As I made my way through yoga teacher training last year, I’d have these grand daydreams of what life would be like if I were a full-time yoga teacher. I imagined my life being more fun and less stressful if only I could ditch my day job and teach yoga instead. Yoga has always been the stress relief in my chaotic life so why not teach it for a living?
Fast forward six months from when I ditched my day job and started teaching yoga multiple times a week. Spoiler Alert: Life is still stressful and chaotic, but in a different way than I had ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love teaching yoga for a living, but here are eight things I wish I knew before I became a yoga teacher:
1 – Get Ready To H-U-S-T-L-E!
As a yoga teacher, you’ll work hard. Really, really hard. When you teach yoga, you’re onstage from the time you arrive at the studio to the time you get back into your car after class. It doesn’t matter what happened before you arrived to the studio, how tired you might be or even if you don’t feel good that day. You have to be present for your students who show up for class. It’s up to you, the yoga teacher, to lead by a positive example for your students and help create a safe and inspiring place for them to practice in.
Being “on” can be both mentally and physically exhausting. Not only are you using some of your own personal time to prepare for the classes you teach by making playlists and practicing cueing/sequencing, you’ll probably have to teach at more than one studio. Be prepared to add in driving time to and from multiple studios along with teaching class at odd times like early in the morning, at night after work and on the weekends and holidays. You’ll more than likely have to compromise part of your social life to accommodate your teaching schedule.
2 – You Won’t Get Rich
If you’re thinking about becoming a full-time yoga teacher, don’t quit your day job right away. Even though yoga is a billion-dollar industry, you won’t make millions of dollars teaching multiple classes a week. As a new teacher, you’ll probably start off making a minimum hourly wage. I teach at Corepower Yoga (CPY) where I get paid two hours for every class I teach – one hour for class and an hour of desk time. Desk time means I have to be at the studio a half hour before and a half hour after class to greet students, help them get ready for class, set up the room and then after class, chat with students, clean up the room and close up the studio.
You can teach as many classes a week as your body will physically allow you. I’ve found that I’m able to teach 8 to 10 classes a week without getting burnt out. Any more than 10 and I can feel it take a toll on my body physically and mentally. Keep in mind, if you’re teaching 10 classes a week, that’s only 20 hours a week of work. If you’re only making a minimum hourly wage, you’re probably not going to be able to make a sustainable living teaching those 10 classes alone. You’ll want to get another job just to make ends meet.
3 – You’ll Have To Pay Your Dues
You will literally have to pay your way to get your start as a yoga teacher. First, it starts with investing your time and energy into a 200-hour teacher training to become a certified yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. Then depending on your path and the studio you decide to teach for, you might have to invest more time and money into an Extensions Program for further training before you’re able to start teaching.
Before I was able to start teaching yoga at CPY, I had to complete the 200-hour teacher training, an additional five weeks of the Extensions Program and then audition for a three-month, paid internship that would give me two classes a week to teach on the schedule. During my internship, I had the opportunity to sub other teacher’s classes, which gave me even more teaching experience. Once I completed the internship and received my review, I was able to continue teaching at CPY and apply for more regular, weekly classes that fit into my teaching schedule.
My goal as a new teacher coming fresh out of teacher training was to get as much experience as I could during my first year of teaching. I knew as a new yoga teacher, I’d have more teaching opportunities with a studio like CPY that has multiple locations throughout the Seattle area versus putting all of my teaching eggs into one studio that only has a limited number of classes to teach and a seemingly unlimited number of experienced teachers who want to teach them. I’ve been super happy with my teaching experience so far. There are a lot of teaching opportunities available at CPY, from having regular classes on the schedule to unlimited subbing opportunities throughout the week.
Teaching experience aside, to be a really good teacher, you’ll want to keep investing in yourself with other teacher trainings along the way. After I completed my 200-hour teacher training and Extensions Program at CPY, I went on to complete a 200-hour Bikram Yoga teacher training through my favorite, local Bikram Yoga studio. I also completed a three-day SUP Yoga teacher training here in town and started teaching a second format at CPY after I completed the Yoga Sculpt teacher training through the studio.
In addition to teacher trainings, you’ll also want to budget for things like becoming CPR-certified, getting liability insurance and paying annual dues to stay in good standing with Yoga Alliance. These things aren’t necessarily need-to-haves in order to teach yoga, but they’re a good idea to have just in case you ever teach for a studio that doesn’t carry insurance, you want to teach private lessons, need a professional affiliation in the yoga industry or just want to cover your own butt.
4 – Don’t Take It Personal
I’m a very sensitive person by nature so when I receive feedback from studio managers, other teachers and students, it’s really hard for me to not always take the not-so-positive feedback personal. During my teaching experience so far, I’ve learned to appreciate and accept the feedback that works for me and makes sense and let go of everything else. I want to continue to grow as a yoga teacher and provide the best experience for all of my students.
As a yoga teacher, you’ll have many humbling moments. Not every class is going to be stellar. Not every student will like you, your teaching style and your music. Students will show up late for your class, leave early or do their own pose when the rest of class is doing something different. Some students are just downright grumpy and won’t smile back when you smile at them. Don’t take it personal. It’s their practice, not yours. You’re simply there to guide them along the way through a safe class.
5 – It’s Competitive
Sometimes getting to teach the class in the time slot you want at the studio of your preference can be tough. There are only so many yoga classes offered throughout the day and so many more teachers wanting to teach them thanks to the rampant yoga teacher trainings offered throughout the year.
As a new yoga teacher, don’t expect to get your ideal schedule right away. You’ll have to earn it. Take whatever classes you can fit into your schedule now, work hard at teaching those classes, build up a good rapport with your students and studio manager, don’t sub out your classes too often and offer to sub classes for fellow yoga teachers. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the classes you want to teach right away. Yoga teachers come and go all of the time at a studio and classes open up all the time on the schedule. Hard work and patience eventually pays off.
6 – You’ll Practice Less Than You Teach
One thing no one told me during teacher training was how much teaching yoga would affect my own yoga practice. Yoga has always been my reset button, my therapy, my stress reliever, my “me” time. I have a confession though. Ever since I started teaching yoga over ten months ago, I’ve hardly had any time to show up on my own mat. Sadly, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been into the yoga studio for my own practice since January. It’s crazy to think about especially because as a yoga teacher, I have access to free, unlimited yoga at my studio. Balancing the yoga teaching hustle doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of unlimited time to practice. You have to make the time, which is something I obviously have not been very good at.
7 – Teaching Yoga Can Give Your Life Purpose
Teaching yoga not only gives me a paycheck, but it gives me incredible life purpose. I never saw this benefit coming while I was in teacher training. I love how I can express my true authentic self, share my love for yoga (and hiking) with my students and get to inspire and be inspired by the students who take my classes. I’m so happy to have found this passion of mine and am lucky and honored to call it my profession.
8 – Your Students Will Inspire You
From class themes and intentions to music for my playlists and the posts I write for this blog, my motivation to come up with all of these things comes from the students who take my classes. My students inspire and motivate me in ways they may never know and understand.
Before teaching yoga, if I needed an answer to a question or needed motivation for a project I was working on, I’d go to yoga. Now that I teach yoga, the classes I teach serve as an endless source of inspiration. I’m inspired by the students I connect with. I’m inspired by the conversations I have with students at the front desk either before or after class. I’m inspired by students who suggest artists and music genres for the future playlists I create for class. I’m inspired to watch my students go through their own teacher training journey. I’m even inspired by the students who complain about my music or might not necessarily like my teaching style. The good, the bad, the inspiring and the stuff I dwell on for days after class – it all counts in my book.
Even though my grand daydreams of what I thought the life of a yoga teacher would be like have been completely squashed into a “hardworking, minimum wage paying, scramble to climb my way up the teaching schedule” reality, I would have never guessed in a million years how rewarding and fulfilling a job like this would be. No matter how much harder I have to work, either mentally or physically or both, at this crazy dream of mine, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier. I certainly don’t regret facing my fears, getting out of my own way and becoming a yoga teacher. I’m a much better person because of it.