had classes cancelled because of low sign-up numbers and busted my a**e off to try and fill my regular classes and workshops so the studios wouldn’t cancel my slot. It’s been a slog, but it’s all part of it. Ask any yoga teacher and they will tell you the same. But these latest two ‘failures’ really hit me hard. They were my own creations, filled with my purest energy, straight from the heart and I poured everything I had into creating and marketing them. I had also run successful workshops and a retreat before, so I thought I had the formula down. It didn’t work out. The feelings of letting people down, of rejection and of not feeling ‘good enough’ are hard to bear, not to mention the financial hit!

But this is what running a business looks like, and actually, I’m lucky. I’m lucky because my business is all about yoga, which has taught me more about running a business than I ever thought possible. Namely: how to deal with failure.

I still remember my first ever yoga class. I was in my 4th year of university and my friends and I were desperate for anything which would take us away from endless days in the library writing our dissertations and studying for our final exams. My ex-dancer/gymnast friend took me along. It was £3 (can you believe it!) so I was persuaded. I was absolutely AWFUL. I couldn’t get my breath properly, had zero balance or flexibility and huffed and puffed and sweat my way through the whole thing while she elegantly pointed her toes and flowed through every cue without even thinking twice.

I didn’t go back to yoga for a long time after that. I, like many other humans out there, didn’t like not being good at something. So, I just stopped, and carried on with the things I was good at. Years later, when I really needed the practice, I was brought back to it. Injured and disconnected and feeling very low, I started from the bottom. I still huffed and puffed. I was still inflexible and in pain, most of the time. I couldn’t touch my toes or put my heels down in downward-dog (still can’t), or do a headstand, or arm balance, or even hold a plank for more than 2 breaths. I couldn’t do a squat, and my back knee felt uncomfortable in Warrior 1, my low back hurt to do any kind of backbend. In human-terms, I failed at almost every single posture.

What was different this time, was that my teacher put absolutely zero emphasis on the posture. Her teaching was to be kind and gentle, to keep trying, to keep showing up, no matter what happened on the mat. So, I stuck at it. I continued to practice without worrying about the outcome, or the end-goal. In fact, I didn’t really have an end goal, for the first time in my life. I think you can all guess what happened, because here I am writing about my life as a yoga teacher.

When you start practising yoga, you’re probably going to be pretty uncomfortable. You’re going to put yourself in positions you’re not familiar with, and you’re going to feel lost and a bit behind, self-conscious and stiff. Much like starting a business, or learning a new skill, or starting a new job. However, the more you practice, the more you realise that it’s the showing up that counts. All the rest will happen in time. Much like running a business; the failures aren’t failures unless you give up. If you keep showing up, then they’re just training, just practice.

And so that’s what I’ve learned; that when something feels like a failure all it’s really doing is teaching you something valuable to take into the next session, until one day, just like that, you can stand on your head.


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