Last month, we watched our 2019 class of yoga teacher trainees set off into the big wide world, starting their new careers as yoga instructors.
This motivated bunch had been picking up classes before they’d even finished their final exams, helping out trainees from previous years by covering their classes. Teaching as quickly as you can after graduation (or even before if that’s possible) is really important for a new yoga instructor. You’ll never be more prepared than you are at that point. This is why we accept a number of our graduates straight onto our timetable within days of them completing their final exams. The only way for them to become better yoga teachers is to teach. And, while some yoga teacher training schools, take the approach of asking their graduates to go and get their experience elsewhere before they’ll consider them for their studio, we see it as our role to nurture and support our new instructors. There’s no better place for them to learn the ropes than with us. That way we know they’ll develop to be the type of teacher we need them to be.
If you’re a new qualified yoga teacher, here’s the top 10 tips we share with our trainees that you may find useful:
1. Don’t work for free
Do be prepared to start on a more junior rate but never work for free. You’ve paid a lot for your training and it’s important to start earning that back.
2. Be as flexible as you can be
Over time you may be able to pick and choose your hours but in the beginning being flexible will open up more opportunities for you. Take all the classes you can, get as much experience as you can, be available to take cover classes as often as possible. The more opportunities you get to teach, the better teacher you will become.
3. Be realistic about the necessary changes to your lifestyle
Many people choose to train to be a yoga teacher as they want to work less structured hours. While a more flexible working week is definitely possible, you also have to be realistic about when during the day you need to be available to teach. Just because you are free at 3pm on a Monday, it doesn’t mean that anyone wants to take a yoga class then. The busiest (and largest demand) for yoga classes is in the evenings and weekend mornings, and that means you need to be free then too.
4. Keep up your own yoga practice
The most common complaint of new yoga instructors is that they lose any time to take yoga classes themselves. Finding time to practice yoga is important. Remember, this is the thing you loved so much that you wanted to make a career out of it, so don’t lose it. Look for ways that you can make it easier to fit a class for you into your schedule. Can you teach an early evening class at a studio and stay on to practice the later one, for example? Continuing to be a yoga student will give you inspiration for planning your own yoga classes, it will keep your teaching fresh and it will continually remind you of why you enjoy yoga so much. You’ll then bring that enthusiasm and passion into your teaching. Stop practicing and you risk you and your classes becoming stale.
5. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need
Don’t provide mats, blocks, bolsters for your classes. It’s an expense you can’t afford when you’re starting out. Work for a studio who provides those things, or tell people they need to bring their own. In the beginning plan simple classes where equipment like blocks, bricks and straps aren’t needed. Once you start to generate an income from your teaching, you can add those things in.
6. Hone the skills you have before you invest in more
At the end of a 200 hour yoga teacher training programme it can sometimes feel like you’ve just scratched the surface of yoga and there’s still so much you have to learn. Focus on what you do know. You know a lot! So, before you jump into signing up for workshop after workshop in an endeavour to improve your knowledge and skills, spend at least six months putting into practice what you’ve learnt. That will give you a strong foundation to add on to. The best thing you can do in the beginning is simply teach. Much of your learning will then come on the job as you work with real people with real bodies.
7. Be adaptable
Yoga studios are commercial enterprises, whatever yoga class you teach they need to be able to sell. So, don’t simply approach the studio telling them what you can teach. Instead take a look at their timetable, attend their classes, get a feel for their style and tell them which of the classes on their schedule you’d be able to take on. This is far more likely to get you a job than hoping they’re keen to start offering Kundalini yoga.
8. Be professional
You may have turned your back on the corporate world and be keen for a less restrictive employment arrangement, or working environment, e.g. one where you can just be yourself, work when you choose to etc. but professional conduct is still really important. If you work for a studio, even in a freelance capacity, you are still working for a business. For that business to run smoothly, you will need to play you part; be responsive to emails, arrive on time, submit your invoices in a prompt manner etc. Studios look for instructors who are easy to work with and who they can rely on. Also, when you’re at the studio, make yourself invaluable, speak to clients, help out the reception team etc. Being a team player who helps make the studio a success will put you ahead of the game when other opportunities come along.
9. Don’t give up the day job (just yet)
You love yoga, teaching gives you a massive buzz and you’ve decided that’s all you want to do. You’re ready to throw in the towel on your day job and be a full-time instructor. There are people out there who make a full-time living out of yoga teaching but it doesn’t happen straightaway. It takes time to build up a schedule of studio classes and to develop your own yoga classes. Most full-time yoga instructors supplement teaching classes with yoga workshops, retreats, clothing ranges etc. Definitely have a goal and a plan of how you’ll get there but be prepared for it to happen slowly. Keep the day job going for a while as you build things, perhaps drop down to just 3 or 4 days a week (if that’s possible), but don’t presume it will all happen overnight and be careful of placing all of your eggs in one basket.
10. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing
Putting yourself out there as a new yoga teacher is a daunting experience. In the early years for every full class you have there will be an empty one right round the corner. It can be hard not to doubt yourself. Your Instagram feed will be full of other yoga teachers showing you how they are living “their best life”, photos of their full to the brim yoga classes, retreats, workshops, the great feedback they’re getting from their clients and all the other amazing successes they are having. Remember, social media is not reality. They (just like you) are only sharing the best bits. Don’t worry about them. Focus on you, follow your plan and you’ll get there.