10 Ways to Start Your Yoga Career

Teaching an outdoor class at Tobin Plaza with about 60 students

1. Verify that you actually enjoy teaching, not just learning yoga.

This may seem obvious, but there’s a huge difference between teaching and just doing yoga. Before you spend money on yoga teacher training, try teaching a small group of friends, coworkers, or family, and see if you actually like it. You may feel nervous, but once you get into the act of teaching do you feel joy, accomplishment, a sense of purpose? Or, is it a difficult, unenjoyable slog to the finish of your allotted time? In my teacher training class, we had one student who cried every time she was put in front of the class to teach a segment of training. She seemed terrified each time. She had a strong personal yoga practice, but that did not exactly translate to teaching.

2. You like teaching? Great! Now onto the first step of breaking into the yoga industry.

Start by volunteering everywhere and anywhere that will let you teach. Good places to look include local government entities such as the library, parks and recreation department, and schools. If you’re near a military location, the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) department always seeks qualified fitness instructors, and you can usually pick what times work best for you — the flexibility is great. The more you teach and expose yourself to students of all levels, the better at instructing you become.

3. Embrace new yoga students — don’t be afraid to teach beginners.

When teaching at yoga studios later in your career, you’ll find that the students anticipate the cues and generally have a grasp of the sun salutations, so your job as teacher is much easier. When volunteering you’ll often get first time students; the wording that you choose becomes critical because you’ll see right away when your cue choice is unclear or causes the wrong movement. Teaching newbies is great and can be especially rewarding if you’re able to translate your love of yoga to them through clear and concise instruction. Save the chanting for a studio setting — it can intimidate and embarrass first time practitioners.

4. Build a resume and update frequently!

All those volunteer teaching gigs? Put them on your resume. If you’re new to a town and want to a studio teaching job, you need to show that you’re a professional with teaching experience. Build a resume as soon as you graduate teacher training. The sooner you start recording all of your certifications and continuing education, the better chance you have of remembering what you did and when; you want to have a document ready to go when the perfect teaching opportunity presents itself. Make sure to include: certification level and school of yoga, styles that you’re comfortable teaching, any health certifications that you have such as First Aid/CPR or EMT, workshops or specialty classes attended, and any other health or fitness related job or volunteer gig that you’ve completed.

6. Look for new studios and untraditional locations.

So now you’ve built up experience and confidence by volunteer teaching at a number of places and are ready to teach at a studio. Start by looking for newly opened studios or locations that have just started offering yoga. This is the best way to get hired as well as build your student base. Established yoga studios are great, but most have clientele that have strong bonds with their favorite teachers, and can be hard to break into. Reach out through e-mail, Facebook, or whatever media the new studio uses.

7. Follow up and continue to look for more opportunities.

Keep in touch with the different fitness directors and studio owners that you’ve worked for; find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, and send them a note now and again to keep your name fresh in their mind. Continue to look for gyms, karate dojos, and Crossfit boxes that don’t currently offer yoga. Get in contact with those places and give them a pitch of why they should hire you to teach yoga or mobility once a week. If the location already offers yoga, see if they need someone on their substitute list. Visit each place in person — take a free introductory class and take that opportunity to introduce yourself as well as scope out the place as a potential teaching location.

8. Check out Karma yoga and getting on sub lists

Many studios offer Karma yoga, which usually is a donation based class where the profits go to a charity of choice. The yoga teacher is not paid, and donates her or his time to teach the class. This is an opportunity for you to teach at established studios. Teach to the best of your ability, and be friendly to the front desk workers and other instructors. If this is your dream studio, volunteer as often as you can. When the timing seems right, ask the front desk gal or guy if there’s a sub list or opportunity for teaching more at the studio. Be patient, and always be nice. You may not get past the Karma teaching point for a long while, especially if the studio has a robust roster of teachers who’ve been there for years. Be patient, and visit the studio often.

9. Yoga studio work-exchange.

If you’re trying to break into the yoga industry as a full time teacher, one way to accelerate your way into an established studio is to ask about work-exchange opportunities. Don’t rely on the studio’s website — lots of times it won’t have anything listed. See if you can find the owner or manager’s direct e-mail. Once you have it, send your resume and a short e-mail that explains why you love that particular studio and how you would be a benefit the studio. Work-exchange is not a paid gig; usually you will work the front desk and clean up the studio in exchange for free classes. The advantage is that you’ll spend lots of hours at the studio where you can start learning the names of all the students, make friends with the other teachers, and hopefully be first on the sub list. Be that go-to yogi who everyone turns to for class coverage, covering the front desk, and always being ready to help.

10. Network, network, network, and never gossip!

Not much needed for this — remember that the industry is tiny. Never badmouth another yogi or join in on any gossip. Live the values that you teach and always be growing your yoga network!

What helped you start off your yoga career? What other ways did you break in?

Originally published at yoganonymous.com.

Wondering where number 5 is? Tip 5 is always pay attention! ;)

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