7 STEPS TO MAKING IT WORK AS A FULL-TIME YOGA TEACHER
Whether it was stress, back pain or just curiosity, you found the way to your first yoga class. As time went by, yoga became more than just something to help you unwind and keep you in shape… You finally discovered your path. And now, as you sit at your desk in your 9-to-5 job… Something doesn’t feel right.
I’ve been there. On one hand, you feel the calling to become a yoga teacher and to serve others on their way to healing and growth. On the other, you know love and light won’t pay the bills. And how can you make it work, with so many established yoga teachers already out there?
Of course you can! It may push you out of your comfort zone and it will definitely require more than a teaching certificate and the initial burst of enthusiasm you get straight after teacher training.
You will have to be confident and dedicated, both on and off the mat. And, however uneasy it makes you feel, you will need to become a creative entrepreneur. But I’m also sure that you won’t regret any of it.
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT YOGA TEACHER TRAINING.
This one sounds obvious, but is it really? What questions will you ask yourself while choosing your teacher training? There are many yogis who just go with the first option they stumble upon and while it may turn out great, a lot is at stake here.
To avoid that, first meditate on your expectations. Did you try enough yoga styles to know what works best for you? If so, you should also think about the angle you would like to learn from. Do you prefer a philosophical approach or a heavier focus on sequencing and alignment? Are you ok with being taught defined sequences or are you more interested in learning how to create sequences yourself?
Then there’s the matter of intensity. Some yoga teacher trainings take over 6 months to complete, while others are month-long, residential intensives located on tropical islands. Leaving our everyday lives behind for 4 weeks and diving deep into ourselves in Thailand or Bali’s wild nature can be an incredibly transformative experience. Without having to squeeze the training between work and personal commitments, we have the time and space to really connect with ourselves and our practice.
Whatever you choose, it should go without saying to double-check each school’s credentials. It’s much safer to go for the ones that are Yoga Alliance Certified. That way, you can be assured that the minimum standards are met. You should also either ask for opinions about the place or look for reviews on the Internet. And to be even more sure you’ll get what you’re looking for, ask teachers about their background and experience. If you can’t talk to them in person, you can always email or arrange a call with the place of your choice.
2. DON’T LEAVE YOUR DAY JOB JUST YET.
Okay, let’s say you not only managed to find the perfect yoga teacher training, you’ve also just completed it. Now what? Unfortunately, unless you have lots of savings, it’s not the time to wave goodbye to your coworkers and jump with both feet into your teaching career yet. Apart from not being able to support yourself, you would also risk killing off your passion by putting too much pressure on it.
To make the transition period easier, keep reminding yourself that the situation is temporary and that you’re doing this because you’re determined to achieve a bigger goal. After all, patience is one of the key values that every yogi should work on, so why not treat it as a challenge?
On a side note, it’s also a chance to improve your time management skills. For a while, you may need to juggle between a 9-to-5 job, yoga lessons, private life and your own practice. Despite being demanding, it’s also an opportunity to become more organized and learn how to find creative solutions. For example, if you miss spending more time with your friends and family, you could offer them free yoga lessons, which would also allow you to get in more teaching hours.
3. DEVELOP YOUR OWN YOGA TEACHING STYLE.
This smoothly brings us to the next step: you need to gain experience. As soon as you finish the yoga teacher training, you are eligible to teach. But does it make you ready to hold the energy for the whole group and take full responsibility for their continual lesson experience? More often than not, that’s just not the case.
Start slow by giving cheap (or even free) private lessons, then move to small groups. You can also offer to assist during an experienced teacher’s classes and sometimes sub for them. After such preparation, you will not only gain confidence but also have a better idea about what kind of teacher you aim to be.
Depending on the yoga style of your choice, it might be possible for your classes to be more dynamic, or more on the meditative side. You can also either incorporate some theoretical aspects or simply let the sequences do the talking. And there are tons of other things, like figuring out the way you’ll correct your students, your sequencing style or the music you’ll use.
One tip I’d like to share is that you shouldn’t over complicate it. Yoga is an ancient technology that has been doing fine for thousands of years, it’s likely that fancy additions will indeed make you stand out, but not in the way you would want. Instead of fixing what isn’t broken, make a difference with tiny details and with how mindful and present you are.
4. WORK ON YOUR BUSINESS SKILLS.
Another thing that could work to your advantage is acting like an entrepreneur. I know that business might be something that you intended to get away from, but think about it for a moment. You are not acting out of greed or selfishness; you are just trying to take care of yourself, which will enable you to share your gift with the world. And yes, it does mean you won’t be able to focus solely on what’s happening on the mat, but are you really supposed to? As Thich Nhat Hanh said, there’s no enlightenment outside of everyday life.
Anyway, if you have no clue how to run a business, you might consider enrolling in an online business course. There are lots of free options on education portals like Coursera or Udacity. Or, if it feels like too much, you can always find some decent books or webinars that explain the basics of entrepreneurship.
Even if you decide not to educate yourself in this department, never forget to take care of the basics. Above everything, you will need insurance cover, preferably tailored for yoga instructors. It’s the only way to protect yourself from, often unwarranted claims regarding in-class accidents. It can also help when you are the one who’s injured.
You could also use a solid business plan. How else will you know how many private lessons you should squeeze in to support yourself or when the right time would be to start your own yoga studio? By writing it, you can also estimate when you’ll be able to leave your office job.
5. EMBRACE MINDFUL MARKETING. IT’S NOT YOUR ENEMY!
Apart from looking for opportunities, you can also make it possible for people to find you. In order to do so, you must make yourself visible and find ways to interact with yoga communities outside the studio.
You may find having to market yourself feels a little disturbing. You’ve just got away from the consumerist lifestyle and now this! If beneficial healing activities aren’t promoted, people won’t know about them. You’re not selling something you don’t believe in (hopefully!) and you’re not driven by the promise of power. Besides, you don’t have to be aggressive. There are plenty of ways to reach yoga enthusiasts without resorting to intrusive marketing techniques.
You could provide your audience with valuable educational content by starting a youtube channel and sharing video tutorials on particular yoga poses. Or, you can start an Instagram account where you’ll share tips on a balanced lifestyle – healthy diet and daily meditation. The possibilities are endless and in time, you may notice that it’s actually fun to stay in touch with other yogis outside of the studio. Make sure you are visible and be consistent about it.
Of course, there are also some non-virtual methods to make your brand stand out, like teaching a free class here and there or teaming up with other holistic health practitioners for cross-promotion. Word-of-mouth can still work wonders and it only requires you to actively work towards making your community healthier and happier, and to maintain good relationships with those who do the same.
6. BE OPEN TO ALL KINDS OF YOGA-RELATED JOB OPPORTUNITIES.
Yoga teaching possibilities are not limited to studio classes and private lessons. Actually, they aren’t limited by anything but your creativity and resourcefulness.
Let’s say you feel ready to test yourself in front of a big group but there are no slots available in the local studios… especially for newbies. You could either wait for the opportunity to fall from the sky or seek out vacancies at local gyms. Such places are usually on the lookout for new yoga instructors and while your students at a gym may not fully embrace yoga spirit and philosophy, they need it as much as anyone else.
Speaking of those who could use some peace of mind, there are also corporate clients. It can feel really good to take immense stress off someone’s shoulders, especially if that person had no idea yoga was such a transformative gift.
Sometimes, there are even yoga-related job openings in the hospitals. What could be more rewarding than bringing some light to those who endure physical suffering?
Also, if you see a place or an institution that could benefit from your classes and has resources to pay for it, don’t hesitate to make the first move and make a proposal.
And keep in mind that you can make some extra income with non-teaching jobs, like organizing yoga events or writing yoga-related articles. Simply think about what else you’re good at and find the connection.
7. STAY HUMBLE.
In the midst of all this, it’s imperative to remember that being a yoga teacher is an important role, but to keep recognizing yourself as a student is a far bigger responsibility. Taking all the right opportunities to grow your yoga business will get you nowhere if you neglect your own practice. If you lose contact with this unique experience, how can you share it?
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a 200 hour yoga teacher training will give you everything there is to know about yoga. It may be enough for the time being, but when the opportunities arise, take additional courses and workshops. On top of improving your qualifications and deepening your relationship with yoga, they will also remind you to stay open-minded.
It may seem that following all these steps will be quite difficult. You might even feel uncomfortable with some of them. But actually, even if this journey is a challenging one, there are beautiful lessons and growth along the path. If you don’t have these qualities already, you’ll develop patience, resourcefulness, discipline and openness to change. Plus, you’ll get tangible proof that even if it comes with certain sacrifices, answering your calling, or going after your dream is definitely worth it.
And if you still have doubts you can do it, I will leave you with Rumi’s words: If you start to walk on the way, the way appears.
About our Author
Peggy Holsclaw is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, voice actor, and certificate-wielding instructor of yoga and English as a Foreign Language (EFL). She strives to live a shamelessly awesome life and help others do the same. If you come to Osaka you’re likely to find Peggy at a café clickety-clacking away on her laptop, or on a dance floor somewhere cutting shapes in front of the stage. She thinks the world would be a better place if everyone meditated. Including you. So go forth, dive deep, and find your Zen.