So, you have decided you want to be a yoga teacher? I’m so happy for you! It is an amazing profession that might not be exactly what you see on social media. When I started teaching over 17 years ago, we didn’t have Instagram or Facebook. In fact, I had just gotten a cell phone only a few years prior and it was for making calls only. Texting was just starting to be a thing, but no one used it to stream yoga classes that is for sure! Over the last 17 years, yoga and how we share yoga has changed so much. We now can practice with anyone we want, anywhere in the world, all with our cell phones. So crazy! If you are a new teacher or you are thinking of becoming a yoga teacher, I hope this blog helps gives you some insight into my experience being a yoga teacher.
1. Why do you want to teach?
I start off by asking a question because often we don’t realize what our motives are and motives are everything. If your motive for becoming a yoga teacher is to make a lot of money, then this might not be the profession for you. Most yoga teachers do not make a lot of money. Many teachers do it for free or for as little as $15 a class. If you are lucky, you can earn upwards of $50 a class, but usually that is only offered in big cities and high end yoga studios. It is often hard to get a job teaching at places like that if you are new and inexperienced. What you see on Instagram is less than 1% of how yoga teachers actually make a living. You mean not all yoga teachers travel the world and get paid to wear yoga pants? That’s right! That might be what you see on social media, but trust me, it is not typical. If money is the reason you want to be a yoga teacher, you might find yourself very unhappy.
2. Be yourself.
This is often confusing for many especially if most of your life has been about taking care of others needs. You might be the kind of person who is always trying to make others happy putting your needs aside. If that is you, when someone tells you to “be yourself” it really depends on who you are around, right? My advice would be for you to spend some quality time alone figuring out what makes you happy. Get to know yourself on the deepest level you can to understand what your passion is. When you are teaching, you want to feel solid in your beliefs and who you are as a person because you will encounter many people who don’t like your style of teaching or just don’t like you personally. If your worth is rooted in their opinion of you, it will crush you and make you very insecure.
3. Smile, a lot.
This was something that I learned in my very first teacher training for indoor cycling. I didn’t know it, but the instructor was filming each of our faces when we taught. At the end of the training, he showed us what we looked like as we taught class. I will never forget the grimace I had on my face and the instructor saying “would you want to look at this face for an hour?” I was so embarrassed, but it was the best lesson I learned in that teacher training. People want to look at a teacher who is happy, joyful, excited, and full of love. They don’t want to look at someone who is in pain, depressed, angry, or insecure. In this situation, the saying “fake it ’till you make it” can apply. It doesn’t hurt to smile as you teach and honestly, it will help you enjoy the class more!
4. Leave your baggage at the door.
About 12 years ago I was going through the roughest time in my life. My marriage was falling apart and to be totally honest, I was stuffing a lot of my feelings at the time. I found myself “letting off steam” to students before and after class, and yikes… sometimes during. All my emotions were so bottled upped inside at the time. I would say little comments or “jokes” about men being this way or that way or about being married and although I was “joking”, it was extremely inappropriate not to mention, I’m sure it made people feel uncomfortable. When you are teaching, just teach. Avoid any personal drama from the moment you walk in the door.
5. Don’t try to be perfect, it’s impossible.
Let go of the idea that you will perfectly do anything in life, especially teaching. You undoubtedly will say the wrong name of a pose, cue something incorrectly, fall down or yes, even let out some gas during class. It happens and it’s okay. The more real you are the better, and no one in the class knows how its all supposed to happen anyway – only you. If you make a mistake, keep going and just smile. They are there for the experience, not how perfectly you taught class. Give them the experience they desire – bring light into their lives and you will be their favorite teacher.
6. Plan to be taken advantage of.
Now, I say this realizing that it is an extremely negative comment that may not happen to every new teacher, but I think it’s a good thing for you to be aware of. When you are new to teaching, you are often taken advantage of because people don’t respect you yet. You haven’t “earned” your place in the studio you teach at or in your student’s hearts. Many times you will be paid less money, asked to do things other teachers are not, given the worst time slots, and students depending on the payment structure, may not even pay you. When I first started my beach yoga business, it was by donation. I had people come week after week and not pay me. I also had students give me their spare change (pennies and all) each week. After class, I would drive by the local Starbucks watching them sip on their Grande Soy Carmel Macchiatos in their yoga clothes. It wasn’t about the money for me, it was more about the fact that people didn’t respect my time and effort in preparing and teaching the class. After 2 months, I started charging a minimum of $5 for the class. This is just one of many stories I could tell you, but once you establish yourself as a teacher, know your worth and don’t let people take advantage of you.
7. You will never make them all happy.
If I had a nickel for every person who told me to turn the music up or to turn the music down or to turn the music off, I’d be a rich woman! In the beginning, I definitely tried to make everyone happy. I would change my song list and my routines based on the feedback I got after class. What I didn’t realize was that only those that were unhappy complained. People who loved it just came back the next week. So, when I changed things, the people that liked it before now didn’t and guess what? Those that complained didn’t come back anyways! Once I realized that I needed to love the class – not make them love my class – that is when the magic happened. I chose music that I liked, poses that I wanted to work on, and had the room set up the way I wanted. I was happy, smiling, and excited to teach. My class felt that energy and loved the class. I noticed that no one ever complained after that and I packed every class!
8. It’s not you, its them.
When I first started teaching yoga, I would get half way through the class and I’d start to feel this negative vibe. I would sense that most of the class hated me. I would feel insecure, question myself, and my teaching. Then, after final relaxation and meditation, my students would come up to me and say “that was so wonderful, thank you!” I couldn’t understand why I was feeling like they hated me yet they are saying they loved the class? Then I realized that negative energy I was feeling was my students working out (literally) their own emotional, spiritual, and physical “stuff”. You may or may not “feel” energetically like I do, but you will sometimes “feel like” people don’t like you and I want you to know: It’s not you, its them.
9. Yoga is more than just poses.
You probably already know this but yoga is a lifestyle and not just poses. Yes, most of us start with the asana, but if that is all you offer your students, you are doing them disservice. Teach them during class or during savasana about how to live the yogi life. Teach them about compassion for others, our planet, and themselves. Teach them about kindness and love. Teach them that their physical bodies are not who they really are and help them tune inward to their true self. You as a yoga teacher can do this with as little as 5 minutes during class. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Show them love and they will love you for it.
10. Never stop learning.
I encourage you to read everything you can about Yoga and its roots. Study different teachers and philosophies. Learn the history of different lineages and where your particular practice stems from. Study currently methods of movement so you can incorporate yoga tradition with modern understanding of what is best for the human body. We have learned a lot of new amazing ways to train our physical bodies and just because we are yogis doesn’t mean that we can’t update our yoga asana practices to reflect all that we know today.
Good luck on your journey!