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Udemy helps a yoga rockstar find her center

12087976_10153622721504675_8981336254565773549_oYoga is a life-affirming practice for its devotees, but for yoga instructors, it can also be a tough way to make a living. New Yorker Sadie Nardini, 43, is not your typical yoga instructor, and overcoming challenges is kind of her thing.

After suffering a spinal cord injury at age 13, Sadie was partially paralyzed for two years. Doctors said she’d never walk properly, let alone run or exercise ever again. Previously, she’d been a really active kid who could “run like the wind” and loved spending time enjoying the outdoors. Needless to say, it was a huge blow to receive such a dire medical prognosis, but Sadie was determined to fight back and yoga was her weapon. Later, it became her calling and her career.

Yoga goes digital

Sadie had been teaching yoga for 15 years before she joined Udemy in 2011, but the constant hustle to earn enough teaching classes — while also traveling for appearances at festivals, workshops, and conferences — was taking its toll. Over the years, she’d attracted a large following, but she wasn’t making the most of their enthusiasm and engagement. She didn’t have a “home studio” where students had regular access to her guidance, and she felt bad that she couldn’t offer ongoing study with the people she met on the road.

She knew her hectic pace wasn’t sustainable, and she wasn’t about to jeopardize her health after the long physical battle she’d already fought and won. She was approaching burnout. “Going online was a saving grace for me, for everyone.”

Low expectations, high returns

At first, however, Sadie was dubious and approached online teaching purely as an experiment. After publishing her first Udemy course, Rockstar Teacher Training, she hoped a few of her Facebook followers might check it out and sign up. “I just wanted to make it available and see what they did with it,” she recalls. “I had no idea what would happen.”

What happened was that she saw results right away. For the first time, she was able to meet people where they were, even across the globe. She fully embraced Udemy’s marketing services (45% of her sales come in that way) and says she can now average $10,000 per month when she sets her mind to it. Some of that entails checking her courses regularly to ensure students are getting the attention they need. She’s also built a vibrant and distinctive personal brand that sets her apart in the marketplace, and she adds new content to meet niche interests, such as the basics of anatomy and yoga for insomnia. “I’m always promoting and creating online content; the more courses the better!” she says. To date, her gross earnings on Udemy have topped $200,000.

Now that she knows the ropes, this supplemental income source provides a tremendous sense of security as well as freedom to pursue other passions. With 50% of her income from Udemy, she’s been able to cut way back on her in-person teaching schedule and only travels 3-4 weekends per month by choice.  

10408747_10153644505089675_5642672218825298083_nMeaningful connections with students

Sadie’s clientele runs the gamut, from the 20-year-old with no physical issues to the senior who has to modify their practice to accommodate a disease or injury. “I teach in way that allows them all to find their own edge. Everyone gets to evolve, and no one feels left behind or held back — especially since I’m right there with them online any time they need me.”

If you think teaching online is less intimate or puts insurmountable distance between Sadie and her students, you’d be very wrong. She hears from students all the time who feel as if they do know her personally “because I’m open, authentic, and vulnerable, and I’m looking right at them on camera. I feel like I know a lot of them too.” Sometimes, she meets her online students when she’s traveling for events, and “they hug me and cry.”

Udemy evangelist for the yoga world

Sadie’s embrace of the Internet isn’t typical in her circle of yoga instructors, many of whom are skeptical or outright hostile to the idea. “I feel like I’m speaking a foreign language sometimes because many of them aren’t tech savvy; they’re uncomfortable with it or they’re embarrassed or shy about being on camera,” she says.

The other instructors also think they won’t form the same kind of relationships with students on what they perceive to be a “mindless, faceless, emotionless platform.” Or they feel like being in a video will make them seem self-absorbed. Sadie passionately disagrees and actively evangelizes the power of online teaching among her peers. She believes the world needs people to share their knowledge, not to mention that instructors stand to benefit considerably too.

“I tell them, you won’t earn a living teaching classes in person, but when you put your content online, you can make money while you sleep,” she says. “I’m not strong technically, but I managed to do it; Udemy makes it easy!” She estimates that only 1 in 10 instructors she talks to goes ahead and investigates online opportunities, but that one person “ends up thanking me for saving their financial life.”

On the flip side, Sadie has also experienced online learning as a student, having taken about 20 courses herself on things like how to optimize videos and voice training. “I can’t imagine where I’d be without Udemy, if I’d never realized I could record my classes and make income without any extra effort besides uploading the videos, instead of having to run around and do it in person,” she says. “It’s tragic that so many other instructors have valuable knowledge but are missing out.”

And she’s not just talking about yoga teachers. She describes meeting a talented chef in a small village in Tuscany and urging him to share his wisdom. “Everyone I meet has a speciality they could offer to the world.” sadie1

Working toward more dreams and goals

Sadie isn’t one to be satisfied with the status quo, and she’s got big plans for building upon her success. For starters, she’s developing a new course on breathing and sound vibrations. With the freedom her Udemy income enables, she’s also putting out her first album as a singer, called “Salt & Bone,” yet another passion she’s fired up to pursue.

Sadie believes she has many gifts to offer others, and she’s grateful every day that she found a way to share her “warrior spirit” with a limitless online audience. Before, she had no answer when fans at her appearances asked how they could continue studying with her. “Now, Udemy is their home too,” she says. “I love going out into the public and having something to give them.”

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