It’s been nearly four years since I became a certified yoga instructor.
Like most people who complete such programs, I had no idea what to expect once I left training. I even wondered if I would even find a place to teach given the glut of yoga instructors in the small, college town I call home.
As luck would have it, I started teaching weeks after I finished training. However, that was just the beginning of a long, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately interesting and rewarding profession of being a yoga instructor.
I already knew I was not going to be making a lot of money doing this, but beyond that, there were many things I did not know or anticipate.
I wish I had been fortunate enough to meet a seasoned veteran and have them take me aside to give me the real scoop.
While I did not have this, would-be yoga teachers have the following below. Granted, I don’t claim to be a veteran by any means, but four years of constant teaching have taught me a lot.
So, without further ado, here are the top things I wish I had known starting out.
1. It may end up costing you money to teach.
As I already noted, most of us come out of training knowing we probably aren’t going to make any money. However, it may be a shock to discover that being an instructor may end up costing you money.
How it this possible you ask? Well, one thing most new instructors do not consider is the amount of time (and gas/subway/or bus fees) it takes to get to the studio. Even if you live less than two miles away like I do, you still need to get there at least 15 minutes early to set up and get ready. If no one shows up, then that’s at least 30 minutes or an hour gone from your day that could have been spent doing something more productive.
Also, if you have young children, then you usually have to make arrangements for child care because few gyms, studios, etc. offer on-site childcare.
Therefore, even if you make $60 teaching a class, it may still be a loss if you factor in the above.
2. You will lose students.
Not every student who comes to your class will return. I’ve lost track of all the students I’ve had come up to me after class, thank me for a “great class” and promise to return only to never see them again.
Sometimes, the time does not work for them, they decide yoga is not there thing, etc. Just keep in mind that 99.9% of the time, it has nothing to do with you or your teaching style.
3. Yoga teachers are human and some can be bitchy just like any other cliche.
I should preface this by saying that in general, most yoga instructors tend to be good eggs. However, there are exceptions to every rule.
At some studios, instructors may be downright Machiavellian when it comes to snagging and retaining students especially if they are paid per student versus per class.
Also, when fellow yoga instructors date or marry then break up but continue to teach at the same studio things can become really interesting indeed.
As adults, it’s up to us who we chose to be friends with and spend our free time with but if you want to avoid drama in general, it may be wise to stay away from high-drama people. Just because someone else is a fellow yoga instructor does not mean you are obligated to hang out with them or even like them. After all, do people assume all doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. are automatically friends with tons in common just because they happen to be in the same profession? Then why should it be the case with yoga instructors.
4. You’re going to make mistakes.
It’s unavoidable. However, at the risk of sounding like a cliche, sometimes your worse mistakes can be your best teachers.
For example, early on, I had an 80 year old retiree come to a class. I had never taught someone with his array of medical issues before-namely, bad arthritis and artificial joints. My class plan for a challenging, fast-paced vinyasa class went out the window then and there.
As it turns out, he was a great student, and he got through the entire class without a problem. However, we had to modify. That experience taught me to always have a Plan B in place because you never know who may walk through the door.
5. Looks matter.
I am reluctant to mention this but this is true: A lot of people have an idea of what a yoga teacher should look like and may decide to come to your class solely because they liked your photo on the website.
If someone had told me this in training, I would have shook my head in disbelief, but it happened to me more than once that I know of.
Also, if you happen to be a reasonably attractive woman under 40 you can pretty much guarantee that at least one time, a student will hit on you. While I can only speak from my own experience, I will say it is not nearly as exciting or flattering as you might imagine it to be. In fact, the word that comes to mind when I think back on it is “awkward”.
Being a yoga instructor can be fun, rewarding, and even profitable. However, there are some realities to keep in mind.
While there will always be that one person in a million who becomes a yoga superstar mere weeks after leaving training, that is not reality for most of us.
Knowing the realities most new instructors face as well as the challenges and occasional frustrations can not only better prepare us but may keep us from burning out and giving up teaching altogether.
If you are a veteran teacher reading this, then perhaps consider sharing your experiences with the newbies you encounter. Be sure to include both the negative and the positive. While it can be tempting to just unload about the former, the latter are very real as well.
In fact, it’s the fact that the latter generally outweigh the former that keeps me and other instructors coming back to the studio to teach.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: lyn tally