Starting out as a yoga teacher

So you’ve got your yoga teacher training qualification, now what? Mentor Lucille Wood gives a new teacher guidance in finding work. I am a

Starting out as a yoga teacher

So you’ve got your yoga teacher training qualification, now what? Mentor Lucille Wood gives a new teacher guidance in finding work.

I am a newly qualified yoga teacher and am looking to find some work teaching yoga. How do I go about finding jobs and what are the options? What other aspects do I need to consider with respect to teaching yoga, such as tax and advertising? Vicky Doufa, via email.

You are very wise to ask these questions before you start teaching, as it is not a case of just advertising your classes and collecting the money! In my 28 years of training teachers, I have learned that there can be many traps for new teachers. Having said that, I cannot imagine a more fulfilling thing to be doing!

First, join a professional association such as Yoga Australia. It can give you credibility and access to insurance and support should any issues arise, such as conflict resolution or sexual harassment.

Your training school should be able to refer you to places and people needing teachers. Teachers who trained there prior to you often seek similarly trained teachers as locums. Even if this is a short-term arrangement, it will give you confidence and an entry into the system.

Contact teachers in your area and offer yourself as a locum. Teachers frequently need a fill-in for a specific date or if they are injured, ill or holidaying. Be prepared to work at short notice! They may also know of potential classes or pass on an existing one because they are overstretched.

Approach gyms and health clubs with your CV and references and ask to be considered when an opportunity for a class arises. Make it known that you are willing to fill in for a sick teacher at short notice. Remember, you may be competing with Zumba or Body Pump classes and have drop-in students as well as regulars. There is also pressure to keep class numbers high.

Community centres are often willing to begin classes if there is enough interest. Present a proposal for 5 to 10 classes as a trial run, have some flyers to show, and be sure your CV, insurance and first aid certificate is up to date. Increasingly, there are requests for police checks as well.

Additionally, there are many schools and colleges now offering yoga before or after school hours or as part of the curriculum. Ask for an interview and present your credentials and a proposal, for example, three free classes after school for HSC students, with a view to a regular class if it goes well. Make sure you are familiar with teenagers and have some tactics for dealing with their behaviour. Also offer classes for the teaching staff.

Corporate work is another avenue. Many large companies offer yoga as part of their employee benefits. Approach the social secretary and propose a short trial series of classes.

Private classes are sometimes in demand. Many people prefer to learn something on a one-to-one basis. This is more highly paid, but much more demanding. “My place or yours” can be an issue; it is important to set time and space boundaries.

Setting up your own classes is much easier if you are a known and established teacher. Remember, hanging up your sign does not automatically attract students—they need to know who you are and what experience you have. There are also a lot of expenses and legal issues with setting up a studio, such as leases, parking, zoning, access times, cleaning and reception/bookings.

Don’t forget to check the area for noise and safety, especially at night.

When advertising, state what style of yoga you are teaching and check you are authorised to teach that specific style (especially Iyengar and Bikram). Are you able to use the logo or mention your training school? Is the style dynamic or relaxing and meditative? Research where prospective students are likely to find out about you, then place your advertising there. Community noticeboards, shopping centres and like-minded businesses are useful places (be sure to ask first).

Make sure you have an ABN for tax purposes. Engage an accountant for business structure guidance and consider an accounting system—how will you record attendance, payments and expenses? There are costs involved in setting up a yoga teaching business, so think about how you will finance it in the early days. Remember: it is usually several years before a business is able to create a profit.

Finally, what provisions have you put in place for your own maintenance and growth? Make sure you attend a weekly class for yourself, for your own nurturing and growth, or the well will quickly run dry. A teacher who ceases to learn forfeits their right to teach. Not only that, they will soon feel lacking in inspiration and their classes will empty and quickly fail.

Lucille Wood is co-director of Gita International Yoga in Melbourne. She has been practising yoga since the 1960s, training teachers since 1984, and has co-authored yoga books, including Yoga for You.