Teaching yoga is one of the most rewarding things my life, right up there with being a mother and tending my garden. It is wonderful to feel like you are making the world a better place through your work, and even better when you get paid for it. I am obviously not alone in feeling this way, there are currently over
4800 50,000(!) teachers registered with the Yoga Alliance. Yoga teacher trainings seem to be popping up all over the place, including ones that will certify you to teach in a weekend.
Before signing up for a yoga teacher training, it is important to explore your motivations for wanting to teach yoga and to understand exactly what it takes to be a successful yoga teacher.
First, let’s explore the definition of success, as it relates to teaching yoga. It is a common trap to believe that “success” means lots of people at your classes, desirable time slots at desirable locations, and hopefully plenty of money. If this is your definition of success, you probably won’t last long as a yoga teacher. Most cities and towns these days have plenty of already established yoga teachers and you need to be willing to pay your dues and gain experience as a teacher before expecting full classes and cushy jobs. Remember also that if you approach yoga from this perspective, your ego will be so caught up in how many people are in class on a given day that you will not be fully present to teach yoga. So ask yourself, is this a popularity contest or a spiritual practice?
As a beginning teacher, success should include: growing as a person and as a teacher, finding your unique voice, keeping your students safe, positively impacting the health and well-being of your students, and teaching from your authentic experience. If you approach your teaching this way, you will touch the hearts of at least a few of your students and this will feed your continued growth as a teacher and yoga practitioner.
Now, ask yourself what is your primary motivation for wanting to become a yoga teacher?
To deepen your practice
Many people decide to teach because they think it will help their personal yoga practice. And they are absolutely right. There is no better motivation to get on your yoga mat than knowing that others are counting on you to lead and inspire their practice. However, if your personal practice is your priority, teaching can also get in the way. Each hour of class that you teach is time that you are not on your own mat. If your practice time is already limited, teaching may actually reduce the amount of time that you have to do your own practice. DO not make the mistake of counting your teaching time as practice time. When you are teaching, your energy and attention needs to be with your students, not on your own practice, otherwise you are shortchanging both yourself and your students. So before deciding to teach yoga, make sure that you will have time to devote both to teaching and to developing your personal practice, otherwise you may be better off finding another way to deepen your practice such as (potential affiliate link here).
To earn a living by doing what you love
“Do what you love, and the money will follow” is a common adage (and best selling book). You love teaching yoga and cannot imagine a better way to support yourself than sharing it with others. This is a wonderful reason to teach yoga. However, for most people yoga teaching will not earn you enough money to pay the rent for many years. If you are willing to throw yourself fully into creating a yoga career for yourself, most people take a minimum of 5-10 years (if ever) before you can support yourself solely from teaching yoga. If you are not already independently wealthy, there are many ways that you can ease into your teaching career and supplement your income from related work. Read about making a living as a yoga teacher here.
As Karma Yoga (seva or service)
When you teach yoga as a part of your spiritual practice, you enter this path from a place of giving and will be less attached to the outcome. The important consideration here is to keep checking in with yourself to make sure that you have the time and energy to teach without depleting yourself. If this is your primary motivation for teaching, chances are great that you will be “sucessful” because your definition of success will be to help others. There are many opportunities to teach yoga to underpriviledged populations, read about them here.
Because it sounds like an easy way to make money
If you want to teach yoga because the hourly rate seems high and you think teaching will be a breeze, think again. Teaching yoga is not “easy money”. Far from it. If you want to teach a quality yoga class and attract enough students to make a decent amount of money per class, the amount of training, practice, and research makes the actual hourly rate of yoga teachers a mere pittance. A modest estimate is 3 hours of training, practice, and research for each hour that you teach. Which means that your hourly rate is actually 1/4 of what you get paid per class. In order to teach yoga, it must be your passion, something that you are willing and even eager to do for free. Of course, I do think yoga teachers should get paid a fair and livable wage and part of my mission is to help yoga teachers make that happen. However, this is not a given and usually only happens when a yoga teacher very carefully and specifically designs a workable business plan. So please don’t become a yoga teacher for the ‘easy money’ – that motivation is most likely going to lead to disappointment.
So you still want to be a yoga teacher? Please comment below about your reasons for becoming a yoga teacher. Did I touch on them? What reasons did I miss?
If you do still want to teach yoga, the next step is to find out if this is the right time in your life to embark on a yoga teacher training. Check out this article for a deep dive into figuring out if you are ready for yoga teacher training.