What To Expect As A New Yoga Teacher: Part 1

what to expect as a new yoga teacher “Yoga is a light which once lit will never dim. The better your practice the brighter your flame.”

~ B.K.S Iyengar

Yoga practice has only been a part of my life for the past four years, and yet, it seems like it’s been a lifetime. It’s changed me in every possible way {read How Yoga Changed My Life} and when I took a month off from my full time job back in June to complete a 200 hr. YTT program, I had never felt so sure of anything in my life. The training was tough {read 5 things I learned from YTT} but it was so incredibly fulfilling.

Teaching yoga brings me so much joy. But that’s not to say it hasn’t come with its share of growing pains. I’ve only been certified for the past three months and after teaching just four classes, I’ve already learned so much! Some learnings I expected while others came as a complete surprise — and that’s why I wanted to share it with you all. I started writing out a list of everything I’ve experienced thus far and it became so long I feared that I would put you all to sleep if I listed everything! So with that said, this post is just part 1 of a multi-part series… because I honestly believe the first year of teaching is 100% a trial period. It allows you to dip your toe in the water and figure out what teaching yoga means to you.

So if you’re considering becoming a yoga teacher or are a newbie in the biz like myself, I hope you’ll enjoy following along as I make ALL the mistakes that you can learn from. :) Oh — please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert and am not speaking on behalf of every new yoga teacher. These posts are purely an inside look at my own personal experience.

My two insights for today’s post are: 

  1. You will not get a job at a reputable studio right away 
  2. You WILL mess up 

Seems pretty obvious right? Well, the first one I definitely knew. The second, I was secretly hoping wouldn’t happen… but of course I was totally wrong. So allow me to elaborate on both:

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Getting A Job At A Studio Is (Nearly) Impossible

I’m not saying there’s not a chance that you’ll land a well-paid teaching gig right outta Yoga Teacher Training, but let’s be honest, the yoga world is highly competitive and all “oms” and “Namaste” aside, it’s a business. A multi-billion dollar business. Which means the market is saturated, competition is high, and studios are only willing to hire the best of the best. This usually means that the majority of teaching jobs require at least 2-3 years’ experience (if not more) and sometimes even 500 hrs. of teacher training under your belt. It’s important to keep this in mind if you’re banking on yoga teaching being your full-time job. I’m not saying all of this to bring you down but it’s important to remain realistic and set your expectations accordingly.

So how in the world are you, a bright-eyed and fresh new yoga teacher, supposed to get experience if studios won’t hire you? There are various ways to go about this, but if you’re really looking to start teaching right away I suggest being nimble and super proactive. The following are a few ways to get started:

  • Host Free Classes In A Public Space (or open studio)
    • Get on social media and tell your friends, family and local yogis that you’d like to host a free class for them. It can be in a park, on a beach, or even at certain studios that offer community classes. I was able to get on the monthly schedule at the Athleta Flatiron studio here in NYC because it’s free and open to the public. I know the notion of free classes isn’t great, but it’s honestly such an amazing way to practice and start building a network. I obviously only recommend this if you have a full time job.
  • Teach A Corporate Class
    • If you do happen to work full time, whether that is at a small startup or a large corporation, I highly recommend going to your HR director and asking if they’d be willing to let you teach yoga for your colleagues. My very first class happened to be for a few of my co-workers in our office kitchen and it was honestly such an amazing experience. It helps to teach in an environment that you feel safe and familiar with, and of course with people who you know are there to support you.
  • Hold Small Classes For Friends
    • Whether you choose to offer private sessions or just ask if your girlfriends would want to get together to have you walk them through a flow, teaching your friends is such a fun way to become more comfortable with your sequences! And to get good honest feedback too. 😉

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You Are Going To Make Mistakes While Teaching

I’m sure this still happens to the most seasoned of yoga teachers — but I guarantee that it will happen often as a newbie, and that’s okay! It’s all a part of the process and as long as you learn from your mistakes, then you’re on the right track.

During my demo class at Athleta, I forgot a part of the sequence about 30 min into teaching and in a panic I just started winging it in hopes that it would come back to me. This wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it really wasn’t the best thing either. At one point half the class was facing forward and the other half was facing the back of the room. One woman had walked out about 15 minutes in and two other girls started doing their own thing several times. By the time everyone was laying peacefully in savasana I was three steps away from a full blown anxiety attack. On one hand I was so relieved that I managed to give them enough things to do to fill the hour and on the other hand I felt like such a failure. I was pretty much on the verge of declaring that I wasn’t quite ready to teach yet, until a girl from the class came up to me afterwards and thanked me for “such a great experience.” It was her first time doing yoga and she wanted to make it a regular thing. It was at that moment that I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place… and that’s to bring some kind of joy and positive feeling to at least one person.

I picked myself up and told myself I was going to try again. But of course, practice the hell out of my sequence before going for round 2. As a result, my first real public class went super smoothly and I was incredibly grateful for having such a brutal demo class to learn from!

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There’s still so much for me to work on and improve — and that’s what I’m so excited for.

At the end of the day it’s important to remember that no one comes to yoga for you. They come for themselves. And if you can make them feel something, whether it be strength, peace, pride, relief, or self-love, then that’s all that matters. 

I think one of the best things about being new is that the journey is only going to get better from here. Each class is a learning opportunity, each student provides their own set of challenges, and at the end of every class if you can walk away with a bigger sense of appreciation for what yoga can do for people, then you’re absolutely on the right track.

I have so much more to share and will be updating you guys on more of my learnings very soon. In the meantime, if you’re in the NYC area I’d love to see you on October 14th! I’m co-teaching an acroyoga class with my friend Jules at 11am in Brooklyn Bridge Park and will be teaching a Vinyasa Flow that evening at 5pm at Athleta.

I hope to meet some of you IRL soon

So many hugs,

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