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Does ambition belong on your yoga mat?

Teaching yoga as your career By Veronica King

Luckily my first and most influential teacher always spoke about being a yoga professional. This was her livelihood and treated it with that respect. This helped shape me. As a yoga teacher, I would always treat my career with that same respect. It’s not uncommon to feel shy about sharing this.

There is in the teaching of any spiritual tradition an ongoing tension between being of service and charging for that service.

You have every right to be proud of your journey, many people won’t even know what a yoga career entails. You will ultimately invest in a lifelong journey of devotion and learning. In every profession, there is a bucket list or maybe better-put career goals. It’s not that often you see this mapped out for yoga teachers. Over time these will change, and as you work on the list some may even reappear. I highly recommend a process of reflecting on where you are, making a big vision list, and enjoying the steps to get there.  

After all teaching yoga is a lifelong journey and there are so many different forms it can take. 

Here are a few milestones along the way and some gremlins that might pop up. Returning to your “why” will help steer you back on course when you lose your way.

1: Become a yoga teacher 

It took about 7 years of wishing to become a teacher before I felt ready or worthy to become one. I was always baffled by people who had tried yoga, loved it and within a year or two they were signed up on a teacher training course.

But perhaps more than baffled, I was envious of their certainty and confidence. The more open and humble you arrive at the training, the more you get out of it. 

I wish someone had come to me earlier and said “just do the training”, the things you are waiting for and the learning you need to do will unfold within the training.

So if this is where you are right now then here is me saying to you, just do the training. (check out our teacher training guide for inspiration).

2: Teach a class at a studio

So you have done your teacher training, finding people to teach is generally the next goal. One of the perks of practicing and training with the same teacher or studio is that you are co-creating and participating in the community. Many studio owners will look to hire teachers who have been students there first.

If you are a new graduate you will probably be offered substitute classes or a nonpeak time slot, just say yes! If you wait for the perfect prime time slot you might be waiting a while.

When implementing new skills it’s always good to strike while the iron is hot, build your confidence and start getting experience. Eventually, a better opportunity becomes available, and you will be ready for it if you have some teaching experience. 

One of the gremlins of teaching at a studio is comparing yourself to others. Know this, when people come to your class it will be because of one or more of 3 things 1- the time suits them, 2 the class style suits them, 3 – they like you!

So stop comparing and stay focussed on your offering, variety is the spice of life, so be yourself, your students will gravitate towards you being you

3: Do more in-depth training, expand your skills and knowledge 

After a few years, you will probably want more training (after all 200hrs is just the beginning). This is where you might focus on a particular style of practice, lineage, or learn more about the business of yoga and expand your offerings. Spend a bit of time researching who you want to study with, before you sign up make sure you do some classes with the teacher that you want to take you to the next level. This is so much easier now with so many online classes on offer. 

Visiting gremlin here is that it’s never enough. There is so much incredible training on offer you might want to specialise in it all. Think about what you are hoping for with the return on your investment. I have literally seen people finish one training straight on to the next, then the next, then the next.

Implementing and integrating knowledge is a potent part of upskilling. Set a boundary and stick with it. Read here for some of NZ best Advanced teacher trainings on offer.

4: Teach workshops and events

This is a fun way to teach yoga in longer more intensive sessions. With more time you can explore topics of interest, get really creative, include more meditation and integration time. There is alot more preparation that is needed and it’s a muscle to grow progressively. Build incrementally and price based on your skills and experience. 

Oversharing is a gremlin here, you want to share everything you know on the topic. It’s very common when teachers are new to longer formats to cram the sessions with too much content leaving participants feeling rushed and overloaded.  

5: Present at Hauora Yoga Conference 

If you teach in NZ this may appear as a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), sharing your insight and inspiration with your peers. Hauora is a wonderful annual event organised by Yoga NZ where the professional Yoga community in Aotearoa connect, discuss, learn, innovate and practices together. 

The gremlin here is that you don’t think you have anything new and interesting to share, so you don’t bother to express your interest. The good news is you absolutely do, the topics and the way they are shared is a representation of all the unique expressions of yoga in our community. (The best news is that there is still time to put in your submission for 2022). 

You never know who needs to hear your story and learn from you. Presenting at Hauora has been an absolute privilege for this editor, and hopefully if you are reading this and tempted to click here to express your interest and I can attend your session.

6: Run a retreat

Ideallic locations, nutritious food, great company, running a retreat is an incredible experience. The risk is high and so is the reward. They require a lot of planning in advance and considering the uncertainty of travel in the last few years there can be a lot of stress (and cost) rearranging or canceling things at the last minute.

If you have always wanted to host a retreat well life is short, go for it. Make sure you read the T & C of any place you book and also make sure you are clear about the T & C for your attendees. This is a whole other level of logistics and the gremlin of “she’ll be right” may come to visit you. But overlooking these details can have major consequences.

7. Own a studio

Owning a studio is an incredible experience that is quite hard to prepare for! It’s also HARD work, much harder than it looks. Speak to people who you know who have already done this and learn from their experience. Get a business mentor. In 2022 having high overheads and an ever-changing landscape for offering group gatherings adds a whole new layer of complexity. It’s not for the faint-hearted but it is life-changing.

Whilst this list is by no means conclusive it will hopefully connect you to dreaming big and celebrating where you are.

Veronica King is the editor of The Yoga Lunchbox, longtime yoga teacher, and founder of The Yoga Nidra Project, an online recorded library.