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5 Tips For New Yoga Teachers

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Before you read this post, I encourage you to listen to Episode 3 of Andrea’s podcast! In the episode I expand on the ideas presented here, plus you’ll get to hear my opinion on the concept of “yogalebrity.”

Like all livelihoods, teaching yoga comes with challenges that can lead to burnout if they’re not managed. Here are five essential tips to help you manage the stresses of teaching yoga so that you can savor your career and guide your students without crashing and burning.

1. Adjust Your Expectations

Teaching yoga is a soulful, satisfying job, but it’s not for the faint of heart. You’ll go through significant financial ups and downs. You’ll have your ego over-inflated one day and raked through the coals the next day. And, you’ll probably work more hours than you think. This isn’t to dissuade you from being a teacher. It’s to help you have clear expectations about the livelihood you’ve chosen. When your expectations are in-line with the reality of teaching yoga, you’re much more likely to be happy and satisfied as a teacher.

2.Consider Why You Want To Teach

Teaching yoga and practicing yoga are not the same thing. Most of us start teaching yoga because we love practicing yoga. But, eating food is not the same experience as cooking food — or running a restaurant. If you want to teach yoga — especially if you want to teach yoga full-time and support yourself or your family — you’ll need to love teaching yoga, not just practicing yoga. You’ll need to love the subject matter of yoga, the experience of running a small business, and the process of engaging with students and community.

3. Try to Work Efficiently

Inefficient teaching schedules are one of the biggest sources of burnout in our livelihood. Simply put, most teachers are spread too thin. Most teachers only teach a couple of classes per day, but they’re almost never back-to-back. You might teach a class in the morning followed by one several hours later in the afternoon or evening. This type of schedule makes it hard to get things done or fully relax. This leads to a feeling of always “being on.”

One way to counter this is to teach more back-to-back hours. This might mean scheduling a few private clients at the studio before or after your class. Another effective strategy is to start teaching a series or two per quarter — or occasional workshops — in order to earn enough that you can let go of a class or two in your schedule that is stretching you too thin.

4. Find a Mentor

Everyone needs to know that they’re not alone. And, in fact, you’re not alone. Every yoga teacher experiences the same range of emotions, challenges, and joys at some point in their career. Some teachers are further ahead of you on the path just as you might be further ahead on the path than others. One of the most important ways to stay inspired, focused, and grounded is to develop a professional relationship with a more seasoned teacher. Receiving a mentor’s guidance and support will help you stay connected to your practice and your teaching for many, many years.

5. Remember That Social Media Is Not Real Life

Social media is not real life. This isn’t to say that it’s fake, unreal or insincere. It’s simply to say that social media does not reflect the totality of people’s lives. It’s a curated slice of life that skews toward the more exciting and appealing events that people experience. Personally, I think this makes sense. That said, it’s important that we remember these dynamics so that we don’t feel like we’re being left behind or failing when we see other people’s big classes or beautiful postures. Every well-known teacher has small classes sometimes, and they have postures that don’t feel good or balanced in their body. Everyone. Even more, life is more than big classes and awesome poses. So, be sure that you take what you see in social media in stride. Accept it (and maybe even appreciate it for what it is) without letting it drive you crazy.



10 Comments

  1. Hi Jason,

    These are five really great tips for new teachers and more seasoned teachers alike! I suggest adding tip #6. Personal Practice. Too often teachers are juggling many aspects that you mentioned above: running a small business, travel time, public and private classes, family life, workshops, retreats, on and on! What slips away is the personal practice. We can’t draw water from an empty well. Teachers need to practice, and if that means putting that time on the calendar like any other commitment, make it happen! The students will benefit and it becomes a self feeding cycle! The chance for burn out diminishes.

  2. Umm…this assumes that you can get hired in the first place. RYSs are grinding out yoga teachers like so much hamburger. The marketplace is flooded to the point that the competition is overwhelming, particularly in large metropolitan areas. EVERYONE and their brother (and sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle, and best friend) is a yoga teacher nowadays (or calls themselves one). Yes, adjust your expectations: do not assume you will even be hired to do what you trained for.

    1. Thanks, PS. Yeah, it’s a tough market out there. And, it’s not unlike other livelihoods with regards to hiring. Not everyone that graduates from a discipline gets a job in that field–or, at least not right away. Fortunately, the vast majority of teachers that I’ve trained over the years are working in the field. And, truthfully, the 200-hr certification that most teachers have is not enough to get them hired in certain locations–just like some jobs require graduate degrees instead of bachelor’s degrees. This is definitely the trend. And, you’re right. It’s a tough trend and we should be prepared for it. Thanks for your feedback.

      1. Forget about 200-hour training – I’m talking about a 500-hour certification, PLUS specialized training on top of that. 500-hour certifications are a dime a dozen. None of this training guarantees you will get a job. And you have to accept from the start that you will not get back in earnings what you paid out for training. Just something to be aware of when you ask yourself, “Should I go for yoga teacher training?”.

        1. Sorry you’re having such a tough time, PS. I don’t think there’s any field in which you’re guaranteed employment. And, there are many factors involved in employment other than training. I hope things shift toward the positive for you.

  3. Thanks Sean for a great article. I started teaching this past September so I could relate to your piece. Continuing to practice with my favorite teachers has been very helpful as well.

  4. Teaching yoga is a soulful, satisfying job, but it s not for the faint of heart. You ll go through significant financial ups and downs. You ll have your ego over-inflated one day and raked through the coals the next day. And, you ll probably work more hours than you think. This isn t to dissuade you from being a teacher. It s to help you have clear expectations about the livelihood you ve chosen. When your expectations are in-line with the reality of teaching yoga, you re much more likely to be happy and satisfied as a teacher.

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