Six Myths Of Being A Yoga Teacher
Before you go off and spend $3000 on a Teacher Training, thinking you want to teach yoga full time, let’s talk about some big myths of being a yoga teacher. 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 put in the daily work of teaching weekly, public classes. You lay the foundation by teaching 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 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 more like this:
Build a yoga class and a solid following takes a minimum of one year in any given time slot. Somewhere between two to three years teaching the same class at the same time at the same location is when things take off.
Until then, there will be days when only two or three people come to your class. You will wonder why and might be discouraged.
Even when you do have a great time slot and you’re an experienced, established teacher, there will be times when almost no one comes to class and it might 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 have to schedule time for your practice into your work week. Its important to go to class to stay inspired and let someone else teach you for a change. It takes serious dedication not to lose your own practice in the process of becoming an established teacher.
4.) It’s All Love and Light
The world of yoga seems to have gotten caught up in trying to always 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 feel good, and yoga does offer the promise of returning us to innate joy.
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.
5.) The Business Side Of Yoga Is Done With Integrity
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 holding firm boundaries for rules and regulations.
Just a few real life examples:
- Not being paid for students attending class who are on a special pass or package.
- Giving constructive criticism to front desk management, management feeling threatened, then complaining to the owner rather than conversing directly with the person who gave the critique.
- Being told that as a newcomer to a teacher training program, it wasn’t worth the studio paying the teacher as if she were a core part of the team, even though she’d worked at that studio for 7 years and was more than qualified.
- 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.
- 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.
6.) You’ll Be Paid What You’re Worth
Many teachers believe that yoga is meant to be done as selfless service, or seva. And while teaching yoga is best offered from the heart, you do need to put food in your belly and cover your cost of living.
Here is how most yoga teachers get paid:
At most yoga studios or gyms teachers are paid as an independent contractor, which is considered self-employment. This means they’re responsible for all their own expenses, including insurance—both health and liability—travel costs, continuing education, licensing and music for your playlists, etc.
Independent contractors are also responsible for paying their taxes in quarterly installments to the self-employment rate of approximately 30-45%!
Some yoga studios pay their teachers a flat rate per head; I’ve heard everything from $2-5 per person.
Other studios pay their teachers a base rate, something like $40-80 per class. This number can vary widely, depending on location.
Some studios combine these with a base pay, and a per-head rate. For instance, base pay of $40 + $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 amount to much at off time slots or slow seasons, like Christmas or summer.
With this example, if a class has 15 people in it, the teacher would be paid $60. Net, this equals ~$40. At 4 classes a day, 5 days a week, that’s $800 dollars/week or roughly $38,000 annual income after taxes. Most cities where yoga is popular, think San Diego, San Francisco or New York, this is barely enough to live on.