10 Challenges You May Face as a Yoga Teacher
Before I started teaching yoga full-time back in 2003, I was working in a corporate job. I had gone to two teacher trainings and was passionate about teaching. I talked to many different teachers about their experiences teaching but it really took doing it myself to understand the nuances of teaching yoga, both from a business and teaching perspective.
Now, let me preface this list by saying that any challenge can be met head on with good planning, a positive attitude, a powerful network, perseverance and creativity. However, it’s helpful to know what some of the challenges are, inherent in any job, especially before you consider taking the leap to leave what you’re currently doing to do something new.
1. Classes with less than 5 students: Sometimes we teach to small groups. This can be a fact of our teaching and can be more or less of a factor considering the studio we’re in. Smaller spaces in community locations can sometimes have a different student base when compared to a larger studio in urban locations. But, without getting into all the variables that may be affecting your class size, consider that regardless of how many students are in class, it’s your job as a teacher to show up fully. Smaller classes give us a chance to build connection, to assist students, to really look at who is in the room and speak to what we see, rather than in generalized terms. Focusing on the students will help you tap into the passion you have for teaching and this will help you manage any feelings of frustration around your class sizes. Reach out to the studio manager as well as your mentor to share thoughts about your classes. Track the attendance for each class and review it. Spend time with students before and after class, getting to know them. Do your best at every class, be real and approachable and be open to feedback.
2. Driving all over town to teach class: When considering any job, don’t forget to add into the cost to you, which is reflected in the time to drive back and forth. This can increase your overall expense and time. If you have a schedule that requires you drive all over, it can lead to increased cost and frustration.
3. Knowing how to market your classes and workshops: Knowing how to be an effective marketer of your programs is essential in order to grow your business. Even if you work for a large studio system and they create all the marketing collateral for you as well as post on their website, you still must be able to clearly articulate, on the spot, to anyone that asks: “Why should I come to your workshop?” If you don’t work for a large studio, you may need to develop skills in website management as well as learn how to make flyers. Otherwise, you may need to consider the cost of hiring a professional that can do this work for you.
4. Finding you don’t have enough time in the day to also practice yoga for yourself: One of the funny things about being a yoga teacher is that there are many days when you’ll wonder, “ When am I going to practice yoga?” Many people assume that if you’re teaching yoga, you’re doing yoga. Most teachers don’t do the entire sequence with their class, if at all, and even if you did some yoga with class, it’s never the same as practicing on your own or taking a class. As a teacher, you’ll need to practice what you preach and make your own practice a priority, being creative around how and when you’ll do your own yoga.
5. Managing illness, injury and scheduled days off: As yoga teachers, if we don’t teach, we don’t get paid. This means we need to be mindful around getting sick and do everything we can to take care of ourselves. We need to be cautious around anything that might cause injury and be organized and judicious around taking days off.
6. Having jobs end or losing jobs-sometimes unexpectedly: Sometimes, despite our best efforts, jobs end. If you’ve done some individual contracting as a yoga teacher you may find that the funding for your job has ended. Or, perhaps it was a seasonal teaching job. Sometimes, classes in studios are discontinued due to low attendance or changes the owner wishes to make. Again, just as we tell our students, practicing non-attachment to any class will help as well as having a strong network so you can plug into a new job as soon as possible. Also, whenever you book a job, be clear with the client as to the length so that you can plan ahead for your next gig.
7. Feeling like you don’t know enough, aren’t good enough, don’t teach classes that are hard enough, don’t know enough about yoga philosophy: Teaching yoga is an ongoing learning process. There may be times that you’ll run into a colleague and she or he will go into something that they’re doing with which your unfamiliar. Instead of feeling inadequate, find out more about the topic. Also, be confident about the style of yoga you teach and your approach, even as you are faced with others that seem to be successful with a different approach. The beauty of yoga is that there is room for everyone but as soon as you start trying to be something you’re not, you’ll come across as inauthentic, which your students will notice right away.
8. Managing schedule variability, especially in the summer months: As the summer months approach, you may experience smaller class sizes, a drop in your private clients or may find it harder to book independent jobs. Since you know this happens, the time to plan for it is in the winter, when you are flush with work. Keep up with your commitment to “pay yourself first” and this growing nest egg of money will help you cover costs during the summer months, if they end up being leaner than expected. There are creative programs that can be done in the summer, such as yoga on beaches, family yoga outdoors, runner’s workshops that include a run and programs in other outdoor locations. Use the summer months to launch new programs that can’t be done in the winter.
9. Managing your time between teaching and administrative time: All yoga teachers have to divide their time between teaching and deskwork. The amount of deskwork you’ll have will vary and if you’re working completely on your own, like me, you’ll be managing finances, marketing, business development, public relations and developing program content, all while you’re teaching. The more organized you are, the better you’ll be able to go back and forth between teaching and the business, without worry about dropping the ball.
10. Doubting you made the right decision to teach yoga: There will be days when you’re tired, when you are worried about your next job and you’ll think, “Did I make the right choice to teach yoga?” But, then you’ll draw on your inspiring experiences as a teacher, take some time to shift to thinking positive thoughts, pull out your list and start planning and pretty soon, things will begin to look up.
Karen Fabian is the Founder of Bare Bones Yoga. She is an ERYT and Certified Baptiste Teacher and has been teaching since 2002.
Karen teaches in studios, schools, training centers and businesses in Boston. She teaches anatomy for yoga teachers in a variety of teacher training programs. She also has a teacher mentorship program and writes for a variety of yoga related websites. She self-published her first book, "Stretched: Build Your Yoga Business, Grow Your Teaching Techniques," in July, 2014. Her book, DVD and schedule are all available on www.amazon.com.