By Kara-Leah Grant, author Forty Days of Yoga
It starts with a yoga class to deal with stress, or injury.
You walk out of class every week feeling like a million dollars and you wonder, “What can I do to feel this way more often?”.
So you start doing more yoga.
Maybe you go on a retreat. Life begins to change. You begin to change.
Suddenly that job you thought you loved where you make great money and mix with powerful people seems kinda pointless.
Out of no-where an idea floats up, “Maybe I’ll look at teaching yoga.”
Do you know how much yoga teachers make?
That’s not a real job. Yoga teachers all do something else anyway, you’d still have to work your day job, you’ll just be twice as busy!
But something inside of you knows, yoga rocks your world. You want to make it your world. This is what you want to do.
This is it! You’re living the dream life now. Teaching yoga!
But… then a situation crops up at the studio with one of the contractors. Or the gym you teach at “forgets” to pay you that month and you default on your mortgage.Maybe you’re teaching ten classes a week already but only making $400 and that’s before tax.
Welcome to the path of a yoga career – it’s not just all blissed out, touchy feely good times. Nope. Teaching yoga, and deciding to make a living from teaching yoga is a challenge in and of itself.
And it’s one I know all about. Teaching yoga just happened to me – friends asked for classes, teachers didn’t show up and I stepped in to cover, gyms asked me to teach… before you know it, I did have those ten classes a week. And I loved it.
This was the life I always wanted to live! Planning classes, teaching classes, working with students. Bring it on!
Unfortunately the financial side of things just wasn’t happening. And on some level, I wanted to be doing more than teaching. Being in the class wasn’t enough. It was time to develop a yoga career.
So I stopped teaching.
I know, counter-intuitive right? But I needed a break, I needed to sort a few other things out… I felt like I had nothing left to give my students anymore, and that wasn’t a good place to teach from.
Plus I realised that the very best thing I could do as a yoga teacher is develop and evolve as a person – then my teaching also develops and evolves.
The situations that cause us to develop are often those in which we’re out of our comfort zone, or we’re being pushed, so once you become a yoga teacher, pay attention to every situation in your life.
Those that cause you the most grief also stand to offer you the greatest gifts.
That relationship you struggle with – that’s your yoga.
The job you have a love/hate relationship with – that’s your yoga.
The family that sometimes you wish would just give you more space and time for your yoga – they ARE your yoga.
Embrace these situations, and know they are exactly what you need as a yoga teacher – and as a yoga student.
Because we are all students, and we are all teachers. You may not be standing up in front of a class every week, but if you practice yoga, you are teaching yoga whether you know it or not. And the more you grow, the better you teach.
Fast forward a year.
I’ve moved to Wellington with my man to pursue my career in communications (and isn’t yoga all about communications?). Landed a job as a speechwriter for government Ministers, and LOVE IT. Plus my job is flexible enough for me to work my yoga classes around, so I’m also teaching six yoga classes a week. Early morning classes, after work classes, lunchtime classes… anywhere I can fit in teaching a class.
And I’m running this yoga website.
Yes, it’s busy. Yes, working a forty hour week means I do wish I had more time to dedicate to yoga and teaching, but right now, this is my ideal situation to further develop my yoga career. I’m right where I need to be, because here I am. (Now that’s a yoga way to see life.)
I see my work as yoga – learning to negotiate through bureaucratic processes and work within an organisation. I’m building a great student base in Wellington by teaching yoga at Pump Dance Studios, Configure Express Kilbirnie, Victoria University’s Kelburn Recreation Centre and Pipitea Campus, plus at Club Physical in the Ministry of Health.
Talk about getting out and about and connecting to a wide variety of people! Plus the people I work with at the Ministry of Social Development know all about my passion for yoga and some of them have been coming to my classes too.
Financially, my speech writing job means I don’t have to worry about how much money I am directly making from yoga, which gives me the freedom to really enjoy the process. I LOVE teaching. I know I will teach for the rest of my life, and at only 33 years old, that’s a very, very long time. As a yoga student I have so much to develop and work on, as a teacher there is always more to absorb and learn.
I’ve taken the long, wide view of yoga teaching, and so I’ve been able to get very creative about what my yoga career looks like right now, and how it will develop.
So if you’re teaching yoga, or you want to teach yoga, allow yourself get creative about developing your yoga career.
Think about your skills, talents and passions in the broadest possible way, and figure out what else you might want to do that allows you to teach yoga -whether it’s acupuncture, massage, school teaching, design work, writing novels or managing a bank!
It’s not that only teaching yoga is impossible – of course it’s not, but if you’re got other talents and areas of interest where you love to play… might as well do that as well!
I do have many friends who run yoga studios, and that’s all they do. But even then, running a yoga studio is a very different kettle of fish from just rocking up to a yoga class to teach.
Owning a yoga studio means you’re involved in marketing, staff management, accounting, building business relationships, handling memberships, dealing with retail… and you do all of that on top of teaching.
Even if you’re just teaching classes out of various locations, you still need to think about marketing and developing your student base. Like any small business, you need to set aside time to work on your business, as well as in your business. It’s about relationships building, and seizing opportunities – just like any other business.
So, take some time to sit down and take a look at all the work you’ve ever done. Identify what your strengths are and what you love doing. Take a good hard, critical look at yourself and identify the areas in which you need to grow as a person. Soak all of that information up and maybe meditate on it, or do a yoga practice.
Then ask yourself, what do you want to get out of life, what do you want to get out of teaching yoga?
And then ask yourself, what to you want to be able to give life,what do you want to be able to give yoga?
Look at how old you are, at what stage of life you’re out, at what life transitions you’re likely to face in the next five or ten years. Think about how all of that will affect your yoga practice and your yoga teaching.
Take a broad view of what it means to teach yoga, knowing that teaching means being a student as well, at all times.
Be creative and innovative as you explore the various ways in which you can offer maximum value to the world through your skills and talents, and through your passion as a yoga teacher. Maybe even get together with a yoga teacher friend and brainstorm with them.
There are so many more ways to teach yoga than just in a class – think about workshops, websites, books, DVDs, streaming internet podcasts, seminars, in-house corporate classes. What piques your interest? What contacts can you leverage? What do you know most about right now? Where can you take yoga that it’s never been before?
The beautiful aspect of life is that you are a unique individual, and the way you choose to teach yoga will reflect that.
Me, I’m combining it with writing, and working for the Government. It’s the perfect blend of my passion for politics, people and words. Who knows what opportunities this may unfold for my yoga career in the future?
Meditation sessions in the House before Question Time anyone?