If you are considering a yoga teacher training, or want to become a yoga teacher, the options these days are seemingly endless. How do you navigate the complexities of all the different trainings, approaches, and routes? What follows is a very brief, top line view of what the process could look like. In future articles we will expand upon individual points (like how to choose the right Teacher Training for you) in more detail. Read on.
1. Do your research with a Teacher Training, and choose your teachers wisely.
Whilst there is no legal requirement to be certified to teach yoga, the easiest and most comprehensive route is likely a 200 hour Teacher training. This is the minimum requirement most studios, gyms, online ‘virtual’ studios, and your future students will expect. Lots of TT’s look the same on paper, and cover a similar syllabus. It's essential, therefore, that you practice with the tutors of your course before you sign up. If you don’t like their style, approach, or philosophy you need to know up front so you don’t get stuck with teachers that don’t resonate with you.
Also, my advice is always to choose a longer course if you can. This enables you more time to integrate, assimilate, and develop your own practice and teaching style. Short courses can be tempting, but often teachers are churned out in conveyor belt fashion and you may not be well equipped or confident enough to teach afterwards.
2. Once qualified, get as much teaching experience as possible
Friends, colleagues, your dog or cat if you have to. Teaching to yourself and recording it - all count as teaching experience. Whether you plan to teach in physical spaces or online, you need to hone your craft. Teach anyone you can who is willing, especially beginners. You will learn so much about refinement, concise explanation, and body limitations by teaching beginners. There is so much richness and reward with them.
3. Getting permanent classes: in studio or online
The studio/gym route:
You will need to be recommended. Your yoga resume will likely not get you an audition, but a recommendation from another teacher will. Don’t worry about racking up hours and hours of extra trainings, courses, and workshops. There’s plenty of time for that down the line. You will - and should - always be learning. Experience (as above) is more valuable than endless extra trainings at this point. If you have a regular teacher at a studio, ask if you can cover for them or assist them. It’s a gateway to getting on a cover list.
Once you are on a cover list, be willing. Take the antisocial time slots, drop everything for the emergency classes. You have to show you are eager, never cause a manager any drama by forgetting a cover, and never ever EVER turn up late to a class. Arrive 15 minutes before - minimum. Above all studio managers want teachers to take responsibility, to engage their students and be professional. It’s amazing how far this simple, respectful attitude will take you (and how many new teachers sadly don’t do this).
Soon you will be offered permanent classes, and over time you can be more selective about times and locations, and build a more sustainable schedule. It is very easy to burn out as a teacher so be kind to yourself, and know at some point you will have to start saying no to good opportunities. Do not glorify endless busyness and hustle. Some teachers vocalise this quite openly, but ask yourself, if yoga is about freedom, healing, and connection, how does teaching 7 days a week and burning yourself into the ground serve that purpose? It doesn’t, and arguably you will no longer be practicing yoga at that point (literally as you won’t have time for your own practice, and figuratively as you will be damaging yourself).
The online / Zoom route:
If you were or are already teaching studio classes pre-lockdown, hopefully you have enough email addresses and contacts to translate this into Zoom classes. (If not you need to start building an email database of students). If you are new to teaching and physical spaces aren’t really viable right now, you will have to build directly online.
I believe word of mouth and recommendation is still far more valuable long term than endless Instagram followers who are only passingly interested in what you do. You don’t need hundreds or thousands of students, you need a small committed group who feel that you are really invested in their journey and growth and that you go the extra mile. Be loyal to your students and they will be loyal to you. Perhaps you can offer charity donation based classes online to colleagues in your company or line of work initially. Perhaps you can ask an established teacher you know well, if they’d be willing for you to teach part of one of their online classes, or cover for them one week.
Of course, posting on social media does have it’s merit, it’s easy and largely cost-free. I’d recommend sharing educational content rather than pretty pictures though. Give people a sense of what your teaching style is, what they could work on with you. Remember, teaching yoga is not about you and what postures you can do, it’s about your students and how you can help make them feel good. In this process you will also become a better more articulate teacher. Be prepared for things to grow slowly. All good things take time, but if you stay loyal to your first few students, they will recommend you to others and things will expand.
Getting established is the hardest step, and the first few years may be harder work than you expect as your schedule may be quite inefficient. With experience and the demonstration of your unwavering commitment and professionalism with studios, gyms, and online students, things will get easier. Beware of burn out, it’s all too real. And lastly, it is very likely you will be doing a lot of this on the side while you have another full time job and another more stable income. If you’re thinking of going full time, my advice would be to allow that to happen organically if you don’t have a substantial financial buffer behind you. However, at a certain point you will be working a full time job and teaching a large amount on the side, and the day will come when you can’t do both anymore, and you will have a decision to make!
My final advice holds both an encouragement and a caution: don’t be surprised if teaching happens sooner than you think after your training, but also don’t be surprised if life teaching yoga is tougher than your expectations - and tougher than your current job. Be kind to yourself, and don’t lose your love of yoga in the process of becoming a yoga teacher.
This article was written for us by our awesome Brand Warrior, yoga teacher and writer, Soho-based James Rafael. For more information about James, click here