8 Blunt Truths About Becoming a Yoga Teacher. (Read this, If You Want Your YTT.)

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You’ve practiced your postures with dedication and possibly have even mastered bhakasana, crow pose. But are you really ready to become a yoga teacher? Here is the real scoop on what it’s like.

Now you want to become a yoga instructor.

Are you sure that’s your path? Sharing the benefits of yoga with your community is a wonderful goal. But before you invest in an expensive teaching training program, it pays to consider a few things.

1. Yoga is more than asanas. The 8 Limbs of Yoga:

Many practitioners have a devoted asana practice but neglect the holistic view of what yoga encompasses. There are actually eight limbs to yoga, and flowing through downward dog and triangle pose is just one little aspect.

1. Yama: universal morality
2. Niyama: personal observances
3. Asanas: body postures
4. Pranayama: breathing exercises and control of prana, life force energy
5. Pratyahara: control of the senses
6. Dharana: concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana: devotion, meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi: union with the Divine

Still on board? Keep reading!

2. Your mission is to shed light for students, not to master.

The best teachers live their yoga practices on and off the mat. Are you in the right head space to take on teacher training? Applying the eight limbs of yoga to your life is an essential step toward instructing others. Students will see right through fake “yoga bliss” or personal motives. No one wants to spot their seemingly enlightened teacher making rude comments on the street or pulling into the nearest pro-GMO fast food joint. No one is perfect; it’s all about balance. However, our true selves will shine through to our students, and that is what they will mirror. Make sure your feet are on the ground before you teach others your habits. As an instructor, it is your responsibility to put your best self forward.


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3. In today’s yoga market, you have to specialize your education.

There are so many different types of yoga out there, from Bhakti to Kundalini to Power Flow. Try different styles so you don’t waste money on a training that doesn’t suit you. You just might surprise yourself by taking a new class and learning that you’re into that whole breath-of-fire thing. Once you find a yoga that clicks, you’ll be able to hone in on a school that’s right for you. Some schools are more demanding than others, and you get out what you put in. When choosing a training, look into the reading list, check out the books, investigate guest teachers and learn about the certification requirements. Would you prefer to learn over a long period or spend an intensive couple of weeks? You know your lifestyle and what would work best for you.

4. It’s essential to find the right teacher.

Practice with many instructors until you find one who resonates with you. Understand what you are getting yourself into. In your enthusiasm to get certified, you don’t want to end up with a loony teacher or in a creepy yoga cult. Unfortunately, a lot of teacher trainings are about money and not authenticity. Take your time and follow your heart. The right teacher will come to you.

5. To get paid by teaching yoga, remember the 20/80 rule.

Most teacher trainings will take your money no matter who you are. Anyone who pays can get a certification, but not everyone will become a successful instructor. To be a success, you need 20 percent facts—earning a yoga teacher certification—and 80 percent business savvy. One of the biggest obstacles for yoga instructors is consistent attendance. Have you thought about how you would market your classes? Are you tech savvy? Do you know how to make a website, flyers and posters? How will you get students to your class? And how will you keep them coming back?

6. Be smart about your finances.

Pay attention to the economic reality of being a yoga instructor. You will be making an initial investment upwards of $3,000 for your teacher training. If you opt to teach at someone else’s studio, make sure you understand its payment process. Some studios pay a flat rate per class, some pay per student and some are donation based. Does the studio advertise? Does it offer health insurance? Opening your own studio is a huge investment that could take years to recoup.

7. Find your own style.

The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Indian yoga text, states that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection. To keep students coming back, you need to be you! Have something special that sets you apart. Think about your favorite instructor. Why do you like her? What qualities make you consistently return to her? Like an artist in training who learns to reproduce exact replications of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, beginning yoga instructors can copy a master instructor they admire. However, there comes a point when you will need to tap into your own creative consciousness and bring forth your own style in your teaching.


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8. It’s OK to get support!

Still think being a yoga instructor is your path? Bring family and friends along for the ride. This journey can become overwhelming, and you don’t want to lose sight of who you really are. Consider other instructors not as competitors but as allies you can learn from. Yoga is all about union—not about whether you own a pair of mala beads, have the hottest yoga gear or have mastered bhakasana. Once you obtain your certification, you are just as much a student as you are a teacher. Make friends in your training and have fun!

Becoming a yoga instructor is a rewarding journey and not for everyone.

No matter your age, location, finances, gender or background, listen to your heart. It will tell you if this is your true calling.


Rachael Carlevale, certified yoga instructor, dedicated to the pursuit of sustainable, holistic healing methods and lives by the words of Neem Karoli Baba: “Love everyone, serve everyone.” A dedicated yogi since 2002, Rachael became a certified Hatha Yoga teacher under the lineage of Sri Shambhavananda and earned a pre-med degree with honors from the University of Massachusetts. She is working toward an eco-conscious revolution for human health through her Durango, Colorado-based business, Yoga Grown, serving her community as the education program manager at the Responsible Sex Education Institute of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and she has spent time exploring medicinal plants with the Shipibo Tribe in the Peruvian Amazon. Rachael’s creative teaching techniques are infused with a blend of tantra, vinyasa flow, balance and our sacred connection with the earth; her classes equip every body with valuable tools to use on and off the mat.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Asst. Editor: Wendy Keslick



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43 Responses to “8 Blunt Truths About Becoming a Yoga Teacher. (Read this, If You Want Your YTT.)”

  1. Sharon says:

    I am so enjoying getting to know you by your posts after attending your Red Tent at DMR. Few people have the practice skills, business savvy, interpersonal delight, and spirit grace that you seem to. I am not a Yoga instructor, but have noticed the same kind of caveats and pitfalls in people wanting to be psychologists and personal fitness trainers. Durango is lucky to have you!

    • rachiima says:

      Thanks Sharon! It was a pleasure to have you in the Red Tent Women's Workshop! Yes, the 20/80 rule is key to making it in the psychology and fitness industries.

  2. Zoe Helene says:

    This is marvelous! Congratulations, Elephant Journal, on discovering a rare new talent: Rachael Carlevale is destined to become a yoga ‘star’. She shines so brightly already.

  3. anne says:

    "Have you thought about how you would market your classes? Are you tech savvy? Do you know how to make a website, flyers and posters? How will you get students to your class? And how will you keep them coming back?" – no comment

    • Jen says:

      Indeed—having good marketing skills does not equate to good teaching skills. While there are nuggets of truth in this article, I do not agree with the 20/80 rule. I won't discount the value of marketing and business, but 80%? Nah. If you don't have the raw talent and dedication to your art, combined with the ability to reach individuals through your teaching ability, no amount of business savvy will help you. And for those who ride on it, well…that's why I do the majority of my yoga at home, by myself. I savor the moments over the years that I have experienced with great teachers, but I equally savor all the time that I invested into my personal practice. I love yoga, and I love some yoga people, but I'm tired of the business of western yoga. Students lean too much on the teacher and not enough on their own knowledge and intuition.

      • rachiima says:

        Absolutely – it is dire that yoga instructors have ‘raw talent and a dedication to the art.’ However, in order to share your light with the world – to inspire others, to show others how to tap into their own knowledge and intuition, one must reach others. It is important to have a personal home practice and as an instructor it is also important to practice seva, selfless service. How can one serve others by themselves in their home? It is ironic to discredit technology and the importance of marketing on an online journal such as elephantjuornal.com. It is this very technology that has allowed for people to share their light and make practices such as yoga accessible to everyone. Even Ram Das, one of the first pioneers of bringing yoga to the west, has turned to online yoga workshops and tele-seminars. One of India’s most spiritual teachers, Amma, known as the hugging yogi, shines her light through the internet as well. In this day and age, the marketing and technology side of yoga can seem ‘un-yoga-like’ yet when we look at the lightness in technology, what is it actually doing? Uniting; uniting one another so we can serve, learn, share and grow.

    • Eric Richardson says:

      That's your insight? Thanks for that… Please explain your thoughts, because for your information, writing the words "no comment" is actually you commenting…

  4. Jessica says:

    "The teacher and the taught together create the teaching". I wonder if I don"t have to be a perfect, never eat Wendy's, Prius driving, yoga teacher in order to guide others on a path that has helped me? What if I have many flaws but, some how am still able to help even one person find truth and joy even if it is on my way to the GMO factory? I wonder?

    • rachiima says:

      Yoga is not about being perfect rather about, “putting your best self forward.” No one is perfect; we all have flaws and that is part of being human. It is important to speak your truth – whatever that may be.

    • Chester says:

      Thank you for your wonderful insight, Rachael! This article is where its at! You have a very refreshing perspective. If you want to become an instructor, this article should go at the top of your notes…

      If you want to sit at home and do yoga alone, a candle and some nice music might work well for your energy. If you want to post on a website about "Yoga, Sustainability, Organics, Ecofashion, Buddhism, Conscious Consumerism, Education, Arts, Wellness, Adventure", and drive a Prius, think about the grid from which your "clean energy" is coming from and how that electricity is produced. Think about the mining practices involved in extracting nickel, lanthanum and neodymium and consider this quote from wiki: …"production of the car is described as "the biggest user of rare earths of any object in the world." How "Yoga" is that?

      And if you want to push genetically-modified, disease causing mutagens upon your students, be my guest. Won't be attending that class…..



    • Chester says:

      Perfection? How about just conscious awareness of our surroundings?

  5. Jacqui says:

    Many thanks for sharing your insight into the detailed considerations for becoming a yoga teacher. I am so grateful to share my mat with you during your radiating mind, body, and spirit yoga classes! You are an amazingly beautiful yogini, sister, and friend. Much love and light on your ever expanding journey!!

  6. adam says:

    nice grateful dead reference!

  7. This article is right on, Before deciding to embark on a yoga teacher training, I decided to live a yogic life. This Took major modifications to my lifestyle, and took a long time for my family to accept. I am now on my teacher training journey, and could not be happier. I am happy, because I am putting everything that I have into it, and because I love doing it. I also love interacting with other yoga teachers, and with students. This is truly a life-changing journey, and one must be ready to make serious changes before embarking on that journey. Thank you so much for your article.

  8. Lora says:

    AWESOME article Rachael! I'm a coach and mentor to yoga professionals (for their yoga biz & personal lives) who also happens to naturally be an optimist in life overall. I really appreciate that you shared the facts about becoming a yoga teacher but did it in a way that wasn't all "doom and gloom" like other "so you want to be a yoga teacher" articles do. I think it's always important to be prepared and know what you are committing yourself to. And with those details a person can choose to look at things with a sense of hope and possibility or feel defeated right from the beginning. Thanks for sharing the facts for those looking into becoming a yoga teacher, and for doing it in a way that is light and makes room for positive possibility! I very much look forward to reading more from you in the future!

  9. Chuck Culp says:

    Great article Rachael! I have been practicing Raja yoga for over forty years, mostly by myself. Lately, I have been drawn to share my somewhat limited knowledge with others. I have been attending classes and I am amazed by how yoga has changed. Teachers who are openly carnivorous in their dietary choices 🙁 What about Yama "do no harm". It is hard to kill and eat a being without causing harm. Consume dairy and the male calf still get turned into veal.

  10. Mark P says:

    Am I the only one who noticed the "she" references in number (7). Not all teachers are women!!

  11. Brooke says:

    Great article! I do my YTT next month, and after reading this I am still ready to become a yoga teacher… So, that's good. 0:)

  12. fruitaliniyogi says:

    I'm surprised to read something so right on about yoga teacher training and becoming a yoga teacher. 7 years after my training, I'd definitely still consider myself a student, although I've been told I'm a good teacher too. This is a good article for potential teachers and experienced teachers alike.

  13. jesse says:

    This article was great, people should only do this from the heart. If you are looking to make money then you have not understood yourself yet.

    I’m wanting to learn yoga to practice while in school. Free yoga for all. It would be perfect to help me grow more as well and defiantly help me once I start practing medicine.

    Be the change you want to see. Love y’all

  14. Yoga Classes says:

    Teaching Yoga gives us an opportunity to serve others, enabling us to really be of help to others in improving the quality of their lives. Teaching Yoga also motivates us to learn more about Yoga and deepen our own practice. It encourages us to express the positive side of our personality. Online yoga courses are of great help for those who have a day job as they are convenient and provide flexibility. But understanding these truths about becoming a yoga instructor is equally important.

    It was wonderful reading this article. Thanks for sharing Elephant Journal.

  15. Oceane says:

    This is a great article. I have always loved and trusted my yoga instructors and maybe someday I will be able to share my own experience to help others. What kinds of yoga instructor certifications are generally needed? How do they vary?

  16. Huh says:

    I'm really curious why she's wearing that style of makeup in the photograph?

  17. ciaociao123 says:

    As I get older, I get creakier and I'm hoping yoga may be the answer. Can anyone recommend a class in south-east or east London that focuses mostly on the physical side of yoga and less on the meditative/spiritual aspects? Or should I try some programs from a company like http://www.lifelinemobile.com/quality.htm ? What do you think?

  18. Adam Sewell says:

    Great article…except Bakasana has no 'h' and means crane (or water bird). Kako means crow. Namaste.

  19. Gordon says:

    Someone has taught this woman properly. In listing the first two items on the list she has effectively touched on the larger issues facing Yoga today – the perception that yoga is stretching, poses, or exercise (in its entirety) and that the teacher must be living the practice.

    There is one thing I'd like to add to what Rachael has shared. And that is the phrase "morality" as it relates to a definition of Yama. Moral, by definition, implies the concept of right and wrong. And certainly there are interpretations (all too common) that make reference to Yama being moral. Yet in the complete works of the Yoga Sutras (where the concept of yama and niyama are codified) there is no reference to "right" or "wrong". Instead the works of Patanjali offers a method for reducing human suffering. You re not "good" if you do it and you are not "bad" if you do not. Ergo there cannot be a universal morality.

  20. Katerina says:

    Being a yoga instructor is not just about showing your physical capabilities to students, but about being a great personality at the first place!

  21. Aldo says:

    You took the thoughts out of my mind, Rachael. Such a blessing to hear you express your view. It rang very true with my own views about Yoga and it's 8 limb approach:-) Aldo:-) Perth

  22. drmsyogi says:

    Crow pose is "kakasana"

  23. raven says:

    No offense but anyone who has any understanding of Bhagavada Gita would not be affiliated with planned parenthood in any way.. That was enough to scare me away. Yikes!

  24. Andrea says:

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I look forward to your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  25. Tara says:

    "No one wants to spot their seemingly enlightened teacher…..pulling into the nearest pro-GMO fast food joint". Ummm, I wouldn't want a teacher who is a sanctimonious judgmental jerk either!

  26. YogaLondon says:

    Some people may think that being a teacher is sort of glamorous but they're not always aware of the time sacrifices: waking up before 6am for an early class (got to take advantage of the high demand morning rush) the afternoons with little to do, honestly, who's taking a class that part of the day, and the late evenings (again, high demand hours).

    Yoga is amazing…for the right personality type.

  27. jim says:

    the gita is the indian bible not a yoga text. westerns get everything wrong

  28. Brett says:

    The 80/20 rule mentioned in this article is so true. 80% of success in teaching yoga is entrepreneurship and business savvy. I made a little course called Yoga. Money. Business. for those of you interested in just the business/financial aspect of teaching yoga and what the numbers actually net out to. http://www.brettlarkin.com/how-much-do-yoga-instructors-make/ I also have a free mini class for those considering yoga teacher training with helpful hints. As the article says, anyone will take your money for teaching training, so it’s best to really think about if it’s right for you. http://www.brettlarkin.com/yoga-teacher-training-cost/

  29. Valerie says:

    Nice article! I am in a teacher training in the Shambhava lineage – nice to see you were trained in it too! I tried out a bunch of different teaching studios before deciding on this one, mainly because they seemed to be the only ones really living their yoga.
    I'm a little nervous about getting attendance, but I AM tech-savvy and I'm sure it will all go well. Shanti shanti shanti!

  30. Rutu Goklani says:

    Nice one! Also important to get trained the right way… Think about training in the Himalayas @ http://www.trimurtiyoga.com/yoga-teacher-training-dharamsala-india/

  31. Thanks for sharing such great information. Yoga changed my life a lot, and still changing it. As a yoga instructor I recommend to choose the best yoga instructor training wisely. Cheers!

  32. Robin says:

    I came across your site because I am interested in learning to become a yoga instructor. The reason I would like to become an instructor is that I want to learn the disciplines and practice to help me to change the way I live my life. Eventually when I retire i would like to become an instructor. Any recommendations on where I should begin to look for training?

  33. ranjan bora says:

    thank you , i am following the same 8 point you given on your lesion, i have all most 10 years of experience in yoga,and start to teaching ,honestly ,but people asking about certificate so recently i have dun a certificate course from a yoga institute,i am teaching free of cost , now i want to charge fees to survive my self . advise me , regards. Ranjan bora ,

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