This is an update to an article originally published on July 30, 2015. It has been refreshed and revised to for your reading pleasure.
Right now, I am in the midst of planning my fall and winter workshops and retreats.
In addition to offering the signature Elemental Yin Yang yoga classes that have helped me build a strong community of students, I also have the opportunity to coach current and soon-to-be teachers during teacher training and business bootcamps.
There is so much to cover when it comes to the world of teaching and the yoga industry, but one topic that I always circle back to is knowing your value and self-worth as an instructor.
As a teacher, it is easy to feel at times that you are the luckiest person on earth to be able to do this work. You may love it so much that you want to teach for free or offer everyone you know a huge discount on your (probably) already reasonably priced classes.
While I have written extensively on this topic, I want to share a few ways you can add value to your classes without selling yourself short in the self-worth or financial department.
The following is an excerpt from my book The A-Z of Being a Successful Yoga Teacher
I travel to different studios to teach workshops and business boot camps for yoga teachers (my next one is in April in Owen Sound) and the big mystery for many instructors is how to get their foot in the door at a yoga studio.
While many use the path of their YTT program to get to know the owner or director at the studio they are hoping to work at, it is not financially responsible to go through teacher training with the sole focus of teaching at that one space exclusively.
Most full and part time teachers need to build a schedule that includes studio classes, private groups, workshops or longer trainings to make a sustainable income.
So how do you approach a studio owner or director for a teaching job?
I asked my friend Katie McClelland for some honest insight.
After fifteen years of teaching yoga, I have to say, it is still my dream job.
Right now I am in Hawaii for a month. That would not be possible with a traditional 9-5.
My schedule is completely within my control.
Even when I was single and living alone a just a few years ago, I ran a financially successful business that included only classes and clients I adored working with and learned from constantly.
I feel fortunate to have been able to cultivate the entrepreneurial drive and build relationships that helped to make this possible.
But I realize that sadly, my experience with the business of yoga is rare.
Many teachers struggle with burnout and financial difficulties. In my book The A-Z of Being a Successful Yoga Teacher, I share many of the practical tools I use to help other instructors take their business seriously.
But the first few years of establishing yourself take work plain and simple.
In preparation for my spring Elemental Yin Yang Teacher Training I have been going through past articles and notes from classes designed for newer teachers surrounding their business set up and today I wanted to share a few pieces of advice important for every new teacher.
As yoga teachers, there is so much to learn.
There is the deep study of movement and the body in your teacher training program (and beyond).
There is ongoing inner development that must occur in order to stand at the front of the class and offer true insight to a group of people.
Then there is a learning that happens through trial and error, experimenting with different cues, and methods to find your style as an instructor.
But, many yoga teachers don't know that when they signed up for this career they were also becoming entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Any successful yoga teacher knows that in order to make this profession sustainable you spend just as much time on the administrative and business side of your teaching as you do leading classes.
And you have a choice here.
You can curse that fact that suddenly you are no longer simply a yoga educator, but a marketer, hustler, bookkeeper etc.
or you can make "the business of yoga" fun.
When you first started teaching did you have this experience?
One day you shifted from being a yoga student, fully present to what you were experiencing and open to what teachers in the classes you attend had to say, to suddenly being a teacher yourself and attending classes less for your own growth than to have fresh content for your students?
Many of us experience a version of this.
Yoga starts as a practice of self-inquiry and morphs into lengthy critique full of mental note taking.
While some instructors re-learn how to let their time on the mat be for self-practice and nothing more, many teachers get stuck permanently trying to figure out how to mold someone else's style into their own when they enjoy a class, or pinpoint every flaw in classes they don't.
The analytical process is an important and useful tool when you learn how and when to use it. However, some yoga teachers head deeper down that path into the land of frustration and disillusionment because they feel that so many people are teaching yoga "wrong."
I know instructors that have quit taking classes with their peers.
They get so distracted by how many "mistakes" other teachers are making in regards to asana and disagree with various theories and philosophy (sometimes even if the other instructor teaches the same style of yoga they do) that they just don't bother making the effort to attend classes.
Maybe they are happy.
Maybe they are somehow able to evolve their thinking around teaching and can explore new ideas and methods without anyone else's perspective.
Maybe it's possible, but I have personally never been able to change my mind or shift to an expanded way of thinking without considering the view point of other people.
So, today I am sharing an episode of my brand new podcast (check it out by clicking to subscribe in iTunes here) with you so you can find ways to cope with the inner monologue when you land in a class with another instructor.
Updated: This article and video were originally published Dec 16, 2014. Filmed on an old camera, the video production is not the best, BUT my advice is very much the same. Check it out.
For every single yoga teacher, no matter what style of asana you teach, adjustments are a big deal.
There are so many ways of giving adjustments from verbal cues to deep physical repositioning.
We have all had teachers who are so overly cautious about assisting that you can feel the fear transmitting through their hands or by the vague generalized instructions they give. You may have also experienced teachers who seem to bark at their students or adjust in more forceful or automatic ways without taking into consideration an individual's understanding and limitation.
Mastering the art of adjustment takes years so it is important to understand if you fall towards one of these extremes along the spectrum. Are you avoiding it or being overzealous?
To complicate things further, your students will no doubt respond to very different things. Now you have the added complication of your personal style versus what your students most respond to (because after all, it is their body you are adjusting).
What I am getting at, is there are a lot of factors when we bring adjusting into our teaching.
It is for this reason I am not surprised to get questions from other instructors who are confused by some aspect of this art. In the video I will share a story of a new yoga teacher eager to get more experience with the art of adjusting. She took some extra time after a class to help a student find a safer version of a pose only to receive negative feedback about her approach from the student via the studio owner.
Working in the wellness world is a beautiful thing. You get to help people become healthier and even find purpose depending on what you teach and how you teach it. Yoga teachers especially focus a lot on being flexible not only physically but in how they operate in the world. There is so much personal work and development that happens on the yoga mat or the meditation cushion that at times it is also challenging to remember that your role is not only defined by what happens on the mat but how you operate professionally.
Note: This is a refreshed and expanded version of a post I wrote in July 2016.
A few months ago I ran into another yoga teacher and had an exchange that has been on my mind ever since. When I first met this teacher a few years ago, (lets call her Alice) she was fresh out of teacher training. Her energy and intensity made me think of her affectionately as yoga’s head cheerleader.
However in this last exchange all that light and enthusiasm was heavily dampened and frankly, she looked exhausted.
Given that my pregnancy was laden with insomnia and my daughter still loves to party late into the night, when someone tells me they are “busy” or “tired” I don’t feel bad for them...unless they have more children than I do.
So I don’t say this lightly, but when Alice told me she was tired and busy I felt for her and I could tell she was on the verge of burn out.
Sadly, I could have predicted her current downward spiral a few years ago when I first met her. While that sounds cynical, the truth is Alice’s teacher training didn’t give her the skills she needed to avoid this moment of overwhelm and fatigue. While her training taught her how to be a solid instructor and provided some fun extras like a session on Sanskrit, Ayurveda and a detailed discourse on a few of the famous yogic texts, it failed to offer her any wisdom on how to be a yoga professional.
She walked into this industry with the skills to teach a class but no idea how to set her fee’s, promote herself, prepare her a budget, her taxes, her website (oh my!).
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with a group of newer teachers and teacher trainees in a workshop based on some of the key points of my book The A-Z of Being a Successful Yoga Teacher. These workshops are based around the "business" of becoming a teacher. But as any entrepreneur knows building a career from a passion will extend beyond the bounds of a normal 9-5 job.
Because this is true, I always encourage workshop participants to write down a few questions they have so that if I don't get to their topic of concern in this one short workshop, I can do my best to answer the question here on the blog or in our private Facebook group Being a Successful Yoga Teacher (if you haven't joined, you should here). Over the coming weeks I will be answering some of the questions I received.
Q: I would like to make teaching yoga my full time career, but I am worried about getting negative responses from my family. How can I deal with the lack of support?
It has been a while since I have written an article for you, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about you.
If you aren't subscribed to my general yoga blog, you may not know, but six months ago I gave birth to a baby girl. Since then our little family has spent time traveling in and living between Boston and Canada and even spent a month in Hawaii. My husband Steve got a new job, I rekindled my teaching business and we moved into our new home.
During this time, I noticed that something solidified that I have been consciously working on within myself and my business for years.
I will admit I usually roll my eyes when I hear someone give a platitude like "children are our best teachers", but while Audrey can't literally teach me how to be a better yoga professional she has, effectively nearly eliminated a problem many of us yoga teachers have.
In the chaos of life with a baby I finally learned the just how important this powerful sentence is for my business and my sanity.
And I want you to repeat it with me.