Yoga is an ancient practice that has been around for centuries but has only become popular in the last decade or two. However, since then, it has exploded in popularity. There is literally a yoga studio or 5 in every neighborhood in the US with over 40 million people who say they practice yoga. While in the past yoga was reserved for cave-dwelling yogis and forest-living mendicants, now stay-at-home mums and even grandmas can become a yoga teacher!
While anyone can become a teacher, not everyone can be a good teacher. Getting a certification makes you a teacher on paper, but what it really takes is practice, dedication, and sincerity to the path.
With that being said, becoming a yoga instructor is not that hard really. In fact, you don’t need anything legally to start teaching. Not even a training or certification; although you might want to do a yoga teacher training online or in person because there is a wealth of information out there on yoga, and no one can know it all. Not only that, but you also learn a lot. I’ve done three and learned loads each time.
There are a few things that will make the process a lot easier. With the right guidance and a bit of practice, you could be on your way to teaching your very own yoga classes in no time at all!
The Role of a Yoga Teacher
As a yoga teacher, you are responsible for creating a safe space for guiding your students through a transformative practice. Teaching includes everything from demonstrating and explaining the correct way to do each pose, providing modifications and props, as well as challenging students of all abilities. You’ll also be responsible for not only choosing a yoga class theme, sequence, and music for the class, but also breathwork, meditation, chanting and savasana. And to top it all off you should be leading your students through the class in a way that is clear, engaging and fun!
While that sounds like a tall order – truth is – it is.
Let’s break it down some.
First off, and perhaps most importantly you are responsible for creating a welcoming environment for everyone who walks through the door. Creating a safe and encouraging space for people to try new things and explore themselves is no easy task. However, if you are already drawn to yoga, it is likely that elements of this might come naturally to you.
Part of creating a welcoming space is being aware of who it is that is walking into your class. Whether or not there are any beginners, if there are certain needs in the group, or if anyone has an injury that makes them unable to do certain poses are just some of the things that help to create a safe space.
Since you are the one leading the class you have to learn how to be able to read the energy in the room and adjust to what you perceive is needed. Each class will be different so being able to adjust on the fly is something that may take time. There is no right and wrong way to do this, as each teacher has blind spots or failings. No teacher is perfect, especially not in the beginning. It is the desire to rise above those limitations that make good teachers great!
Why Train to Become a Yoga Instructor?
There are many reasons why you might want to train to become a yoga instructor. Maybe you’ve been practicing yoga for years and you want to share your passion with others. Or maybe you’re looking for a career change and you think teaching yoga is the perfect way to do that.
There is no right reason to want to be a teacher. Whether it’s your desire to share the closest thing in your heart or just another business venture and a way to make money. There is no right or wrong.
Although purists would likely argue that “you must adhere to the roots of yoga and transmit it only from…” ***continues self-righteous argument. The truth is anyone who says they know yoga, and how it was intended to be taught, is just paraphrasing some book or other person.
In this modern age, no one can be the mouthpiece of a tradition whose origins go back several thousand years. And while in some ways I enjoy the purist approach, I think any approach that gets people on the mat and moving is better than none at all.
So there are dozens of reasons why you would want to become an instructor they usually boil down to passion or money. If it’s money, I would re-think your strategy.
How much money can you make being a yoga teacher?
I wouldn’t want to start my journey as a teacher with the desire to make money as a goal. First off, yoga teachers are notoriously underworked and underpaid (despite whatever statistics are out there, and I know they are out there – they are garbage). I won’t name and shame all the sources here but they state the average yoga teacher makes 75k a year, while other sites (slightly more realistic) state 35k a year.
Like many statistics that try and capture the ‘true reality’ of what it’s like on the ground, I often find that statistics are nice neat numbers that quantity yes and no, zeros and ones, whereas the reality on the ground is a whole lot messier than that.
Statistics create only a version of something based on very limited measurements, often leaving things even more distorted than it already was.
Let me explain. Like many types of jobs in the non-formal job market (meaning jobs that are not your typical 9-5); in the wellness space, they could be occupations like a life coach, reiki healer, masseuse, or any type of self-employed individual who does contractual work or works in the side gig economy. In order to make ends meet you usually have to have 2-3 part-time jobs. While there are people who do any one of these jobs full-time or as an employee that is not often the case, especially as a new teacher.
How to make money as a yoga teacher?
When I first started teaching yoga I had three jobs where I worked in a restaurant, in promotions and in television.
I didn’t mind it, in fact, I would rather work odd hours rather than your typical 9-5. The only yoga teachers who can survive by solely teaching classes are those that are further along on their teaching careers and so have a bunch of dedicated students, or have a well-known name that allows them to hold worldwide retreats, workshops, or teacher training in order to supplement their day-to-day wage.
This is not taking into account all of the yoga teachers that have gone on to create businesses for themselves, which is definitely possible, but that is something that comes from their own entrepreneurial efforts and not necessarily from teaching a couple of classes a day at the local yoga studio.
In fact, there are many ways that you can earn a living once you get going, especially after some experience under your belt.
Put that together with a little bit of a hustle mentality and you can be very successful in making yoga into your main money-making venture. (more on that in another article)
There are a number of online pathways to make money in yoga ranging from being a social media influencer to creating a website where you can start monetizing your content, writing a self-published book, starting a Youtube channel, creating an online course, or teaching online classes.
If you want to stay in the real world and not go online you can: start your own yoga studio, conduct yoga retreats, start doing yoga teacher training, do multi-day workshops, become a brand ambassador, do paid promotions for any number of yoga brands and…tbh the list is endless.
Once you have experience in the subject you are interested in, couple that together with a bit of passion, and sprinkle in a bit of entrepreneurial spirit and you can turn what was once a side hustle into a massive empire.
The list of people who have done just that is endless. (Kathryn Budig, Kino McGresggor, Seane Corn, and Brett Larkin are just a few names)
However, with all of that said, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed if your desire to become a yoga teacher is so that you can make big money. It is definitely doable, however, it’s just not the best place to start from. Start with the passion and let the rest follow.
Regardless of your reasons, becoming a certified yoga instructor does take a lot of commitment and dedication, in order to both grow as a teacher and make a living.
What are your intentions for taking a yoga teacher training?
Before jumping into a teacher training, it’s a good idea to check your intentions before you begin so you know what your expectations are.
It doesn’t mean that you have to have all the answers already laid out for you, what it does mean is that you just take the time to reflect. Sit down and write out on paper what is it that you are looking for
Some questions you can ask yourself are:
- Why do I want to be a yoga teacher?
- What are my goals for being a teacher?
- Am I ready for this kind of commitment?
- Do I have the time for it? Can I afford it?
By asking some questions you can begin to see where you are in terms of your relationship with your practice and how you see yourself progressing in the future.
How To Become A Yoga Teacher?
Traditionally – we’re talking 2000 years ago in India – there was no path to being a teacher. Becoming a teacher wasn’t something you chose, it just happened when you were ready. Back then becoming a yoga teacher was more like becoming a guru (Sanskrit for one who dispels darkness).
Which meant teachers were the ones who, after decades of practice, years of isolated self-study, and after attaining a level of realization or mastery, only then began to teach others.
Those days are long gone. And times are a changing.
In today’s world, becoming a yoga teacher means completing a 200-hour or 500-hour training course. Finished.
That is really all that is expected. However, there is often a bit more to it than that.
Let’s find out what it takes to be a yoga instructor in 2022.
5 Steps To Becoming A Yoga Instructor
This is not an exhaustive list but represents some of the things you can look into when looking to become a yoga teacher.
Step One: Find a Yoga Style That You Love
The first step to becoming a yoga instructor is to find a style of yoga that you connect with. There are many different styles of yoga out there from Kundalini to Ashtanga to Yin to Bikram. And within each style, there are countless sub-styles and variations. It can be pretty overwhelming trying to figure out which one is right for you.
The best way to find a yoga style that you love is to try them all! Seriously, there are so many great yoga studios out there offering free or discounted intro classes, so take advantage of that and try as many as you can. Once you find a few that you really enjoy, then you can start to focus on learning more about those specific styles. That usually comes when you connect with an amazing teacher. When inspiration strikes it will take you from there.
Step Two: Start Practicing…A Lot
Now that you’ve found a style (or styles) of yoga that you love, it’s time to start practicing…a lot! The more you practice, the better your understanding of the poses will be and the better able you will be to teach them to others. In addition, the more you practice, the more your body will open up and the deeper your practice will become.
If you can’t make it to a studio to practice regularly, there are plenty of great yoga videos and online classes that you can do at home. Just make sure that you’re practicing regularly so that you’re really getting the most out of your practice.
In order to be a teacher that people and actually enjoy, you should know what you are talking about, which means having a solid understanding of the practice.
This means you should have a yoga practice that you have been actively cultivating for several years before you decide to become a teacher. I know there is a trend for newbies who get all excited about the prospect of becoming a teacher, especially when in the honeymoon phase. When you first find yoga, and you feel that it is the greatest thing since sliced bread, all you want to do is tell the world about it.
There is nothing wrong with newbies doing a yoga teacher training. Many people can do the training without the intention of teaching. If however, you want to start teaching right away, I would pause, reflect, go deeper into the practice for a few more months and see if that same drive is still there before acting on it.
Without a solid practice and understanding, you may not have the solid experience needed in order to know what you are doing, as there are some subtle aspects of yoga that can only come through practice.
It is one thing to understand your yoga practice and it’s an entirely different thing to be able to transmit that knowledge to another. Anyone can tell teach, but few can inspire.
Step Three: Choose a Training Program
Now that you have a good understanding of the different types of yoga and you’re practicing regularly, it’s time to choose a training program. There are countless yoga teacher training programs out there, so again, it’s important to do your research and make sure that you’re choosing one that is right for you.
When choosing a yoga teacher training program, you likely would want to check out the teacher beforehand and see if their style matches your own.
Ideally, you want the program to be comprehensive, although no program can cover EVERYTHING, there are certain trainings that focus on alignment, or have extra modules such as yoga as a business, or talk about Ayurveda, or focus on Yoga Nidra or Pranayama.
Its great if you find a course that aligns with your interests as well as a teacher who you connect with. Prior to several years ago, the only way to do a yoga teacher training was to do it in person, but now you can actually do a course online. There are a number of online yoga schools (that also have a physical presence) that offer courses for a fraction of the price of in-person trainings, and the best thing is that you can do it from the comfort of your home. Although doing an online training might be the easiest and most flexible way to get certified, though it is not for everyone as there are some advantages and disadvantages of doing purely virtual trainings.
Step 4: Plan your Yoga Business & Promote your classes
Now that you are a yoga teacher the next step is to plan your yoga business. You’ll need to decide what type of classes you want to teach, how often, and where.
This all usually starts with finding a studio where you can start teaching or finding a teacher you can apprentice under. This is an excellent way to not only get your foot in the door but also ease yourself into teaching.
Truth is, jumping straight into teaching a full 30-student class can be pretty intimidating coming fresh out of a teacher training. As an apprentice, you begin by being with the main teacher in the room, adjusting students and generally assisting the main teacher in class and around the studio until you get the hang of it.
As yoga is becoming more and more of a competitive industry, you will likely need to promote your classes. This is more if you are starting something new, or aren’t part of a big studio, or are trying to market yourself online.
There are a number of ways you can start promoting yourself, from social media to word-of-mouth to flyers and posters. Social media is a very effective way to connect with potential students and promote your classes.
However, word of mouth is still king. There is no better way of getting people to your class than through word of mouth. Personal recommendations are always more trustworthy. Let your friends, family, and co-workers know that you’re a yoga teacher and offer them a discounted class. This is a great way to get started and build up your student base.
Step 5: Start teaching & Keep Learning
Now it’s time to start teaching! But don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re just starting out and it takes time to build up your confidence and experience. Almost no one feels comfortable their first time. It’s usually all adrenaline and nerves. Just remember to have fun with it and enjoy the process.
Becoming a yoga teacher is path. Learning never stops. Just because you’ve completed a teacher training program doesn’t mean that you know everything there is to know about yoga. In fact, there’s always more to learn!
Continue taking classes, workshops, and trainings so that you can continue to grow as a teacher and a practitioner. Every year I usually take a handful of self-retreats, workshops or weekend immersions in areas of yoga that I am not super strong in. Especially since I enjoy these sessions I don’t feel like its ardous. I love it!
A Few other things to look into
Become involved in the yoga community
Another great way to become a successful yoga instructor is to get involved in the yoga community. There are many different ways to do this, such as attending yoga festivals and workshops, networking with other yogis, and reading yoga blogs and articles. Developing personal connections is the best way to land a job. We are naturally more able to trust someone we have meant in person rather than just online.
Everyone talks about getting certified, and how it’s a must, but to be honest it’s not absolutely necessary. It’s just that Yoga Alliance has created a monopoly and has got everyone into believing that you need to be certified by Yoga Alliance in order to teach. While it is true that many studios will want you to have the certification, it is not absolutely necessary – but probably still recommended anyways as it may open up more doors in the future.
Once you’ve completed your training, you can register with the Yoga Alliance as a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). This gives you a nice little acronym you can use alongside your name and will convince studios and gyms that you are legit (i guess). In order to register with the Yoga Alliance, you need to pay an annual fee.
Common Questions People Have When Thinking About Becoming a Yoga Teacher
How much does it to become a yoga teacher?
The cost of becoming certified can vary depending on which type of training program you choose as well as where it is located. Generally speaking, 200-hour programs range from $2000-$5000 while 500-hour programs can cost anywhere from $3000-$10,000. Online programs tend to be slightly less expensive than traditional in-person programs and range from $300-$3000
How long does it take to become a yoga teacher?
Most yoga training certification courses are 200hrs usually completed in a 4-week long immersion. There are online classes that do give you the ability to complete the training in as long as 1 year. But almost all in-person training will be 4 weeks unless you find ones that are done on the weekends only for people who work during the day. For those, they can be spread out over some months.
There are also Advanced training (or 300hr) for people who have already completed their 200hr, and also 500hr which is a combination of 200+300hr training which takes around 2.5 months for both.
Can I teach yoga right after I get my certification?
Once you’ve completed your training and obtained your certification, you can start teaching classes right away! You can actually teach before, if you are confident enough and if the yoga studio doesn’t require and certification, as not all of them do. Most studios will require that you have liability insurance before they hire you, so be sure to take care of that before beginning your job search.
We hope you find becoming a yoga teacher as a rewarding path, and leave a comment if you have any questions. Good Luck!
Jake is a yoga and meditation teacher. He loves stream-of-consciousness writing, good coffee, and a quiet mind. Not necessarily in that order. You can find him pursuing that wherever he goes.