Teaching yoga can be one of the most rewarding, important, and spiritually satisfying things you’ll ever do. It can also be one of most physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually grueling challenges you’ve ever attempted. If you’ve been practicing yoga regularly for a few years, you might be enchanted with the idea of teaching. Read through this guide and be honest with yourself about why you want to teach — then get ready to change the world, one student at a time!
Clarify Your Motivation
Are you really ready to teach? While there’s no quantifiable way to answer this question, it helps to take into account a few basics.
- How long have you been practicing? Has it been regular for at least a few years? You don’t need to have a three-hour routine, but a regular, daily practice is usually a good sign that you’re deeply involved.
- Are you ready to deepen your knowledge? The asanas, or poses, are only one tiny aspect of yoga. A good teacher will have an understanding of anatomy, sequencing, and alignment. A great teacher will also understand the more abstract aspects, including meditation, yoga history, philosophy — even chanting, mudras, and the subtle body.
- Are you up for it? Teaching yoga can be the foundation for a deeply meaningful life. Helping other people to feel good is rewarding on many levels. But healing professions like yoga require a strong emotional base. Your students will look to you for compassion, respect, and answers. If you are easily irritated by other people’s complaints about their injuries, poor health, or imperfect emotional state, you may want to reconsider teaching.
Once you’ve determined that you are indeed ready for the challenge, it’s important to find the right training program for you. Your first teacher training (you may have several!) will be the basis for your teaching, so make sure it’s the right fit.
- Consider your style: What type would you like to specialize in? If you’re dedicated to Ashtanga, Iyengar, or Kundalini, you’ll likely want to teach that style. But if you’re a generalist — one who practices Vinyasa, Hatha, or whatever style suits your needs that day — you’ll probably want to consider a training that will cover many different styles.
- Consider specializing: Some specialized styles — like Iyengar, Anusara, Bikram, and Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga — require teachers to complete a training program within that particular style. If you’re dedicated to a style, research its requirements first.
- Ask around: Your favorite yoga studio may offer teacher training programs. But do your research. Make sure the program is certified by Yoga Alliance. This ensures that your training will cover a specific number of hours studying asana, teaching methodology, anatomy, and philosophy. Talk to your teachers. Find out where they trained and with whom.
- Find out the minimum requirements: Some teacher trainings require that you have at least six months of study with a particular teacher, or several years in a particular style before enrollment.
- Consider where you want to study: Perhaps you’ll be comfortable at your favorite studio. Maybe a retreat center or ashram is more your style. Perhaps a year-long training in India might suit you best.
- Consider cost: Many programs these days cost $3,000 or more. Be honest about what you can afford and how you’ll be able to pay for it.
- Consider your schedule: Whether you do a month-long intensive or year-long training, you’ll have homework, no matter what. This can include lots of reading on anatomy, history, and philosophy. You may also be memorizing Sanskrit names, chants, sequences, and teaching dialogue. You may have practice hours with a mentor teacher, or several papers to write. All of this work takes time.
Technically, you don’t need any certification to teach yoga, but it’s a good idea to get registered with Yoga Alliance (the main registration organization for studios and teachers in the U.S.). Most studios and gyms today require at least 200 hours of training recognized by Yoga Alliance. Here’s what you need to know:
- There are two designations for registration with Yoga Alliance: 200 hours and 500 hours. The hours refer to the length of the training, which includes education in asana, anatomy, and philosophy — though sometimes much more.
- The acronyms for a Registered Yoga Teacher are RYT-200 and RYT-500.
- An experienced yoga teacher (E-RYT) has at least 1,000 hours of teaching experience.
- A registered yoga school (RYS) is one that maintains the Yoga Alliance quality standards in education, experience, and teacher training.
Although it’s not mandatory for studios and teachers to be registered with Yoga Alliance, the non-profit is the standardizing body for yoga in America. The alliance encompasses a vast diversity of yoga traditions, while ensuring that registered teachers and studios maintain certain professional and educational standards. If you want to teach, it’s best to get registered.
Once you’ve done your teacher training and gotten registered, you need to get out there and teach! Although, with zero experience, your favorite studio might not hire you right away. Some ideas to gain experience teaching include the following:
- Offer free classes to friends and family: Set up in your living room or a park. Remember to provide water and snacks for your guinea pigs after class.
- Get on the substitute list: Talk to your teachers at your favorite studio or gym and let them know you’re available to sub. They may be grateful for the chance to take a day off!
- Advertise private lessons: Target those who are still wary of a group setting. Offer a sliding pay scale and the opportunity for them to learn in the privacy of their own home.
- Bring yoga to work: Empty out a conference room and teach your coworkers during lunch.
- Volunteer: Hit up fitness events in your area, such as marathons or charity walks. Volunteer to teach free yoga classes to the attendees.
- Seek out new places: Some spots might be open to yoga classes – but don’t already offer them. This includes newer gyms, fitness centers, retirement homes, tennis and golf clubs, schools; community centers, and even libraries!
Don’t Quit Your Day Job… Yet
Most yoga teachers do not make a lot of money. Unless you are employed by a large fitness center, the profession usually carries no job security, health coverage, paid time off, or 401(k). It’s possible to make a living in a populous urban area teaching 15-20 classes per week. This, however, includes a high risk of burnout. Some tips to keep in mind while you’re dreaming of yoga fame and fortune:
- Teach part-time: Keep your schedule open to other jobs, like freelancing or consulting. Some jobs, like being a nanny or dog walker, can even lead to more classes!
- Release DVDs or online videos: Offer free previews. Think about charging for downloads or subscription packages.
- Offer private lessons and workshops: Get creative with workshop ideas. Gain extra income while teaching one-on-one.
- Consider owning or running a studio: Depending where you live, this can be a solvent and gratifying path.
- Supplement your income in the same field: Cross-sell your services with other holistic work such as massage, Pilates, or nutrition counseling.
If you’re teaching at a gym, health club, or retreat center, you may be required to be certified in CPR and first aid. Some fitness centers may also require a Group Fitness Certification from a nationally recognized personal training organization. Get liability insurance if you plan to teach private lessons or workshops.
For many yoga teachers, self-marketing is the hardest part. Here are a few tips to make it a little bit easier for you to find studios and students:
- Set up an iSport account: Post your information and find studios, jobs, and students in your area.
- Spread the word: Talk yourself up. Set up a website or a blog. Get business cards made and hand them out everywhere you go. Hang flyers at your local community center or health food store. Practice in the park and be open to teaching strangers if (and when!) they ask.
- Consider a niche: You may want to specialize, honing your skills in Pre-Natal or Restorative Yoga. Perhaps you’d like to teach yoga to seniors or kids. Keep in mind though, that extra trainings cost extra money.
- Never stop learning: Take workshops with visiting teachers. Watch DVDs and online videos of teachers in all styles. Read yoga books, blogs, and magazines. Continue to evolve, and you will always be valuable.
With all of your focus on giving to others, it can be easy to forget to give back to yourself. Beware of burnout . Make sure to take time to relax and renew. Keep up your own practice! Take on only as many classes as you can while staying energized, compassionate, and inspired. Remember that the more you’re able to give time and energy to yourself, the more you’ll be able to give your students. Stay balanced and enjoy your wonderful new path!