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.


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