Does Teaching Yoga Limit Your Personal Practice?

By Anna

Photo courtesy of Alizé Jireh Yaccino

Photo courtesy of Alizé Jireh Yaccino

One of our listeners recently emailed us with the question: "Does teaching yoga limit your own practice in any way?"  I have not come across much of a dialogue on the subject and as a new-ish teacher myself (I would say i've graduated from infant to toddler...) and with 4 years of riding the struggle bus under my belt, I feel that I am a great non-expert on the subject. For four years I have been trying to find the perfect balance of how many classes I can take on and still have time for my personal practice, full time job, and life in general. And let me tell you it has NOT been easy.

I received my 200 HR YTT in 2014 and baby yoga teacher Anna, thought YES! I will officially be a full time yoga teacher and live happily ever after! Yea well as I'm sure you can guess that did NOT happen. Katie talked about this in last week's blog post how teaching yoga full time and making  a decent living off of it is virtually impossible these days. Let's back track four years. First of all, I got a a teaching gig right out the gate at a small local studio teaching 2 classes a week in the mornings before my serving job.  When I say small studio, I mean I was lucky if I got 3 students in a class. I couldn't find any other gigs and to be honest I didn't really look because I was scared of dropping shifts at the restaurant which was great money, for classes that I wanted but did not pay me enough buy food. And I like to eat so you can see the conundrum. 

Thinking back, I'm glad that I spent the first two and a half years teaching small intimate classes. I was able to get comfortable with making the transition to teacher. Something that just takes time. Fast forward a couple of years and I got a second teaching job at a fitness center teaching 2 classes a week. One was on Sunday morning and the other was Thursday morning at 5:40am. Yes you read that right 5:40am... I was desperate for more classes so I took the job. Here's the thing.... being a full time server means I am at work sometimes till 11:30pm so getting up in the morning to teach especially at 5:40am was very difficult. The good thing was, students piled in. My Sundays would fill up consistently with 25 people. It was great. Even the butt crack of dawn class had a good turnout. But here's the catch...the pay at the fitness center sucked. I got $20 per class no matter how many people filled that room. In contrast, the smaller studio paid $5 per head. Which would have been great if I had more than 2 people on average. Again, conundrums. What was the best way to solve this problem? GET MORE CLASSES DUHHHHHH.

So things kind of snowballed for me in 2017 and I got a lot of teaching opportunities and obviously took them all. Because that was the goal right? Teach more, restaurant less. So now, I was teaching at a third studio and I was drowning in classes. I barely practiced on my own and was just exhausted. This lasted maybe a month before I realized I couldn't do it anymore. My body always hurt and I was always tired. Not quite the dream I had in mind. 

I made the decision to leave the small studio and then another 3 months down the line I left the fitness center as well. I am so much happier now that I've found my own personal goldilocks teaching load. At least at this point in my life. I was able to drop 3 shifts from the restaurant and replace that income with 5 classes a week. Wednesday's are my "Teaching Day." I teach 2 back to back classes in the morning and then one in the evening. I also have a class on Thursday afternoons before my serving job and then Saturday morning. This is my sweet spot. I am able to practice 5-6 days a week and maintain a daily meditation practice. I feel that the second part is especially important for me, particularly before teaching. 

This is my yoga teaching journey. What worked for me, might not work for you. I know a few people that aren't Instagram famous and are full time yoga teachers. So yes, it can be done. It is not impossible. Is it hard work? Hell to the yes. So to all the new yoga teachers out there, I salute you! My best advice is to be open to receiving whatever experiences come your way but also know your worth and maintain a healthy balance of work and free time. Allow your dreams and your goals to shift and transform as you become more experienced as a teacher. And above all else, remain a student. Keep practicing, take workshops, and learn as much as you can. 

Photo courtesy of Alizé Jireh Yaccino

Photo courtesy of Alizé Jireh Yaccino