Yoga is in! It should come as no surprise that the demand for yoga teacher training has grown exponentially in recent years.
While the Road to Enlightenment is paved with good intentions, it can also be potholed with some sobering realities.
1. As a yoga teacher, you will struggle financially (even though Yoga, Inc. is a $10 billion biz).
Do you have big dreams of helping people while maintaining a healthy lifestyle for yourself? Good! Don't quit your day job.
You know the magazines with the teacher training advertisements? The ones where smiling, Lululemon-clad students pose on the porch of fancy yurts overlooking the ocean on some exotic island? Enjoy the palm trees and warm salty breezes while they last.
Unless you teach in Beverly Hills or have connections at a Manhattan mega-studio or are just extremely flexible and charismatic (not to mention mind-blowingly awesome-looking in spandex) your post-training life will not be nearly that glamorous!
2. Most yogis are reluctant to discuss money, but we cannot live on love and light and happy vibes alone. The landlord, electric company and the grocery store accept only cash money. Budget. Prepare. Pare down.
The caricature of the organic kale-eating, kombucha-sipping, fair trade chocolate-buying, Whole Foods shopping yoga teacher is one helluva misconception. As winter rages and your couch cushions runneth free of spare change, you may consider burning your yoga training manual for warmth and eating your threadbare hoodie for sustenance.
Do you have savings to fall back on? Can your partner or family contribute financially, especially in the nascent stages of your teaching adventure? If single, can you share the rent with family, friends or eight roommates in a drafty loft on the edge of town? Can you forgo niceties like take-out meals, nights out or vacations?
Pay can be low. A new teacher will likely make $25 per yoga class in an urban gym or studio. Smaller studios or community centers will most likely be able to offer less in terms of financial compensation.
Plan for transportation costs and incidentals.If you live in a city, you'll very likely spend most of your yoga workday back-and-forth in traffic en route to multiple classes. You must, therefore, have a reliable vehicle (if your class sites are not served by public transport or safe for bicycling).
Budget for travel time, traffic jams and incidentals like parking and gas. I could sometimes spend an hour traveling to and from class and pay $20 for a parking garage.
Consider insurance and certification costs. As a subcontracted employee, a yoga teacher should maintain health and accident insurance. To remain certified with Yoga Alliance, a teacher will spend a certain number of continuing education hours in workshops with master teachers. These workshops are fabulous learning opportunities. Tuition fees also rival the GDP of a small island nation.
3. Yoga-teaching jobs can be uber-competitive, especially in urban areas.
The demand for teacher trainings has increased in the last few years. Teacher training schools are really cranking them out! Yoga Alliance-certified programs, which require 200+ hours of practice and study and are conducted by experienced practitioners, are the gold standard.
Unfortunately many teacher trainings, conducted online or in an afternoon, do not live up to these standards. Charlatanism can run rampant. Many new teachers enter the classroom without proper training in anatomy and physiology. They pose a danger to themselves and their students.
Remember -- you're competing with everybody for those teaching spots.
4.) Not all yoga people are "nice" people, especially when there are profits to be made and reputations to be cemented.
I am blessed to have come into contact with some pretty amazing and inspiring yoga students, instructors and fellow teachers.
I've also seen many yogis behaving badly: The teacher too busy ogling herself in the mirror to assist students. The studio owner implying a yoga teacher is greedy and "UN-yogic" for requesting her wages when she has not been paid in months and needs rent money. The mean girls poking fun at a new and unfashionably dressed yoga student. The rock star teacher who treats his students like personal possessions.
Be humble, but do not allow yourself to be taken advantage of, financially or otherwise. Do not allow a "higher up" to convince you your work doesn't have value. Would a plumber or physical therapist work without pay for a year? Unless you have explicitly agreed to volunteer, you shouldn't either.
Maintain your boundaries. Process your joy. Own your disappointments. The bullshitters are our greatest teachers.
5. Listen to your body.
In the quest to support yourself as a yogi-at-large, you will teach many classes per week. Warm up before each class. Listen to your aches and pains. Arrange for a substitute in the event of injury or illness. If an employer or studio owner pushes you beyond what your body can handle, you are better off working elsewhere or practicing on your own.
6. Remember what brought you here.
Most yoga teachers have that a-ha moment. For me, it was savasana on top of a roof in India many years ago. After a long practice, I felt my worries melting away. I felt deeply connected to the Universe. I wanted to share this ancient art and feeling of well-being with others.
What is your a-ha moment?
Hold onto it closely. Set your intention. Keep the love. Several classes a week with dedicated students, without the financial pressure to make your passion a career, might be just what the yoga doctor ordered!
This version contains some editing. Originally appeared on Elephant Journal.