So you’ve finished yoga teacher training… now what?
You’ve invested time, money, and energy into a yoga teacher training program. You’ve met new people, honed new skills, and likely learned more than a few things about yourself on the way.
So now what?
This question is all too familiar to new graduates of yoga teacher training. While you may now be certified to teach, actually securing a teaching position is its own journey.
As someone who embarked on this journey, herself, and has witnessed many others navigate the transition from training to teaching, I can attest there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Still, there are several strategies everyone should employ – and avoid – to ensure future success. Here are my top 3 do’s and don’t’s:
- DO Keep Using Your Skills
The number one issue that I was both warned about as a student, and have later witnessed as a teacher & mentor, is that people complete their training… and wait…and wait… and wait. Don’t let your skills atrophy. Think of your knowledge as a muscle – use it!
If you don’t have the opportunity to start teaching your own “formal” classes or work with private clients, then reach out to your friends. Ask people in your social circles to let you practice-teach using them as students. If you feel ready, ask local yoga studios if they offer (or are willing to explore) community/donation-based classes that you can teach either free of charge, or at a significantly discounted rate. Think of this as playing the long game – as with any industry, you need experience to be hired. So even if you find yourself initially teaching for free, you can leverage this experience when applying and auditioning for paid positions.
- DO Stay Open to More Learning
A good teacher in any field always remains a student. Even if you left your teacher training feeling ready to take on the world and a class of your own, there is always more to know.
Also recognize that everything there is to know about yoga cannot possibly be covered in 200 hours (or 500, or 1000, or 10,000). Think of your 200-hour certification as a Bachelor’s Degree, and your post-RYT200 time actually working with students as your advanced degree.
This doesn’t mean that you aren’t ready to teach after earning your certification. But the best teachers are open to recognizing areas of improvement or gaps of knowledge they want to address. This is part of your yoga, and part of your yoga teaching!
Continue to take classes as a student. Look for specialized workshops led by master teachers, or in areas you think could use more training.
- DO Confidently Chase Opportunities
As with everything in yoga, self-awareness is a balancing act. While you want to be honest with yourself and others about the areas you might want to improve, maintain the self-confidence to embrace and communicate your strengths!
Think of it this way- the worst thing someone can do is say no. Very rarely will someone come to you asking you to teach. To successfully secure employment, you WILL need to become comfortable reaching out to people and pursuing opportunities. Register your information in as many online directories of local yoga teachers as possible. When you attend classes at yoga studios, mention you are a yoga teacher and, using your judgment, ask about employment opportunities. Consider making a website and building a social media presence around your offerings as a yoga instructor.
Of course, in the yogic spirit of balance, there are several behaviors to always avoid when making the transition from yoga student to teacher.
- DON’T Market Yourself Dishonestly
In my opinion, this is the most important “don’t” – which is why I place it first. Think of satya, the yama representing truthfulness. In recognizing and communicating our true abilities, there is a marriage of confidence and humility that the self-aware and honest yoga teacher learns to hone.
This is such an important principle, but one that I believe can be difficult for people – even with the best intentions – to visualize. So here are a couple examples:
Example 1: A prospective private client approaches you to ask for a restorative session, but you have little to no experience in this area.
Response: Be honest! There are ways to do this without entirely dismissing the possibility of securing the client.
You might say something like:
“My specialty is ____. I am happy to do some research on restorative yoga and lead you through a session, or refer you to someone with more extensive experience in that area.”
If the client opts for a teacher with more experience, she will know that you act with integrity, and might either seek you out in the future or recommend you to other prospective clients. If the client chooses to move forward with you, your candor provides you with a landing pad that will cushion any growing pains you might experience as a teacher while navigating the session.
Let’s look at a more high-stakes example.
Example 2: A prospective client is interested in advanced-level private sessions, perhaps focusing on inversions and arm balances. You do not have much experience with these postures, either in your own practice or as an instructor.
Response: If you have little to no experience teaching these postures, faking your way through a private session risks consequences much more dire than embarrassment or your reputation. Your client could face serious injuries if you do not lead him safely in, through, and out of these poses. If you find yourself in this situation, always opt to refer the client out to a different instructor, but provide your reasoning so she doesn’t feel rejected.
You might say:
“I don’t feel comfortable enough teaching those groups of poses to offer you a safe and constructive learning environment. I am happy to refer you to ____, who I trust can provide you with a safer experience. If you are ever interested in [insert your area of training/knowledge], I would love to work with you!”
As with our first example, even in losing a prospective client, you gain their trust – and potential future clients because of it.
- DON’T Instruct Without Insurance & Documentation (boring but so, so important)
You hopefully covered the importance of liability insurance in your “Business of Yoga” section of training, but it is worth emphasizing here. Even in seemingly casual settings, you always want to ensure you are legally protected. Buy yoga teacher insurance, and design a liability waiver for private sessions or classes. There are numerous free templates you can find online and personalize for your needs. Even if you’re teaching a free class in a park, or working with a group of people you know, think of it this way:
- Worst-case scenario, anything can happen. Injuries – or even freak accidents – are rare, but you want to be protected. You also have an obligation to your students to inform them of any potential risks associated with your classes or sessions.
- Presenting these materials speaks to your professionalism. Many yoga studios require teachers to possess their own individual insurance – especially if you are hired as an independent contractor. By having these materials prepared, you will present yourself as an organized, professional candidate for open positions. Similarly, you will reinforce your legitimacy to new clients by showing up with organized, prepared materials.
- It’s good practice! We often focus preparation around what we perceive as more complex, and ignore the basics until necessary. You’ve probably spent more time thinking about teaching postures and sequencing classes than the process of introducing yourself, beginning and concluding sessions, and explaining consent forms and waivers. The more experience you have practicing these conversations, the more smoothly your classes and private sessions will run – allowing you to focus your energy on the actual content you are providing.
- DON’T Jump Without Research
This final tip is less high-stakes than the first two, but very important. After achieving your RYT-200 goal, you might feel ready to take on the world and tempted to chase other dreams. This is all well and good – but do your research! Resist the urge to jump into business ventures just because they have “yoga” in the name.
One of the most common tendencies I see in students going through teacher training is a desire to open their own studios.
Remember that a yoga studio is, first and foremost, a business. You can be a top-notch instructor, but a shoddy business owner. Conversely, successful studio owners might not have any experience teaching yoga.
If you are serious about wanting to open your own studio, I highly recommend working for a period of time in an administrative role at an existing studio. Behind-the-scenes experience is invaluable, and can help you determine whether you truly wish to embark on a journey that, while rewarding, is also very time-consuming and challenging.
I first and foremost want to congratulate you on embarking on this new chapter of your life! Teaching yoga is such a rewarding experience on many levels. The best part – it is a dynamic experience of constant exploration, empathy, and self study. You will rarely be bored and frequently be challenged.
In that spirit – I want to hear from you!
Yoga teachers – or teachers in training – what would you add to my lists of do’s or don’ts?
How would you advise people who are just finishing their teacher trainings?