5 Reasons I Never Want to Be a Yoga Teacher.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Feb 25, 2012
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I don’t want to be a yoga teacher and you can’t make me!

Earlier today I received an email from someone who assumed that I was a yoga teacher. She asked where I taught and if she could take my class if she was ever in town. I immediately corrected her assumption. Nope. Longtime yogini, no interest in ever being a teacher. Sacrilege in these parts, no? I mean, if I love it so much, why am I not chomping at the bit to become a RYT?

Oh so many reasons…

The top five:

1. I hate teaching.

Well, hate is a strong word. I don’t enjoy it much. I used to love it. I’ve taught English, creative writing, dance, nursery school, Kindergarten, swimming lessons, wilderness survival skills (don’t ask…), and I even taught in a long-tem sub position as a Junior High Gym teacher. I get super awesome bonus karma points for getting through that last one. I have enormous respect for teachers of all kinds. It’s a calling, not a job. I’ll teach anyone anything I can one on one, but the idea of teaching—teaching anything—to a group has lost it’s allure. Maybe I burned myself out on it, and it will come back around?

2. I’ve haven’t practiced long enough.

I started 17 years ago. I don’t think I’m ready yet. Okay, I always feel like I have to qualify this—I have not had an active practice for 17 years. I took my first yoga class at 18. I didn’t immediately dive into a daily practice, or even a weekly practice. Yoga and I have been on-again, off-again lovers for years. Sometimes I would stray and immerse myself in running, more dance classes or something in the martial arts family (usually after watching Kill Bill or an old kung fu movie). But I always come back. The past few years I’ve started digging deeper, physically and spiritually, but I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. How could I possibly be ready to teach anyone else?

People also hear 17 years and think, “Wow! You must be phenomenal now.” Yeah, not so much. The past few years have been my most faithful, but I still wrestle with certain asanas (I’m looking at you, Pincha Mayurasana). Plus, with all the time I spend on my laptop making my neck and shoulders unhappy, my practice just sort of cancels that out instead of putting me ahead in the flexibility department.

via girlsinyogapants.com

3. I don’t really see myself as a “Yoga Girl.”

I’m more of a Writer Girl who also does yoga. I love yoga. It changed so much of my inner and outer life. And yeah, I rock my mala beads sometimes. I love my TOMS. I love a lot of the “yoga girl” trappings. And more importantly—I practice most days. I usually take one or two days off a week. But I don’t know if I’d say it defines me. I’m sure there are people who know me who categorize me that way. But realistically, it’s a small but integral piece of the whole me. I can’t imagine not having an asana practice but…I feel a little selfish about it. It’s something I do for me. It’s an area of my life where I like to receive and learn. Not sure if I want that to change.

4. Sometimes I roll my eyes when people say Namaste.

C’mon. You know what I mean. It’s a beautiful expression. I say it in class and I embrace the attitude fully. But sometimes…ugh. We’ve all met someone who can be the bitchiest of the sanctimonious yoga bullies and then tack a little namaste “Love ‘n Light” on the end to soften the blow. It’s the yoga community equivalent of saying something mean and slapping one of those stupid emoticons on the end. Hi, I’m about to be an assh*le, but since I put a semi-colon and close parentheses on the end, it’s all good! Namaste, motherf*ckers!

So, I say it sometimes, but only when it feels genuine. I’ve picked up my fair share of Sanskrit along my yoga journey. It’s useful knowledge to have and it enriches my practice, but it’s not cool lingo that makes me part of the yoga clique. I keep a namaste attitude in my heart instead of flashing the word around all the time so that people know I’m “spiritual.”

5. I don’t have to.

Everyone has those things inside that they have to do. That if they didn’t do them they’d just burst open. Teaching yoga isn’t that for me. I’m sure there are a lot of wonderful teachers whose passion is quiet and not a desperate burning need to teach. My plate is pretty full of the things that I just must do or I’ll burst. I’m not sure if I have room for more (or want to make room for more) this time around.

When I have something I need to write about, I just have to do it. Have to. When I watch someone moving, I immediately look at his posture, his musculature and think about how and where I would work on him during a massage. There are songs that come on that absolutely make me dance. Can’t possibly be still. And there are times when I absolutely have to be in Pigeon Pose and get out whatever seems to be stuck in my sacral chakra. There are times when without even thinking, I sink into Balasana and rest my head on the floor to leave the day behind for a few minutes. I need to practice, but I don’t have to teach.

But then, even as I write this there is a little tiny spark of “well, maybe someday…”

It’s like the act of saying “never going to do it” piques some part of me and won’t let me rule it out. Am I missing something? Tell me yoga teachers, do I need to put YTT on my bucket list? What do you love about it? Tell me why I have to do it.



About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


58 Responses to “5 Reasons I Never Want to Be a Yoga Teacher.”

  1. Katester
    I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Thanks for this!
    Namaste motherfu*kers

  2. You're welcome! Namaste back at you girl!

  3. I am the same, people mistake me for a teacher all the time, and many people have told me I should be a teacher. I simply love being a student. 🙂

  4. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    Totally irreverently down-to-earth awesome. Thanks.

  5. Jason Gan says:

    My distaste of the cult abusage of sacred words attracted me to this honest and humble post. Thanks.

  6. Thanks Jeannie! Do you think you'd ever go the teacher route?

  7. Yes! It is a sacred word, not a lifestyle accessory or catchphrase. Thanks Jason.

  8. Anna says:

    Hi Kate,

    Love your post! I’ve been practicing for about the same…but religiously every day at home for the last 2 years (after I ended my 2 year affair with Mysore and 3 years affair with Iyengar). I’ve been in school for the past 3 years and getting into another program…ahhh…This is all I do before 9 and after 5 – I love, love, love to teach, but it is a lot of work.

    A few things don’t do:

    1. I don’t say “Namaste” in my classes.

    2. I never call myself a yogi.

    Namaste:-) Lol (and I constantly contradict myself)



  9. catnipkiss says:

    Hi Kate – Funny you should write this now, as I have been thinking about my upcoming teacher training. Why DO I want to do it? (and more importantly to me, HOW do I want to do it?) It can't simply be because it's in Costa Rica….. or, em, maybe not all because of that! But rather than puzzle it out here, perhaps I shall write a response article. Better get off my asana and submit it. – Alexa M.

  10. "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." ~ Walt Whitman

    Thanks Anna–we are all lots of different things!

  11. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Do what you want to do 🙂 It's not always about teaching 'on the matl' 🙂 xoxo

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  12. Laura Wells says:

    Big "ditto" here! 🙂 Love this post.

  13. yogijulian says:

    there is no reason whatsoever to do it unless a) you very much want to, b) you need the money or c) you feel it will be an enriching growth experience…

    nice article. 🙂

  14. Thanks Julian…I had actually thought of doing the teacher training for my own enrichment, and we'll see what comes up down the road. I've also noticed that if I do "a" (things I very much want to do) "b" seems to work itself out.

  15. we each have our calling. and if we live most fully as who we are and what calls us then we are always teaching, how you teach is up to you. I have to teach, but I would never tell someone else they should. Honestly I think teaching is an art much like singing and dancing…if you love it you will do it, but I can honestly say that loving a subject and doing it well don't necessarily mean you can teach it 🙂
    the only reason to become a yoga teacher is because you feel called to it…
    NOW as for the teacher training? I think most RYT 200 classes should be labeled as yogi training anyway and can be very enriching even if you don't want to teach.

  16. Bonnie says:

    i have been a teacher of movement for years & years, added yoga some time ago, but then decided I needed to "save" something for myself… something I wasn't always giving to other people, something that I could feel genuine about, on a deep personal level, something that I did when I wanted to, not just because the class was on the schedule. thank you Kate for your honesty & candor! 🙂

  17. […] Five Reasons I Never Want to Be a Yoga Teacher.(elephantjournal.com) […]

  18. Awesome post – love the humour. I think there's something to be said about deepening your yoga practice *without* having any intention of being a teacher. There are SO many yoga teachers, which is wonderful. The world needs them. And it also needs people doing other worthy things as their hearts lead them.

    I think one thing that should be told to every person considering teaching yoga is that, once you become a teacher, you'll never experience yoga in the same way. Even when I'm taking a class with an excellent teacher, part of my brain is taking notes to apply to my own teaching. It's great, but it is definitely a different immersion in the practice. I find it hard to completely give myself over to my yoga practice without thinking about how what I'm doing or hearing translates to teaching.

    I'm okay with that. But I think it should be a fair warning to those considering teacher training. 😉

  19. Nope. I'm actually finishing up a 7-month Immersion next month and the next step would be to go on to Teacher Training, but I've been very clear from the get-go that that is not my intention or my desire. I just know that it's not my calling. I'm already doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my writing. It's nice to know you are exactly where you are meant to be. 🙂

  20. Niight Wind says:

    It was really nice to read your article. Just as I would not want a grade school teacher teaching children if they didn’t feel that was their calling, I feel the same about yoga teachers. You are a great student to listen to your heart:). I am a yoga teacher, but had a similar thing happen I had to chose between becoming a running coach or continuing to run on my own for the sheer joy of it….I chose the latter. Best wishes on your journey!

  21. I also assumed you were a yoga teacher Kate. But, it's ok,I still love ya! As always a witty and well written post.

  22. Yes! More and more I am considering a the RYT 200 class just for myself. If I could only clone a few more of me, I would have time to do it.

  23. Haha! See…I get that a lot!

  24. elephantjournal says:

    Kelly East Everything is a choice . .what you say and how you respond . .and what you choose to create. Namaste.
    11 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1
    Felicia Douglas Why in the world would you roll your eyes when someone says Namaste?
    11 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 4
    Kelly East Felicia, it is obvious that this Elephant Journal person/persons doesn't have/nor are experiencing the love, respect, honor, godself in itself . . to acknowledge, honor, appreciate nor receive or see . . .or else "it" just likes to cause conversation/dialogue with us. And now after this post, I choose not to be a part of it.
    11 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 3
    Jenny Lens Namaste is my fave word. I often end my many FB posts and greet/say goodbye to my friends w/Namaste. It REMINDS ME to be more gentle and accepting w/ppl and myself. I use it thoughtfully … but to each her own!! Namaste. 😉 ♥
    11 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 4
    elephantjournal.com I was quoting the author and being silly about it. I'm apologize if my humor was too dry or obtuse. If you care to click on the article you will understand that neither her nor I are against anything "Namaste" or the ideas beyond it; on the contrary, we love it and we also love to make fun of it and yoga from times to times and laugh at ourselves. Sometimes life is too hard to take it so seriously, don't you think? Namaste! ~ Andrea.
    11 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 7
    Susan Pease Banitt Andrea, I think your comment reflected your state of attainment both in humor and in yoga. Back to the mat with you.
    11 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 2
    elephantjournal.com Susan, agreed. There are days & days. On the mat now. ~ A.
    10 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Susan Pease Banitt Om……
    10 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 1
    elephantjournal.com Mamaste
    10 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    elephantjournal.com ‎Kelly East – this sentence taken out of context of the post sounds mean. My point was that I hate when people throw around a sacred word and use it to frame mindless speech. Namaste. ~ Kate
    7 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 3
    Mayra Garza Hitchens The comment is hilarious. It is only speaking of our humanity. We are not perfect, (I mean, who goes around honoring everything they consider sacred their life at every moment -non-stop?) and by the way, that is the good news, for that is what keeps us creating love , life, goodness.
    No need to apologize.
    6 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 1
    Mayra Garza Hitchens One other thing: Elephant Journal is the best non-BS website on the planet. That tells me I will find some writings that will speak boldly, straight and dead-on in relationship to my humanity, you know, what I hide from others, that I will be offended. (now, that's funny).
    6 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 2
    elephantjournal.com elephant: bullsh*t free since 2002! ~ Kate
    5 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 3
    Monika McClure i love the article and relate to so much of the content, thank you for the humor and the insight. x
    4 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 1
    elephantjournal.com Kelly, Waylon here.

    I understand you won't get this, since you've quit elephant because of the satirical commentary of one of our hundreds of writers (you're welcome to be one, anyone is, we're reader created)—but without admittedly having read the article, I'd say I find it hysterical, literally laugh out loud, that you'd quit and insult and judge someone and a publication because that someone doesn't like the word "Namaste."

    Study up on the meaning and remember that it's most powerful when we honor those we disagree with. It's easy to see the light in those we love.

  25. Exactly Bonnie! What we give is what makes our lives, but if we want to be able to keep giving, we need to take care of ourselves too.

  26. Now one on one restorative work appeals to me as well! I love going for Thai Yoga massage, and could see adding that to my massage practice.

  27. Jasmine Gill says:

    Great post Kate, I always enjoy your writing. I am a RYT and am currently going through the "how often do I really want to teach?" debate. There is a delicate balance between what you give as a teacher and how much you need to receive as a student to stay open and energized. It's incredibly important to remain humble regardless (never taught a class or been teaching for 10 years), and no matter what always come to your mat as a student first, and then perhaps a teacher second. Perhaps…

  28. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I, too, am mistaken for a yoga teacher often enough, online …
    (Even on Facebook, when I used to use Facebook)
    I'm opinionated, know how my body (or bodies) work, have a frequent practice, practice at home, and had lengthy meditation sessions every day
    It happens.

  29. Dee says:

    Kate, your article made for a great read!

    First of all mastery of asanas is NOT a pre-requisite to teach yoga.
    PIncamayerasana is immaterial.

    There is some sense from your article that perhaps you are looking form some permission to slow down and go deeper into the deepest recesses of Kate and marinate there for hours on end. Yoga gives us permission to do that.

    Do it enough and yoga *does* start to *take over* your life. For some that is a scary proposition.

    If the time was right for you to be teaching – you *would* be!

    I began practicing yoga 41 years ago. Got certified to teach 9 years ago.
    Before getting my certification I felt like a yogi. I still feel like a yogi.
    When I shop for groceries, I feel like a yogi. When I take out the garbage, I feel like a yogi.

    My belief is that usually when someone feels like a yogi inside and out – – they pursue teaching so that they can feel confident sharing what is such a precious and very personal part of their lives. It gives us validation to do what we know we are destined to do . So we get certified and it makes it easier to feel good about sharing what is really deeply ingrained in our souls.

    Your article triggered me to ask myself why did I get certified in 2002? I have no logical or rational answer to that question except to say that if *felt* like the right thing to do. Logic did not play any role in this decision to apply for teacher training at Kripalu in 2002. I'm certain I was moved by *higher intelligence.*

    When this intelligence starts to rule our life, we want to share it. At least that's how it was for me. I can't really speak for anyone else.

    Some may be doing it for the money (LOL) the fame (LOL) the glory (LOL) or out of boredom or because they are yogi wannabees and they have heard that YTT deepens your practice. All of these are OK reasons – – put when the reasons are so diverse – the danger is that the pool of certified teachers becomes somewhat diluted.

    Regardless, as it stand now — the pre-requisites to get certified are generally pretty low or non-existent.

    I'll close by sharing a link which probably explains a lot of how and why I ended up teaching after 30 plus years of mainly solo yoga practice – –

  30. Rajni Tripathi says:

    LOVE this post! You're hilarious.

  31. devacat says:

    All good reasons. I'm pushing 59. already have a long career as poet and prof, and I love teaching. I'm far too old to be a yoga girl. and wouldn't have liked it when I was young. Yoga isn't a cheerleader's work. I started teaching at 50, when it became evident I had some yoga to teach, and have loved it for nine years.

  32. LuLuBlue says:

    I too have been practicing since I was 18. I am now 48 & the yoga world has changed a lot. Nowadays, I find teachers are either recovering addicts replacing their addiction or out of work professional dancers.((those are the ones who can slither into just about any pose) I can smell those ex dancer turned teacher’s a mile away.

    I too have been asked: Why don’t you want to become a yoga teacher?

    No Way! I’m a yoga whore! I get very bored with same teachers, I can’t stand all the mindless chatter before & after class & I sure as hell don’t want to be the one that people look to for guidance. There are a lot of Yogi’s out there with problems like everyone else but I sometimes think they actually think their teachers are therapists! I don’t want to be that!

    I prefer to remain anonymous in my practice!

  33. Kim says:

    Kate: Don’t do it!

    And I agree, you are hilarious! Great post and timely, as I have just had a slew of people writing to ask my recommendation on a “Teacher Training” and I have to remind myself that this is the popular route people take these days. It’s just gone so off the map–like a career path. Was yoga meant to be a career path? Whatever happened to just practicing because it is the good thing to do?

    Practice your yoga, if someone asks you to teach them, then share what you know.

    What I find more compelling is: Why don’t you play accordion???

  34. yoga bear says:

    I am new to yoga and also like the coming and going with no chatter. We share a space for 90 minutes and we are alone in our practice. I am not crazy about the chanting or namaste and at one point I felt that if I was going to practice, I probably should participate in all of it. I come for the good feeling and the movement of my body in ways that I did not think possible. I love yoga but you can keep the chanting and the "namaste".

  35. Jamie says:

    Would love to take creative writing classes from you!

  36. Great post! Thanks for sharing. You have so much to say, with such authenticity, that even if you’re not teaching actual asana classes I’d say you’re already a “teacher” through your writing. Maybe you just aren’t meant to “teach yoga” in a way you’ve seen it done before 😉 “Where there’s the most resistance, there’s the most potential…”

  37. Vienna says:

    Ever want to "unlearn" something? I participated in a YTT last year because I wanted to deepen my practice and learn more as a student. The instructors knew that about me (and others in our group) but the training was geared heavily toward teaching their "brand" of yoga and those that wanted to teach like them were favored. I so deeply wanted to go back to being a student. My practice didn't deepen – in fact it became worse than when I started. It became clear to me that I was not the right type of student for them, and I did express this, although I now feel it was the $ I represented that made them interested in stringing me along. I haven't practiced in quite some time now, because, although I miss how my practice used to make me feel, yoga makes me angry.

  38. flowtationdevices says:

    Katrina, I agree with your feeling that "once you become a teacher, you'll never experience yoga in the same way." I entered my YTT with gusto in 2006 and returned a bit ambivalent about teaching. I thought I would come home from my monthlong at Kripalu feeling high as a kite but really went the other way. I poured my heart out about the experience in a post last year: http://flowtationdevices.com/2011/03/11/flashback….

    I'm always interested in hearing the "other side" of yoga teacher training, people like me who came home from the experience and decided teaching just wasn't for them.

  39. Maya says:

    loved your post. im a yoga teacher! i did yoga for 5 yrs and alot before I became a RYT and my practice improved so much from doing it so I dont regret it at all, but I hate teaching! Its like the words dont naturally come to me and I have to pull at them, at first I thought it was that i didnt like talking in public, over that, then i thought maybe my i might have some kind of stagnation in my throat chakra, then i realized I think I just love yoga and hate teaching, but like you, I love adjusting. going to school for massage therapy now and I know i love giving Tx. and maybe I would of never got here without going through the process.

  40. Michelle says:

    I love this article! Funny and so much truth to it. Please keep writing! I love your style 🙂

    I got my certification never intending to teach (I just wanted to learn). The thought of teaching made me want to throw up. But somehow, life gives you unexpected twist and turns, and now I teach and I don't hate it! in fact, I would say i really enjoy it…most of the time. But I don't do it full time. I teach as part of my own practice. It reminds me to stay humble, because I don't know everything, not even close! When I teach authentically, it's like a spoken meditation, with consciousness in every word. And my class, is a self-reflection of me. what do I really believe is important? Whether I know it or not, that is what my students hear and it gets reflected back in their actions and words. This brings me back to my truth, which is constantly being processed and refined.

    P.S. I roll my eyes too when people say namaste! I heard it in a personal voicemail greeting once. I wanted to barf.

  41. […] didn’t just want to teach Yoga. I wanted to be Yoga. Take risks, go far. I’ve always been addicted to risk. I used to collect […]

  42. I've thought of doing them again. Might have to figure out how to clone myself first!

  43. I like that—thank you! Maybe that is how I am teaching now.