What is your favorite TV show right now? What is at stake for the main character of that show in every episode? What kind of tragic outcome might befall on them if they do not succeed in their mission? In any story the two potential outcomes – an undesirable one and a desirable one – should be obvious. A story without high stakes makes the audience wonder “Why should I bother watching this?” When the stakes are clearly defined, we want to see our favorite characters through to the successful end to make sure that they get what they strive for.

The same principle is at play when you communicate with your potential yoga students about your services. Why should they care? To make them care, you can paint a strong visual image of how things could go downhill if they do not engage your services, and how their life would change for the better if they do. Donald Miller in his book Building a StoryBrand writes: “The only two motivations a hero has in a story are to escape something bad or experience something good. Such is life. Our desire to avoid pain motivates us to seek a resolution to our problems.”

Many people come to yoga looking to deal with literal pain, so it doesn’t take much to point out to them all the ways that the pain is making their life unpleasant. But even if they are not dealing with actual pain, we need to be able to show them what might happen if their problem is not addressed soon. In our messaging, we need to be clear about the kind of unfortunate things we help our students avoid.

What are you helping your students avoid? Here are some examples for different types of teacher expertise:

Teacher expertise: Works with lower back pain
Helps students avoid:

  • Being bed-ridden for extended period of time,
  • Inability to do active things one wants to do,
  • Feeling incapacitated and powerless.

Teacher expertise: Works with sleep issues
Helps students avoid:

  • Low energy and foggy mind,
  • Susceptibility to disease,
  • Feeling disengaged in one’s own life.

Teacher expertise: Works with new moms
Helps students avoid:

  • Feeling overextended,
  • Being derailed by physical and physiological changes in one’s body,
  • Fears of being a bad mother.

Depending on your area of expertise, you can come up with three things you are helping your students avoid and include them in your marketing materials. The trick is not to overdo it with doom and gloom. Donald Miller writes: “You’ll only need a few […] things to warn your customers about to get your point across. Too much and your customers will resist you, too little and they won’t know why your products even matter.”

You would spend much more time on describing what a vision of success might look like. Students want to know: Where will you take them? Stew Friedman at the Wharton School describes it as a “compelling image of an achievable future”. What kind of vision of an achievable future can you paint for your students?

According to Donald Miller, there are three main ways most effective stories usually conclude:

  1. The hero wins some sort of power or position (overcoming external forces and achieving important status);
  2. The hero is unified with somebody or something that makes them whole (with something external creating a sense of completeness – can manifest as finding a mate or community);
  3. The hero experiences some sort of self-realization that makes them whole (and helps them reach their potential).

In the field of yoga, every solution to a problem needs to come from within a student. It’s the work they put in and the insights they generate from their own physical, physiological or mental-emotional transformation, that would lead them to a more stable, happy and peaceful place. We need to show them what that happy place will look like, and we need to be specific. Donald Miller emphasizes that “the resolution must be clearly defined so the audience knows exactly what to hope for.” Tell and show your potential students what their life will look like if they use your services, so that they think “I want this.”

Here are some examples of what this aspirational vision might look like:

Teacher expertise: Works with lower back pain
Aspirational vision for students:

  • Waking up pain-free ready to start the day,
  • Being able to walk, run, hike, play sports without discomfort,
  • Feeling powerful, capable and strong.

Teacher expertise: Works with sleep issues
Aspirational vision for students:

  • Feeling focused and creative,
  • Feeling vital and resilient,
  • Being present and happily engaged with daily tasks (playing with kids, walking the dog, cooking dinner, etc.).

Teacher expertise: Works with young moms
Aspirational vision for students:

  • Integrating self-care into one’s day,
  • Coping with a changing body effectively,
  • Asking for help when necessary,
  • Experiencing joy from baby smiles.

These are the messages and images that you need to feature on your website and other communication channels. Too often yoga websites consist of beautiful images of bendy yoga teachers in poses that are neither attainable nor aspirational to real students that those teachers work with. Mastering difficult postures can be an aspirational identity for some, the question is – is it for your current and future students? Images of yoga classes communicate a sense of community, is that what your target audience is looking for? You can show your site visitors the process of working with you (For example, normal people doing simple yoga poses at home), or the result of their work with you (For example, smiling people joyfully engaging in daily tasks).

Donald Miller summarizes it this way: “We need to show repeatedly how our product or service can make somebody’s life better. If we don’t tell people where we are taking them, they won’t follow.”

All those ideas that we talked about today (and for the past several weeks) are rooted in one main principle – all human beings have an innate desire to transform. How can we genuinely and effectively participate in our student’s transformation? What kind of aspirational identity can we help them embody? We will talk about it next time – tune in!

This blog is a part of series Refine Your Story: How to Effectively Communicate with Your Potential Yoga Students

Read Part 1: The secret formula that will grow your yoga business >

Read Part 2: Who are your yoga students and what problems do they face?

Read Part 3: Two main qualities that define a good teacher and attract new students

Read Part 4: How to make it easier for potential yoga students to sign up for your services

Read Part 5: How to motivate students to engage your services


1. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller



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