February 6, 2015

3 Unfortunate Truths about Being a Yoga Teacher.

Yoga class (800x600)

When I was training to be a yoga teacher over a decade ago, I had fantasies about what my life would look like once I became a full time teacher.

I imagined how glorious it would be to wake up and practice hours of yoga and meditation before floating off to teach a few classes. I pictured no longer spending my days in an office, but instead enjoying the company of like-minded people who also wanted a less stressful lifestyle full of purpose and spirit.

The reality of that life, however, was not what I had imagined.

Although I fell deeply in love with teaching, I wasn’t prepared to deal with all the other aspects of running my own business and the shadow side of the yoga industry.

Here are the three things that shocked me the most about being a yoga teacher (and what to do about them):

1) People will try to take advantage of you.

Imagine this: You get a job at a restaurant or retail store that is about to open. They have a grand opening sale and offer huge discounts and freebies for the first month of operation. At the end of the month you go to collect your paycheck and the owner tells you that your hard work was very much appreciated but they can’t actually pay you until they are making more money.

You would never stand for it!

Yet many yoga teachers work for studios for weeks, if not months, for free under the auspices of cultivating good karma and being a “team player.” Worse still are the unpaid “probation periods” many studios impose on new teachers even after said trainees have dropped thousands of dollars to take that school’s teacher training (that the studio requires them to take in order to work there in the first place).

What to do about it:

To prepare yourself for anyone who might ask you to work for free or less than a sustainable rate, it is a good idea to be well-versed in the labor laws of your country and be ready to stand up for yourself if the need arises. Stick to your boundaries and remember that if you allow people to undervalue you, it will hurt your own self-worth most of all.

2) You will be lonely at times.

As a yoga teacher, chances are you are a social person. No one becomes a yoga teacher if they don’t enjoy connecting with people at a deep level.

However, even if your classes are full and you have an engaged student base, your unconventional work schedule will at times oppose the schedule of your closest friends and family. Even if you have ample time with everyone you love, unless they are part of the yoga community, they likely won’t understand when you feel tired after teaching since you only “worked” for a few hours and they were at the office all day.

What to do about it:

Being the person at the front of the yoga room is a solo pursuit most of the time, so it is important to make sure you are getting enough face time with people who love and care about you (and who know you outside of your work as a teacher).

3) You will have to be an entrepreneur.

Recently, CNN came out with a report that placed teaching Yoga and Pilates as one of the ten best jobs in the U.S. I am not sure how they collected their data, but apparently the average instructor makes over $60K per year.

Personally, I don’t know many teachers who are making anything close to that amount of money in this multi-billion dollar industry. The ones who are, however, have embraced the fact that to be a successful teacher, they must also learn the art of being an entrepreneur.

When I first started teaching, no one told me I would have to become an advocate for myself and constantly negotiate my rates at every turn. I wasn’t prepared to promote my offerings and sounded almost apologetic when announcing an upcoming workshop.

While I quickly began to round out my business education so I could have a sustainable teaching career, many teachers around me simply gave up teaching all together.

What to do about it:

Consider your business an extension of your teaching. If you are teaching to bring the light of awareness and health into the world, you need to reach as many people as possible.

My common refrain when coaching teachers and studios on their business is this: “If you can’t eat, you can’t teach.” If you aren’t able to take care of yourself, you won’t have energy to share with your students, and your message, no matter how inspiring, simply won’t land. Set aside a few hours each week as your dedicated “business time,” and use them to manage your marketing, bookkeeping and communications.

Relephant Read:

The 10 Things We’ll Never Tell You in Yoga Teacher Training (But Should).


Author: Erin Aquin

Apprentice Editor: Toby Israel/ Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wikipedia Commons 

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