The 10 Things We’ll Never Tell You in Yoga Teacher Training (But Should). ~ Heather Day

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Yoga_Teacher / Visitor7

When the tall, lanky priestess of a woman put that certificate in my hand, I saw visions of vinyasas and savasanas and yoga pants all day, every day.

These days I’m part of the teaching team for two teacher trainings a year, and I watch each group graduate with the same stars in their eyes.

I do my utmost to prepare them, but there are a few things I wish I could tell them.

And yet in the spirit of inspiration and encouragement, I can’t. So I’ll share them, here: the harsh truths that nobody tells you in teacher training.

1. It is nearly impossible to support yourself just teaching group classes without running yourself ragged.

Unless you work in a city where yoga teachers make beaucoup bucks per class (which if your name isn’t Shiva Rea is a rarity), you’ll need to teach somewhere between 10 and 14 classes a week to make ends meet. And for most teachers that’s a recipe for injury, burnout and insanity (unless you’re a superhuman yogi).

2. You must, must, must expand your offerings to include workshops, privates and small groups.

And you must be willing to take this on yourself—the creativity, the content, the marketing, all of it. Because nobody else cares if you “make it” on the yoga scene.

Again, with the caveat that perhaps you’re one of the lucky few who work for a studio that takes care of all of this stuff, you are your own best advocate and marketer.

You’ll get your private clients from the students who attend your classes regularly, and you’ll fill your workshops from those same populations. And if you feel like you’re “not ready” for private clients or workshops? Tough noogies. Start.

Everyone has a “first workshop” or “first private client,” and you’ll get better with time.

3. You must charge more than you feel comfortable charging for each of them: workshops, private clients and small groups.

Your students will not see the correlation between what you bring to the class, and what seems “fair” to pay for the class. They will always think class is too expensive. And they will unabashedly ask for discounts or trades whenever possible.

You will want to give them, because you believe so wholeheartedly that everyone should be able to practice yoga.

But unless you are careful, you will “whole heart” yourself into poverty. So take a good, hard look at what your time is worth, what you need to be charging to keep yourself cared for and healthy, and look around at the market you’re working in. And be competitive.

Think about it—if you see two pairs of shoes and one costs $20 more even though they both look exactly the same, what do you assume about the more expensive ones?

Don’t be afraid to say, “Hello. I am quality stuff.”

4. Teaching yoga will bring up all your money shit. All of it.

A continuation of #3. All of your issues around self-worth related to money, your stories around being “poor,” your fears that there won’t be enough money—being a yoga teacher is one of the most intense workshops you could sign up for around your money crap.

Be ready (and willing) to use your teaching experience, and your own practice, to sit with your discomfort, self-doubt, fear, etc. 
As I said before: please, dear god, don’t “whole-hearted karma yoga” yourself into poverty.

5. Your students will project all of their crap onto you—positive and negative. And it’s your job to hold space anyway.

Some of them will put you on a pedestal and imagine that you never, ever screw up and certainly never have a bad day because yoga teachers just don’t do that.

Others will secretly hate you because they think you’re superior just because you can reach the full expression of Hanumanasana and insist on drinking that disgusting looking kombucha crap. Guru syndrome alert.

Before I teach I create the intention to hold a space for my students, but also to create a safe energetic space around myself.

It serves to remind me that whatever the students are experiencing isn’t about me.

It’s their own story, and my only job is to provide a space for them to work through it. I’m not their mom, or their girlfriend, or their savior. So I keep practicing brushing that dirt off my shoulders, a la Jay Z.

Sidenote: You will also get hit on. But that’s kind of another story.

6. There will be days where you’re on the way to the studio and you just don’t want to teach. And it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure.

If you’re a parent, or even have a partner, you’ll know this one.

There are some days where you just don’t wanna be a mama/partner/teacher/responsible human being. And it’s totally normal. Blame it on astrology, blame it on mood, blame it on whether you had your morning matcha green tea.

There will be days where you aren’t “in the mood.” Or you feel tender and vulnerable. And the last thing you want to do is step on the mat in front of a whole group of people.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a yoga teacher. It just means you’re human. So be nice to yourself and breathe. Most times? After teaching, you’ll feel fab.

7. There will be things you don’t know. A lot of things.

Simple. Duh. And the best thing to do is have a really great referral list—naturopaths, massage therapists, counselors, acupuncturists, etc., who you can send your students to when you exhaust your own knowledge.

You’re not a master of all things. Unless you are, in which case, call me.

8. Teaching yoga will make you pretty damn self-conscious some days.

When your work involves getting up in front of a room of people in form-fitting clothing, contorting yourself into strange and revealing positions as you demonstrate, and you are surrounded by other people who are similarly clad and pretzeling
 themselves, you will inevitably have days where you look around and think, “Damn. I’m not feeling my hottest today.”

Changes in your body are rather public. And often there are mirrors.

Ugh. The mirrors.

But again, being a yoga teacher is one of the greatest therapies we can do.

The long and short of it? Get over it.

You have two choices: To accept and love your body as is, knowing that you’re nurturing your body with your practice and supportive foods or to agonize over it every day and carefully try to choose your yoga pants (those black ones? Or those black ones?) to avoid the dreaded rolls and make your ass look good.

And is this what yoga is about? No.

Good. Moving on.

9. People will walk out of your class. Or blatantly disregard your guidance and do their own thing, the whole class. Or sometimes, they will cry in a puddle on the floor, the whole time.

You’re not just there to work people through their asanas.

The Yoga Girl song was right—those hip openers do release a lot of emotion.

And you’ve got to be ready to deal with that with grace and kindness. That doesn’t mean patting your student on the back and saying, “There, there…” It means giving them a safe space to release. To keep crying. Or to be mad. Or to rebel. Everyone’s working through their own “stuff” and the mat is the Judgement Free Zone.

And the people who walk out? Blessings on their impatient souls. They need to re-read the Sutras.

10. Your 200 hour training is just the beginning. You’re going to be making lists of all the things you want to study before you even get home.

And this is amazing.

It means the fire has been lit deep within you, and you’re now on a lifelong journey to learn and ground your practice and teaching more and more.

It does not mean you should say, “Oh my god I know nothing! I better get my 500 hour training now.”

No. Teach a bit. Take workshops. Practice more. And eventually you’ll know when it’s right to go for more training. And more. And more.

It’s addictive, this stuff.

Bonus #11: Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean you’re exempt from doing your own practice.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Go to other people’s classes.

Put on crazy music and flow in your living room.

Explore Yin Yoga.

It’s absolutely critical to keep yourself grounded, inspired, and fresh. So make sure you prioritize your own practice in the midst of all those amazing private clients, workshops, group classes, and trainings you’re doing.

Now go forth and teach. If all of this hasn’t scared you away then by golly, we need you.


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Heather Day

Heather Day is a Transformational Coach, yoga teacher, and a guide for those who seek to live a Heart Centered Life. She helps people who have fallen out of balance to return to center with intuitive and practical tools for body, soul, and lifestyle. You’ll find her attempting to surf, teaching yoga, and coaching from her current home in Costa Rica. Get her free meditation series to overcome fear and find your own Heart Center, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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anonymous Sep 14, 2015 3:13pm

Thanks so much for this information! I am considering getting my yoga teacher cert soon. I am 22 and have been a yogi for about 7 years. I just need to take the leap.

anonymous Oct 14, 2014 11:14pm

i could add half a dozen more to this list of things you won't learn in teacher training:

• heads up, there may be one student who throws up in savasana

• watch out, you got a forrest yogi in the room…let 'em drop their necks!

• hey now, the forrest yogi is rolling up their mat and leaving the studio cuz she and bendy flexy gal pal didn't get to do warrior-prayer-twist pose together when the whole class was working on Vira II

• someone may threaten to hit you if you try to adjust them

• tuff guy wants to double up vinyasas while you teach actions of upward dog…hey slow down boy!

• the chaturanga belly flops everywhere…ouch! that's gotta hurt, your shoulders that is

• hey you, i'm demonstrating back bending over a chair! why are you doing the splits in the corner behind my back?!

• hey ma, i almost made minimum wage teaching 1 student a very inexpensive private lesson…again!

• oh the list goes on….

    anonymous Sep 30, 2015 10:31am

    Hah. Ah yes. Throws up in savasana or curls up in a ball and starts sobbing!

anonymous Oct 9, 2014 2:16am

Practice should be #1 not #11!!!

Great article, I can confirm most of this is true. Also, when I did my 500 hours my wonderful teacher told us 10 things no other TT course would tell us. I expected to find some of them on this list but no, so there are at least 20 😉

    anonymous Oct 10, 2014 12:56pm

    10 more! Do share, do share! 🙂

anonymous Oct 7, 2014 8:28am

I would add: Publish, film and record. And go interactive. Maybe you have to put in the time first, I don't really know …

You have to know when you'll quit it with the live stuff alone. Or even the asana instruction, alone. You can't relentlessly preach "community" where it does not or may not ever exist:…? including at that yoga class at that upscale studio in the upscale neighborhood where you teach …

A good "halfway house" to that, could be found on Skype sessions of various stripes, after a while.

As a yoga student who meditates every day, I can hardly afford any of it.

    anonymous Oct 8, 2014 1:12pm

    Yes– that's another whole topic in and of itself! Affordability, where you teach, if yoga is "pricing itself out of range" for many of us. Many of us teachers rely on the teacher discount, or attend only at the studio where we teach…

    Podcasts, videos, etc. are also a great way to expand your work. Thanks for pointing that out Tina 🙂

      anonymous Oct 9, 2014 6:39am

      "Many of us teachers rely on the teacher discount"

      Do you know, just on the cusp of the zillionaires moving into the neighborhood I'd gotten priced out of; in that vast shoulder season, at a studio that thinks of itself as being "down to earth", btw … as just a yoga student, I had felt like an interloper in a class taught only to other 200 RYTs (not even those just in training)?!?

      In addition, I just don't see as many people with yoga mats parading around like I used to. I see plenty of "yoga butts" though on people who don't look like they are expected ethnic group for this to happen. This is the age of Jen Selter … and there are no corporate megayogachurches in my neighborhood that store your mats for free… but I don't see the parade of the mats much anymore …

      So I rest my case.

        anonymous Dec 31, 2015 11:16am

        Sorry, Tiniertina, usually, I can comprehend what others write, but your comment is so hermetic to my mind, I can't even see the door, lol…. what was the gist of your message, please? Thanks and Peace! 🙂

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 11:13pm

Well, I respectfully disagree with Kim. I find this article to be on point (and I am not a 'cliche' kombucha drinking yogi 😉 These truths: diversify your credentials, consider you relationship with money, have compassion for yourself… are fantastic pointers for any entrepreneur. Thank you for providing thoughtful, heartfelt, insight, Heather. Way to keep it real, girl!

    anonymous Oct 5, 2014 3:50pm

    Shhhh. Don't tell anyone, but I definitely drink kombucha. I think it's yummy 😉 Yep! As a life coach too, I definitely find these points uber applicable to anyone who's out there to share what we do as an entrepreneur or teacher.

    Keepin' it real, dealing with our Stuff. It's how we do, Akemi, right? 😉

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 11:01pm

Great list and some things to think about….. THANKS

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 7:54pm

"And the people who walk out? Blessings on their impatient souls. They need to re-read the Sutras." AMEN! As a student I think it's so rude for someone to get up while a teacher is talking, loudly put your props up and leave half-way through class without excusing yourself. Even if you don't like it you can't find a way to pull yourself into savasana or take a restorative pose until the class is over? Most classes are 60 minutes. I have been to classes I don't enjoy and I have found a way to be apperciative of what the teacher is doing and feed my own practice. Doesn't mean I do everything but I find my modifications and pull to the floor if I want to rest until they are done.

    anonymous Oct 5, 2014 3:48pm

    Yes. YES. Thanks Nicole 🙂 I think it would be hard to find anyone who's never been to a class they're just-not-that-into… but we learn to find the blessings in it all! And that includes Savasana– the pose we MOST need when we're stressed out and rushed 🙂

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 7:36pm

Nothing confronts the ego like an empty classroom. That is when the teacher training really begins.

    anonymous Oct 4, 2014 11:46pm

    Ohmygoodness yes. I think almost every teacher can remember that day vividly 😉

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 3:21pm

This list goes from one yoga cliche to the next. Are yogis really that homogeneous? Fundamentalist Christians go to Chik-FIL-A and yogi go to naturopaths and drink kombucha. Are we just a different flavor of sheeple? Can we be more creative than that and not buy in to yogi propaganda? What about a referral to a good orthopedist or psychiatrist for our ailing clients?
It’s time for yogis to step out of the yogi box!

    anonymous Oct 4, 2014 11:50pm

    Hey Kim!

    You might note that I actually suggest having a good referral list for our ailing students once we reach the end of our expertise- I think it's a really important aspect of being in the role of a teacher that we can acknowledge our realm of knowledge, and then call on someone else when we've exceeded it.

    And yes…. I went from one yoga cliche to the next because this is what I see some students expecting when they become yoga teachers! And my intention was to shed a little light on the reality of becoming a teacher– that it's a vastly heterogenous, challenging, self-reflective world out there, and not just full of savasana and yoga pants 😉

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 10:51am

So true and timely, Heather! great article…I have been teaching since I was 24 years old (I just turned 63 last Thursday) and all of what you said rings true for me even now….it's a lifelong journey….there is NOTHING I would rather be doing….practicing, teaching and working through my own issues on and off the mat…
Thanks again for your wisdom….I hope all yoga teachers read this and take it to heart.

    anonymous Oct 4, 2014 12:47pm

    Jackie- HOLY WOW YES you've been teaching for almost 40 years! That's beautiful. Thank you for your service and commitment, from all of us yogis- and yes, I'm grateful to be on this lifelong journey, as hard as it is some days!

    Hear that, teachers? 40 years of experience says LISTEN UP! 😉

    Namaste, Jackie!