A Q&A with a teacher who knew nobody in the London yoga scene but is now making a full-time income from yoga…
Tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Sammy Rainbow Furnival. I’m a full time yoga teacher and frequent smiler based in South East London. I’m an often indecisive but excitable life enthusiast with a big love of peanut butter.
When did you qualify and where do you teach ?
In September 2014 after a somewhat turbulent time in professional dance training I went straight to India to embark on my yoga teacher-training course. I never had any real intention of teaching yoga. I was simply just in search of something new, searching for something that had the potential to heal and boy did I find it!
My YTT changed my entire perspective on life and my relationship with myself. This is when I learned the true healing possibilities of yoga and meditation and has reflected greatly in what I try to include in my classes, making sure there is rich content and connection beyond just the asana. Towards the end of the course I felt a need to share what I had learnt, to try to pass on the embodied awareness, nourishment and healing that I had been unable to find elsewhere.
For the first 2 years I taught part time, alongside small performance projects, teaching dance to kids and working in a dance studio. It was only at the beginning of 2017 that I made the move to teach full time and believe me, it meant I was seriously scraping by for a while, but also absolutely loving what I was putting all my energy into.
I’m now at a stage where I can live solely off teaching yoga through a combination of studio classes, corporates and privates. It does mean that I spend a good proportion of my time on the London Underground travelling across London. I learned that it works not to be fussy with travel time when you’re trying to build yourself up. However now that I am more financially stable I have dropped a few classes so that I have more time for self practice, studying and time out to replenish and rejuvenate.
What always surprises people about you?
That I see a therapist on a weekly basis. Yes I’m in therapy, and I think this is such a vital tool. We all need to be looking into ourselves, whether we do that with someone else or on our own in the form of self-study or journaling or something.
A lot of people think that if you’re a yoga teacher you’ve completely got your shit together. No, that was the reason I sought yoga out in the first place. We are all human, and I think when you move into the world of health and wellbeing, you begin to realise that unpicking exactly who you are needs to be something you prioritise, making sure your cup is full before you can start serving others.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
‘Network!’ To me this was a word that had always had negative connotations from dance training. The idea of schmoozing and going to speak to people with the hope of something coming from it just didn’t feel very authentic. But when you look at the word as a noun rather than a verb, it seems to have much more value. Build your network, get to know your community, find your tribe. Being a freelance yoga teacher you can sometimes feel isolated or solitary yet there is absolutely no need for this. Especially in London, it is a city inundated with yoga teachers and in my experience most of whom are super happy to meet up for class, a chat and a turmeric latte.
I completed my Yoga Teacher Training in India directly after completing an intense degree in dance. As a result I knew very few people in the yoga community and I was pretty intimidated. My knowledge of the yoga scene in London was about as good as my knowledge of quantum physics (slim to none).
A key player in creating a network was Sunday School Yoga – a community project that aims to support, guide and mentor new and developing yoga teachers, where community, connection and collaboration are highly encouraged. This environment then gave me the confidence to start to be a little more proactive, speaking to people before or after class, getting to know people and letting people get to know you, not because you are looking for anything in return, but because the wider your community the more enjoyable the job can be. And yes it can require a little vulnerability and courage but as most of us yogis know its that which makes you uncomfortable that allows you to grow.
Through my ever increasing yoga family I have not only covered classes for people but have also been recommended to teach at studios. Obviously that’s just the first part. You generally need an audition or trial but often making that initial contact can be the hardest. Now that I’m more established I have been gifted the joy of being able to return that, being able to recommend someone who is looking for more teaching or offer them a class you’re giving up feels amazing.
What business focused resources would you recommend and why?
For a long time I didn’t think of myself as a business. I put all my efforts into just learning and trying to gain experience, simply hoping that something would come along. Until I read the book The Yoga Mentor by Celest Pereira (see Celest’s TPOY interview about The Yoga Mentor here). This is what spurred me to build a mailing list, a website, to join Instagram and to start looking at my passion as a career.
I also stumbled across a website called The Yoga Nomads, a platform to empower yoga teachers to create sustainable yoga businesses. They have some amazing blog posts and also offer downloadable resources to help inspire, encourage and offer detailed advice on things such as creating a yoga website or finding your niche. These were all the logistic things that I had no idea about; as soon as I started to gain more knowledge in this area I was able to start taking charge of my career.
A website makes you credible, someone can get a good idea of who you are from it and with Instagram people can see what your interests lie in and you can find out about what’s going on that may be applicable. Lastly, a mailing list is essential for marketing workshops and events. Each of these things has definitely progressed me to where I am now and are things that are essential to my work.
Shortly after I’d built my website a friend that works in a large architecture firm contacted me and said they would be interested in having weekly yoga classes, did I have a website I could send over for the events manager to look at. I finally did. So I sent it over and now I teach a wonderful group of yogis there on a weekly basis.
These two resources not only helped on a practical level but they encouraged me to make a commitment to myself and believe in myself, and what I wanted to do.
What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started teaching yoga?
That I am enough. That I have always been enough. Teachers often say it in class but it took me a while to actually hear it. After my YTT I practiced at Indaba a lot, a studio with many of London’s best yoga teachers, and adopted the belief that all yoga teachers need to be of that standard in order to be successful, and therefore I would never in a million years be good enough.
So, I shied away from putting myself out there or really getting to know the yoga community because I felt like somehow I was a fraud. The process took me a while and at times it was messy, but as soon as I started to embrace my enough-ness the benefits in both my teaching and practice were huge. Who is going to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself?
While I may have not been teaching for 20 years and I know there is still so much for me to learn, I can acknowledge that what I have to offer, has a huge degree of worth. Especially when it’s offered with kindness, love, and a sense of playfulness, I get to go home at the end of the day knowing that my intention is pure.
What are you most excited about now?
I recently completed facilitator training with Embody Love Movement at Triyoga Camden. It was set up by Dr. Melody Moore, combining the healing tools of yoga, embodied experience and psychodynamic therapy to provide workshops for women with disordered eating, negative body image and a lack of self acceptance so they can start to recognise their value and worth. Having been a member of all three categories, this movement is exactly the kind of message I want to be spreading.
Now qualified to lead workshops, I’m currently in the process of contacting secondary schools and vocational dance schools to try and set up some workshops for young girls as well as running my first workshop for adults in November. I think these workshops are hugely transformational and contain a message that is sadly not taught to most of us.
I am also looking at doing more training next year, specifically my Yoga Nidra teacher training and the first part of my advanced teacher training.
Where can we find you?
I teach at the following London studios:
ONE LDN – Tower Hill , Dragonfly Yoga Studio – Brockley, Healthtown UK – West Hampstead, The Studio SE6 – Catford, Kelechnekoff Studios – Peckham, Eric Liddel Sports Centre – Mottingham