The definition of success has many forms. In order to approach our teaching career as a business, the first thing on our to-do list would be to define what success looks like. Chances are, it will line up with what also brings joy, which also equates to getting paid for what we love. More important than that, however, is the intention for becoming a teacher outside the realms of financial security.
When you think of success, what does your world look like? What is your goal? For some educators, it is the ultimate picture of that private studio in a big city, while others may want to travel all over the world and document their teaching journey from exotic locations. But we all start somewhere, and it can take time to discover what it is we truly want to achieve.
In the beginning, teaching can feel difficult in startling ways. The stakes of achieving perfection right out of the gate are heightened and the desire to serve can, at times, be eclipsed by the desire to be liked by our students. If teaching is your passion, or if you are just getting your instructor feet wet, any practice teaching is valuable hours earned. Whether we are teaching ten or one hundred people, each student who comes to class is sharing the singular dynamism they brought with them. It is the students, first and foremost, who can assuage and even transform the energy of how you teach.
Below are some reminders when embarking on your journey. Finding your motivation to serve, connect, and dive into the sensational world of teaching yoga takes a personal bravery. Understanding your own parameters of success relates to finding your signature intention:
- Have a message: When we approach our teaching engagements and trials with an attitude of excitement and mystery, we are apt to grow into astute and intuitive individuals, and thus, better teachers. So take into account your own beliefs and knowledge about the branch of yoga you are exploring that week or the various meanings of a mantra. Prioritize your learning and practice above all else. When we begin to identify what draws us to the work that we do, our message will become clearer and clearer. All the steps that brought you where you are today should be honored, even celebrated. It is your foundation, and you are helping to create that for your students. If you are interested in what you’re teaching, your students will be too.
- Observe the vibe: Ultimately, we are observing bodies as they move in space, and making sure no one hurts themselves during our careful sequence. It is a journey of endless recording and insight. Each class serves as a reminder of how well we can explain what we want to see our students achieving, physically and mentally. If a sequence proves to be too challenging for the student body before you, then soften it while drawing from the same overall intention. What are you trying to accomplish here with this sequence? How can it be modified? How we approach these unplanned hiccups reveals the hidden intention, because you are asked to put whatever plans you had for the class aside and surrender to the moment in order to make it the best class for all.
- Know your worth: We all want to believe that the gift of teaching is enough. The way we revere our teachers that came before us, we think it should be. There is a common misconception that the ego (that deems money as a necessity and gets anxious when it believes there isn’t enough to go around) should be silenced or transcended instead of integrated. We all have expenses, not even including our own continuing education adventures. There are many types of pay scales, from students paying as they go, which makes you, the teacher an independent contractor, to having a membership at a gym. Where you teach and how much you charge for private lessons informs how much money you make per class. Do your research.
- Make the rounds: It takes practice to figure out what type of teacher you want to be, and how to hone your own style. Western yoga-culture has definitely evolved, especially in the last ten years or so. Depending on where you live and practice, the number of teachers getting certified can outweigh the classes and studios there is to fill them. And if you are looking to make a living teaching yoga, where do you begin? Knocking on gym doors and dropping off resumes is certainly a start, and many are willing to give a fresh instructor a chance to teach a class that always draws in students. This can feel overwhelming at first, as it is different than teaching in a studio. Fear not. Teaching in a gym also allows you to lead a large group, modify sequences often, and find your voice as an instructor. Apply everywhere close by.
- Tune In: While you practice your own private meditation, try to imagine your version of paradise, where there are no obstacles to your dreams. Notice your surroundings, the sights and smells, anything vivid you can paint with your imagination. Envision yourself rising after a long sleep. What are you most excited about today? What is it you care about most and want to share with others? That is your gift, your way to serve. Use this intention, which is deeply personal, yet can apply universally because it represents an act of service and can be brought into any teaching environment. Use your consciousness for good, as they say.
- Focus: All that choose this path of teaching, however regulated, either feed into or shatter the stereotypes of what we think of when we picture a yoga teacher. Our ego loves to compare and measure. We come in all shapes and sizes, have studied in different schools and with teachers that range from the prestigious (whatever that means) to the virtually unknown, (but unforgettable). When we practice, we remember those classes that affected us most, and I’ll bet you that it wasn’t at a giant festival with some famous yogi/DJ combo, however cool the balancing sequence was. So connect to the feeling signatures of remarkable practices you’ve had. Flip through your memory. They won’t be hard to find. This may serve as a reminder of why you were drawn to teaching in the first place, and your appreciation for your own practice, which does not fit into a box but it shaped entirely by you, to mold as you please.
- Gratitude: Perhaps the greatest perk of the job is that being a yoga teacher allows you to deepen your own practice by guiding others. Think about it. You get to spend a lot of time in intentionally stress free zones, hyper focused on your intention for the class and how they are listening, choreographing breath to movement, while at the same time heightening a sense of community, togetherness. And when we give of our knowledge and energy—our time, unique experiences, and tips we’ve picked up along the way–we also receive something from our students. Their energy, focus, and attention. Give thanks. Without them, you’re just practicing alone.
What is most important to you on your teaching journey? It may be the students you get to meet and guide, the opportunity to learn mystic chants in archaic languages, or it could be the physiological deep strengthening of your breath and muscles to age gracefully and inspire others to do the same. Every teacher has their own exciting and, at times, thought-provoking career path that has as many challenges as it does rewards.