why do you want to teach yoga?

I’m just throwing the question out there.  I know why I teach, but why do YOU want to teach yoga?

I suppose this goes back to the “how much is a yoga teacher worth?” question, and for those of us who don’t want to return to the corporate life, yoga teaching is my vocation, my avocation, and my personal dharma.  I know more than a few teachers who also do massage or another holistic practice or their yoga teaching is a “sideline” and they rely on another’s income (and health insurance.)

I know very few yoga teachers who totally support themselves by only teaching yoga. because of a life-changing decision I have made, I may have to get a part-time job.  but I know I will never stop teaching yoga and Buddha/Kali/Shiva willing, I will do this the rest of my life, either in the US or in India.  I still need to finish my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training at Spirit Rock, and in October I start Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training. in late 2009 I plan on living two months in an ashram in South India studying yoga therapy with a swami.  this will require me to give up two steady yoga gigs, or at least get subs for them. as I mentioned in another post, for those of us who do these lengthy trainings, there is no guarantee we will have yoga jobs when we get back. this is the reality of the yoga biz. but this is my commitment to myself, to immerse myself as much as I can — at my age I have a lot less time on this earth than if I would have started this path 30 or even 20 years ago.

everything I earn gets plowed right back into my yoga biz (I’m incorporated.) I am over 50 and this is my life plan and nothing will keep me from it. I know this is my path and I have given it up to the Universe to follow this path for the rest of my life.

what will you give up to be a yoga teacher?

I live in the Chicago area where there is a plethora of yoga teacher training programs all costing beaucoup bucks. this is where the yoga money is made, in teacher trainings and offering workshops.  a well-known American yoga teacher who was on the same retreat that I was told me that she rarely teaches group classes anymore, that she makes her money on her branded teacher trainings and traveling the world doing workshops.

when I was certified in 2002 there were only four training programs in Chicago that I knew of.  now almost every major studio both in the city and suburbs, and some not-so-major, have teacher training programs that train you in “their” brand of yoga.  and of course there are the weekend programs (become a yoga teacher in 16 hours!) and the online yoga teacher training courses where voila!…anyone with a computer can become a yoga teacher.  of course, not everyone who does a training wants to be a teacher, some do it to deepen their yoga knowledge.

for a while I thought of starting my own teacher training program, which would actually be unique in my area because I would incorporate yoga therapy and Buddhism, no other local training offers that. but I decided I don’t want to be tied down with that right now…my next two years are going to be for my own yoga sadhana culminating in the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, India in 2010.

so where are y’all going to teach?  after spending thousands of dollars on your training will you be happy making $4 or $5 or $6 when one student shows up to the studio?  I made $12 again last night. I used to teach at a studio where students paid $5 for their first class and the owner did not pay the teachers for those students because she would “lose money.”  some months I had so many first-timers in my classes I lost over $100 in monthly income. I’m not crying about this, this is the reality of the yoga biz.

people want yoga for the same fees that they are paying with their gym memberships. and everybody — every spa, chiropractic center, gym, and physical therapy office — wants in on what they view as big bucks to be made in yoga. the yoga biz in America — a gazillion dollar business according to Yoga Journal.

but who’s making the dough and where’s the dharma?

I have a friend who’s convinced that everyone doing teacher trainings nowadays are delusional, that they’ve all drunk the Yoga Journal kool-aid about becoming a yoga teacher.

have you?

22 thoughts on “why do you want to teach yoga?

  1. haha! I love it – who’s making the dough! Very good question, and when you find out let me know.. as it’s certainly not me!I taught yoga full time for a year and found it incredibly taxing. I also really struggled as it became a ‘job’ and not something I enjoyed as I once did.Now I’m still teaching about 5-7 classes a week but I have found my passion again, and also have found time on the mat for myself (as a student).Why do I teach tho? Well, I didn’t do my ‘teacher training’ to actually go out and lead classes. I did the training as I was just so interested in the history and philosophy of it. However, when I came to the end of my training, and found out how much yoga had changed my life (and indeed how much it has the power to change others lives), well.. I just HAD to share this with others.So that is why I teach yoga – a teeny part of why. Other parts – you see students transform in front of your eyes, you find friendships, it’s just amazing.. there’s so many parts!Thanks again for an inspiring post : )x


  2. I’ve been reading yr blog for sometime now and I really admire you. I’d love to have you as my teacher if we lived in the same country . So much I would learn from you I’m sure. Wish you all the best in yr journey. May it be a blessed one.


  3. “you see students transform in front of your eyes…”yes, how true! I have students who have been with me since I started teaching, going on 7 years now, and the changes are incredible….as for the money, while I need to absolutely support myself, I am not doing this for the money. if that was my primary reason, I would have stopped teaching a long time ago and gotten a “real job”! 🙂 I know I am blessed to spread the dharma in this way.ivete, you are much too kind!thank you both very much for reading and for your comments!


  4. good question. i believe yoga chooses us. and the only way we can pay it’s benefits back is to teach it to others. without the $ in mind. cause that is not what it is about. i am far from the perfect guru type, i am surprised god wants me to do this but it’s obvious at this point. i might as well just obey.i am strangely driven to teach people how to help themselves. that’s why i like yoga above all other therapies. because they are not dependent on me to heal them. they can simply heal themselves. i am completely turned on by that.it’s like the old saying, and i am not sure where it comes from but it’s something like, “give a person a fish and you feed them. teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime”


  5. Some great questions, Linda!To echo what bindifry said: “i believe yoga chooses us. and the only way we can pay it’s benefits back is to teach it to others. without the $ in mind. cause that is not what it is about.”I think if a person is going into a teacher training program expecting “enlightment” and wonderful “oneness” and esoteric “bliss” (which I have witnessed in people’s expectations), they are going to be sorely disappointed with that first yoga gig through community ed or the Y, because it doesn’t match THE vision of teaching that class of 40 in the fashionable yoga clothes on the 20th floor of some highrise overlooking a well known river. But I digress from the question. I teach because it called to me. I teach because something said I needed to. I teach because I love the interaction. I teach because I love to learn. I teach because I love the challange. I teach because I love passing on what I learn. I teach because I love the students. I do not teach full time. I work a regular 8-5 job and lead 4 classes in my part time (2 at a studio, 2 at the Y). I am more content now than I ever have been in my life before this.


  6. I love reading your blog! Your articles are not just nice, they’re REAL. Do you mind if I add you in my blogroll?At one point in my life, I considered teaching yoga with the prodding from my friends who saw how it transformed (and is transforming) me and my sheer love for it. But time and again, I ask myself if I really want to do it. I am blessed to have met real good teachers, who have taught much more than the asanas, and they’re a tough act to follow. I am not sure if I can give my students the same thing, as I cannot give what I do not have (and I do not want to shortchange them either). Only time will tell if that’s my dharma; for now, I move on with my journey to healing where yoga plays a big part.I wish all yoga teachers blessings! Especially those who do yoga teaching as a mission, and not just for the money. Maybe some (most?) of you have no idea how much you have helped your student. Namaste!


  7. chona said-“Maybe some (most?) of you have no idea how much you have helped your student.”part of the yoga path is gratitude. it is very important to express that to your teacher.something most yoga students do not understand. often we are left quite empty. many students never even say “thank you” after a class. it’s sad, really.i study with an amazing aussie teacher. part of her teaching is a gratitude circle at the end of the cycle. everyone sits in a circle and must show gratitude to the teacher.and when you receive shakti from your guru, the respectable thing to do is kneel before him and touch his feet. it’s dharma.


  8. bindi — SO SO TRUE! unfortunately there are many people who think we, as yoga teachers, should practice the highest form of contentment, santosha, that when we talk about things that are lacking (gratitude, as you say, for example), that somehow we are not “content”, that we should just accept whatever is given or not given to us, as the case may be, and never open our mouths. chona —“Your articles are not just nice, they’re REAL.”chona, thank you so much! I would much rather have someone tell me that my writing is real, than someone tell me I’m a good writer! however, there are many people for whom it is TOO real, and frankly, I don’t write to please others.


  9. so you think dena (that’s who i am describing) should not have these gratitude circles?i am content, personally. i just find it quite alarming how many students, rather than saying “thank you” instead say things like “why didn’t i get more adjustments? i paid my money just like everyone else”sorry, but yoga teachers are also human beings. and i do not believe in keeping my mouth shut. people need to be educated about ettiquette. other cultures do not have this issue at all, as teachers are considered the highest form of professions.


  10. “so you think dena (that’s who i am describing) should not have these gratitude circles?”??????I’m not saying that at all.“sorry, but yoga teachers are also human beings.”right, I agree. and I’m referring to comments made on some of my posts.


  11. all i’m saying is that yoga teachers are people like the students and that for students to say “thanks” goes a long way, even though i have learned to live without the gratitude. students don’t tell their teachers thanks or even acknowledge them as their teachers far too often. they do not know that gratitude, like santosha, is part of yoga.that is all.


  12. I agree….I wrote about that in a post called “how to be a good yoga student.”I think that lack of gratitude or lack of acknowledgement is definitely an American/Western thing. you know it’s not that way in India. I have no problem touching the feet of my teacher, Ramaswami, when he comes to Suddha’s.


  13. New reader here. I was introduced to yoga in 2002, and have been practicing seriously since this April. I have experienced nothing but expansion in all things since I began my practice – patience, love, energy, health, I could go on and on. After a life-changing chakra seminar, I decided I wanted to do yoga for the rest of my life. I badly want to do teacher training (I haven’t yet learned <>enough<> patience:)), but I’m pretty sure I’m not ready yet. When I do, I will be doing it not only to be certified so I can teach, but also to expand even more – knowledge, love, patience, experience. I want to teach to share my love of yoga with others, and (mostly) because I want to fill my days with yoga. I’d like to make a living at it, but I don’t think I’m dedicated enough, so I plan to do my current profession part-time and teach part-time. I think it’s possible that I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and am envisioning a lifestyle that will not be nearly as much fun as I want it to be, but it’s what my third eye sees when I look inward. I don’t really care about location, LuluLemon, quantity of students – I just want to teach, and practice, and teach, and practice.


  14. Hi,

    My stumbling across this blog is spot on! After a couple of days “trawling the net” for a yoga holiday in India (I've never been) I came to the conclusion that Yoga really is big business with its stars and cool websites! This is a bit of a downer for me as I would love to do the teacher training not to teach necessarily but as a way of finding out more and more and more about it and myself… but maybe I should also do marketing 😉 just joking…I know that teachers need to earn a living but I have ranted in the past, on the Yogapages site in the UK about the cost of some yoga classes. Talk about a pursuit for the middle classes! I'm hoping that if I eventually teach yoga, I will just charge enough to cover the hire of the hall in neighbourhoods who can't afford the gym membership nor the £14 yoga class!


  15. I have been practicing for over 10 years and I finally tested myself to see If i had the patience and courage to teach. One of the things that inspired me is a saying I read which is “when the student is ready the teacher appears”. I want to share the happines it brings me and since I have started so far so good, it terrifies me that I may have some modification nightmare in my class, but I keep going back to share my passion. No one has a flexible body in my class, they are tired after a day at work and some escape the kids et al, but it still doesn't put me off. Am I making a living ? No, but am I happy? yes. I just don't know if I can find another part time job that will supplement this before I may have to return to the corporate world …


  16. Yoga Cool-aid, no kidding. I have been in towns that have more teachers than students! I am an Iyengar instructor and give thanks daily to the divine leading my way. I actually make a living teaching yoga, in Vancouver, with it's surplus of teachers and wanna be teachers. It's frightening, having no security, no pension, no mat leave, no medical or dental, but it calls me, and I respond, and the students come.
    Om Shanti!


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