So You Want to Be a Yoga Teacher? WelcOMe to the Business of “Yoga!”

INTRO:

It seems everybody is in love with the healing movement and stillness that gets associated with ‘Yoga.’

While there certainly is that component and very much more between the lines, the ability to become a certified teacher is easier and more accessible than ever. The industry is flooded with opportunities and new teachers continue to share this lineage and discipline with the general public, Corporate settings and 1/1 private clients.

As a Full Time and actively teaching Yoga/Spin/Pilates Teacher in Vancouver, many fellow peers slightly newer than I am (4 years) in the field have come to me seeking/inquiring how I managed to succeed.

Here are my personal tips on how to get started:

1) WHO?

Find a teacher who you strongly resonate with both in and out of the yoga room. Is this trainer and mentor someone you want to learn from and are they equally invested in YOU long term versus only in the 200hr they are with you? Of course there is a boundary and scope of practice between teacher and teacher trainee, however you will begin to further discern if the head facilitator is someone who understands your way of learning and integrating and not just a phenomenal teacher within a public class context. This will also come down to your individual priorities and what you wish to takeaway both from your mentor/educator and their curriculum long term.
2) WHAT:

A lot of people tell me they just need to start teaching yoga. Okay, fabulous no doubt… but especially if you’re looking to launch a career whether it’s public, private etc… it’s important to do your homework.

Most, not all, but most 200hr courses either will emphasize on Hatha Yoga OR Vinyasa Yoga- although in public studios most will permit you to offer both of you have a 200hr certificate. There are a handful of 200hr courses which add an enriched 100hrs ‘RYS 300’ that may include therapeutics and other electives that can influence your next investments in training and CE.

For specified trainings in styles like Yin or Restorative for example, you will see varied lengths of trainings from 20hrs in 1 weekend to 50 hrs over 1 week… some upwards of 100hrs dependant on the facilitator and programming.

Discerning the approach of the what/why is crucial as there’s a vast smorgasbord of options that for someone fresh into the industry, it can be chaotic to say the least. Most RYT-200 programs are structured in one of the following formats: 1 Month intensives, 3 modules spaced out usually over 6 months or over 10-12 weekends. Yoga training traditionally was passed down to you by a guru that you solely studied under until they felt you were ready to be blessed with their lineage… whereas now it’s definitely not the same principal. Who you decide to invest your time with as your teacher(s) and mentors/trainers will greatly stem from the why.

3) WHERE?

Although there are many places to train in Vancouver, I will definitely give a strong shout out to my 200hr Trainer and still my mentor/friend to this day: Mike Nichols! Mike is an extremely genuine and sincere gentleman who specializes in the Vinyasa lineage of yoga. He also incorporates the beauty of Yin yoga, science and bio mechanics in his curriculum which gives a well-rounded approach between the anatomical and energetic applications to practice. His training is affordable and doesn’t exceed more than 18 students per training max and it offered on the weekends Friday-Sunday.

I will leave Mike’s website information and training here, he will start his next course April-May 2017 and still is accepting deposits!

http://shineyoga.ca/teachertraining/

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Yoga training programs are offered Internationally and in every format one could imagine. Whether you decide you want it abroad on a tropical oasis or in the comfort of your own city, it’s important you provide yourself the proper environment which would suit you best. Certain programs may also limit their capacity to a certain amount in order to keep a smaller group environment. I personally opted to stay in my own city as it was both convenient and familiar, I didn’t want to be in a new and distant setting when I was going to embark on this deep and transformative path. That being said, several of my peers have done the opposite and went to India or Costa Rica etc. and were beyond content with their experience as well. Wherever it is you decide, make sure you again do your homework.

Depending on the teacher AND the style of yoga you’re looking to specialize in, this will also affect the location and facilitator. Do you want to study with a teacher who has the information you want even if you’re less connected with them? Do you want to study with a teacher who you connect with fully but unsure of their content of their programming? Ideally you will find a full package in both realms between a healthy yet educational relationship with your scenario. One piece of advice I will leave here is that before you invest in a training with one person for 200hrs, are they a teacher/person who is 100% authentic and lives/breathes their yoga practice/lifestyle without any conflict?

4) WHY?

Okay, so you think you want to be a yoga teacher… congratulations. WHY?

Whatever reasons you have are personal and private to yourself, however it is important that the core message behind your intention to share these practices is clear. When you understand that inside and out, then your true authentic voice and approach to your teachings will shine! Many people are inspired to specifically lead an asana driven (physical/athletic/fitness) based practice and this is an example of what we experience in public drop-in studios or gyms for example. I knew I wanted to lead classes centred around a non-athletically inclined meaning in order for people to experience their deeper subconscious components in practice. This meant I began teaching gentle yoga classes which provided me the platform to speak from a place for students to listen and process without less transitioning between poses. Eventually the further into my teaching I became, then the direction and personal voice evolved and I now offer a full spectrum practice that meets most people’s needs regardless.

5) HOW?

This is pretty self explanatory, however I will leave a few considerations. If you’re able to take the time off work etc. to commit only to your training periods it will benefit your absorption and integration. Yoga teacher training is an intensive curriculum regardless what format you go with. One of the benefits of going abroad to do training is the simple fact of being away from anything rudimentary. As far as investment goes, most local 200hr programs will be between $2800-3500 which would include the suggested readings or materials your training requires to use. If you were to go abroad and have to pay for your travel and accommodations etc. then the costs will vary majorly. I personally preferred having my training in the comfort of my own city of Vancouver but only you will be able to discern the appropriate arrangement for your own learning.
Trainings are offered by most yoga studios especially of a corporate business model. They are also equally facilitated by individual teachers who have submitted curriculum to the Yoga Alliance (The Governing Body for Yoga Teacher’s Internationally) and run their program through their own locations. There are benefits to either format of training you choose to do, both with their own strengths and areas for development. Some bigger box yoga trainings are very much saturated with as many people possible (some upwards of 35-50+ trainees) which is ideal for some… versus more independent courses may opt for less people and a more intimate experience. Depending on the direction you wish to take your teaching career, it can benefit you to complete your program through the studio you wish to be aligned with as a contractor afterwards. This shows your dedication to their community and business which means they know you would be teaching from a like-minded philosophy and integrity. Some facilities will encourage you to enrol into mentorship programs that continue your development if your brand new and not quite ready to hop into leading public classes. Usually you will have the ability to lead karma based classes which integrate your areas of refinement and work out the kinks.

However you direct the path of your own training and prospective teachings, understand what your focus is and let that determine the kind of experiences you wish to gain out of your course.

Also understand that many teachers are part-time (2-10 classes/week) and usually offer their classes outside of their full 40hr/wk jobs on weekends or evenings. This is helpful as they have the support of their FT work and can start supplementing with their passion and love of yoga. Full-time teachers (usually 12-20 classes/week) are optimal as well as the time slots that are less ideal or accessible to the more senior teachers will be the beginning of you establishing your name and reputation in your community and industry.

Remember as well that there are always tons of subbing opportunities which can be a viable and consistent gig without needing to commit regularly to a set time on a schedule. Subbing classes also allows you to supplement your regular classes you teach if you either need or want more exposure or financial cushioning that pay cheque.

Now you’ve completed your RYT-200 training and are a Registered Yoga Teacher… Now What?

With the nonstop overflow of newly certified RYT-200 graduates, it’s less significant that you have one due to the commonality of it. That doesn’t have anything to do with YOU as a teacher, however it does mean you may need to consider some continuing education. Whether it’s finding a mentorship program with your studio and/or your 200hr trainer for further refinements, there’s many options. For instance, I knew I wanted to be a Yin teacher and this led me into a Yin Yoga TT for 70hrs with one my regular teachers and it gave me that bit of a ‘niché’ on my resume. Although one may think it’ll be a walk on the mat to acquire a job as a teacher, only a select handful manage to break ground straight out of their initial 200hr. in fact, the amount of teachers seeking work (even volunteer work) is significantly higher in relation to what is available to them.

When I started teaching right away, I wasn’t able to find any paid work and decided I would take absolutely any teaching opportunities I could even if I wasn’t being financially compensated… I needed that practice to get my feet wet and my words fluid.

Teaching volunteer/karma yoga is one of the most satisfying forms of service and being able to do it through your love of yoga is a win/win scenario. Depending on your financial situation and working scenario, it will be most likely you could start with 1 or 2 weekly volunteer classes at your local community centre or gym. in Vancouver, BC where I live, the Robert Lee YMCA is usually where ALL newer teachers start out (I was with them for 2.5 years regularly!).

After you begin feeling more confident and steeped in your voice as a teacher, holding the space for your students of all backgrounds etc. then you will be more prepared for teaching in a studio setting. Some teachers go right into studio teaching and succeed with the right luck, timing and natural teaching ability. In order to teach for a studio, you will need insurance and CPR. Insurance can be invested in through different places and I would suggest Lackner-Mclellan in Ontario and for CPR you can take a 1 day course or even a 2hr session which is warrant for 1 year.

You will either have a traditional interview with the studio manager or director of the business you approach and/or an audition. Most auditions in my experience have been where you will teach a very short sample of the style you are wanting to get hired for. These samples are max 7 minutes and sometimes as short as 4-5 minutes! Come prepared and ready to present your teaching with confidence, inclusivity and diversity. You want to ensure your prospective employers that not only do you have a strong committed practice when leading your audition, but also when your the student for your fellow teachers you would be auditioning with! Everything you will be saying and doing in the auditions are an opportunity to demonstrate your worthiness for being hired by the studio/gym etc. your applying with.

Most studio positions will highly prefer (not limited too) teachers who’ve taught for 2 years already and understand the concepts and dynamics of leading public drop-in classes. Now, if you were to approach a more corporate teaching setting… thats a different clientele and environment! You have the ability to either reach out to your business relationships that may either seek or already have a program set up. This can allow you to also set your own rate unless they are firm in the budget they can afford for your services. There are also corporate yoga businesses which hire you and they set up everything which means you just go to the businesses office location and show up to teach those employees. This usually will mean you are set at a flat rate by your corporate yoga provider with little to no room for financial advancement.

With regards to expected financial compensation as a teacher, it can vary significantly especially where you live and the establishment of the industry in the city/town. For teachers just starting out with under 2 years of experience you will most likely earn $25-40 per class taught (gyms tend to pay less, studios tend to pay more but not necessarily). Once you’ve been teaching 2+ years & consideration of development i.e. hours of teaching/education and your class numbers etc. your studio director may recognize this and automatically raise your rate. You also might approach the matter on your own and ask to renegotiate your contract and clearly addressing why you deserve a higher compensation for your services.

It seems the average standard pay rate for teachers varying 3+ years is roughly $45 per class or hour and can eventually increase to a max of $50. These numbers are not fully set in stone, nor am I saying every single teacher is being compensated at this amount, there are always exceptions and higher amounts are able to be earned over time, commitment and seniority etc.

Through my own evaluation of general salary ranges as a Full-Time teacher, here is what I calculated based on a 15 and 20 class weekly schedule:

☆ at $45/15 classes = 32.4k / 43.2k

☆ at $50/15 classes = 36k / 48k

The above bolded numbers are a fair range of where your earning potential could eventually be with the right set up as a teacher.

The below numbers are not nearly as realistic, however anything is possible with the optimal opportunities you may acquire

☆ at $55/15 classes = 39.6k / 52.8k

☆ at $60/15 classes = 43.2k / 57.6k

☆ at $65/15 classes = 46.8k / 62.4k

☆ at $70/15 classes = 50.4k / 67.2k

☆ at $75/15 classes = 54k / 72k

☆ at $80/15 classes = 57.6k / 76.8k

☆ at $85/15 classes = 61.2k / 81.6k

☆ at $90/15 classes = 64.8k / 86.4k

☆ at $95/15 classes = 68.4k / 91.2k

☆ at $100/15 classes = 72k / 96k

Another few pieces of advice I will shed awareness on:

Having your phone close by you and your e-mail constantly active. The amount of emergency and last minute situations that you will encounter in your teaching career allows you to step in and rescue not only that class, but establish trust/reputation with you and the studio/facility.

Burnout… yes it is a real thing! I’ve burnt out a couple times since beginning my teaching career and through each time it has been a blessing in disguise. When you’re new to anything, the passion and enthusiasm for self-learning is high. This is a time when you are able to take gigs wherever they may present themselves to you. It’s important to know your boundaries including how far you are willing to commute to teach a class but know that the more groups of people/students you can access will quicken your skills/observations as a budding teacher. I traveled as far as Steveston and Lynn Valley for teaching until I acquired enough regular teaching gigs in my core community. Prevent yourself burning out by knowing when to say NO and discern what you are willing and able to output for your return on investment.

Although it may seem like common sense… really make sure not to SUB out your classes once you acquire them. Unless you’re legitimately sick and need rest, you’re out of town travelling, family/medical emergencies arise etc- 100% make that your priority… SELF CARE comes first. When you sub your classes out it shows a lack of commitment and dedication to not only the studio, but the students who you are continually working to accumulate as a following.

Yoga is a full on business which tends to be driven by class numbers and retention of studentship/members… it’s just the reality that needs to be accepted. Once you can process this fact, then it will hopefully be easier to accept you are a service provider and the service just happen to be “Yoga.”

Understand that as much honour and ownership you can take in ‘your class,’ in the end of the day you are a ‘time slot.’ Whether it’s because you draw the people in through your own teaching style and/or teaching a primetime slot, even experienced teachers will have varied attendances. Don’t take it personally when your classes either have minimal students and remember to remain humble and gracious when you have a busier class.

Furthermore, like the fashion/beauty industries (which I left for this one now ironically,) the Yoga/Health/Wellness business is strongly, strongly image biased when it comes to whom is provided certain opportunities and exposure in the community.

Nobody wants to talk about it, that’s natural as it isn’t a comfortable and airy subject. More and more thanks to social media through YouTube/Instagram etc. there is no extinction of viral yogalebrities who showcase their practices online.

These for the most part are a collection of extremely physically/acrobatic asanas and contortion which they give the title too as ‘Yoga.’ Asana is a huge key to everyone’s practice and lineage, however in an industry that’s here to not strictly enlighten the physical form, this gets easily lost within the spotlight of the roots of ‘Yoga.’

Whether you’re a slender, flexible and natural babe type, the buff spiritual hippie surfer type, there are many typecasts in the industry that a general demographic will resonate with superficially and energetically. For those that don’t fit that or something like it (or anything that captures the eye/brain) it CAN sometimes become a challenge to establish your voice and intention because you need to connect with the people who can see through the exterior and into the heart of practice. The industry is also very female predominant which is wonderful, however not when it has now began to reduce the open mindedness of other women and also men that feel inadequate. Given that the founders of Yoga primarily were Men, it’s interesting that so many look at yoga as feminine or anything with that context.

Take me for example, I’m an average guy next door, I’m not overly tall or a super-jacked gym type that blasts photos/posts about what my physical body can perform. I’m not talking about subject matters that are superficial or exterior and instead cutting through that into the depths and less highlighted matters.

AGE/GENDER/SEXUALITY/VOICE/IMAGE/DEMOGRAPHIC/TARGET MARKET and anything else that people unconsciously identify or consciously discriminate with are all the factors that can play part in the attendance of your public/corporate classes. I am not a cookie cutter or mainstream person or teacher nor do I look the type… I’m proud of that whole heartedly, however it makes the initial path a tougher one because the ability to just ‘blend in’ isn’t possible nor desirable.

Beware of the fact that although you are a CONTRACTOR that there are some managers who will mistake you for am EMPLOYEE. You are only responsible and accountable for the terms and conditions that are mutually and legally consented on between you and them.

DO NOT TEACH AND PROVIDE YOUR SERVICES ANYWHERE WITHOUT A SIGNED CONTRACT. Without mutually consensual terms and conditions between you and your employer you are unable to have any security both in payment and classes.

I have experienced this the hard way and you may as well not repeat the same actions, stand your ground and honour your rights as a contractor verbatim.

If it is not legally bound in writing then it is not an official sub contractor agreement.

Any scenario that occurs between you and the studio or business your affiliated with that is NOT associated within that contract means you have FULL permission to host workshops/events/classes with other businesses. Remember your rights and regulations as a contractor and discern the appropriate relationships and courses of action accordingly.

What this also comes down too is the whole concept of ‘popularity’ within this industry and how some think that the more followers, students, high class numbers, your level of asana technique etc. has merit and warrant. The fact is… it can and it DOES. This is where the whole practice and lineage of ‘Yoga’ becomes an even more contraindicating and hypocritical industry/culture/lifestyle. All the above will also play a part in the way you are provided public/private/corporate and community based gigs/roles… even if the person beside you actually may be the better optimal choice. The industry is cut throat and competitive in ways that you will not know until you are able to delve further into it and learn from personal experience.

For example, seniority in both teaching and following will be a complex you will face nonstop as you both start brand new and from there on… do your best to not take it personally regardless if it may be the case or not. Your time will come at the time it is meant too and simply OWN the privileges you have at that time to keep learning and refining your True Identity.

Building your voice and brand takes effort, patience and consistent attention. I strongly encourage newer teachers in this generation to be active with Facebook and Instagram as this is a way to freely promote your classes without paying any money. This lets potential employers in the industry to connect with you and get you more work or even sponsorships for their product/brands!

Remain rooted in your core values, ethics, morals and integrity as a human and a teacher. Be punctual, accountable and lead by example for your fellow students accordingly. Start and end your classes ON TIME to respect your students schedules as well as the potential teacher/class that follows yours. Be present with the students and individuals you are with when you’re in the class room and the studio, you can access your life outside of that realm when you take the ‘hat’ off!

One last insight and experience, as close as you might feel to your mentors and directors, as I said this industry is cut throat and like life- fear based. I have been betrayed by former mentors and peers I once viewed as my role model or idol. Be very conscious of those you confide in as a person or employer in order to protect your own heart/career.

Burnout as mentioned before is definitely not a joke. Adrenaline is pumping when your rushing like a starving artist through studio to studio… your holding space for sometimes hundreds of people in a single day and need to remain composed and have your head on straight. You may end up leading multiple styles of classes and that takes time to adapt seamlessly for one to the other with sometimes only 10 minutes between classes.

With all the information I’ve provided to you, this is more than enough for one to digest for hours. What I hope my writing has been able to instil within you is a sense of reassurance and confidence toward the conscious decision of embarking on a teaching career in yoga. There are many other subjects and topics which I could discuss in the future, but this will give you the main facts and allow you to discern the key components that you want to apply when investing in this direction.
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And now a little bit about me!

We all start with different intentions and processes in our Self-Care via Health+Fitness+Wellness and for me personally I wanted to feel connected with a like minded and unified community through common activity. Yoga happened to be one that appealed to me as a late Teenager and after throwing my anxious erratic 18 Y/O Self into the studio, I knew I had began a path that would bring me where I knew I was looking to be.

My passion and voice in my teaching comes from the most inward depths of my own life experience and wisdom, I don’t speak from a place outside of what I know or think I understand.

When I decided to embark toward my first Yoga Teacher Training, I knew my intention from the get go… to make this a full time sustainable passion/career/lifestyle in one. I never have and never will view yoga as a place for the “Physical” Asana as the standalone or primary emphasis. When people ask me why I started and continue to discover myself with Yoga, it is for the emotional/mental/spiritual and energetic tethering that keeps me inspired to keep practicing and teaching others.

What I have been explaining above here is called “Dharma” – the WHY and the purpose behind the voice and identity of what being a “Yoga Teacher” exemplifies for me as a human being in this world.

For more information about my journey to teaching yoga, spin and pilates you can visit my main website below here:

www.trueidentityproject.com

Follow me on Instagram @HiiroPrince

Email me any inquiries about this post:
Prince.Hiiro@Gmail.Com and I’ll happily reply to you!
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  1. caroline

    Great piece with practical tips and good insight about this industry. Its a good read for newbies and long timers. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

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