Five Myths Of Being A Yoga Teacher
I get the absolute gift and pleasure of teaching yoga and giving people the tools to love and heal themselves. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I love my job. But, we need to have a come-to-Jesus conversation about the reality of what it’s really like to teach yoga for a living.
Before you go off and spend $2500 on a Teacher Training, thinking you want to teach yoga full time, let me dispel five big myths of being a yoga teacher for you. While this is certainly not an extensive list, and it’s sure to ruffle some feathers, it is true from my experience and that of others I know in the industry…
1.) You Will Have Lots of Free Time
Unless you’re independently wealthy or married to someone with a good income, you will be working your ass off as a yoga teacher.
You will likely teach something like 15+ classes and/or privates a week.
It is precisely all that time spent teaching and practicing that makes an incredible teacher. Most folks on top have simply been teaching for 20+ years.
And let’s just pause here to give thanks to all of you out there who do put in the daily work of teaching weekly, public classes. You lay the foundation by teaching your peeps the basics that makes it possible for all those big name workshop teachers to come in and do what they do. You make the most profound difference in the day-to-day lives of regular people, so thank you!
2.) Your Classes Will Be Well Attended
Don’t expect to become a yogalebrity overnight, or to immediately have a gangbusters social media account. Getting that takes dedicated work over an extended amount of time. Or, it takes incredible photos of crazy bendy or super burly (I’m not sure these are yoga) poses.
Or wearing a bikini in every shot to get the sex-appeal following of the millions.
But for most yoga teachers, it’s nothing like this.
To build a yoga class and have a solid following takes a minimum of one year in any given time slot. When you hit about three years teaching the same class and time slot at the same studio, week in and week out, that’s when you really see a consistent following and the reputation of your teaching has begun to spread.
Until that time, there will be days when only two or three people come to your class. You will wonder why. You will be discouraged.
Even when you do have a great time slot and you’re an awesome, established teacher, there will still be times when almost no one comes to class. And it will still make you feel insecure.
3.) You Get To Practice Tons Of Yoga
An excellent teacher does not practice with her students. Not only does this make her a better teacher (how can she see her students if her head is down in Dog Pose?), it also gives her the true rejuvenation of doing her own practice just for herself, outside of teaching.
At 15-20 classes a week and two days off in a row (something I strongly encourage to avoid burnout and keep your sanity), you will be teaching 3 to 4 classes a day. Add in commuting to and from various yoga studios, eating and the time it takes to digest your food, and there isn’t much time to do your own asana.
You’ll get your fill of the keep-your-sanity-when-you’re-working-your-ass-off practice, but if you think you’ll be doing asana all day long and your body will feel amazing because of it, well, that’s a myth.
You have to schedule time for your practice into your work week. And you have to go to class to stay inspired and let someone else teach you yoga for a change. It takes serious dedication not to lose your own practice in the process of becoming an established teacher.
4.) The Business Side Of Yoga Is Done With Integrity
Somewhere along the way, the world of yoga got caught up in selling people on feeling good. There are a lot of yogis who just want to practice all “love and light” all the time. Of course, we all want to make peace with challenging situations, and yoga does offer the promise of returning us to innate joy and happiness.
But there is a whole lot of ugly, messy digging in the mud that comes on the road to getting there. Facing your shadow and making lasting transformation in your off-the-mat yoga is painful. But without going there, you are not being authentic or truly practicing yoga. You know, union with all of yourself?
Enlightenment isn’t all about “raising your vibration,” or positive thinking your “law of attraction” way into the unrealistic expectation of everything being perfect, peaceful and happy at all times. But many yoga practitioners think this way.
I’ve seen an inordinate amount of people in the yoga industry who are unwilling to look at their own shortcomings, address their challenges or have open conversations about hard topics such as money, relationships or being the firm boundary holders for rules and regulations.
Just a few real life examples:
- Not being paid for students attending my class who are on a special pass or package.
- Giving constructive criticism to management about something at the front desk, management feeling threatened, then complaining to the owner rather than conversing directly with me.
- Being told that as a newcomer to a teacher training program, it wasn’t worth the studio paying me as if I were a core part of the team.
- Using my images for promotional materials with no photo credit, payment or acknowledgement given.
- Teachers constantly being late and flaking on their commitments.
- Teachers who say they are super present, mindful and awakened, but party, drink and smoke in their off time.
- Teachers and office staff at studios gossiping about other teachers behind their backs.
- Studio owners and yoga teacher trainers refusing to sign certificates to confirm their students’ certification for no apparent reason but an abuse of power.
- Teachers having multiple sex partners while telling each one they are the only sex partner.
5.) You’ll Be Paid What You’re Worth
Many teachers believe that yoga is meant to be done as selfless service, or seva. And though I agree that teaching yoga is best as an offering from your heart, you do need to put food in your belly and cover your cost of living. As a full time yoga teacher you still need to be paid for your work in the world.
Here is how most yoga teachers get paid:
At a yoga studio you’ll be paid as an independent contractor, which is considered self-employment. This means you’re responsible for all your own expenses, including insurance—both health and liability—travel costs, continuing education, music for your playlists, etc.
You are responsible for paying your taxes in quarterly installments to the self-employment rate of approximately 45%!
Most yoga studios pay their teachers a base rate, something like $50 per class. This number can vary widely, I’m just throwing out something you might encounter at a successful studio in a city.
On top of your base pay, there is often an “incentive bonus” of an additional amount per head over a certain number of students. For instance $2/head for each student over ten. This is great if you are popular and/or teach in a good time slot, but doesn’t always amount to much, especially in slow times of the year, like Christmas and summer, when people are traveling or out of their normal routine.
With this example, if your class has 15 people in it, you would be paid $60. Net, this equals $33. At 4 classes a day, 5 days a week, that’s $660 dollars/week or roughly $33,000 annual income after taxes. Most cities where yoga is popular, think San Diego, San Francisco or New York, this is hardly enough to live on.