The case for Teaching Yoga Part Time
Over the years, I’ve heard a number of yoga teachers say “I’m a full time yoga teacher” with a spirit that indicates “I’m better or more committed ” than a “part-time” yoga teacher.
Teaching yoga classes full time certainly means you will gain more teaching experience in a shorter span of time.
I wholeheartedly recommend that new yoga teachers teach early and often. (By ‘early’, I mean before you think you are ready, and by ‘often’, yes I mean as often as you get the chance!).
But, frankly, teaching yoga full time does not (necessarily) mean you are a better teacher than someone who teaches 2-3 classes a week.
The Day Will Come When Your Cup Runs Dry
We have a duty as yoga teachers to show up with our proverbial cup full. This is the cup from which we can give, a mandatory component of our profession. The main definition of “full-time yoga teacher” — as I have heard it referred-to — (though I present an alternative below) is someone who makes their living from teaching a full slate of 10+ group and / or private classes (probably more like 15+) weekly.
Weekly group classes, no matter the quantity, are unlikely to pay the bills meaningfully in most metropolitan areas (if you know something different, then please let me know). It also means this type of full time yoga teacher is more likely to burn out. If you do not develop a niche in your teaching, and transfer the group class knowledge to workshops and other higher-income, more specific angles for your teaching, it means your skill set and means of income remain narrow.
Real Risks to Your Livelihood
There are infinite scenarios that will then put one’s financial well-being at risk if you teach weekly yoga classes as your sole income gig: If your main teaching studio suddenly closes (which happens more frequently than you might think), if you need to take medical leave, if you lose your voice after a rockin’ concert, if an unexpected bill arises, etc, etc.
Here’s my case for incorporating other part-time work, whether freelance, entrepreneurial or being an official employee somewhere and basically teaching yoga part time:
– You are less likely to burn out on teaching yoga (yes, burn out does happen)
– You are more resilient financially
– You are less likely to hurt your body through demoing, adjusting, and physically running from place to place to teach
– You may find a job that compliments your leadership on the mat (massage, coaching, acting / art or creation of any sort, event management, etc…see my comment in the comment section below).
Am I biased? Totally. I worked mostly full-time jobs in the environmental nonprofit sector (still a major passion of mine) for throughout my 20s before going back to school for my doctorate in physical therapy. The whole time I was teaching yoga part time. At times, (between grants and jobs) I taught yoga closer to full time.
I was once told by a yoga studio that I was not eligible for a raise or another class on the schedule because I was not as committed as a full-time yoga teacher. (Jeez louise, my other gig was working as a physical therapist! That’s hyper-commitment to skillful movement teaching right there — which is a lot of what happens in weekly classes). That studio’s approach made me question my worth as a teacher for a moment, but I soon realized it was their loss to devalue what I offered. And get this: I’m still at this teaching thing after 17 years when plenty of other teachers have moved on. Because of my “side hustle” (which has alternated between my yoga teaching or my other gigs — running a farmers’ market, full time student, climate campaigner), I’ve got a wealth of interesting experience and knowledge to bring back to the mat. I never get bored.
Being vulnerable can be a form of strength….unless you’re vulnerability is being broke
Over all this time, I’ve witnessed a remarkable number of women (in particular) teach weekly yoga classes as their sole income while married, only to later go through divorce then struggle to make ends meet in a single-income home when rent doubled.
I’ve watched yoga teachers who were once proud of their full-time yoga teaching careers lose all of their classes when they moved cities, or face enormous scheduling challenges when having kids, or shift gears toward coaching after wearing the “full-time” label like a badge of honor.
I never want to be vulnerable in that particular way if I can help it. And, you got to admit, it’s predictable.
Teaching Yoga Full Time IS Possible…
but i’ve quit my other job: I’m in it to win it!
If you are still convinced that for you, it’s full-time yoga teaching or bust (and you have a need to make a steady income for the long haul), here’s my solid advice: diversify another way.
Niche down, get private students, get corporate gigs, get online (there are virtually no barriers to starting with YouTube), set up workshops and more workshops, series classes and creative partnerships with local businesses, retreats and more. You may not like doing all of those things, but you’ll find the ones that work best for you.
In the process you’ll end up being an entrepreneur, an event planner, a marketer, maybe a course creator, and a fierce model who evades the income rut or fatigue that often besets once-passionate yoga teachers. And that can and should be the new definition for a yoga teacher.
Pay for your Yoga Teacher Training + Jump Start Your Career
I have a jam-packed online course that covers this very subject and much, much more. It’s called Pay for Your Yoga Teacher Training + Jump Start Your Career. This link allows up to 100 people to get it for less than $20. If you implement even one suggestion from that course it will more than pay for itself.