Graduating from yoga teacher training is exciting. However, figuring out how to take your newly gained skills to the next level can also be daunting. During your training, you were in a supportive and lively environment while learning how to teach. Once you graduate, that space dissolves and you can feel lonely and downright bewildered about what to do next. I remember that after graduating from my 200-hour teacher training I was both elated that I was certified to teach, and also confounded because I really didn’t know how or where I was going to do it. Looking back on my experience, I wish I had these five tips right from the start. Today, they are often what I recommend to my students who are beginning their yoga teaching journies. If you are newly out of teacher training and unsure of your next step, don’t fret! Here are simple ways to start teaching yoga right now.
1. Teach yourself in order to refine your craft.
Whether you have students right away or not, keep up the skills you acquired in teacher training by teaching yourself. Find a pose you want to teach, or if you have more time, select an entire sequence. Hit “record” on whatever device you’re using and just teach! Instruct the pose, short sequence, or entire class, as if to students. Afterward, hit “replay” and practice to the recording. Have a notebook nearby to take notes.
You might ask yourself: What did I do well? Did I speak clearly? Was I confident? Then ask yourself what you need to improve: Did I cue using props? Did I rush through any of the poses? You aren’t seeking to be unnecessarily judgmental but rather constructively critical. Try to be objective. Choose a few points to improve on while you locate students to teach.
2. Teach friends and family.
Brushing up on your teaching skills by teaching yourself is great, but to best hone your craft, you need living bodies in front of you. Begin with those who are close to you. Your friends and family who supported you during teacher training will probably want to support you after as well. Reach out to your loved ones and offer them a few lessons.
The lessons don’t have to be an hour long or the most intricate classes you’ve ever put together. You can even make an event out of it. Teach for 30 minutes and then have lunch—or just offer a 15-minute stretch or cooldown after a walk or hike. It may be that your friends and family don’t yet love yoga as much as you do, but you can certainly appeal to their interests while practicing your teaching.
3. Use your affiliations.
Do you have a weekly bowling group or monthly book club? Your interest groups and communities may be curious about yoga and how it could benefit or improve their current activity. They already know and like you, so why not offer them a few classes?
What’s particularly great about these communities that revolve around particular interests is that they help you concentrate on aspects of yoga practice that could benefit them the most, perhaps helping you to develop a niche. For example, if you volunteer at a senior center, you could teach chair yoga and some breathwork. If you are involved in a softball league, you could focus your class on teaching specifically to that sport. These groups are approachable because of your rapport with them, and the classes you teach them could develop into long-term teaching opportunities.
4. Give back to your community.
Is your local community in need of some yoga? There are numerous places you could teach. If you enjoy the outdoors, you could apply to your city’s parks and recreation department to do an outdoor class on the beach or in a park. You can also inquire at libraries, religious centers, or community centers. These venues may entail more legwork in marketing your classes, and may also require investing in some mats and blocks. But in exchange, you’d be able to give the gift of yoga to your beloved community and gain teaching experience at the same time.
5. Offer yoga in your workplace.
You can start your very own class at work. Maybe your coworkers were excited that you were doing teacher training, and perhaps they picked up bits and pieces of yoga along your journey. You can now give them more of the magic by actually teaching them a class.
Deciding on a before-work, lunchtime, or after-work class will depend on the type of practice you teach, employees’ schedules, and company guidelines. For example, if you teach in the morning, you might offer a refreshing and slightly more active class, whereas an end-of-the-day class might be more focused on winding down. (Learn from my mistake: I once taught a mellow class at 6:15 a.m. and many of the students fell back asleep!)
In addition, each workplace has its own rules, which you will need to follow regardless of what you learned in teacher training—hands-on adjustments with fellow employees or chanting the invocation to Patanjali may or may not be accepted where you are employed. This doesn’t diminish the value of what you offer. Instead, see it as an inspiration to be creative and to deepen your studies. How do you help someone find their optimal alignment in a pose without touching them? How do you communicate that yoga is more than just a physical practice without quoting the Yoga Sutra or delving deeply into the philosophy?
To get the ball rolling, get in touch with the person who can give you the approval to hold a class at the office (have documents like your insurance and teaching certificate ready), and start spreading the word. When it comes to finding ways to start teaching yoga right away, there really are a ton of options. Be a visionary and use your resources. Let people know that you are taking or have completed a yoga teacher training. Though it may seem like a numbers game, don’t worry about the size of the class. We’ve all waited for students who never showed up, and we’ve all had classes where only one student came. We learn that these are magical opportunities to grow as a teacher and that showing up and holding space is important even if there are no students to fill it—that teaching just one student is a chance to hone our ability to connect one-on-one with students and to be fully present no matter what.
Eventually, you will find your students. In the meantime, stay focused on your teaching and remind yourself why you want to teach. If you aren’t teaching you can’t maintain and grow your skills. Start wherever you can, and watch your path unfold.