January 14, 2014

What Teaching Yoga Full-Time Actually Looks Like.

If you think the only way to teach yoga full-time is to teach 20+ classes a week, open a studio, or take your teaching on-the-road, I’ve got some very encouraging news for you!

Recently, I sat down with two amazing, savvy, business-minded yoga teachers who have both transformed their teaching into their full-time careers.

Even better, these ladies have built their yoga businesses their way without burnout or compromise.

If you’re a teacher and wishing that yoga could be your full-time gig, I invite you to learn from these two lovely teachers that are doing what they love most and making a living at it.

But first, let me introduce them!

Amy Cronise-Mead is the founder and director of Yogadharma, which offers both in-person and online trainings in yoga, meditation, and dharma worldwide. She’s trained in Vinyasa, Anusara, Tibetan Heart Yoga and both Indian and Tibetan lineages of meditation and dharma, and has been teaching since 2000. And, I can personally attest (as I’ve done two in-person trainings with her) that she is a brilliant teacher and businesswoman.

Francesca Cervero has been a full-time private yoga instructor since 2005. At times, she’s worked with as many as 25 private clients per week. Now, in addition to working with her private clients, she also helps fellow teacher to understand the Science of the Private Lesson via in-person and online trainings.

After sitting down with both Amy and Francesca, I noticed a number of commonalities beginning to emerge.  Though they have both built very different yoga brands, they have capitalized on many of the same elements to catapult their teaching from hobby to career.

So, without further ado, here’s what teaching yoga full-time actually looks like:

1. It looks like self-exploration.

Neither Amy nor Francesca were content with trying to fit someone else’s definition of what a full-time yoga career should look like. They didn’t acquiesce to teaching 20+ public classes a week in order to make a living. They weren’t content with the idea of being bogged down by the management of a studio. And, they didn’t want to live out of a suitcase, constantly traveling and teaching on-the-road.

Instead, they took their time to discover what lights them up, what they truly enjoy teaching, and both weren’t afraid to capitalize on the distinct gifts they possess when building their brand.

Amy, a student of Tibetan Buddhism, makes no apologies for infusing those philosophies into her teachings, both in-person and online. She knows that if she shares what feels right and true to her, her ideal students will find her.

Francesca takes pleasure in “converting” people who think they won’t like or can’t do yoga with her simple explanations and practical approach. And, she derives great satisfaction from seeing the transformation in her private clients over time

Before you can build a successful, abundant yoga brand, you first have to know yourself. What do you love to teach?  Who do you love to teach? And what brought you to yoga in the first place?

Without investigating questions such as these for ourselves, we have little hope of creating a yoga business with any sort of staying power or backbone.

2. It means knowing you’re not for everyone.

Francesca loves working one-on-one with clients, so offering private sessions is the perfect way for her to share her teachings. She loves the bond private instruction forms with students, and is totally fine with the fact that she leads no public classes whatsoever.

Amy enjoys teaching students who have an established practice and are looking for new ways to enrich their physical asana with meditation and dharma. She’s okay with the fact that she, self-admittedly, intimidates beginners.

They both know that their approach and teaching is not for everyone—and they’re okay with that.  If you truly want to develop a yoga brand with a wide reach, the only way to do so is to share loudly and clearly exactly what you love teaching, and make no apologies for it.

3. It takes thinking of your teaching as a business & brand.

Both these ladies realize that they are building something bigger than themselves. They understand that they are more than just yoga teachers—they are yoga professionals, and they embrace the business side of yoga.

Francesca has been so successful in building up the private teaching side of her business that other yoga teachers now seek her out for her business and career advice. She teaches them, not only how to relate, teach and inspire students one-on-one, but how to think about teaching in a business minded way so that you can build something fulfilling, sustainable and fun!

Amy relishes the fact that her brand, Yogadharma, reaches people from all around the globe who are interested in meditation, yoga and dharma, and knows that without embracing her business and brand with opens arms she wouldn’t have that opportunity. In fact, one of the things that helped Amy’s business take flight in 2013 was the addition of a support team including a personal assistant, graphic designer and video producer.

There’s a lesson to be learned here.

We often think we can figure out and do everything ourselves, but sometimes, the best thing we can do for our yoga business is to listen to and learn from others. Francesca listened to the yoga community and now teaches teachers, and Amy teamed with others who were capitalizing on their own strengths and skyrocketed her brand.

Thinking of your teaching as a business and brand means you have to be open to new ideas, possibilities, and be okay with the fact that your full-time yoga career might take a different form that you had initially anticipated—and you will likely be all the happier for it.

4. It includes multiple streams of income.

During our talk, Amy happily shared that Yogadharma has many different offerings that give students many doorways into the teachings. She offers a 300 hour yoga teacher training, 100 hour supplemental modules on specific topics like Anatomy & Therapeutics, online courses in Yoga Nidra, meditation, and building a home asana practice, she leads three public classes per week, and even occasionally hosts destination retreats to Costa Rica and Mexico.

Francesca also uses the multiple streams of income model for her brand.  She not only works with several private clients each week, but also offers one-on-one coaching for teachers looking to augment the private side of their business, as well as online teachings and weekend trainings on the Science of the Private Lesson.

Success brands never put their eggs all in one basket. They draw on all their strengths and areas of expertise to provide a steady and stable income. Teaching yoga is multi-faceted and there are so many different (and untapped!) ways to share your unique yoga message with the world.

Don’t feel you have to stick with just one way of delivering your message—try various modes of teaching, and see which ones light you up the most!

5. It looks like love.

One undeniable quality that both Francesca and Amy share is that it is so very clear that they totally and utterly love what they do.

Bottom line: if you don’t completely adore what you’re teaching and who you’re teaching it to, it will become harder and harder to build a successful business around it. Find what you love to do, teach, and talk about. Have that be the foundation for your business, and it’s all up from there.

Relephant reads: 

The Hardest thing about Teaching Yoga: My Reflection.

4 Reasons I Stopped Teaching Yoga.

4 Things That Yoga Teachers Want to Tell Their Students.

8 Blunt Truths About Becoming a Yoga Instructor. 

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: elephant journal archives

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