You’ve finally graduated from what felt like your journey of a lifetime – your yoga teacher training course. After months of cramming everything you can possibly learn about yoga into your already full brain, chiselling your body into your best ever yoga-bod and reading all about Shiva and Shakti, you are now finally let loose on the public. You now have the endless task of setting up your business, finding classes (either in studios, gyms or community classes), finding students to teach and planning and practicing your classes. It’s a very exciting time, but it’s also very daunting as you throw yourself into things that you’ve never done before, often learning from your mistakes the hard way… by making them in the first place.
So having recently graduated myself, and already making (and learning) from some of these mistakes, I decided to share my top 5 lessons… or as I like to call it… things they never told you about becoming a yoga teacher.
Lesson 1 – Don’t go overboard on equipment.
Woo hoo you’ve passed – you can now teach yoga. First step – buy a shed load of equipment for your community classes. What do you need and how many of each do you need?
You buy 12 of everything – 12 mats, 12 blocks, 12 straps, 12 eye masks, 12 bricks and 12 bolsters. Yes you do need bolsters because very few community yoga teachers use bolsters in their classes and having them will be your unique selling point as you’re providing your students something others aren’t.
So 12 mats, 12 blocks, 12 straps, 12 eye masks, 12 bricks and 12 bolsters all arrive (coated in plastic I might add – not very environmentally friendly and a bugbear for me). You also buy yourself 4 massive bags to carry everything in and spend a whole day unwrapping all the equipment from all the plastic and packing it all into you lovely new bags. You also throw in your aromatherapy oils, singing bowl, speaker for music, candles, lamps, cash box, card machine, register, class registration forms and pens and anything else you want to add to your classes – very organised. You feel excited and very proud of yourself as you start to pack everything into your little hatchback car. Oh wait…. you can’t see out of the back window in the mirror due to the bolsters which are all standing up like little people in the back seat, and you can no longer give your neighbour a lift to class as you realise your front passenger seat now houses a bag full of blocks. In fact the bag on your front seat is so heavy your car is alarming throughout the journey, demanding your put a seat belt on it… pffffffffff!!!!
You get to your class and then spend the next 20 minutes emptying and lugging all 4 bags, plus 12 bolsters and your own mat and stuff from the car, to the building and into the hall (not forgetting the fight to get the door open whilst carrying bags). You made it – woo hoo!
After class your lovely students help tidy and pack up your bags and you are so grateful for this…. until you realise you have to spend the next 20 minutes lugging all 4 bags, plus 12 bolsters and your own mat and stuff from the building into your car. And guess what? It doesn’t fit! How is this even possible – it clearly fit on the way?
You’re tired, your back hurts and you decide to “screw it” and just pile the bolsters on top of each other, ramming them into the car.
You don’t need to see out of the back window for the 10 minute drive home in the dark, the roads are quiet at this time of night anyway. As you pull up on to your drive you again have another non-yogi “Screw it!” moment and decide to leave all the equipment, minus the cash box, card machine and student registration forms (don’t want to upset the GDPR police now do we) in the car until tomorrow when your husband can do it for you. Can I really do this 6 times a week????
Fast forward to 2 months later. You’ve had 2 sports massages (and classed them as a business expense) due to a bad back from lugging all 4 bags, plus 12 bolsters and your own mat and stuff back and forth to 6 yoga classes each week and guess what? Your unique selling point – your bolsters, now stay home permanently, chilling in the spare room under the bed. Your singing bowl, aromatherapy oils, candles and lamps…you guessed it… all chilling with the bolsters under the bed in the spare room. Now you look at each class plan and only take what you need for each class, and it’s more manageable and less stressful.
I’m sure 12 bolsters will come in handy for something.
Lesson 2 – Know your worth
A lot of yoga teachers don’t realise their true worth.
Think about it for a minute…. You might earn £75 (if you’re lucky) for a one hour community class but what’s the true cost of that £75?
Firstly you need to take off tangible monetary costs such as; hall hire, petrol, insurance, equipment, tax and national insurance, laundry costs for equipment and contingency for holidays and illness (we don’t work 52 weeks a year). You then need to take off your intangible time costs such as; time for managing your business, time for managing students, time for planning and practicing your classes, time for CPD training, time for marketing your business and time travelling to and from classes.
So after costs that £75 is more like £50 tops! The time put into that one hour class is more like three hours so you’ve actually earned £50 for 3 hours work (£16.67 per hour).
You also have the uncertainly that you may not get a full class of students which reduces these earnings further and you still have the same costs.
Being a yoga teacher will not make you rich either money wise or time wise. It will however give you a deep satisfaction that you are helping people and seeing your students’ progress more than makes up for the lack of income (see lesson 5)
Lesson 3 –Accept your book addiction and get help
Remember when you signed up for your yoga teacher training course and were given a book list for the course? Do you remember your disdain and annoyance at having to spend hundreds of pounds on random books like Bhagavad Gita that you flick through when it arrives and don’t think you’ll ever actually read (but I bet you all did)?
Well by the end of your teacher training course let me tell you that that book list was like a gateway drug.
Its starts innocently with “Bhagavad Gita” but that soon leads to more books bought sporadically throughout the course; Yin Yoga by Kassandra, Yoga Sequencing by Mark Stephens and Guiding Yoga’s Light by Nancy Gerstein for a start… the list goes on!
By the end of your yoga teacher training you are buying more and more books on yoga and anything alternative and you’ve had to have new shelves installed in your house to hold them all. Your house is starting to look like a library for yoga and alternative therapies. In fact Waterstone’s “Alternative” section has nothing on your collection. You’ve actually become a full-on, hard-core book addict! You’re so addicted to buying random yoga books that Amazon has become a monthly 20% tax on your income! You might want to add that on to the calculation in lesson 2. Eeeek!
I can’t provide you with any advice here as I am still in the throes of my book addiction… but they say the first step to conquering any addiction is acceptance… so here it is… my name is SJ and I’m a yoga book addict!
Lesson 4 – The yoga world isn’t always yogic
If you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment you will know that this type of environment has its fair share of narcissists and egotistical maniacs.
Make no mistake in thinking that the yoga world is any different.
Not all yoga teachers have your back, are supportive and follow the yoga yamas. When you enter the yoga world as a new teacher, there are some teachers out there that are unhappy that there’s a bunch of new yoga teachers flooding the already saturated market. There’s some teachers out there that are worried that you as a new teacher will be treading on “their patch” and you will be taking students and business away from them. There are some teachers out there that think as a new teacher you have no clue what you’re doing and so you don’t deserve a chance, and there are some teachers out there who have been teaching yoga for so long and have been put on a pedestal by their students for so long that they’ve forgotten how to ground themselves and forgotten the true purpose of being a yoga teacher. The way I see it, it’s like being a learner driver – we often lose patience when we see a new driver on the road, but we should try and remember we have all been there before and we need to be more patient and kind when we see a new driver.
Make no mistake – teachers who fall into this category are few and far between and have their own issues going on and you shouldn’t let their attitudes towards you as a new teacher stop you doing what you’re passionate about. Just be prepared and don’t be shocked when you come across someone like this.
Luckily this is not the norm in the yoga world and for every Green Goblin yoga teacher – there is a Spiderman yoga teacher who will save you from these people, protect you and support you in any way they can.
The yoga community is just that – a community of like-minded yoga teachers who are patient and kind, who support and promote each other and share ideas and often students.
Lesson 5 – Being a yoga teacher is like being a parent
The best thing about being a yoga teacher is the relationship you have with your students.
Your first class together is nerve wracking for them and you. So many new faces, so many names to remember and so many health issues and injuries to be mindful of.
By week 4 of being together you not only recognise their beautiful, smiley faces when they enter the room, but you know their names and about their lives and have full on conversations with each one of them each week.
You create a bond with these people you didn’t realise could happen.
And when one of them misses a class one week through illness, you worry about them and become sad not only because you miss their face, but because you’d especially put in a yoga pose for their bad back/hip/knee/shoulder (delete as applicable) that week and now they’ll miss it.
You get to know who the naughty ones are, the shy ones and the ones that sit at the back of class and chuckle every time you cue hips circles as “Big juicy circles”. The ones that come to as many classes as they can and even send their husband to classes. The ones that like to sit in the same place on the same mat each week and don’t like to change that.
You get to know every face and every little idiosyncrasy they have and personality in each class.
They get to know you too. They get to know your quirky style and don’t laugh (or even mention it) when you get your left and rights mixed up or when you forget the name for your ankle (I kid you not – try being a yoga teacher with ME/CFS – it’s harder than it looks).
You also get a deep satisfaction in seeing your students’ progress from week to week. Watching Yvonne who told you that she “couldn’t do yoga” now in your beginners’ yoga class moving into the most perfectly aligned downward dog you’ve ever seen that it brings an almost parental sense of pride and lump to your throat. Watching Tracey listening to her body and seeing her forward fold becoming deeper each week makes you clap out loud with happiness (with a lump in your throat too) and watching each student in every class you teach relax fully in savasanna, taking a well-earned break from their busy lives makes you feel a little like Yoda (again with a lump in your throat). Awwwww bliss!
These people become a huge part of your life. It’s something no one tells you about and I’ll be honest it is by far the biggest thing I miss about social distancing and not being able to teach currently because of the Coronavirus.
I miss my yoga babies’ smiley, happy faces. I miss chatting with them about their ailments and giving them yoga poses to take home that can help, I miss the laughs and the giggles and most of all I miss seeing their progress. I can’t wait to see them all again and I really hope Yvonne is still practicing her downward dog 😉