So You're a Yoga Teacher, Now What?
Let me start by making a million disclaimers.
I am NOT an expert in this. I have only been teaching full time (approx. ten classes or more p/w) for three years. I was lucky to be teaching full time six months in (and managing a studio for another year after that). I was lucky I found, from almost the very beginning of my teaching career until this day, a very solid group of teachers to learn from and be friends with who have been teaching far longer than I have.
Those teachers don’t have blogs. I do. This is why I’m writing this. If you’re not interested in what I’ve learnt over the last few years, if you believe you’re beyond that, or would like to hear it from someone more experienced or who can hold a freestanding handstand, please don’t read on.
Graduating from Yoga TT is like graduating from a creative arts degree (yeah, I’ve made some good choices in my time). Unless you are the 0.05% there is no job waiting at the end of the tunnel and chances are, you had, at most, an hour or two in the entire training dedicated to What Happens Next. Other than like, okay guys, go teach in a park! Go teach your boyfriend! (do not do this). Teach for free! Have you heard of Instagram? Do the Instagram! DON’T DO THE INSTAGRAM IT HAS RUINED YOGA. And so on, and so forth.
Combine this with the endless slamming of 200hr yoga teachers online, naturally, the first thing we want is to do more training. Despite what some disgruntled teaching elders might think, most new teachers don’t want to be entitled or undertrained. They just want to share what they love.
More training is good, sure, if you’ve found a teacher and a training you LOVE and that excites you endlessly. BUT a training for the sake of doing a training? For the sake of a piece of paper? For number of hours on a screen that no employer even cares about? For the sake of not being only 200hr certified?
Close to pointless.
You know what is better?
Find a studio you love, a teacher or teachers you love and practice as much as possible. Take the class, write out as much of the sequence as you can remember afterwards (I stole this tip from Sandy King before we were friends and I used to insta stalk her) – even write down what they said - the snippets you remember. Not to rip them off – but to see how it’s done. Go to their classes as much as you can. Take their workshops. Practice. Read. Listen to Podcasts. Chase what excites YOU about yoga. And you’re not super excited about yoga, if you’re not curious to learn and practice and discover? Don’t teach.
Whats even better than practicing and being excited?
Ask your favourite teacher to mentor you.
Know that private mentoring comes at a cost because it is basically teacher training created FOR YOU and it will most likely be way more bang for your buck than a group training. There is nowhere to hide one on one.
Know what you want from this person as a mentor. Ask if they believe they can provide you with those specific things and if not – who do they recommend? If they recommend someone else, take classes with them first, see how it feels. Let go of the need to rush. Let the right person come.
I would be wary of anyone who takes any student on without asking questions. There are so many sides to teaching yoga and working as a yoga teacher. Not everyone can specialise in every element. If you are looking for mentoring in teaching group yoga classes, I would be wary of signing on with anyone who does not currently teach group yoga classes. If you want to build an online presence, find a teacher who has an online presence. Want to learn anatomy? Ask the teacher if this is an area they are excited about and have studied.
Restorative and Yin teacher trainings.
This is not to say group yoga trainings are bad. They are incredible when you have found the right teacher and the right training. Theres nothing more exciting than spending a weekend or a week practicing and learning. But before signing up for a training, ask yourself - if it is for the certificate, or to be immersed in this specific teachers interpretation of the practice?
If you want to do a yin training, but never take yin classes, ask yourself if yin is really something you want to teach?
If a local teacher is offering a training you are interested in, have you taken their class? Have you taken their class in this style? If not, why?
Don’t underestimate how much you can learn from regularly taking classes. If you have never taken a class with someone who is currently accessible to you, why would you do their training? If you take their classes consistently before the training, you will get SO much more out of it because you already have a much deeper relationship with the practice, style and teacher.
The training thing is like the yoga practice itself. Smaller amounts as often as possible is always more effective than a large amount just once. If you take a Restorative training, but never practice Restorative or take Restorative classes, it doesn’t hold a lot of power.
But, if you combine a Restorative training or immersion with a regular Restorative practice: then you have something very special to teach.
There can be a real trap of doing your first teacher training and then going down the rabbit hole of additional trainings, just because they’re there to do. I know the feeling so well. I LOVE YOGA I WANT TO TEACH ALL THE THINGS OMG HOW FUN IS VINYA- OMG WOAH I WENT TO THIS YIN CLASS I WANNA TEACH YIN. Enthusiasm and passion is incredible - funnel it straight into your practice, your research, your reading and finding THE teacher. The one you connect with. The one who has a special relationship with the practice.
As for International teachers who might be at the top of their game - don’t just take their trainings because it’s the done thing. Listen to their podcasts, find them on youtube, interviews or articles and get a feeling for their personality and style. Teacher training is a huge investment of your time and energy and I think is essential if you want to get really into teaching a specific style - but there’s no rush. Do all the study you can until you find the right teacher. Wait for that one teacher to come, plan your next holiday around their teaching schedule (seriously).
Don’t cold email yoga studios.
I used to manage a yoga studio and the amount of emails I would receive from recent TT graduates was monumental. Let’s just say that these do not work. Again, find a studio you love. Don’t just take one class and then blurt out I’m like totally yoga teacher I’d love to cover here can I cover here please.
Be involved in the community. Go to the events and classes. Volunteer. Assist.
Another benefit of mentoring with a teacher is that rather than being one in a large group, you immediately make a contact. Teacher to teacher and community referrals are the most common ways to find work – there’s always a last minute cover needed, and while those last minute covers can be annoying, they might just be your foot in the door.
Just Say Yes (at first).
A 7:30am corporate? A late night winter class? Put your hand up.
Set yourself a limit. 6 months, a year, whatever. And say (within reason) yes to everything. There is no better way to become a competent teacher than to teach in crazy circumstances as often as possible. A corporate right in front of the lifts of a busy office? TICK. A Chinese New Year festival with a downstairs party so loud the students cannot hear a word you are saying? TICK. A Friday night Restorative class to (usually) two people that pays enough to cover your bus fare? Done and done.
To work hard, for free or for very little pay is never okay in the long term, but it is the best and quickest way to learn in the short term. If it feels very wrong or as if you’re being exploited, obviously know when to say no, but at the very beginning if you completely immerse yourself in teaching as best as can, you will gain confidence and knowledge fast. You will also gain trust. Just be super clear on your boundaries and for how long you will teach these community / charity classes.
And to finish:
I get asked a lot about Yin and Restorative, so below are a list of international teachers I would check out. Even if casually popping over to the other side of the world isn’t a possibility - google them. Listen to them. Read their articles. Practice their sequences. If you’re interested in teaching these classes, spend time at least a little time exploring the people who made it mainstream.
Sarah Powers (read insight yoga)
Judith Lasater (read relax & renew + restore & rebalance)
If you’re in Sydney and teaching vinyasa or interested in learning more about philosophy, I cannot recommend Jivamukti Open Classes highly enough. They have taught me more than any vinyasa teacher training.
Questions? Anything else you want to add or see covered? Let me know!