While you should be proud, you should also know what's in store. There is a lot of misinformation about the so-called glamorous life of a yoga teacher. It is a meaningful occupation, but if you are not ready for the harsh reality of teaching yoga in the real world, it can be a vicious transition.
Do not fall into the trap of becoming the stereotypical starving yoga teacher who runs from studio to studio teaching upwards of 20 classes per week with nothing to show for it. I did that for years, and it is a quick downward spiral toward burnout. Instead, make sure you use your energy and excitement toward a plan to become a thriving yoga teacher.
1. Get experience.
To flourish as a yoga teacher, you have to teach and gain exposure. The longer you wait to instruct, the more difficult it becomes. The first class will be like the first time you ride a bike. You will most likely be nervous and make mistakes, but you just have to get your feet wet. After the first 10 classes, you should notice a significant improvement in your teaching. By the time you have a year of teaching under your belt, you will start to find your own unique style and language. It's extremely important for new teachers to cultivate their talents and continue to refine their instruction.
View yourself as an entrepreneur. It's never too early to develop a website, start an email list and consider business courses. While studio classes are great for building a following and developing your teaching skills, they won't bring in a livable income. In my opinion, working more than two public classes at a studio is a waste of time and energy.
Instead, leverage your time by building your schedule outside of the studio. If you do, you will start to gain momentum toward higher price point classes and a more rewarding, sustainable career. Seek out corporations, gyms, recreation centers, libraries – anywhere you can potentially teach.
Love the studio where you completed your training? Talk to the owner. Ask to teach during time slots you'll rarely miss, and build those classes up. This consistency will generate support from students and keep your skills sharp.
3. Keep it simple.
New teachers' classes often fall flat in an effort to be overly creative with language and poses. But if you teach the basics exceptionally well, you will be a great teacher. Focus on the fundamental poses. Use logical sequences that are well-thought-out and build to a peak pose. Always allow ample time for a cool down and final rest.
Want honest feedback? Audio record yourself teaching to make sure your verbal cues are concise. It can be difficult to listen to yourself speak, but it will give you valuable information. For example, make sure you avoid passive language and jargon, and teach the poses systematically by setting up a clear foundation and general form. Creativity will come naturally – after you are well-versed in the basics.
And don't forget: Always be compassionate and positive toward your students. One way to do this is by making yourself available to answer questions before and after class.
4. Find a niche.
There is a sea of yoga teachers, so you have to set yourself apart from the rest. But how? Take notice of the students who gravitate toward you and whom you really connect with. For me, as a former athlete and a bigger guy, I found myself relating to the guys in class who had trouble connecting with the other, more flexible female teachers.
Like me, your niche might be people who are similar to you – or similar to who you were before you started yoga. Once you find your niche, you can brand yourself accordingly and focus on that specific group.
Yoga teachers often try to help everyone. In reality, being a standard teacher makes it more difficult for people to find you. Specialize in one thing and you will make a bigger difference and connect with more people.
5. Deepen your studies.
The best teachers are the best students, so continue to practice and train regularly. Once you have a niche, you can enroll in courses to advance your area of expertise. Remember: You become the company you keep, so surround yourself with great teachers. With time, their teachings will be handed down to you.
6. Be assertive.
Rather than waiting for people to find you, contact the places you'd most like to teach. Find out who has your dream job and connect with them. Observe what they are doing and learn from them. It never hurts to ask for advice.
When you ask someone to develop a yoga program, consider whom you are speaking to and address their specific needs rather than speaking in yoga jargon. For example, corporations are more concerned that you can relieve the pain caused by working a 9-to-5 desk job than how to align their chakras.
7. Be patient.
Anything worth doing takes time. While it's important to be passionate about teaching, passion is only part of success. You need to stick with your decision to teach. If you are willing to notice where you need improvement, and adapt, you will mold yourself into a great yoga teacher.
If you feel like teaching yoga is leaving you resentful, make a shift in your approach. It can be the most fulfilling job you ever imagined.
Originally Published on U.S. News