How does being a yoga teacher sound to you? Writer and yoga teacher Bonnie Bridges urges you to consider the following grains of salt before plunging headlong into a profession that isn’t without its criticisms.
I am actually a huge proponent of people taking yoga teacher training programs. I have taken multiple trainings myself and am an ardent believer in the gathering of formal and informal educational experiences.
I’m ordinarily among those encouraging you to take a new position, go on a trip, or sign up for a continuing education course or workshop. For those who have been considering taking the plunge into a yoga teacher training program, the following list outlines some cons of such a pursuit. The mental image of teaching yoga you may hold may be idealised, so it’s important to apply some skepticism and criticality. If you can reconcile the following points and make peace with them, then perhaps you are indeed ready to dive in!
1. The training is a huge time and financial investment
Expect to pay around £2,200 - 3,000+ to complete your studies, and this cost is exclusive of books and supplies. The local rate in my small, northern British Columbia town is between $2,900 and $3,300 Canadian. In terms of efforts spent, yoga teacher training is no small feat. Expect to learn a lot of material, and if you choose a non-immersion option, you’ll likely be responsible for a significant amount of home study outside of the training hours. Also expect to commit at least a few months to this part-time study. Combined with life’s other responsibilities, this can be daunting for some, and dropping out of a program (with the loss of your financial investment) is not an uncommon occurrence.
2. Yoga teaching can be a poor (literally) way to earn a living
This depends on a variety of factors, especially the context in which you’re located. My own wages from teaching public classes have ranged from below minimum wage to $75 CAD for a session. At smaller studios, you may be expected to unlock the doors before class, serve as both receptionist and custodian, and then lock the doors when you leave. Factoring in hours spent doing these and teaching, you may collect less than minimum wage for the two+ hours spent. A practical workaround many apply is the use of part-time yoga teaching to supplement other sources of income. There are working yoga teachers who survive on yoga teaching alone, but many of these juggle multiple classes per day five, six or seven days a week at multiple locations. They may also be increasing their yoga teaching income via the selling of retreats or yoga teacher trainings.
3. Turning a hobby into work may ruin the fun
This is one of the key reasons I abstained from yoga teaching after the completion of my 200 hour training. As a yoga student, you are free to enjoy and focus deeply on your practice. You may concentrate on your own body sensations, breath or on the engagement of bandhas, among other things. Leading a class is a completely different matter. It is not yours to enjoy. You are on duty. A good yoga teacher is responsible for ensuring participants feel safe and included, while directing and/or demonstrating asanas and their modifications to suit the variety of students in his or her room. For the classes you teach, this added pressure to perform duties responsibly turns the yoga into a job, rather than a leisure activity.
4. Competition, elitism, popularity and striving
Yoga philosophy encourages non-competition, non-attachment, trust and surrender. If you become reliant on yoga teaching as a way to earn a living, you may find that letting go to surrender to the happenings of your context is less practical than hustling hard. In that hustling, you will vie with other yoga teachers for the best time slots at the best venues. You’ll most likely have to hustle for, and make do with, teaching scraps in whatever substitute teaching opportunities come up. If you’re not quick enough in response to a subbing opportunity, somebody else can snatch it up.
Comparison, competition and separateness are totally in contradiction to the central teaching of yoga: that we are all ONE. Wrapping your head around this contradiction may take some eye rolling and mind bending. You also want to leave your students happy with having taken your class. Teaching can become a popularity contest of people pleasing. If students are not attending your classes because they are not fond of your teaching or style of yoga, then you can’t expect that gig to last long. You may find yourself even somewhat selling out, diluting the way you teach to satisfy more clients. Furthermore, in large population centres, yoga teachers are very common, and the number of teachers only increases annually as more and more teachers and studios offer their own yoga teacher training programs as a means to generate income.
5. Stage fright
Mark Twain said, “There are two types of (public) speakers: Those who get nervous and those who are liars.” That Seinfeld bit comes to mind in which folks would rather be the one in the casket than the one delivering the eulogy. Public speaking is a practiced skill (much like breathwork or asana), and the early stages of that skill are very likely to cause notable amounts of anxiety and nerves. Prepare to be somewhat terrified the first few times you lead a class. That heart pounding, sweaty palmed feeling does subside and diminish over time, but rears its head from time to time, like when you feel unprepared for class, start teaching at a location new to you, if your room contains intimidating students, or if the room is heavily attended.
Bonnie Bridges is a yoga teacher, educator, and mala artist hailing from and living in northern British Columbia, Canada. A Chinese proverb highlights Bonnie’s personal values: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” She herself is an avid, lifelong learner, ever in a state of curiosity, discovery and inquiry.
Feel free to reach out to her. Connection is what it ultimately is all about.