It’s been 10 years since I started teaching yoga. It has been one of the most fulfilling decisions of my entire life. Becoming a yoga teacher is a process, a journey that takes time, education, patience, introspection and whole lot of courage.
In the beginning, it can be challenging to teach yoga, especially if you are entering into the profession FULL time. My number 1 advice to all new teachers is to take it slow. Teach a few classes to get some experience and decide if it is something you truly want to do. There are times when teaching yoga will feel like a community service endeavor because it is and you are not paid very well in the beginning. But there are TONS of ways to create your career that don't involve 20+ yoga classes per week.
One of the things you want to look out for is teacher burnout. It doesn't only happen in yoga, it happens in any teaching profession. When you give all day and do not take time for yourself to recharge then eventually you will hit a brick wall. Teaching yoga is not the same sort of stamina as sitting at a desk all day or even organizing events. It involves intense focus, awareness, presence, physical, and mental health in order to conduct a class.
When I first started teaching yoga, I led public classes at a donation based studio twice a week after work hours. This was the perfect introduction to teaching yoga full time. I was forced to fill my class in order to pay for my slot and teaching just enough to keep my sequences and music fresh. I also got to meet some amazing individuals who still practice with me to this day. I am grateful for these first few years of balancing teaching with corporate life because it prepared me for a full time teaching career.
Being a yoga teacher is more than teaching yoga. You essentially take on the role of business manager, entrepreneur, marketing professional, event planner and teacher all at the same time. Think of yourself as a one stop shop for creating, promoting, and executing your classes. If you go the extra mile then you will also follow up with your students to gauge their interest in teacher trainings, retreats, workshops and mentorship. It can be a lot to take on. In addition to all of this, you are now 100% responsible for managing your finances.
In the beginning, my social life faltered because my lifestyle was no longer conducive to my corporate friends. My classes are scheduled for weekday evenings or weekend days. So while friends were out for happy hour, hikes, weekend vacations, or birthday parties, I was oftentimes teaching. I am so grateful for my teaching schedule, but it was tough to see my personal relationships take a nosedive in the beginning. Since then, I have met people with a schedule that matches my own and made more time for personal relationships. I also keep up with my friends on social media which is not only rewarding to our relationship but helps my business as well.
I put on weight the first few years of teaching yoga because so much of my time went into my classes that I failed to find time for myself to practice. My excuse - when you spend over 3 hours a day in the asana room, it’s tough to pull yourself into another 90-minute practice. But it’s so important to keep your teaching rooted in your own practice. So, now, I make time for a personal practice every morning to keep my mind and body healthy. It also compliments my teaching so I avoid injury and do not overuse certain muscle groups which leads to exhaustion and fatigue. Let your practice balance your lifestyle. That might mean more restorative or yin sequences.
I learned how to cook at home and began eating a plant based diet because it was more affordable and I noticed my energy levels were higher when I ate plant based, organic, whole foods.
I began working regularly with an energy healer and seeing a network chiropractor to work out the physical ailments of my body. I needed to learn to clear my own energy and stress from the day before walking into the asana room. Oftentimes you hear teachers say, “get out of your own way”. It’s the same thing for teachers, we must get out of our own way in order to see our students grow and feel empowered in the themselves. So, I spend time a lot of time clearing and meditating so I can really show up for my students.
One of the things you might notice in the beginning is a feeling of heaviness after teaching a class. This simply means that you took on the energetic baggage of your students. If you feel this way after teaching then you need to sit during savasana and practice a few energy exercises such as...imagine the ceiling opening and a vacuum sucking up all of the negative energy out of the room or sit in meditation and imagine light pouring from the crown of your head. I used to imagine a shower washing over my body so I could rinse any stagnant energy lingering on the surface of my skin. When I took a few minutes at the end of my class to energetically clear then I felt vibrant, social and alive after leading a yoga class.
One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is seeing the transformation in my students over the course of a yoga class. I like to 'aum' at the beginning and end of every class and without fail the harmony of our voices is so in tune by the final 'aum'. Everyone leaves their mat feeling happy and new. The moment they sit up from Savasana you see the color change in their face, the lift of their energy, and the calm in their eyes. If all I do is help people discover that Yoga bliss, I will forever be a happy, fulfilled person.
So, words for the aspiring yoga teacher
Teacher Burn Out: At first, don’t take on 15+ classes a week. It’s too much and it’s a disservice to your students if you are feeling depleted. Start with 5 and work your way up. You’ll find the number that works for you. Less is more.
Set a Sequence: Create a sequence that can be easily modified for the students in the room that may or not be able to manage your peak pose. Practice your sequence and talk through the ques. It is better to be prepared and feel confident, then to struggle through a class panicking because you don’t know what to do next. A well thought out sequence is appreciated and it is important. Even use one for the whole week, I know teachers to teach the same sequence for months! Let the yoga do the work.
Speak your truth: At first you’ll mimic your teachers. It’s natural and it’s a good idea. They have years of experience and their truth worked for you, so share the light! But after a few classes, begin to explore what it is that is true for you and share it. People want to hear from you.
Keep learning and practice: There is so much information out there on Yoga. The depth of the philosophy, the tradition, the history, and the practice is so vast. You can spend the rest of your life practicing and still never touch the nectar of all the knowledge and wisdom that has been pasted down for generations. Keep learning and stay inspired in your teaching through your own exploration and practice.
Be sure when you say YES to someone, you’re not saying NO to yourself: I do believe that you should take every opportunity to teach in the beginning (no skipping out to go to the beach…) Sometimes we are fearful to teach and we tell ourselves we are not ready or prepared. Start teaching! Practice with your friends or family members. You won't know everything in the beginning, but you can take the time to find the answer. Say YES to the opportunities that light you up and give you energy. Simultaneously, know your worth. Be willing to say No to the opportunities that do not match your worth. The universe will always provide you with abundance if you make space for it and honor your truth.
Social Media: Engage in social networking. Don’t be afraid of the business side of yoga – it is your passion and people want to learn from you. You are an inspiration for others to get in line with their own light. Be true to you and share your voice. (side note, please be aware of when your ego is driving the conversation...it is not about how many likes you receive but by the quality of the information you choose to share).
Be patient: It takes years to become financially stable in this position. Everyone has their own definition of success. This may not be the most lucrative path, but it is rewarding . If money doesn't roll in right away, be patient and keep searching for the right path for you. There are plenty of people out there who could use a little more Yoga in their life ~ come up with creative ways to engage with your community.
If you discover along your journey, this is not the path for you, no worries. You took a chance and that takes courage. We all shift gears at some point in our lives, oftentimes many. Change is as an opportunity to grow. Every day is a stepping-stone for something greater. Be of service, not of ignorance or ego. Do it because you love it, not because you think it will get you somewhere and help you gain anything. Care for your students, learn their names, create community, and engage. Enjoy the present moment.
The first year is challenging, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone's journey is unique. Honor your truth through the process and practice a lot of self love. I would recommend this path to anyone. It has been the most worthwhile year of my life and I am so grateful for every step. Please feel free to leave your comments or questions in the box below. I would love to be of service to you along your journey.