“Cop Gone Yogi” Uses Online Teaching to Help People Find Healing

Who doesn’t love a good story of self-reinvention? We’ve certainly seen our share among Udemy students and instructors alike. There’s the Brazilian lawyer who became an app developer, the Egyptian civil engineer who pivoted to sports management, the New York actor who turned into a startup CEO, and many more. Still, SF Bay Area native Janet Perez’s journey has had its share of dramatic plot twists.

After studying industrial technology in college and planning to be a drafter, Perez ended up as a project manager in GE’s nuclear division. She was making good money and traveling the world but didn’t feel like she was serving people in a meaningful way. Because she was young and athletic, someone suggested she make the leap to law enforcement. Perez’s reply was, “Sure, why not?”

That attitude has been a driving force as she’s moved through all of her varied jobs. “I’m very curious and like to try new things and give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?” She’s particularly fond of the quote attributed to actor Zachary Scott: “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.”

Seeking a better way to serve

Unfortunately, Perez’s work for the San Francisco Police Department didn’t fulfill her desire to serve either. Her idealism “quickly became disgust at the inevitable results of institutionalized systems.” But she did take away two positives from the experience, even if it didn’t seem that way at the time. First, an on-the-job injury in 2004 led her to discover yoga, through which she’d ultimately find her calling, and, second, she earned her Basic Instructor Certificate, which left her with solid teaching skills and the confidence to speak in front of a group.

Perez found herself at another crossroads while on leave from the SFPD, but she followed her newfound interest in yoga and immersed herself in Ayurveda, an Indian system of alternative medicine therapies and practices. From there, the ever-curious Perez traveled to India for further study.

While in India, Perez got a Jyotish (i.e., Vedic astrology) reading. It was a mind-blowing experience having a complete stranger understand the course of her life, and Perez decided she wanted to do the same for others. She knew this was how she could fulfill her dream of devoting herself to helping people, even though it meant walking away from a comfortable SFPD income and lifestyle.

Turning a passion into income

But learning Vedic palmistry and Vastu (the Indian counterpart of feng shui) wasn’t an end unto itself. Perez still needed a way to monetize her expertise and reach the people who could benefit from it. Her YouTube channel has more than 6,000 subscribers but no paying customers. She remembered hearing about Udemy, and, again, she thought, “why not give it a shot?”

Knowing she had a lot to learn about developing and recording a video course, Perez started out on Udemy as a student in 2014. She has a particular reverence for top Udemy instructor Miguel Hernandez and has taken all of his courses. She calls him her role model, not only for helping her understand the finer points of video production but also for the sense of humor he brings to his own courses.

Perez is still figuring out how to infuse more of her dynamic personality and contagious energy into her courses, but she knows she’ll get there in due time. It took her a full year to get from idea to reality and launch her first course on Ayurveda basics. After that, according to Perez, “it was crickets.” She wasn’t seeing much revenue and nearly forgot about Udemy, but then she got her first really good student review and momentum started to build. She also got a lift in traffic when well-known author Deepak Chopra published a course in the same category, which just goes to show that newer instructors shouldn’t fear the worst when a big name enters their field!

Perhaps the biggest lesson Perez has learned from her Udemy experience thus far is that “passive income” isn’t really passive. As she’s put more time and effort into her Udemy presence (she now has four published courses), she’s seeing more results, like the recent student review describing her course as “a blessing” and calling her “guru Janet.”

“Wow, I’m really touching people’s lives,” Perez says. Not every review is so positive, but she thanks “the haters,” too, and uses their feedback to improve herself.

In fact, Perez’s inner drive to be perfect is something she’s learning to put aside so it doesn’t hold her back. “Udemy helped me safely gather reviews from people all over the world, from different perspectives, cultures, and experiences,” she explains. Eventually, Perez would love to make courses in Spanish and reach more of the Latina community she cherishes, but in the meantime, she’s gaining confidence all the time by taking more courses on videography and “going with the flow.”