5 Things You Might Not Know About Teaching Yoga

Amanda Sides
5 Things You Might Not Know About Teaching Yoga

Get paid to do yoga! Earn money when you work out! It might seem like yoga teachers and group fitness instructors have it pretty easy: they exercise, inspire people to do the same, and everybody's happy.

I've loved being a yoga teacher since 2007 and a fitness instructor since 2002, but it's not all bendy, sweaty, carefree fun. If you're a student who may be considering a path as a teacher, there are a few things you might like to know.

1. Your practice is not my practice.

I'm there teaching for you. Yes, I'm doing the practice, too (or most of it, in between running around and checking your form), and I might get tired along with you, but that is not my yoga time. Even when I was teaching 21 fitness and yoga classes every week, I did my own workouts in addition to what I was doing in the group fitness room and the yoga studio. That means I, too, was finding that extra time to get on my mat.

2. The pay is...okay.

The per-hour rate looks pretty good on paper. But then you have to factor in the time you take driving to the studio, getting there early to set up, staying late to answer questions, and driving home. (This is why we love teaching back-to-back classes.) Even with gyms and studios close by, each hour of teaching (and pay) usually amounts to two hours of my time--and that's before considering class planning and prep work.

To top it off, most yoga teachers and group fitness instructors are independent contractors, so we pay for our own taxes and liability insurance, as well as music for class, continuing education, and certifications.

3. It's unpredictable.

Yoga and fitness schedules change constantly. You never know when management might decide to remove your class from the schedule. Usually this is because of attendance (which might have more to do with the format and time of day than it does with you), but I've had very popular classes taken away with a week's notice because the gym was cutting corners or making room for a new class format.

Sometimes there's a substitute teacher they want to have on the schedule regularly, so your class gets donated to the new guy. It's just part of the job, and you go in knowing...that you never know.

4. Not everybody will be happy.

You get those students who complain about the music, who shoot you furious looks when you move into a certain pose, or who storm out for who-knows-why. Thankfully, management generally understands this, and solitary troublemakers don't cause as much trouble for us as perhaps they wish they could. However, those incidents are still disruptive to the class, and it takes time to learn that it's not personal.

There was once a guy who, after I closed a yoga class with "Let's thank our bodies for what they've done for us today" (as is my custom), said, loudly, "And apologize for what you did to me." What? He disappeared so quickly after class I didn't get the opportunity for an explanation.

5. Usually, I want to be there. Sometimes, I do not--but you'd never know.

Teaching yoga and fitness is a high-energy endeavor, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. It's a job that's part trainer, part entertainer. There are plenty of times when a teacher is extra tired, is worried about their kids, has 100 things to do, or is dealing with something heavy in life outside the gym.

In an office, I might be able to hunker down, do my work, ignore my coworkers, and head home as soon as the clock strikes five. At the front of a yoga class, there's no hunkering down. It teaches the teacher a lot about what it means to live in the moment and be truly present for the students.

Everyone goes through those times, and there are lots of jobs that demand you put it aside for the sake of the work--this is one of them.