January 29, 2014

5 Perks of Teaching Yoga.

This month marks my three year anniversary as a yoga instructor.

I admit that it hasn’t been always been fun and roses. First of all, I was unprepared for the many frustrations that new instructors encounter such as preparing routines only to have no one show up or the fact that in some cases, it may even end up costing you money to teach. (It’s true. I wrote about it here.)

Still, despite that, if I had to do teacher training all over again I would in a heartbeat.

I teach because I love it.

While there are many perks that come with the job (and yes, I consider being a yoga instructor to be a job), below are five great perks that stand out.

Some of these are meant to be light-hearted but the truth is, these are all reasons why I love to teach.

1. I have an excuse to buy yoga clothes.

Despite the fact that I am not a shopaholic by any stretch of the imagination, I like to buy yoga clothing.

Yoga clothing that looks good and fits well is worth the money. Plus, many places—even some local businesses in my area—give discounts to yoga instructors. Being an instructor really allows you to put to test the claims of many workout apparel companies. For example, I’ve bought clothing that looks great on the rack and promises to be the best on the market but falls apart or pills after a few washes. When that happens, it’s a clear sign to avoid that company.

Plus, if you are like me and believe that clothing should be ethically made and produced under sustainable conditions, you can subtly pass that message along in your clothing. I’ve had students occasionally ask me where I got a certain top or pair of pants, and I was able to tell them about small companies that don’t have the PR budgets of some of the larger companies.

2. Free or significantly reduced classes.

It’s well-established that most yoga instructors don’t earn a lot of money. (Granted, most of us aren’t doing it for the money to begin with.) However, free or significantly reduced classes at the studios or gyms where one teaches is nothing to sneeze at.

In some cases, we may even get reduced rates for special events that take place there.

3. Learning that  flexibility doesn’t merely apply to the mind.

I’ve often said that teaching yoga is a bit like preparing for a trip to a place you have never visited: you can have the directions, plan an itinerary, and pack the necessary items, but there is always a chance that something unexpected might happen.

For instance, it’s not uncommon to have a class where the participants are all at different levels in their respective practices. I had an 80 year old man with arthritis in his knees show up for his first yoga class ever. Somehow, I found a way to modify.

Also, I have taught at places where there weren’t always a lot of props on hand. Sometimes even I am amazed at how I improvised. At the very least, I learned that there are an infinite ways that a blanket can be used as a yoga prop.

4.  People assume cool things about us.

Many people assume that because I teach yoga I have my act together and let everything slide off me like water off a duck’s back. If only they knew.

While sometimes it can be frustrating that people assume “registered yoga instructor” means one is an expert on various things from health to relationship issues, some of the connotations are kind of nice.

Only one caveat though: do not let it go to your head. Stay humble. At the end of the day, we aren’t experts on anything—not even yoga.

5. The people.

This is hands down the best perk. Simply put, I really love my students. Being a yoga instructor has put me in contact with a wide range of people I probably otherwise would have never met.

As I mentioned before, my typical student is not some 20-something who looks like they stepped off the cover of Yoga Journal. Instead, most are middle-aged and show a wide variety of body types. They truly prove that yoga is for everyone.

Therefore, if you happen to be thinking about getting certified and want to know what you could possibly gain from it besides getting paid, the above are a few reasons that immediately come to mind. While there are downsides and frustrations, it’s important to consider the many good things in mind as well.

Even if you have no interest in teaching, you’ll know the next time you take a class that it’s likely your instructor is teaching because they love yoga and more importantly, you.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: elephant journal archives

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