by guest author Louise Thompson, Positive Balance
Are you working in corporate but dreaming of jacking it all in to be a yoga teacher?
Do you fantasize of days wafting about from class to class, no rush, and no hurry?
It seems like nirvana as you struggle to focus on yet another board presentation. But, (as you can see from Kara-Leah’s excitement over her new job), is it? Is teaching yoga all leisurely days and packed classes and a blissed out existence?
Having escaped corporate life and loving it, these are the questions I get asked by students thinking about taking their yoga teacher training certification, and what I think you need to consider before taking the leap.
1. What Teacher Training Course (TTC) should I do?
Train in the style you are truly passionate about, not just any yoga teacher training that will give you the qualification in a specific timeframe or is nearest geographically.
When you are giving it to other people it’s so important to really connect at the deepest level yourself with the style of yoga that speaks most intimately to you. Go check out a few new and different classes to the one you usually attend, try a few different styles before you sign up to a TTC. Pick the one that’s speaks to your soul.
2. How hard will I have to work? It will be really cruisy part-time work right?
When you quit to be a yoga teacher then it becomes your ‘real job’! It may not be as part time as you think, depending on whether you run your own business or you teach freelance. I work at least 40 hours a week. I love it so it feels very different to 40 corporate hours, but it’s still 40 hours.
It’s not just the time in class you need to factor in, there is a whole lot more to it. That said, particularly if you freelance, you have a huge amount of flexibility over not just the amount but the timing of the hours you work which is a massive plus and a great bonus for life/work balance.
3. Is it just lovely running a spiritual yoga business? I bet it is.
Here’s the thing. A yoga business is still a business. If you think marketing and sales are dirty words that don’t apply to yoga then don’t set up on your own – freelance your teaching services to yoga studios at a per class rate. That way you don’t need to be hassled with the payments reconciliations, tax, ACC levy, insurance, GST and all the other stuff that goes with running a yoga business.
It’s still a business even though its yoga so if this sort of stuff isn’t your bag that’s cool, be honest with yourself and just freelance instead. That way you get to enjoy the pure teaching experience with none of the business stuff.
But yes, it is a more spiritual business and you get to set the rules! I can give much more value to clients and interact in a completely authentic way that I never could in corporate. So yes, it’s definitely more spiritual. But I still have t0 get the GST done every eight weeks.
4. How can I set a yoga business up…it looks very scary, how do I make it work?
Create what Escape From Cubicle Nation writer and coach Pam Slim calls a “Side Hustle”. Keep your day job and the secure income whilst you get trained and develop your yoga business.
I did exactly this. I worked in senior corporate roles at The New Zealand Herald for a number of years whilst I built my business Positive Balance. Sure it was a juggle, but it allowed my beautiful little business to grow without any pressure on income. That was key to my success. Because the money didn’t matter it was all about the joy of teaching and that clean energy that I poured into my students that I am quite sure made the classes grow and build so quickly. When it was time to jump it was no longer a risk.
So if you have the urge to run your own business the strategy of doing it in stages by creating a side hustle to minimize risk is a good one, and should make you feel whole heap more comfortable plus let you see if you enjoy teaching as much as you anticipate.
5. What else can I do to make it work? I’m also a trained aromatherapist/podiatrist/chef/lion tamer/whatever
If you have a complementary service/product /skill/qualification to offer then it’s a great way to take the pressure off financially as well as keep energy levels up.
This is the time of the Portfolio Career when we can be multi-passionate. Your business and life can look exactly how you want it to look. There are no rules. Complementary offerings mean that you can also serve your students in different and wider ways. I am an Accredited Life Coach specializing in wellness and life/work balance and I love the change up of focus for me between the high-energy group yoga classes and the intense individual coaching sessions each day.
Adding in a complimentary offering when you graduate up from your side hustle can be a great next stage in the progression to full time.
6. Is working all your weekends/evenings a bummer?
Sometimes, yep, much as I absolutely adore teaching and my students sometimes it is. (In fact I wrote a blog about that a few weeks back called Missing in action.
It’s all about choices and about smart back up plans. If you choose to set up your own yoga business then commitment and consistency are the only way to build a solid business that establishes itself.
If you are freelancing then again you have made a professional commitment you need to follow through on. If you can’t commit to the classes you are timetabling for the next 12 months, then it may not be for you. You also need to consider back up plans for childcare in case of sickness etc. It’s all doable but you need to be confident in the choice you are making so you can carry it through when Florence and The Machine are playing for one night only and you are teaching!
The thing is though it’s all worth it, when you see someone who has made it to class and looks hyper-stressed or unhappy and you see their face as they leave, it’s all completely worth it to facilitate that change and see the benefits of yoga right in front of your eyes.
7. Do you think I could be a teacher? I am not sure… and it’s a lot of money to invest in training…
You know, not everyone is born to teach. So be honest with yourself.
I used to run big commercial departments in newspapers. Whenever I would start somewhere new there would always be some sales manager who worked for me that would just suck at sales managing – horrible for his/her staff, not great for the organisation.
I learned very early on that people could get promoted to a position because they were the best sales person on the team. Because they were the best at it, it was assumed that they would make great managers. Not always so. Sometimes a great sales person makes a terrible sales manager. If they had not been moved “up” into a position that was wrong for them and just developed their great sales ability they would have been happier and the organization would have been better off.
So be really honest about your reasons for training to teach. If it’s because you are really good at yoga and want to develop your practice then a teacher training is a wonderful place to do that, but it’s not the only option for you. Go be a fantastic yogi and do a bunch of courses and retreats than enhance and deepen your practice. Go do a retreat, go stay on an ashram and see how you like those experiences if you are unsure about committing to a full TTC.
8. Should I quit my job and be a yoga teacher?
Only you know when it’s the right time to quit. You can mitigate the risk with a side hustle eventually you will still need to make the leap.
Let me tell you story that might help.
When back in corporate (before I set up my Side Hustle) I started investigating MBA’s and had myself reading prospectuses for Masters Degree’s as I had myself convinced I really wanted to go back to University and study. This feeling completely disappeared the instant I left my job anyway for other reasons. I was dreaming about doing a Masters because it was an escape route from a job I was miserable in.
The MBA story I was telling myself was a cover for the real truth, which was I was avoiding dealing with a difficult exit strategy from work. The cover story was a way to distract my attention from my real work which was to examine my motivations and commitment to my current role and deal with that, however hard that might be.
I was avoiding the truth by talking about the MBA. It was easier to distract myself with the MBA dream than deal with the reality of the sucky job.
So, be honest, do you want to be a yoga teacher, really really want to… or do you just not want to do what you are doing?
9. Will I be a starving bag lady yoga teacher?
Well sure, no one goes into yoga teaching for the money. For Sure.
However I absolutely don’t believe that teaching yoga means you have to eat baked beans on toast every night for the rest of your life. You can do it for love AND money. It doesn’t have to be an either or equation.
You can make it work financially but it takes commitment, ingenuity, energy, consistency and a whole heap of passion. It’s all about mindset, if you don’t think you can teach and survive financially then you won’t, if you think you can you will. It’s like doing Crow or a Handstand. If you think I can’t balance then you cant, if you prepare mentally for it then you can. Not necessarily first time but you learn, practice, adjust, and improve. Same principle!
10. I’m not perfect in every super advanced asana so I can’t teach, right?
Don’t worry if you are not the bendiest, not the “best” in class or if some of your future students are “better” than you.
It’s very easy to get in your head about this stuff (and freak out on teacher training!) but it’s highly counterproductive. Drop the internal competition. Teaching is so much more than the asana practice. Encourage the more advanced students with additional variations even if you can’t do them yourself so you keep them growing in their practice. This is a great exercise to release the ego around your practice.
To sum up, teaching yoga is a beautiful way to make a living and make a life but there are a few things you need to think through carefully.
It’s not for everybody and it also depends on conducive personal and family circumstances.
I am grateful and honoured that this is what I get to do and have the most enormous gratitude to my loyal students who make it all possible. I love working for myself, I love doing something that makes a genuine difference and I love I can combine my passions in the field of wellbeing. It still amazes and delights me that the interactions that fill my day, my class and my inbox are universally positive rather than the flight that corporate used to be. I wouldn’t go back for anything.
I wish you all the best with your decision. Choose from the heart, and the rest will follow.
About Louise Thompson
She is passionate about all things wellbeing and blogs about mental yoga tools and techniques. She loves to run, cook and dance, and is an incurable travel junkie.
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