Stepping out into the world as a newly minted yoga teacher can be a frightening thing to do. There are so many things to think about when you first start teaching yoga - from sequencing the perfect class to finding openings to teach at local yoga studios; it can all be a bit overwhelming at first. (Learn more in How do I Become a Yoga Teacher?)
As a yoga teacher, you will be asked to wear many hats, you'll have to market yourself, get a website, audition at studios and grow your student base. All yoga teachers, unless you choose to open your own yoga studio, will start their careers as independent contractors. This means that you are now the proud owner of a small business, you! If this feels intimidating, you’re not alone. Below is a rundown of the three fundamental things every new yoga teacher needs to do at the start of their journey into a career as a yoga instructor.
Get Liability Insurance
The first order of business is to get liability insurance. This is essential and needs to be taken seriously. You are now in the business of yoga, and like all businesses, no matter how small, you'll need proper insurance. Unless you are hired as an employee, you will fall into the tax category of "independent contractor." This means that you are responsible for filing your own taxes with the IRS. If you are unsure about your status, ask the studio that you are applying to teach at.
Liability insurance protects you from financial ruin should a lawsuit be filed against you. You may think this will never happen to you personally, but, yoga is a physical activity, and despite your best efforts, a student may get injured in your class. This could be someone new to yoga, someone with a preexisting health condition or simply someone who slips and falls on their way into your classroom. Having liability insurance protects you from these kinds of unforeseen events. Luckily, there are many affordable insurance options for yoga teachers to choose from.
Yoga Alliance offers it’s members discounts on both Alliant Insurance Services for teachers based in the United States and Fraser & Hoyt for Canadian teachers. BeYogi, Alternate Balance, Yoga Journal, IdeaFit and Namasta also offer insurance. Be sure to read the fine print before signing up with any of these providers so that you know exactly what, and how much you are covered for. The cost of insurance for yoga instructors is anywhere from $179-404.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your liability insurance but you’ll definitely want to have it before you begin teaching.
Practice Makes Perfect
Continue to practice yoga yourself. If you haven’t already, now is the time to develop and commit to a home practice. Having your own home practice will help you to develop your sequencing and experience what a specific string of asana feel like in your own body. It also gives you the freedom to experiment with different asana combinations without the worry and pressure of what a room full of yogis might think. Keeping a yoga journal can be invaluable during this process, as you can use it to write down class themes, pacing and insights. (For inspiration read, How to Create an Ashram Vibe in Your Own Home.)
Practice teaching often. Line up as many free classes in your community as you can comfortably fit into your schedule without it being overwhelming. Give your friends the gift of yoga by offering private lessons in exchange for feedback. These individual classes can be taught in the privacy of your own home, so, you have a safe space to start from. You can also ask to teach group classes to your friends at any local community center such as your public library, church, temple, house of worship or even a coffee shop that allows lifestyle workshops! Get creative and think outside the box. Public parks are always a good choice, as they are free and you don’t need to schedule time in advance. If you prefer a more traditional environment, reach out to your favorite yoga studios and ask them if you can rent space during off hours. This is a good way to get the full experience of teaching in a studio space without the pressure of a public class.
Another great way to practice teaching in a low pressure environment is to videotape yourself teaching a class. You will get immediate feedback, as you will easily see where you get stuck or nervous and have the chance to adjust before teaching live. (Learn about "Holding Space": What Does That Mean?)
When you teach a public class, whether with a group of friends or strangers, always ask for constructive feedback. You can create a short questionnaire for specific items you’d like feedback on, such as pacing, sequencing, etc. and print these out to distribute ahead of time. Ask participants to please take a moment and fill out your questionnaire after savasana. You can explain that your are looking to strengthen your teaching practice and any feedback to that end is welcome and appreciated.
Bottom line, keep up your own practice and create as many opportunities as you can to teach others.
Register With Yoga Alliance
The last thing to do once you’ve completed your teacher training and gotten liability insurance is to consider registering with Yoga Alliance. This is a personal choice and deserves some consideration. Yoga Alliance is a nonprofit association that accredits yoga instructors and yoga studios with “Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT)” and “Registered Yoga School (RYS)” designations. For many teachers, it is one of the first things they do. This is because there are an overwhelming amount of yoga studios that will ask to see accreditation from Yoga Alliance before allowing you to audition to teach. One of the stated purposes of Yoga Alliance is to promote self-regulation and integrity of yoga as a discipline at the national level. Registration with Yoga Alliance, however, is only available if you have completed your teacher training with a Yoga Alliance registered program. Check with yoga studios in your area and see whether having a RYT designation is mandatory. The cost of the RYT initial membership is $105 with an annual recurring fee of $55.
Keep in mind that this type of accreditation does not make someone a good yoga teacher. It simply states that you have completed a training that was approved by Yoga Alliance. What makes a good yoga instructor is teaching experience, a passion for yoga, and the desire to inspire and guide others on their personal yoga journey. (Read more in 5 Qualities of a Good Yoga Teacher.)