With every year that goes by, yoga becomes more and more popular. In December 2012, a Yoga In America study found that 20.4 million Americans were practicing yoga, up from 15.8 million in 2008. Trendy new studios seem to be popping up every week, and as the yoga industry booms, increasing numbers of yoga practitioners are enrolling in 200-hour yoga teacher training programs.
While 200-hour teacher training programs do a great job of covering basics like alignment, anatomy, sequencing, adjustments and more, earning your yoga diploma doesn't necessarily mean your studio (or any studio) will have a slot open for you to start teaching. Going from earning your certification to actually teaching classes takes some work, but it's not impossible. Here are 11 ways to make it happen.
1. Do your research.
Because you'll need to fork over a pretty significant chunk of change to enroll in any TT program, make sure you find the right certification program for you. Invest a little time, money and energy into getting to know different studios in your area. How much do you really like a studio's style? How intense is the training? Does it cover the topics you're most interested in? It might also be worth asking how many graduates actually go on to teach at the studio.
"When it comes to choosing the right teacher training, the last thing you want to do is settle," Pamela Nixon, owner and editor of yoga teacher resource Teachasana, wrote on Yoga Trail. "If you love the studio but not the teacher, keep looking. If you found a training that fits your budget but it’s half way across the world, move on."
2. Offer to teach for free.
Realistically, teaching yoga isn't going to pay the bills until you're quite experienced and have built up a clientele. But when you're just getting started, hands-on teaching experience is a must. Get a group of close friends together, have some fun teaching a class in your home, and ask for feedback afterward. Make sure to let as many people as possible know that you're available to teach—you never know who will take you up on your offer.
“I had friends who were runners and had to do cross training, so I started leading an informal weekly class,” Humberto Cruz, a teacher at Strala Yoga in New York City, told The Huffington Post. “I gained a lot of experience quickly and was able to experiment a lot.”
3. Network. And not just at your studio.
Just as getting a job often requires a connection or two, you're better off knowing people within the yoga community rather than blindly dropping your off resume at studios. If there's an opportunity to volunteer or do administrative work at your favorite yoga studio, take it. And don't limit yourself—get out there and connect with people at other studios as well.
"In my free time I’m always going to different studios, talking to people there and making friends,” Jes Allen, also a teacher at Strala, said. “I make genuine connections. When you find a place you really like, keep going there. When people like you, they’ll support you and tell their friends.”
4. Be creative with space.
If you haven't started teaching at an established studio yet, finding the space to teach can be tough—especially if you live in a big city and have a small apartment. Taking advantage of parks and rooftops is a great option in the warmer months, but when the weather cools down you have to use your imagination. You can also ask to use conference rooms in your office or friends' apartment buildings. And if you live in a place with a big dance or theater community, rent out studios.
5. Get certified more than once—but only after you’ve started teaching.
In the yoga world, a 200-hour teacher training certificate is the equivalent of a college degree. It may be enough, but it's possible that you'll want to deepen your practice with a little more training, whether it be a 300-hour or a few 50-hour courses. But before diving into your next training program, Cruz advises getting some experience first.
“As you’re finding your voice as a teacher, you realize what else you want to keep learning," he says. "Maybe it’s inversions, arm balances, or how to use music more effectively.”
6. Take advantage of social media.
Social media is an important way to get yourself out there. But don't feel pressure to create Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and YouTube accounts as soon as you get certified. You'll connect with people most authentically if you're doing what you feel comfortable with, whether it's blogging about your yoga journey or posting photos of your practice on Instagram.
“I've established so many relationships on social media and then met people,” Heidi Kristoffer, yoga instructor at The Movement, told HuffPost. “I would tweet back and forth with people forever. I had somebody I met on Facebook fly in from Dubai to take a private class with me.”
7. Teach privates classes.
One of the best ways to get started is by teaching private classes. Sure, you may end up teaching them for free at first, but once you get going, privates can be a profitable teaching method. Even better, private clients usually invite you to their homes to teach, so you don't have to worry about finding space. And if you're still finding your voice or aren't all that comfortable in front of a big group, privates can be a great way to start.
8. Go corporate.
As yoga becomes more ubiquitous, more companies are looking to offer lunchtime and after-work yoga classes. Not only is this a good way to make your face known, but corporate yoga can also pay fairly well. Ask your friends if their companies are looking for instructors. If that doesn't work, Yoga Journal contributor Carol Krucoff suggests cold calling human resources departments.
"Target companies that emphasize healthy living—for example, Patagonia and Clif Bar both offer yoga to their employees—or find corporations that are large and profitable enough to offer many employee benefits," Krucoff writes.
9. Surrender to a weird schedule.
In your early yoga days, saying yes is a must. So take as many opportunities as you can and know that once in a while, things will get a little crazy. "When I was starting out, I took each and every teaching gig I could get. This meant I was sometimes working 17 hour days. I once taught a regular 5:30 a.m. client, followed by 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. ones. I got up at 5 a.m., and I was home by 11 a.m. (for a mid-morning nap). Then I had several free hours until my evening classes. Sometimes, my last class or private session would end at 10 p.m.," instructor Edward Vilga wrote on MindBodyGreen.
10. Do your own thing.
We all have our favorite yoga instructors. But just because you love someone's class doesn't mean you should adopt or mimic their style. Sharing your own unique way of leading classes will be what keeps people coming back, because you're being your authentic self and giving them something different.
"Have something special that sets you apart," instructor Rachael Carlevale wrote in Elephant Journal. "Like an artist in training who learns to reproduce exact replications of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, beginning yoga instructors can copy a master instructor they admire. However, there comes a point when you will need to tap into your own creative consciousness and bring forth your own style in your teaching."
11. Take care of yourself.
Ultimately, yoga is all about giving. But in order to have something to give you have to take care of yourself—and your students will be able to sense when you're burning your candle at both ends. Eat right, get enough sleep, and keep up your own practice.
“Always secure your own mask first,” Kristoffer says. “Yoga is an industry that helps other people, but how can you give if you have nothing? Have something that inspires you, and practice what inspires you daily. You can't lose sight of what inspired you in the first place.”