Starvation Mentality

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One concept has come up again and again over the years in relation to healing work and marketing. Just like any business advertising plays its role in yoga and bodywork. You’re trying to let people know what it is that you do and draw them in. In no way however do I wish to be a used car salesman. There is no real pitch and certainly nothing I deem as soul crushing as a gimmick.

I give away what I do, you just pay to pick some of it up. Whether in a yoga class or learning Thai massage I don’t interact with my work and business in a way to protect what I do from others learning it. I want you to learn what I know, I want you to know how to do the things I do and help others whether or not I get a profit financially.

In jazz circles I’ve heard stories that long ago trumpet players would hang a handkerchief over their playing hand while playing so that other trumpeters couldn’t see how they were pressing the keys in a certain way to attain certain sounds. They were protecting their market. Even Robert Johnson is said to have tuned his guitar turned away from the crowd so that others couldn’t see how he set things up before playing blues.

I don’t do this in my practice. As I recently heard on the show Treme, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” All I do is transparent. I’ve no desire to hide behind walls, regulations and red tape protecting the knowledge that I have.

In teaching Thai massage this provides a particular case we can examine to see why. In our area there aren’t many practitioners of Thai massage. I could resist teaching, continue working with clients and build clientele and never teach. It depends on what goals we have for our healing work and business. Eventually I’d have many clients, work on them and that would be that.

Thing is, my goal is to help people heal. Because my end goal isn’t just making money it changes the way I choose to interact with clients and students. If I teach Thai massage do I cripple my market? No. In no way shape or form do I hurt my market. Massage therapists aren’t competeing regardless of what anyone else says. Let’s say maybe 5% of the total populace gets a massage semi-regularly. Are massage therapists competing to get some of that 5%? I’m not, I’m working on trying to communicate with that other 95% who maybe have never even had a massage.

If I teach it has its own benefits. Doing healing work is healing in and of itself. I obtain some financial incentive to teach good classes and have students. I also send out a vast array of personalities, people and healers to work on others. If I can add to what a student knows, helping them invest in their tool box then I’ll be able to increase healing overall for more people. I can only do so many sessions with my own two hands. Let me teach 20 people fully…that’s a huge amount of overall gain not only for my practice but for our community.

When students learn Thai massage from me who will they come to when they want a session? Possibly me, so I’m also adding a possible client down the road. When that student needs more CEU’s at a later date who will they contact? Possibly me. Have I then detracted financial incentive or destroyed my market? Not at all, we’ve created a new one.

In regards to yoga and bodywork, we’re only at the beginning. There are days when the overall crushing burden Americans must feel physically takes it’s toll on me psychically. Why does everyone come in with this same upper back and neck issue? Because they don’t do yoga regularly and they know very little about their bodies structure and function. Once you know, you know. It’s easy to work with and help heal when you know there is a cure. For most people there isn’t, they feel this is just what happens as people age and grow old. Frankly, it’s not, not even close. People do age and change but the amount of burden I’ve seen in 10 years as a massage therapist is almost overwhelming. It’s why my internal response has been to grow and change. Don’t just do massage, teach yoga, don’t just teach yoga teach bodywork, don’t just teach bodywork do yoga therapy. Teach all that is helpful to others. If people do not know, they cannot respond to a situation with that information.

Am I destroying my market? Not at all.

In conversation with my wife I was discussing what would be my ideal situation. Apart from settings like locale, studio and luxury it looked something like this. I have a small private studio. Other than when I see clients or have a yoga class, currently the studio is empty. My preference would be to simply keep the studio open. Students could come and practice as they see fit and I could wander in and out at will. I teach but it’s hanging out, informal. Students just come around because they want to feel better and there is a jar at the door where they can drop donations to support our work. Notice I said our work. Is Ebb and Flow yoga studio mine? No…it’s Ours. You create it just as much as I.

The deep burning and searing goal of my work is to help others heal. Money will come, money will go. I’m not avoiding it or looking down on it, I just feel that if money is my only focus I’d have left this business long ago. You want to be a healer? Take a vow of poverty and help others heal. You want to make money, start a business. I’m in between. There’s no dishonor in that. I need little to live a luxurious lifestyle compared to many around the world.

Students in massage school years ago went and took a class with a teacher. When they returned they refused to tell other students what they had learned because they felt it would give them an advantage over the students who hadn’t taken the class. After all, they had invested the money taking it right? Wouldn’t they be watering down what they’d learned instead of treating it like a precious resource to be held onto exlusively?

In my core I just don’t agree. For all the students I’ll teach Thai massage to, will all of them practice it? No. Many will continue working on the table and use bits and pieces in their work. If I continue gardening will I start a CSA? Well, there’s a whole different level of involvement between having a good garden, harvesting produce and running a business supplying others. Not everyone is going to take my yoga classes and decide to become a yoga teacher. They want to learn yoga not necessarily teach others the same things. The same goes with Thai massage. Even if I taught 100 other therapists in and around Austin that just builds up a small community of people who like Thai yoga and work with it, introducing it to people I’d never have the time or energy to work on myself.

If people want to know what it is that I do they just need to hang out long enough to get some of my work, take some yoga classes and see for themselves. Any advertising is inadequate. I can’t process and pare down ten years of experience into a slogan. Do I feel that teaching and helping people will water down and saturate an already full market? No. The market isn’t even remotely full. Most people don’t get massage. Those that do are getting table massage that’s probably not that different from other kinds of bodywork going around.

Most don’t do yoga. I’m regularly fielding questions from people who ask about its spirituality and connection to Hinduism. What does your spine have to do with Sanskrit? I wholly admit yogas roots but let’s keep in mind that more people in the US do yoga than in its home country of India. That’s right, more people practice yoga in the west than in the east.

Teaching and sharing the knowledge of healing work doesn’t saturate and already full market, it opens up new markets as more people find out what they should be taught from the time they’re children.

Saturating a market? Oh, how I wish. If people had the bodies they could have and the lack of back pain that I dream of I could retire. At its core what I see is starvation mentality. Everyone thinks they have to gorge and eat all they can because the food and prosperity may dry up. I do not and will not subscribe to that idea.

Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 6:26 “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?”

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