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.”
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.
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.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Carrie Marzo/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Visitor7 / Flickr