It can feel overwhelming to stand out among yoga teachers when there are more than 90,000 registered with Yoga Alliance and thousands more qualified teachers who aren't. But there is an equally large growth of yoga practitioners in the United States.
An in-depth study from 2016 by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance discovered that the number of people in the United States practicing yoga rose from 15.8 million in 2008 to 36.7 million in 2016. It's four years later – that means there's likely even more students ready to take your class.
Still, the competition of so many yoga teachers can be strong, especially in areas such as the Northeast, the Pacific Coast and the South Atlanta Coast, with the highest concentration of students and classes. Keep your head up: If you position yourself using the following tips, you'll soon have many students in your classes and stand out in the crowded yoga marketplace.
In the biography, "Health, Healing and Beyond," the son of the famous and influential teacher Krishnamacharya quoted his father talking about what is necessary for yoga teachers. They must be devoted to their practice and always be truthful, he said. But there's more: "A commitment to the student's own awareness and possibilities, each in his own terms. And caring – above all, caring. When people arrive … and ask us, 'Can you help me?' the only answer we can give is 'I can care.'"
Students will remember you if you are a caring teacher, and gaining loyal, appreciative students is the best way to naturally build your classes. When you care, your yoga students are less likely to have injuries in your class. You'll be careful with your cueing and even more careful with any hands-on assists. You'll know when to encourage your students with a tougher flow and when to let them rest in Child's pose. When you care about the individuals in class, they notice – and likely tell their friends.
Teaching yoga is a lot of fun, but it's also work. It's crucial for yoga teachers to be professional so that studio owners (and students) know they can rely on you. This means never canceling a class at the last minute or rushing in late. Being professional means never talking poorly about another teacher or wearing a low-cut top that reveals too much in a forward fold.
You must take your position as a representative of the studio (and yoga in general!) seriously. There's no excuse for not understanding how to check students in, if that's part of your duties, or not knowing where the light switch or extra toilet paper is. It's your responsibility to ask these questions before your first class.
You're also likely a freelancer, meaning that you work at many different locations and environments. As an entrepreneur, it's up to you to advertise yourself. Setting up a Facebook page or Instagram account for your yoga schedule is a popular outreach method that lets you tag students and use the power of social media.
You can also try old-school methods of hanging flyers around town or networking at business events. Talk with the studio owner or management to see if you can pass out coupons for a free first class or coupons encouraging current students to bring a friend for free. Many people presume that yoga teachers are flaky, but the ones who shine in the packed marketplace sure aren't.
Do you swing into class, press play on whatever playlist you're feeling and just "go with the flow"? It may work a few times, but students appreciate and notice extra effort that comes with planning classes. Having a theme for a class is one of the best ways to stand out, because it shows that you are experienced and willing to put in the time to make a class extra special.
Themes can range from working up to a peak pose, emphasizing certain movements like twists or back bends or even centering around the full moon or other seasonal event. Special playlists, like a reggae Sunday class, can also make for a memorable class.
What's more, a yoga class isn't just a class for movement. Integrating quotes from spiritual texts and teachings from yoga masters at the right time in class can create meaningful experiences for your students. It helps them understand the deeper meaning of a yoga practice – and can keep them coming back for more. The more you read and study, the more you'll find inspiration for excellent themes and valuable classes.
For teachers struggling to get a foothold in the marketplace, a limitation can be just a hesitation to expand. If your training only focused on a specific kind of class, you may feel like a one-trick pony. You must be creative and open.
Start taking other yoga classes that are completely unlike what you currently teach. It's possible to teach restorative, yin, gentle, vinyasa, hot vinyasa, beginner's yoga, chair yoga for seniors, yoga on a paddle board and so much more. If you feel comfortable teaching these different styles but don't yet have a class, studio owners may call you when they need a sub. When the good feedback rolls in, you may be offered a class of your own.
Of course, classes are just the beginning for yoga teachers. An excellent opportunity to shine and also make some great money is holding workshops. Studios are always looking for creative and different workshops. Think about a specialty that sets you apart.
Are you also an energy worker? Are you familiar with essential oils? Do you love to work with kids? These workshops don't have to be in studios, either. You can reach out to senior centers, preschools, community centers, parks and other spaces. While you may have to advertise a little more, you'll also be able to keep more of the profit.
You'll notice that experienced teachers rarely have a problem finding classes or even private students. Not only have they refined their styles, it's likely they also have invested in more training beyond a basic 200-hour yoga teacher training. You should consider your initial training as just the beginning.
While it's completely fine to start teaching right out of teacher training, look for other opportunities to expand your knowledge base in a formal way. Studio owners look for teachers who have put more time and effort into training, because it shows you're serious about your profession and can, in turn, offer more to students.
There are many kinds of training to consider to increase your success in the yoga marketplace. A community college class in anatomy can be just as helpful as a training that focuses on a specific kind of teaching, such as prenatal or yin yoga. You can also think about complementary training, such as Reiki energy work, massage therapy, Ayurveda or even aromatherapy. The more knowledge you master, the more students and studio owners will want you to pass it on.
If you get weighed down with stress or worry about your career as a yoga teacher, it will show. If you are concerned about your finances, consider having a side job until you secure more classes. If you feel like a failure because you're only attracting a few students to your classes, be patient! Small classes are an excellent time to hone your skills and try new flows.
If no one shows up to a class, consider it a gift of time. A legs up the wall pose is a perfect way to shake out any worry. Sometimes it can take time to grow a student base and get noticed among all the many yoga teachers out there. But if you're having fun and enjoying it, it will all be worth it.
That study by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance had another noteworthy takeaway for teachers: 48 percent of students consider the "quality of instruction" one of the most important reasons why they choose a location to practice. When asked to expand, they ranked being "warm and friendly," "easily understood or clear with instruction" and "knowledgeable about the poses" as most important. It's also important to be "helpful" and "approachable," according to the survey. So, simply be yourself, work hard and share your knowledge, and you'll be growing your class list in no time.