5 things every aspiring teacher wants to know
By Jessica Humphries
Do I need to put my feet behind my head?
The short answer is, of course, no. There are many different yoga teachers who teach many different styles. If you aspire to be an Ashtanga yoga teacher, for example, your physical practice will need to be strong. However, if you want to teach yin or restorative yoga, or even vinyasa yoga, there’s no need to have a picture-perfect practice. One of the wonderful things about teaching yoga is the creativity and freedom to express your own unique style. There will likely come a point in your teaching career where you want to challenge yourself and your students physically. In the meantime, if you don’t want to teach handstands, you don’t have to.
How long after my training before I’ll be ready to teach?
The best time to begin teaching is as soon as you’ve finished your teacher training. The information is fresh, you’ve had a lot of teaching practice and it’s the best time to dive in. If you wait too long, you may lose motivation and forget a lot of what you learned. You could start by teaching at gyms or offices (corporate classes). The students in these environments will likely be less experienced than studio practitioners, and so it takes the pressure off for you.
How can I overcome my fear of public speaking?
Teaching yoga and public speaking aren’t exactly the same thing. A lot of the time you won’t be completely exposed – your students will be focusing on their posture, or they will have their heads down in a down dog or child’s pose. Remember, you’re teaching to share the gift of yoga, not show off your public speaking skills. If you ever feel overwhelmed, put your students into child’s pose and take a few breaths. It’s almost impossible to be nervous for the duration of a class – you will begin to relax after a few minutes or so.
Do I need to understand the ins and outs of anatomy?
Some people are naturals when it comes to the science-y aspects of yoga, while many of us are drawn to the creative aspects of the practice. An understanding of anatomy is not a prerequisite for taking a yoga teacher training, and you will learn enough to keep your students safe (even if you are a complete novice).
As you become more experienced you will likely feel the yearning to understand more about what’s going on beneath the surface – both physically and philosophically. Initially, if anatomy isn’t your strong point, it will help to think about it from a very practical perspective. The knee joint, for example, is a hinge joint, meaning that it can rotate backwards and forwards but not much from side to side – especially if there is an injury. That’s why it’s so important to keep the knee above the ankle in warrior poses, and why someone who has an injury would be more comfortable in a lunge than a revolved triangle pose where there is some side rotation in the knee. These are the kinds of things you will learn in your teacher training.
You are certainly not expected to have the knowledge of a physio or doctor, but you are expected to keep your students safe. As a general rule, always advise your injured students to steer clear of anything that causes discomfort, and don’t give advice that you’re not qualified to. It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’
Can I make money as a yoga teacher?
Sometimes working for the man in a nine-to-five feels much more secure than the lack of a predictable income. More and more yoga studios are hiring teachers as staff these days, and so you may be able to find that same security within the yoga industry. However, many of us remain sub-contracting teachers and with that comes not only a sense of freedom and flexibility, but a lack of financial security.
As a self-employed yoga teacher teaching group classes, you can expect to make somewhere between $50-$80 per hour, and so would need to be teaching a minimum of about 10 classes per week, but likely a lot more if that’s your only source of income. Although some teachers thrive off of teaching a lot, most of us become quickly burnt out, miss our personal practice and lose our enthusiasm when we take on too much. Remember, this hourly rate does not take into account the time you have spent preparing sequences, driving to the studio location and signing in students.
Fortunately, there are many ways to diversify your income as a teacher and make a living in the yoga industry.
- Workshops and Masterclasses – Offer at studios you’re already teaching for, or hire a space and do your own thing. You could offer anything from a six-week beginners’ course to a half-day yoga and art workshop.
- Private and small group classes – Tell your friends, and collaborate with accommodation providers or healing professionals.
- Corporate classes – You can increase your regular rate and help to bring some calm and healing to stiff office workers.
- Retreats – Can be hit or miss financially, but if you love to travel you may get a free holiday.
- The Internet – Start a Youtube channel, offer online courses or become a social media influencer.
- Writing and blogging – Pitch to a print or online magazine.
- Work for other businesses – Perfect if you have a background in marketing, web design or IT. Help out other yoga businesses that can use your expertise. Or keep your day job and teach yoga on the side.
Words by Jessica Humphries for Australian Yoga Journal.