The majority of people sign up for yoga teacher training compelled by a deep desire to develop themselves on a personal level and to find some happiness in a world where that vibration is increasingly difficult to feel let alone maintain.
Very few begin with the intention to make a full time career out of teaching, and that is how it should be. Yoga is all about self development after all; the “yoking of all layers of self” in order to find true freedom. Asana has very little to do with it but of course, that is the lure that hooks most people in; that and the promise that your life will change in ways you could never imagine. And it will, but how is up to you, not the piece of paper with your credentials on it.
One thing is for certain: your new career path will undoubtedly be the making after the breaking of you.
The statistics for those who continue on after completing courses to carve a successful niche for themselves in what we know is an over saturated market nowadays, are actually very slim. Longevity tends to wane around the two-year mark when (for most people) the reality of what is actually involved, kicks in. Either that or injury. Or fatigue. Or both.
Here are a few common scenarios that confront every newly trained yogi.
1 Teaching to small classes.
Showing up for every scheduled class regardless of how many people turn up to practice with you, takes commitment. I remember in my early days teaching to one, sometimes only 4 students and barely covering my rent and often my fellow trainees would refuse to teach just one person because ‘it wasn’t worth my while.’ I thought that was atrocious, the yoga equivalent of the Evangelista syndrome, you know, the “I won’t get out of bed for less than $10,000” one. If someone made the effort to come to my class, the least I could do was respect them and stay to teach. Who knows how much that could affect their life, and it was all experience that I needed as a beginner teacher that’s for sure. Some of my greatest insights came from those impromptu private sessions and the client was always so appreciative, they came back week after week. 17 years on and some of them are still my regulars and I feel so blessed for that. Remember that originally yoga was taught by teacher to student on a one to one basis. Never underestimate the power of small.
2 Payment is (often) a beearch.
Well honestly, as a beginner teacher you seriously can’t expect to be paid the same rate as someone who has earned their stripes (and reputation) teaching for 10 years! Many moons ago when I was working in gyms – yep, before yoga was a buzzword in the gym world believe it or not – the whole pay situation was a joke, literally less than $40 per class. I knew I was worth more than that for the effort I put in and the time I spent preparing, traveling etc, so I instigated a conversation between the main yoga organisations about what actually was acceptable pay for yoga instructors. No-one knew! This eventually led to an award wage scale being created so that teachers weren’t taken for granted, and also ensured that those with experience, were recognised and paid accordingly. Up until then, gyms (especially) were free to pay whatever they wanted because there were so many yoga teachers wanting jobs, and that of course wasn’t an ethical or energetically healthy situation. You deserve to be paid, but in alignment with your qualifications. Know that owning your own studio is not a guarantee of financial abundance either.
3 Doing workshops immediately qualifies you to teach that information.
This is a big concern with so many workshops on offer now. Workshops are designed to be exactly as the name implies – an opportunity to ‘work’ on your skills whilst learning and observing some new ones on offer. It’s not a teacher training that instantly qualifies you to teach the content yourself. Information shared in specific workshops and (usually and ideally) led by senior teachers with a plethora of hard earned knowledge, is the ‘green’ teachers’ chance to question, enquire and explore their own growing yogic journey. I know as newbies we’re excited to share but it’s not a chance to regurgitate someone elses’ words or theories because those theories need to be embodied before they can be safely shared with others. By all means attend workshops and gather your CPD points but honour the teacher, yourself and your future students also by taking time to integrate the information so you know exactly how the work feels and what it does. Quality over quantity remember.
4 Finding your own voice.
This is really important and relates to point three as well. It takes time to discover your unique abilities and particular teaching voice plus gain trust in yourself so you feel comfortable and confident being that someone that students rely upon for all manner of support. It also takes time to grow as a human with all this new yoga philosophy you have absorbed, and that is a process that will continue for the rest of your life once you’ve got your certificate and secured your first job. Every day and every class will be different and that is where your commitment to being a connected and insightful human being will surpass any training you have received. You need this time to ‘cut your teeth’ so to speak and deal with a whole gamut of presentations from bodies, minds and hearts, day to day. You cannot grow as a teacher unless you have this time, so embrace your uniqueness, trust in what you are sharing and offering, but please be patient! Your ‘success’ as a teacher ultimately comes down to your innate ability to read bodies, relate to students, understand what they are going through and being able to manipulate energy safely and profoundly so that each person leaves your space feeling as if you were teaching just to them. This takes time; a lot of it. Make time your FRIEND and speak YOUR truth, not someone else’s. There’s only one you after all.
5 Seek out an experienced mentor.
This is an absolute necessity and remarkably only a recent offering as when I was studying we were basically left to our own devices as far as further education and post course support went. I took the initiative and found local senior teachers (in different styles) to study under and constantly enrolled in courses because I wanted to be better at my craft. And at me. Mentoring is not always a given with YTT’s, nor is it always free. I believe if you’ve trained with a studio, the onus is on the senior teachers/owners to ensure you continue to uphold the teachings, the integrity of yoga and grow into a fully conscious yogi or yogini, in the spirit of yoga! It is also in their best interests so that the community is kept safe; that you are sharing their particular ‘brand’ of yoga properly and precisely; and that you feel happy and supported on your continuing journey. Sure there can be an exchange of some sort if that is what both parties agree upon, either monetarily or gift wise, up to you, but the mentor-student relationship actually benefits both parties, so I find it hard to justify charging. This is my personal opinion however and probably not shared with many, but in my experience so far, my greatest rewards have come in those moments when my student has become my teacher. I’ve nurtured countless yogis over the years and know my work is done when I see them embodying their full potential and I realise I have learned something new! Yoga mentoring is 100% reciprocal and it’s a great privilege to mentor another’s path. That’s priceless.
Like anything in life there is a plethora of scenarios and situations that can influence who we are in any given moment and for the amateur yogi this is felt in one place more than anywhere else – on their sticky mat.
Everything that you are going through, dealing with, avoiding, creating, destroying and hoping to manifest, will be shown to you through the texture of your cellular and energetic bodies each time you step onto your colourful rectangle of truth. Your body doesn’t lie and neither does anyone else’s. Remember this and remember also that yoga is at its’ essence, a complex yet profoundly simple process of accumulation, integration, embodiment and elimination – on repeat – and you’re on your way to becoming a great teacher. And a great human.
Being authentic is key also. Some of the ‘best’ teachers I know – yes, the ‘great’ ones – are the ones who willingly sit in their stuff each day and are not afraid of allowing others to see they are struggling or not stepping up according to some invisible standard or agenda. They can embrace pain, laugh at confusion and receive whatever manifests in their lives in each and every moment – whether their ego likes it or not – because they know they are a work in progress and they understand that yoga is a sacred tool that helps them navigate being human. They get that the journey is the juiciest part where we get to discover who we are, what we are not and how we are all just travellers learning to become our fullest and highest selves again.
Always be mindful that as a yoga teacher you are in a position of great privilege, and power, and this is why you must teach from your heart and direct experience. You must be a conduit of source – of LOVE – and you must show up in that space no matter how you are feeling on any given day. You must learn how to plug into this energy when you need to, to remain true, connected and REAL.
If you relate to all of this and have committed to teaching yoga either part or full time, know that it will take you to places inside and outside of yourself that were previously inconceivable. It will take you away from your family, out of your comfort zone, connect you with wonderful people around the world and lead you on soul journeys you may never have imagined possible, but it will never lead you astray and it should never take you out of your integrity or pull you out of your truth.
Stay in your heart. Do the work. Be real and be YOU.
Do that, and I KNOW you’ll be GREAT.
AUM & LOVE