How to be a successful yoga instructor (part 2 of 3)
Part 2. Career as a yoga instructor.
Maybe you are dreaming of quitting your day job and making a career out of your passion for yoga. In this part I will share my experiences about what works and what does not work if you want to make yoga your full-time occupation.
During our time as yoga instructor trainers, we have seen some students who, although they started out training with a mindset of “deepening their own practice and learning more about yoga,” were operating their own yoga studio 12 months later, bringing in enough revenue to live well. I am thinking in particular about two of my students. What do you think they had in common? They had a clear goal and a strong focus; they knew exactly what they wanted. Everything is possible when you have a dream and a strong focus.
Being a yoga studio owner is not the only goal or option, there are many different settings you can pursue. I would not recommend this route if you are not a very business-oriented person, as it gives you little time to do what you really love–work with your students. As a studio owner, you are constantly occupied with running the business, which means making everything happen. Whether or not you have a staff, you are the leader and you need to be running the show.
Maybe you want to keep your day job or reduce the hours and teach at night and on weekends. For most people, this is the first logical step to making yoga a full-time job. Then you will also have a chance to see if a career in yoga is really for you.
You need to have a plan in place–including 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, 1 year and 3 year goals–where you clearly write down where you want to be and what you want to be doing. This will dramatically increase the likelihood of succeeding. Those who have clear, specific goals succeed at a much higher rate than those who just drift without a specific plan in mind.
There are many options when you first start out. In addition to the obvious, teaching at the local gym or yoga studio, you can also give private classes to students, businesses, schools, athletes, seniors, or people with special needs (I won’t mention pregnant women here, since you’ve certainly heard that one before…). If you can find a target market that seems attractive–maybe at your work place, or teaching busy moms with small kids–then you should start there. The more specific your group, the faster you will develop a following and a reputation, much more so than being a yoga instructor who can teach “everyone, anything, everywhere.”
In the beginning you need to be prepared to take what you can get to gain experience and get some teaching hours under your belt. This does not mean that you ditch the idea of a clear target market; it means you have to keep focusing on your goals while you do the hard work of getting experience. This hard work will typically include running from one place to another and slaving away for pennies per hour. During this time you should gather as much knowledge and know-how as possible and develop your own teaching style, while also building your list of followers. You can see this as a time for marketing and education, and then when the time comes, you will be ready to stand on your own.
It might take a year or more, depending on your “spirit” and talent, your commitment, and how hard you work. When you are building your group of followers, you will build a stronger relationship with them step by step, and in this phase you will be ready to take the next step in your career. Yoga is so much more than just teaching yoga classes. Think about it. You can combine it with coaching, therapeutic work, writing, speaking, product creation or helping others market and sell their yoga-related services or products. The beauty is that you already have people who trust and listen to you, and they will buy from you when you offer them something in the realm of the yogic lifestyle.
When I moved to Nicaragua I also offered my services as a holistic health coach to my already existing yoga students. I went to the school for Integrative Nutrition in New York and the combination is something I really recommend if you want to have lots of clients and students. My yoga students were more than happy to be able to solve their nutrition and diet related problems with someone they already knew.
During my own yoga career I have also continued to offer naprapatic therapy, which has given me variation in my work as well as expertise I can share with people who have back and neck problems.
The third phase is creating products related to your expertise, or your niche in yoga. Books, audio, videos, on-line courses. Maybe you are good at speaking. If so, you can create lectures about stress management with yoga, or create a series of audio relaxation tapes that people can buy on your website. If you are good at writing you can write e-books on yoga philosophy and sell them on Amazon (it is not hard to publish books anymore). Or you can do as I do, use your love for writing to reach a broader audience for your other products and services by blogging and writing articles.
A common question we get is how much a yoga instructor can expect to earn. When you are a beginner, you should be prepared to earn only minimum wages. It totally depends on where you are in the world. In the countries I have known, you can expect to earn $30 – $100 per class in the beginning. Private classes and classes for businesses should bring you at least double that amount, and the more experience you have, the more you can charge. When you have matured into the third phase you should not have to worry about money anymore.
When you have developed products, you will have a more reliable stream of income that does not depend on trading your time for money. But remember, if you want to build a career out of your passion for yoga, your goal is to free yourself from the crowd and determine your own salary – because your goal is not to move out of one form of slavery and into another.
In Its Yoga we always encourage our students to realize their dreams. Is it your dream to teach yoga? To make yoga your career? Then you should go out and make it happen one step at the time. The universe is calling and we need more ambassadors of yoga on the planet. It is not easy done, I have been living my dream for 10 years and it feels like I just started and that I am just scratching the surface…who am I to take on such a challenge? I keep reminding myself that yoga is so much bigger than me and who am I not do what I do….well that make sense does it not.
Read part 1 of How to be a successful yoga instructor.
Read about our Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training.