Episode 14

ON​ FINDING YOUR NICHE + BUILDING COMMUNITY

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In this episode, Phoebe sits down with Keisha Courtney, a communications professional, Emmy®-winning journalist, to discuss her latest venture The Driven Yogi. Focused on all things yoga, we dive into how the yoga community can be more inclusive and how the pandemic will forever change the community. 

Keisha Courtney is a yoga teacher, communications professional, Emmy®-winning journalist, and founder of The Driven Yogi - a site that creates continuing education for yoga teachers to become safer, more effective, and inclusive instructors.  She firmly believes that being a yoga teacher is like any other profession; it takes perseverance, drive, and a thirst for knowledge to be successful and stand out from the rest. On top of running her company, she works in the education sector at a Bay Area non-profit.

Like many yogi’s, Keisha’s path to becoming a teacher was untraditional. An athlete from a young age, she was a competitive gymnast until she was twelve, competed in power tumbling for six years, and then as an adult, fell into the world of pole dancing where she utilized it as a way to express herself and feelings through physical movement. As a TV news journalist, Keisha had a very stressful career, where she witnessed a lot of brutal things happen and had to report on tragic stories, and it started to take a toll on her mental and physical well being. Enter yoga. After her first class, she was hooked and to this day calls it “her saving grace.” 

WHAT IS THE DRIVEN YOGI? 

After she finished her teacher training in 2007, Keisha still felt really unprepared to teach her own class. So she asked her teachers if there was something other yoga teachers can do to help them become more effective teachers and the response she got didn’t sit well with her. After some advice from her good friend, Keisha decided to create The Driven Yogi. Originally, this was a platform for newly certified yoga teachers who are looking for more training and gaining the confidence to teach. But, as she started building the platform, Keisha realized that there’s a bigger lack of education on certain topics in the yoga community. Keisha decided to pivot her business and instead focus on bringing continuing education for teachers from all different backgrounds and walks of life, experiences, and identities in order to help them become a safer and more inclusive yoga teacher. 

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HOW TO DO IT ALL WHEN YOU HAVE A DAY JOB

The short answer—it’s really difficult but so rewarding. When starting The Driven Yogi, Keisha chose to bootstrap her business to create her vision of a truly inclusive and safe space for yoga teachers. So during the day, she works a traditional 9-5 job, (and sometimes fits in time for running and a little yoga), before she comes home and is right back work. For Keisha, creating and nurturing her community is what gives her passion and energy to fuel her dream.

OKAY, BUT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR EMMY? 

Back in the day, Keisha worked as a TV news journalist for four years in the small town of Lawton, Oklahoma, and Bakersfield, California. She won her Emmy for a Weekend Winter Storm broadcast, and yes she currently has it displayed in her apartment. 

WHAT’S MISSING IN THE YOGA TEACHING COMMUNITY 

Keisha believes there’s a lot of information not being covered in traditional 200-hour teacher-trainings. She’s noticed during these trainings, topics around alignment, teaching to prenatal communities, the disabled community, students with trauma, and helping people find their voice in the room are being given little to no attention. Then there’s online-trainings. Keisha loves how they are exposing the practice to more people and making classes more financially accessible, but she thinks it shouldn’t be your only education. She’s an advocate for being in the classroom and physically touching people in order to help keep future practitioners safe.

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Keisha Courtney

 “We have to realize, you have other people’s bodies and livelihoods in your hands, and that can’t be taken lightly.” 

 

 

HARDEST PART OF TEACHING YOGA

People don’t realize how much it takes to teach and plan a one-hour class. Especially if you’re a new teacher it can be daunting. For her classes, Kiesha tends to spend two-hours outside coming up with the great playlist, sequence of poses, and practicing transitions. And when you look at teachers teaching multiple classes, you start to realize they’re not being compensated what they are worth. She hopes this is something that the industry will change especially with everything happening in the world. 

WHAT HAS PANDEMIC CHANGED ABOUT YOGA

 

The first big thing Keisha see’s shaking up the yoga community is it’s giving the opportunity for teachers to become their own small businesses. A lot of teachers are starting to think outside of the studio model and are no longer having to rely on it for their following. 

 

Second thing Keisha seeing that’s exciting to her is there's an explosion of creativity in the community. Teachers are teaching at weddings, creating huge followings at their local parks and coming up with formats she’s never seen before. 

 

Her last big insight in how yoga has been impacted by the pandemic is we’re finally having conversations about pay, studio models, inclusivity, and more education for teachers. With so many happening conversations around Black Lives Matter in every space, Keisha hopes studios and teachers themselves will take a deep look at what they are doing and actively try to be more inclusive of others in different communities. Some examples of this are: 

  • Hiring more teachers of color and from different backgrounds 

  • Being antiracist and giving others in the industry tools to combat racism 

  • Educating themselves about communities they are not familiar with

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TIPS SERVICE BASED BUSINESS CAN USE TO GROW THEIR PLATFORMS

For Kiesha this all boils down to three simple tips: 

  • First find your personal brand in your service based business space and then capitalize on it. Not sure what makes you ‘you’. Make a list about what people love about your service or ask a friend what they love about your service. 

  • Second, find your niche and speak to them in an authentic way.  

  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to go after people. If you think someone could benefit from your services or would make a great client, send them a DM and chat them up in Facebook groups. All of these things will help you build your list of great clients who value you. 

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You can follow Keisha Courtney's personal journey @thedrivenyogi

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