The first step in making the shift from a yoga teacher training graduate to being a full-time instructor is recognizing your passion for sharing the teachings of yoga. It’s no secret that every day there are new teacher training graduates making their way into the field of teaching, but if you have a deep desire to share yoga, don’t let that fact stop you! On the other hand, if you want to teach because, say, you lost your job or because it just seems like a cool thing to do, it’s likely that you won’t have a lot of success. First and foremost, make sure you feel passionate about stepping into this work full time!
How can you bring your unique experience with yoga into the world?
The next step is to take an honest look at your experience with yoga practice. What are the ways it has actually shifted your life in a positive direction? How can you bring your unique experience with yoga into the world? What audience will be the most receptive to the experience you have had and your vision for sharing the teachings of yoga?
At this point you may have had a realization about why you find yoga useful for your life. Ethnographer Simon Sinek (author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action) offers a simple yet profound teaching on starting with this "why" question in a recent TED talk. Essentially what Sinek says is that most of us are drawn to talking about what we do and how we do it, but it's not the "what" or the "how" that drive us to deeply commit to things and take action. We take meaningful action because of the why.
Once you're clear about why and in what way you want to share the teachings of yoga and who your target audience will be, the next step is to get in front of that audience. Consider taking classes at a studio that attracts the clientele you want to work with. Introduce yourself to other students, teachers, and even the owner of the studio. Let the owner know what you are looking to do. If you think you are a good fit for that community, ask if you can get on the sub-list; subbing will allow you to connect with your prospective students. Even when you do start teaching, continue to make the effort to practice within your new community. Connection is a big part of attracting students.
Connecting with people is the biggest way to build your following. Certainly you must have strong teaching skills, but people will come to your class because they feel a connection to you and because they know that you care about them. You create this experience by talking with your students, learning their names, and listening to them when they share what's going on in their lives. At the same time, it is vital that you hold space for students. They don’t need you to be their friend. They need someone who is grounded and can shine light long enough for them to see their own light. Someone who can help guide them through the learning process without attachment or judgment.
Connecting with people is the biggest way to build your following.
As your following grows, it's important to view your teaching as a business. If possible, teach several classes at the same studio location. I’ve seen too many teachers get burned out by running around to several different studios in order to make a living. Running from studio to studio like this is similar to having several different business locations and no staff to run them. If you set up business in that way you are sure to drain yourself, and neither you nor your business will thrive. And if you are going to share your experience of yoga in a meaningful way you must thrive!
In a subsequent article we will cover the next steps in transitioning from teaching just a few classes to becoming a full-time teacher.