Dream Job: Yoga Instructor

Stretch Beyond Your Limitations

A few years ago, Lauren Fawcett couldn't sit down or even turn a doorknob without enduring excruciating pain. Now she is a certified instructor of a rigorous, aerobic style of yoga at a studio she opened in August of 2000.

"God closed a door, truly He did," she said. "And He opened a window." The door that slammed shut on her life was being diagnosed with a severely debilitating case of rheumatoid arthritis. The window that opened before her showed her the path to reclaiming her health…and finding her dream job.

In 1997, the disease was at its most painful, and for all their efforts, Fawcett's doctors could do little to put it into remission. She was taking heavy doses of several medications, all of which did little to alleviate her aching. Before long, she turned to acupuncture, massage therapy, and "everything you can imagine in addition to the medication" to stave off the pain. She even tried several different kinds of yoga before stumbling on a method called Bikram. It was a discovery that would change her life.

Not Your Grandmother's Yoga
After studying Bikram yoga for two years with an instructor in her native Boston, Fawcett jetted off to Beverly Hills for an intensive nine-week instructor training course. She opened her studio, YogaDuzit, keeping her day job at the family oil business in the interim to make ends meet.

"You're working when everybody else is playing - nights and weekends," she said. "The big time is when people get out of work." Most nights she doesn't leave the studio until nearly 10 p.m., only to return at 8:15 the next morning. "It's the toughest job I'll ever love," she said, almost as if she were a volunteer for a spiritual version of the Peace Corps.

There is an array of different yoga methods out there, with names like Ananda, Jivamukti, and Kundalini - from the sedentary and introspective to the strenuous, there's a style for everybody. "The thing is that people say it's a fad," complained Fawcett. "It's not a fad, it's a 5,000-year-old practice. It works."

But Bikram yoga is not your grandmother's yoga. Before every 90-minute workout, Fawcett, 30, cranks the thermostat in her studio up to 104 sweltering degrees to limber up the body's connective tissues and help it sweat out toxins. "From the minute you walk in that door, it's pretty much hard work," she said.

Fawcett charges $10 per class and offers private lessons for $75. And since she only opened her doors six months ago, she wasn't sure how much she would make as a full-time instructor. "I estimate that the full-time yoga teacher teaches 14 classes a week," she said. "That instructor will earn about $29,000 a year. A fair range would be $30,000 to $40,000."

Four careers in One
It's clear that Fawcett would be teaching at YogaDuzit for free if she had to, if only to share her life-saving experience with others. "What I'm doing for myself, and now what I'm doing for so many people, is incredible. It's incredible."

Make no mistake, though, yoga's no panacea, and she still must take a daily cocktail of medications to help keep her life pain-free.

The 15 to 30 people she leads through any given class are a mix of men and women, fit and fat, young and old. Fawcett said at any session she'll have a buff triathlete, someone with a back injury, a completely inflexible neophyte, and an overweight person in her studio. "I should charge you to be a therapist, a nutritionist, a masseuse, and a liposuctionist," she joked, laughing.

No longer interested in the family business and suffering unexpectedly from arthritis nearly four years ago, Fawcett would be the first to admit that she never imagined she'd find such a physically and spiritually rewarding career path.

So, if you feel the need for a healthy and potentially lifesaving job of your own, grab a towel and a yoga mat. It's never too late to learn your locust pose, tighten up your toe stand…and dream on!

Do It for You
For more information about YogaDuzit or Bikram yoga, check out http://www.yogaduzit.com.