Teaching yoga sounds like the absolute best. Pop into a studio for an hour to teach, go out to coffee after. Teach a private session here, a private there. Head out to some tropical getaway and lead a retreat, then galavant to another hippie beachside town and offer up a pop-up class there. It's total bliss, right?
To be totally clear, teaching yoga is far, far from bad. In fact, I can think of a bunch of more difficult jobs just off the top of my head. But let's be honest. It isn't all patchouli and chakras. Like any job, it has its downside that no one seems to warn us about. Here are nine things to consider before quitting your job to pursue teaching yoga.
1. You'll likely have to hustle. A lot of times after completing yoga teacher training, we (or at least I) have this idea that we can just waltz into a packed, popular studio and teach the most delicious, well-rounded class and everyone will just float out of there in a blissed-out post-yoga glow. That couldn't be further from the truth. In my experience, you'll likely have to approach numerous studios, gyms, YMCAs, and country clubs before a position even opens up. In some cities (I'm looking at you, LA), there are open auditions for studio classes.
2. You will be criticized. Just a smattering of things people have said to me: "You're too skinny." "You've put on weight." "You don't teach real yoga." "I can't believe you eat meat, real yogis are vegan." It will hurt, it will make you angry, it might make you cry. Try your best to let it go. There is certainly constructive criticism that should be heard (i.e. "I can't hear you in the back, can you talk louder?"), but if it's an attack on you and/or your teaching, then try to realize that these things are reflections of someone else's idea of what should be. And that has nothing to do with you.
3. People may think you have some sort of medical qualification. Whether it's the guy who wants you to find the cause of his debilitating migraines or the girl who asks your opinion on treating schizophrenia with yoga, you need to make it absolutely clear that for any medical opinion they should see a physician, naturopath, whatever. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age (although this seems to be most common in the US) where people can and will sue over everything. Protect yourself, and make it very clear that you're not a doctor. Unless you are, in which case, can you tell me why my right ab keeps getting injured?!
4. Don't quit your day job. Unless you can book consistent privates, retreats and teacher trainings, teaching yoga classes alone generally won't pay the bills. Some studios pay a flat rate, and some pay per student, and unfortunately, neither is that lucrative. Keep your day job, or see number one above.
5. Speaking of money, charge what you're worth. Ok this is something my yoga teacher training actually did mention, and I'm so grateful that they did because I had this guilty feeling every time I tried to come up with what to charge. Here's the thing. Yoga teacher training is freaking expensive and can run anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000. Charge what you're worth and don't apologize. You can always give back by donating a portion of the fee to charity, or offer a donation-based class a few times a month, but honestly, unless you can pay rent on good karma, you're gonna need to set a price and stick with it.
6. You'll need to make time for your practice. When you're running from studio to studio it's hard to get in some time for your own personal practice. This is tough because most of us come to teacher training for the love of the yoga and to deepen our own practice. Do yourself a favor and carve out time in your day for a practice, even if it's just once or twice a week.
7. You'll need to say yes to things you aren't pumped to do. The most important business lesson I've learned is to the say yes. Yes to the studio who wants you to teach at the worst hour of the day (they will eventually add more classes to your schedule), and yes to the fellow yoga teacher who asks you to sub for her class that starts in 20 minutes (she will eventually recommend you to a student who wants a series of private sessions). Saying yes now to things you aren't totally psyched to do will pay off in the long run.
8. Not every teacher you meet will be welcoming. Unfortunately, numbers are important when it comes to teaching. Studios have bills, too, so it's important to them to fill the classes. Teachers wanting to stick around at these studios need to bring in the students (especially if they're getting paid per person). Therefore, not everyone is super friendly, especially if you happen to lead a popular class. My advice? Kill them with kindness. I truly believe there is enough space in the yoga world for everyone because each teacher offers something different. Stay kind and keep on keepin' on.
9. It will be rewarding. The good in this line of work outweighs the bad. It feels wonderful to be of service, to help people, to deliver a yoga experience that rejuvenates and inspires a more peaceful life for others. The people you work with, the classes you teach, the little community you build are little reminders that we are all connected in some way, and that, my friends, is the very definition of yoga.
Would you consider a yoga teacher training?
For my fellow yoga teachers out there - what did I miss?
PS-More yoga teacher confessions.