April 13, 2009

elephant journal Careers: Eight Steps to becoming a Yoga Teacher. ~ Heidi Hval

A New Career as a Yoga Teacher.

by Heidi Hval

Ready to escape the cubicle life and swap your business clothes for yoga pants?

According to a recent article from Reuters, the tough economic times of recent years has led more and more people to pursue careers as yoga teachers. This might be the perfect time to reconsider your work life, and maybe blow the dust off those dreams of doing something different.

Regardless of the state of the economy, many yoga students are touched so deeply by their yoga practice that they feel compelled to go on to teach and share the benefits of yoga. Others are “just” looking for a fun job that is more aligned with their lifestyle.

If you are dreaming of becoming a yoga teacher, there are a few practical steps to consider:

1. Get a 200-hour certification.

Technically you don’t need a certification to teach yoga, but it’s a good idea to get some formal training. Most yoga studios and gyms require at least a 200-hour teacher training recognized by Yoga Alliance.

These days almost every yoga studio seems to have a teacher training. Do your research before committing to a program: What type of yoga would you like to specialize in? Do you have the time to do an intensive training, or would you rather space it out? Do you have a specific teacher you’d like to study with?

2. Register with Yoga Alliance.

Once you have completed and passed a recognized teacher training you can apply to Yoga Alliance to use the title Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). The registration gives you a listing in the Yoga Alliance online database of teachers.

3. Get some teaching experience.

If you’re new to teaching, getting some experience will help you find your teaching voice. This is the time to work on keeping left from right, mirroring students, and developing a few true and tested sequences. To get some practice, offer a few free classes to family, friends, and colleagues. “It really helped me develop my confidence while teaching and prepare me for auditions,” says Elena Moye Johnston, a Bellevue yoga teacher and the president of Evoke Fitness.

4. Spread the word.

Start doing some self-marketing. Get a web site or blog, print some business cards, and make a yoga/creative resume. Contact local yoga studios and gyms, be willing to sub, and do some private classes on a sliding pay scale. You can also find yoga teaching opportunities in the corporate world, community centers, schools, libraries, retirement homes, and even museums! Seattle yoga teacher Trudy Mower says, “I knew I’d have a better chance starting off at a gym. I actually really love my gyms because I feel like the students are learning so much.”

5. Get liability insurance.

In an ideal world teaching yoga would be all chanting and warm fuzzy feelings, but it’s a fact of working with people’s health and physical activity that someone could get injured. Unless you know for sure that you are covered by your studio or gym’s policy, get personal liability insurance. There are several policies on the market aimed at yoga teachers and fitness professionals, such as Yoga Journal Benefits Plus.

6. Take a CPR class.

Yoga teachers work with diverse groups of people, so learn some first-aid and get CPR certified. Some gyms and studios require it of their teachers, but think about getting certified even if yours doesn’t.

7. Consider keeping your day job.

Yoga teaching is not going to make you rich, and these days every major city is packed with yoga teachers competing for the same jobs. It can be hard to earn a living as a yoga teacher, so consider keeping your day job or getting a part-time job to supplement your income until you see your earning potential as a teacher.

8. Beware of burn-out…and have fun!

Teaching is rewarding, but it can also be mentally and physically taxing. Take time out for your own yoga practice, and keep learning by attending classes and workshops with other teachers. Take on only as many classes as you can handle without losing your inspiration.

More than most occupations yoga teachers need to practice what they preach. To be a good teacher, first be a good student!


Heidi Hval lives in Seattle. Read more on her blog, Chai & Yoga.


elephantjournal.com Editorial Excerption Policy: As always, elephantjournal.com welcomes the linking and excerpting of our articles, features, interviews, videos on other blogs. We do ask that you not excerpt more than 50-75% of said material, and clearly link back to our site with some kind words if so inspired—just as we try and do on our site when riffing off others’ posts that we like.


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Cindy Simonetti Dec 9, 2018 8:38am

I was first certified almost 20 years ago because I was recruited by my gym to teach the class I was attending. I had been working with a gentleman (a mentor/guru) on the “true yoga” aspects and he was highly offended that I was getting certified. But I couldn’t get insurance without a certification. Teaching was not my full time job-I couldn’t have survived on the pay. Two years ago I opened a studio that is successful because of the spirit in which I teach, not the certifications. All ages, shapes, sizes, levels, and personalities are welcomed with open arms and no judgment. Sometimes we laugh in class, sometimes we share tears, sometimes we are practicing in silence. But we always practice safety, breathing, and working with current physical availability. My studio is not about what you wear, what you look like, or if you can touch your toes. It’s about learning to breathe when you feel like holding your breath. Gaining physical and mental strength and flexibility Sharing energy with others. But most of all, it’s about finding peace. Yes, I keep a certification (not YA) current for insurance purposes. And I take numerous courses for my personal practice that give me new ideas. And I look for safe ways for each member to practice with their limitations. But it is from my personal 28 year journey of yoga & meditation which ultimately brought me from tragedy and and deep depression to a place of peace, forgiveness, and compassion, that I am able to make a difference. That cannot be taught in a class designed for the masses. (But if you plan on teaching anywhere, you will need a 200 hour YA affiliated certification). Thank you for this article! It was nice to see something relatable for us throwbacks over 50 as well as for the up and coming and new teachers.

Kristychan88 Oct 4, 2013 7:26pm

Most new yoga teachers get paid a whopping $10 to $20 per class. If you are very lucky, you will get 4 or 5 classes a week to start. You have to pay for liability insurance, YA registration (which most studios will demand, whether you consider it optional or not) and additional trainings to keep your skill set fresh. As teachers, we invest far more into our education and teaching then we will ever reap financially. If you want to make your living solely as a yoga instructor, with no other supplemental income, expect to be teaching 25-35 classes per week (including privates, which you will need to survive). Be realistic. And don't let your desire to escape a cubicle be your reason for teaching yoga. Otherwise you will end up turning something you love into something you hate when you can't pay your rent.

Sheila Oct 4, 2013 6:40pm

Great article! Thank you 🙂

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