I’ve been practicing yoga for 11 years and teaching for 7. But it’s only been 1 year since I really started experimenting, embracing and owning my yoga “niche” in a way that feels absolutely authentic.

And it also feels SCARY.

Because I don’t have a blueprint: This has never been done before.

But in that last year, it’s really paid off. I’m teaching workshops on a topic I’m highly passionate about, qualified to teach in a way no one else I know is, and garnering buckets of mind-blowing testimonials.

Each workshop has led to invitations to teach elsewhere — another studio, another city, out-of-town retreats.

Basically, it’s leading me to my dream career.

So what is this wild, authentically-me niche?

Lemme back up a sec.

How I figured it out:: An a-ha! moment followed by years of resistance

The first time I clicked with yoga, I realized two things::

1. The practice was making me more present than I typically was, which was awesome and freeing; and

2. I had felt this way before.

Specifically, I’d had that experience when I first started improvising — a practice that came into my life 5 years before I set foot {or palm} onto a yoga mat.

Like yoga, which appears to be about making impressive shapes with your body, improv appears to be about something outwardly impressive as well: of-the-moment characters and dialogue, unscripted scenes and plays. Even unscripted musicals! {When you see two characters reprise a duet completely off the cuff yet in total agreement, this is impressive indeed. Like, dropping-from-handstand-into-full-wheel impressive.}

But in both cases, these outwardly impressive skills are not the thing that makes improv and yoga so powerful and life-changing.

What makes them powerful and life-changing is that they are both practices of presence.

Ultimately, for me at least, both improv and yoga were a skill set I could use to get out of my compulsively thinking mind and drop into the here and now — without distraction.

This connection was not only clear to me — it was FASCINATING.

It was fascinating 11 years ago, the first time yoga clicked.

It was fascinating seven years ago, in my first yoga teacher training.

And yet in the six years that followed, I didn’t go near it!

I didn’t probe deeper. I didn’t try to get it on its feet.

This was despite several time over the years when yoga students would hear about my improv background or see a show and say something like, “You should really teach those together!” Or, “That would be a great retreat!”

I’d smile politely and say something enigmatic and cowardly like, “Maybe.”

Because truthfully? I had no idea how to do it.

That stopped me for a long time.

I didn’t know anyone who was doing it. I had never taken a class or a workshop like that. It seemed like something I was likely to fail at. {And, ironically, a willingness to fail is one of my chief skills as an improviser.}

Here is the big mistake I was making:: I was taking myself seriously, but the material not.

This is an essential lesson in yoga, and an essential lesson in improv.

In yoga, you have to take the pose/breath/sensation seriously, but yourself not. That is how you end up flying. How you end up open + strong. How you end up free.

And in improv, you have to take the game or the scene you’re in seriously, but yourself not. That is how you end up channeling brilliance and spontaneity.

Finally, I looked at this idea I was trying to give birth to like a yoga pose.

Like crow pose, for example:

If your goal is to get your feet off the ground, you probably will. For a second. You’ll grunt and hold your breath and the pose will feel temporary at best.

But if your goal is to feel the sensations that give rise to the pose, the pose will happen THROUGH you. You will be as much a passenger to it as the person who might be watching you practice.

Of course, to build crow pose for the first time, we get thoughtful instruction from a teacher. That guidance empowers us.

So here are the steps I took to birth YogaPlay::

{my offering that combines yoga + improv for a powerful experience of presence}

1. Notice your resistance. Look at what else, besides yoga, you are already an expert at. And any resistance you have to combining it with yoga in some way. What else brings you the same freedom? What do you often compare to yoga? How can you use it to help other people enhance their yoga practice?

2. Take this work seriously, and yourself not. Consider that this thing + yoga could help other people. Get specific on how it’s helped you. Map it out. Be willing to fail, to take a few ego-bruises as you climb the learning curve of this beautiful new creation.

3. Make an offering. Put it out there. Book a workshop at a local yoga studio, or consider offering it on the turf of this other “practice” you’re combining with yoga. {My first YogaPlay workshop was at the theater where I teach improv, not at a yoga studio.}

4. Treat it like a work in progress. It won’t be perfect for a long time. If ever. But that means it’s only going to keep getting better! When I think back to the first time I offered YogaPlay, it seems so disorganized and kinda crap compared to what it is now. Because I have learned by doing! {And even my most inchoate efforts really helped people!}

5. Learn + tweak. Bring feedback forms. Write down your own thoughts immediately after the workshop. This is your symphony. Nobody gets it right just going from head to paper. You have to hear it from an actual orchestra to get visceral and witness the improvements it wants.

7. Open it up. Play with a longer, month-long class series option. Or a weekend retreat. What I found, at least, is that I can just scratch the surface in a 3-hour workshop. And, surprisingly, when I developed an 8-week class series, I STILL felt like there was more. The well might be much deeper than you can see from here.

Keep us posted on what beautiful offerings come through you!

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LaurenLauren Zinn Buck teaches people to become exquisitely present through yoga + improv. She has been invited to teach her signature offering, YogaPlay, in teaching training programs, beach retreats and studios across her native Austin, TX. She regularly sends out articles, videos + audio classes to help people drop deep into the present moment. Sign up for these free goodies here!

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