What I’ve learned as a yoga teacher (so far…)

So, it’s been roughly six months since I started teaching yoga and what a fabulous six months it’s been! However, it’s not been without it’s lessons, and I thought I would take some time out to reflect on what I’ve learned so far. Some of these things are never discussed in teacher trainings, so hopefully this post will also be of use for new teachers and teacher trainees. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and things that you may have learnt as a new or experienced teacher, so please feel free to leave your comments below!

Do you want to make money or do you want to be a yoga teacher? I’m not saying the two are mutually exclusive – there are plenty of very successful yoga teachers out there who earn more than enough to make a living. But when you’re starting out, depending on where you teach, you’re most likely going to be making a pittance, and sometimes nothing at all. For myself, I hire the space in which I run my classes, which means if I don’t get students, then I don’t get paid. And if I don’t get enough students, then I might be able to cover my overheads, but I don’t make a profit. It’s only been the past few months in which I’ve started to break even. But you know what? I don’t really care. Why? Because I’m teaching yoga! I’d love one day to make a living solely from teaching yoga, but the reality is for most of us, we’re going to need a second job in order to pay the rent and keep us fed.

In the early days of teaching, I used to get really frustrated when no one turned up, worried about profit and loss. But once I started to let go of my attachment to the money side of things, I found I was able to enjoy simply teaching all the more, no matter how many or how few people turned up. And your students will be able to tell a mile off whether your classes are motivated by a desire for money, or a genuine desire to be of service and share the gift of yoga.

Teaching opportunities are out there – but you’ve got to find them. Everywhere you look, it seems there’s a yoga class being offered – studios, gyms, community centres, in parks, at schools. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that all the good teaching gigs in your area have been taken. And finding a teaching job is not like finding a “normal” job – you don’t simply open The Age classifieds on a Saturday morning and scan the “Yoga Teachers Wanted” ads. You might be lucky enough to be offered a job upon graduation – but then again, you might not.

So you need to network. Join or start a Facebook group for yoga teachers in your area – teachers often use this to advertise for covers or new studios opening up. Make yourself known to gyms and studios and let them know you’re available for covers. Be prepared to travel and to work odd hours and sometimes at short notice.

Maybe you could teach friends or colleagues. I’m lucky enough to have a supportive workplace (my day job) that allows me to run a weekly yoga class to our clients. I don’t get paid any extra, but it’s invaluable teaching experience – and in the early days, that’s exactly what you need.

There will be days when you don’t want to teach. I love yoga to itty bitty pieces, but just as there are days when my yoga mat is as attractive to me as an animal carcass, so too there are days when I really don’t want to teach. I’m tired. My muscles ache. It’s dark/cold/raining. My regulars have cancelled. I’ve had a crazy-busy week and don’t want to speak to anyone. But I go. And I teach. And I love it. Teaching, like yoga itself, requires and inspires commitment, dedication, discipline and practice. And has there ever been a time when you’ve gotten on your mat and regretted it afterwards? Exactly. Teaching is the same.

Students will come and go but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad teacher. You will have students who come for one or two classes, only to never be seen again. This does not mean you suck as a teacher. It just means that you’re perhaps not the right teacher for them. Be honest, when you first started doing yoga, didn’t you shop around, trying out different teachers, studios and styles until you found one that fit? So try not to take it personally. I did at first, until I bumped my ego out of the way and reminded myself that it’s about what’s best for my students, and sometimes “what’s best” is not necessarily me.

Some yoga teachers/studio directors/gym managers are flakes. Emphasis on “some”! Most yoga teachers and others within the wellness industry are amongst the nicest, most transparent and helpful people you can get. But there are, unfortunately, a tiny handful who advertise teaching positions and request expressions of interest, then never bother to return your email or phone call, not even to acknowledge its receipt or to advise that the position has been filled. I understand that time is a precious commodity these days, but how long does it take to write a one or two line email, BCC it and hit send? In my opinion, it’s not just unprofessional – it’s plain rude. And who wants to work for or with rude people? Be the bigger person, leave them to it and move on.

And lastly, teaching yoga is awesome. You probably knew this one already! Sure, it’s terrifying at first with all those eyes on you, while you try to remember your sequences and not get tongue tied, but once you get into the flow of it, it’s like the teaching itself becomes your yoga practice. Fluid, graceful, carefully and creatively crafted. And your students’ expressions of pure bliss after class? Priceless.

 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ubiquityyoga
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 18:38:55

    Love this post. I have been teaching for a year and have never seen a post so well written about the first 6 months or even a year of teaching. Due to a studio closure, I’m going to be renting space beginning next week and this post is just what I needed.

    Thank you.

    Reply

  2. omlotusyoga
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 06:17:01

    Thank you for your comments! Glad the post was helpful. And good luck with your new classes!

    Reply

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