By Dr. Paul Jerard E-RYT 500
When, or if, you decide to become a Yoga teacher, you should start with a basic Yoga teacher training course that gives you an overview of all of the fields within Yogic methodology. If you decide to specialize, it is best to do it when the need becomes apparent. This is not always the case for every instructor. For example: You may have a calling for Prenatal or Kids Yoga.
This is fine – as teachers, and practitioners, we all understand passion. However, please make sure there is a market for the Yoga teaching niche you desire in your local area. After you get your “feet wet,” teaching Yoga to different groups, you will more accurately see your own destiny.
This may not happen right away, and some Yoga instructors are very comfortable working with the “general population.” When I look at my weekly schedule, I teach Yoga to kids, seniors with various levels of mobility, Gentle Yoga to a targeted middle aged group, Restorative Yoga (which also attracts students in the middle-aged range), Vinyasa classes to students in the 20 to 30 years of age range, and private sessions, which can cover just about anything.
To be honest, this is not for everyone, but if you teach Yoga full time, you tend to teach where the needs are. Students will seek you out, and you may have a specialized market that “screams” for your help. This will guide you toward a needful population of motivated students.
This is exactly what happened to me with Chair Yoga. When I received a call from a local senior center for classes, about six years ago, I had no idea it would become so popular. That led to filling up my morning class schedule. Later, I trained Yoga instructors, in my area, to address a need that is far beyond my ability to fulfill. The fact is, more teachers are needed right now.
In our next section, we will go over some options for teachers, who have students, or potential students, seeking a specific form of Yoga instruction. Some of these niche markets will give you no passion at all, but it is good to look at your teaching options and then decide which sort of Yoga training you want to get involved in.
Always remember to keep an eye on which styles are in demand, even though they may not appeal to you personally.
At the very least, a teacher should have knowledge of the latest trends in classes, and the latest continuing education options for Yoga teachers. If something does appeal to you, there are many different continuing education options available for teachers. There are a number of workshops, seminars, and camps around the world for interns and established teachers.
If you already have a running studio, children, or responsibilities at home, onsite Yoga teacher training may not always be the best option. You may want to consider Yoga distance learning, also known as “Yoga Home Study,” as a viable option. This is a recognized form of continuing education for Yoga instructors by most of the certifying bodies.
Due to time constraints, family commitments, and working a full time job -Yoga teachers often find Yoga teacher training correspondence courses to be a convenient way to expand on their existing knowledge of Yoga.
Now, let’s take a close look at options for specialization in the Yoga teaching profession.
Obviously this is self-explanatory and requires a tolerance to heat – in the neighborhood of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Most hot classes are based upon Bikram Choudhury’s style of Hatha Yoga.
However, it is extremely unwise to copy his exact sequence of postures, as they are patented. Regardless of whether you think it is right or wrong to patent a Yoga sequence, who wants to go to court over it? It never ceases to amaze Yoga teachers when they hear about the potential to be sued. In order to by- pass this dilemma, teaching a Hot Yoga class can be accomplished without a legal battle.
What I see most Hot Yoga teachers do is somewhat similar to Bikram’s style, but you may also see Sun Salutations and a variety of postures that are not seen in most Bikram studios. Hot classes are popular for all ages. There are a surprising number of students who are beyond middle age in these classes.
Some people love the heat, while others simply cannot adapt to these temperatures. Therefore, if you want to become a Hot Yoga instructor, make sure that you are up to the task of leading a Yoga class under these temperature conditions. It is one thing to take a class, but it is quite a different experience to actually teach one.
Many things come to mind when we hear the words “Power Yoga,” but the roots of this style are usually related to Ashtanga Yoga. This is not always the case, but more often, than not, Power Yoga is an offshoot of Ashtanga.
Thinking about Power Yoga may conjure up vivid images of teachers like Beryl Bender Birch, Bryan Kest, or Baron Baptiste. This is a vigorous form of Ashtanga with a Western “twist.” Classes are usually filled with younger adult students and active athletes.
These are not classes for Yoga students with ailments, or for beginners who just “jumped off the couch.” Power Yoga is a fantastic system of Yogic exercises, but if you are going to teach any form of Power Yoga classes, you have to be completely honest with prospective students. The physical challenge of a Power Yoga class is not for everyone who wants to learn a form of Hatha Yoga.
For example: A middle-aged, inactive, beginner student should be guided to a gentle Yoga style, if he or she wants to pursue the study of Hatha. This student will learn the basics, safety guidelines, and contraindications that apply to his or her body. After a few months of regular practice, this student will see the path of infinite possibilities open, and then make an educated choice from what he or she has learned.
The injury of a student, due to the desire for a Yoga teacher’s desire to “fill up classes,” is morally and ethically wrong. Complete honesty with students is not often taught when we are trained to become a Yoga teacher. Yoga teachers are often trained to be gentle guides along the path toward total health.
Being completely blunt about a prospective student’s limitations – might be bad for business. However, whenever a student is injured, the Yoga instructor will often feel remorse, even if the situation was completely unforeseen. The above-mentioned scenario, of an unfit student going into a vigorous Yoga class, can easily be seen. If you do not have a questionnaire for new students, you should design one now, even if you have never had a single problem.
This is not meant to “steer you away” from teaching Power classes or to prevent you from learning to become a Power Yoga instructor. Power classes are very rewarding to participate in and to teach.
When considering the needs of new Yoga students, always be diplomatic, and guide potential students toward their best choice. Unfortunately, this sometimes means we must guide them to the teacher down the street.
It could be argued that Pilates is a Yoga hybrid. I don’t want to start a big debate over the Pilates Method. The founder, Joseph Pilates, was truly an innovator and way ahead of his time; he also practiced Yogic methodology and martial arts. Therefore, the roots of the Pilates Method are still clear to see.
Many of the Yogic hybrids are combinations of Yoga with dance, martial arts, and Pilates. If you were to pursue these a bit further you could “re-invent the wheel” or become certified to teach Kripalu DansKinetics, The Method, Yoga Fusion, Yogilates, or Nia.
All of these Yogic hybrids are very active and trendy at this time. Some of them may well pass the test of time, such as the Pilates Method. Only time will tell if a health maintenance system will span generations. If you are looking for an extra niche to add to your Yoga teaching skills, any one of these methods will compliment a Yoga class schedule.
There are some Yoga teachers who should not consider this field. If a Yoga instructor does not believe in modifications, props, and tailoring a Yoga class toward the students, he or she should stay away from this rewarding field.
There is a tremendously large demand for teachers, who are patient, compassionate, creative, and want to help others. This is a Yoga teaching position which demands that you learn about ailments, anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology, on a steady basis. Continuing education is a very important part of a Chair Yoga teacher’s job.
As the Baby Boom generation ages, this “spells out” job security for instructors who wish to specialize in Chair Yoga. There is no better time than right now to get started, and Chair Yoga will continue to be in need for decades to come. Unfortunately, I do not have enough time for the demand for all of the Chair Yoga classes in my little corner of Rhode Island.
In the past, I have trained Yoga teachers to specialize in this field. The demand to fill the local needs of nursing homes, seniors centers, gated communities, assisted living, adult day care, and physical rehabilitation centers, is far greater than the number of teachers. This is just the “tip of the iceberg,” and my mornings are full with teaching Chair based sessions in the Greater Providence area.
Lastly, the current Chair Yoga teaching opportunities are many, and this particular field is still in its infancy. You will never find a more appreciative group of students, than you will find by teaching a Chair based class. This is one more reason why we have a specific Chair Yoga Teacher Training course.
You really have to be connected to a children’s day care center, private school, or public school, to have large numbers of kids joining your Yoga classes. This may not be the case everywhere, but it reflects the feedback I get from Yoga teachers worldwide.
It is also true for our wellness center in North Providence, RI. Our Kids Yoga class started small, but now has a regular following of 20 students per class. To be honest, I brought Yoga into the children’s martial arts classes by integrating Vinyasa with their regular warm-ups. So, you might call this a back door introduction of Yoga to children.
The result of integrating Vinyasa within a martial arts class was children who shed fat, became a bit more muscular, and demonstrated more strength and positive attitudes than ever before. The parents are ecstatic about the results now, but wondered what I was up to, when children in Jujitsu or Karate classes were engaged in Yoga training, as part of the curriculum. The many benefits to children who learn Yoga are endless.
This is a non-competitive atmosphere, where a kid can just be a kid. Children, who regularly participate in Yoga classes, do not have to put pressure on themselves, and can learn many life skills, such as enhanced self-appreciation.
If you are going to teach children, make sure you are prepared for them to be your biggest challenge. It is all about keeping their attention span, therefore, split your Yoga class into segments. Classes have to be fun, and you should only address four components such as: posture, breathing, relaxation, and meditation. Keep it simple, and don’t go off into a lecture that will put them to sleep. Kids do not come to Hatha classes to learn the finer points of Bhakti.
Always praise each child who participates, as this does help their self-esteem. Many times, Kids Yoga class is similar to a carnival, where every child wins a prize. In this case, always point out the children who try. This atmosphere will create children who follow the best examples; then, praise those children who try to copy. This is a win-win situation for every child in your class.
If you do not have patience, please do not consider teaching Yoga to children. Teaching a Kids Yoga class is not for every Yoga instructor. You have to be creative, an entertainer, and a guide to become a kids Yoga instructor.
After all, Kids Yoga classes contain aspects of Yoga that many adults have lost track of – from a very silly Lion face, to an extremely serious meditation. When you are giving Yoga instruction to a class full of children, your mind must be as flexible as your body.
Usually, Partner Yoga is reserved to workshops or special occasion classes. When I first practiced Yogic techniques, as a child, we did a lot of partner work. In those days, I don’t think we were really concerned with space issues. Kids tend to gravitate toward each other like a “litter of kittens.”
Somehow, Partner classes have not grown among adults in the popularity it deserves. In a Partner Yoga class, many students remark at how much they got out of each aspect, including meditation. A relaxation sequence can be performed with the crowns of the two heads being four to six inches apart. This actually creates a more intense form of relaxation.
Marie, my wife, and I used to teach these classes to singles groups. This puts a “new twist” on the term, “blind date.” Our Partner Yoga workshops did serve to get singles more comfortable with each other. So, Partner Yoga can be adapted and re-define the purpose of a class.
We know that Yoga training helps people in every aspect of health. However, Partner Yoga integrates Yogic techniques with touch, bonding, and sometimes, a bit of humor. All of these, combined with Yoga training, make for a very healthy activity. Despite all of this, Partner sessions seem to be resigned to workshops. A partner session is also a good “at home practice” to be shared among loved ones.
To be blunt – If you are teaching pregnant students without their doctor’s approval, and you are not a certified Prenatal Yoga instructor, you are “playing with fire.” It is hard enough in a class to address the needs of all students. For pregnant students, I recommend a specific Prenatal Yoga class.
This may seem a bit harsh, but Yoga instructors need to protect themselves, legally, as well as the health of all their students. Once you research all the precautions and guidelines for Prenatal sessions, you will fully understand my point.
Just to “scratch the surface of the iceberg,” here are a few ideas to consider. Prenatal Yoga is a specialist’s field. Just because you briefly covered it in a level 1 Yoga teacher training, does not mean you should enter this field without a specialist education and certification in Prenatal Yoga.
Each trimester is handled differently. The first trimester can be as dangerous as the third trimester, if a student is not receiving specialized Prenatal Yoga instruction. The last trimester is similar to Chair style classes, but that does not qualify a Chair Yoga instructor to work with pregnant students.
Therefore, if you feel the “calling” to teach Prenatal students, you should enroll in a Prenatal Yoga teacher training course. Once you graduate as a certified Prenatal Yoga instructor, you will be glad you did. This is a rewarding field, but you need to be trained properly to become a Prenatal Yoga teacher.
Mommy and Me:
These classes are popular enough to be a regular weekly class. Many studios do have them, but they are also popular at dance studios, child care centers, martial arts studios, and “kid friendly” fitness complexes.
The teacher, who considers teaching in a Mommy and Me class, must have “the patience of a saint.” Teaching children is one hurdle that many Yoga instructors don’t want to jump over, but teaching toddlers with their mothers, in the same class, is quite another matter.
Therefore, carefully establish guidelines to keep each yoga student’s behavior in control. You may start out with ten rules, but after a few months I will bet you have many more. Interestingly, I have found that just a few obnoxious parents will, unknowingly, be the cause of rules, and safeguards, for the rest. Such is life – we have laws that most of us would not consider breaking, but always someone comes forth to be the cause of new laws and more rules.
Back to the saintly Yoga teachers who run Mommy and me classes. If you teach these classes, you have my deepest respect and I congratulate you.
I have never run one of these classes, but did once have the experience of teaching children, and their parents, martial arts – in a joint setting. Notice, I said “did once have” – one parent single handedly created 30 new rules before he was finally dismissed. By the way, his child is still welcomed. He was my personal test of patience.
Most people, outside India, discount the value of Bhakti Yoga. This is a serious mistake for the masses to be so involved in buying, gathering, and consuming materials, that “we cannot see the forest from the trees.” With the condition of the world today, there has never been a better time to pray for peace, tolerance, a return to traditional values, and preservation of the families.
Bhakti is the style for divine worship and devotion to God. It helps, if you practice this with other practitioners who share your same religious beliefs. This will avoid conflicts and create a strong bond within the group. This form of Yoga has not become as popular outside of India.
Perhaps this is the one link that is often missing in practice. Yoga is not a “soulless” or a mechanical practice. The connection to God is enhanced through prayer, meditation, singing, and practice.
Do not worry; Yogic methodology is an equal opportunity practice. Yoga can be integrated with any religion. Yogic practices do not discriminate, or justify hate crimes, against people who think or worship differently than we do.
Let’s summarize and “recycle” a few points within the previous pages about options for Yoga teachers, who may be considering specialization. These are not all of the options for teachers, to consider, when thinking about how to find employment “outside of the box.” You will need to work on your intuitive feelings to get an idea for the next popular trend, if that is what you are after.
As any experienced teacher will tell you; there are many more employment opportunities for Yoga instructors outside the studios and health clubs. Over the years, I have coached and trained many teachers who were certified by other programs, but needed to see that employment opportunities for Yoga teachers are everywhere.
One of the most lucrative salaries I have ever been paid, as a Yoga teacher, was for teaching Yoga to teen students within a juvenile correctional facility. Now, this would not be for everyone, but this is a good example of opportunities for employment, when you decide to become a Yoga teacher.
Some teachers do very well teaching private or semi-private lessons to their Yoga students. Teaching Yoga privately is really a matter of demographics. You have to solicit neighborhoods with residents who have disposable income.
Therefore, to be effective, you must gear private lesson offers toward “upscale” neighborhoods. As a Yoga instructor, you have to pay your overhead too. If you charge $80 per hour for a private lesson, you will work half as hard as the teacher who charges $40 per hour.
To find out what price your local market will bear, inquire about the private rates of local teachers and personal trainers. Then, work your marketing efforts toward those clients who will actually pay for private Yoga sessions. If you have to travel to teach private lessons, your rate should reflect your travel time.
About your own students: One way to find out what your current students want is by creating survey forms. This will give you feedback as to what kind of Yogic specialization is in demand, in your local area.
Student feedback is essential, but some students will walk by your survey forms for months, or years, without giving you any information. How can you create an incentive for honest feedback from your current students? Offer them a free class in return for the time it takes to fill out your survey.
Continuing education is the most important part of your Yoga teaching career. All teachers must establish a steady routine of learning more information that applies to their students. The purpose of all this Yogic education is for student safety, liability protection, and to be the best Yoga teacher you can possibly be.