I started writing this post a few months back and never finished writing it. It’s funny coming back to it now because I recently stopped teaching yoga. And by recently I mean, like, very recently — I taught my last class a little over a week ago! And when I say I quit I mean that I got moved to the substitute teacher list…I always like to keep a foot in the door, ya know? It will be a while before I sub for a class. I need some space and a little more free time in my schedule — so I can do things like work on this blog, for example! Also, I’ve been feeling a disconnect between my yoga practice and practicing what I preach. I feel like I can’t try to instill feelings of zen in others when my own life is anything but at the moment. I just need to quietly hate people (I’m a server/bartender IRL…it’s hard not to sometimes) and listen to Steel Panther on repeat without the guilt.
I started my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Certification just over a year ago. Teacher training was not something I considered for very long before I decided to just jump right in. Actually, it seemed like a fairly irresponsible decision, yet at the same time, the stars aligned and I felt compelled to just go for it. Listen to those feelings, people. Intuition is a pretty powerful thing. Following my gut led me to pursue training, but it’s also what told me I needed a break from teaching. My gut was right both times. If only I was always so good at listening to it! If nothing else, yoga teacher training helped me to tune into that intuition, as well as what it means to be true and authentic to myself.
I am truly grateful for my training. I discovered so much about myself and my practice. I made lifelong friends and developed a supportive community. I learned about so many aspects of yoga beyond just the asana (physical) practice everyone thinks of. And while on the whole, I had a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, there were definitely some really challenging parts that weren’t all sunshine and unicorns and melodic death metal. Or whatever your thing is.
If you’re on the fence about signing up for a training, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
Ick, right? Money is probably the last thing you want to think about when you want to pursue something to better yourself physically and spiritually, but it’s an important thing to take into consideration. Both the cost and the compensation are things you need to take a look at. While IMHO any money invested in self-improvement and following your dreams can hardly be counted as money wasted, the amount of money required for a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Certification is quite a bit: a standard cost for this program is around $3,000. It’s nothing quite like having to take out 30 or 60 grand or more to go to college, but it’s still not a chunk of change most of us just have lying around. I was lucky in that I did, because I’d saved up that exact amount of money to go to Europe, and then had the trip fall through (this was one of those things that I took as a sign that I should do the training). Even so, it had taken me a long time to save up that kind of money, and the thought of parting with all of it wasn’t easy. You won’t likely have to pay for the entirety of your training in one fell swoop, but rather through a payment plan. However, having a significant chunk of the money set aside in advance can alleviate a lot of stress. I paid for my training over the course of 6 months.
In addition to the cost of training itself, there’s also the opportunity cost of potentially having to cut back hours or take time off work, thus also making less money. Especially if you don’t have money set aside in advance (but even if you do) this can mean a significant reduction in income, not only making it harder to pay for the cost of training, but also cutting into funds for rent and bills and all that pizza you’re going to be ordering because you’re starving from doing so much yoga. This was a big challenge for me, personally (the cutting back on hours at work, not the ordering pizza part. I’m a pro at THAT). As a server, I made most of my money on the weekends…which happened to be when training was for almost an entire summer. Luckily, my bosses were cool with me taking weekends off for a summer and we were able to work something out since I’d been working there for a while and was good at my job. However, my weekday lunch shifts barely put me at full time hours (and often didn’t), and were only a fraction of the money I was used to making on Friday nights or Sunday brunches. Still, I was very grateful that my work was willing to be flexible and that I was still able to support myself without taking out loans to pay for my training.
The compensation after teacher training, depending on if/where you go on to teach, is not necessarily very much…especially in comparison to the investment required. $20/class is a fairly standard studio rate, and payment may also be accompanied by (or in place of) free or discounted class passes at that studio. $20 an hour sounds pretty solid, but you also have to take into account the time you have to be at the studio before and after class (at least 15-30 mins each), as well as the time that goes into planning and memorizing classes. Prep time was anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours per week for me, depending on if I recycled a class I’d previously taught or created a whole new sequence with a new soundtrack to go along with it.
The warm and fuzzies you get from teaching a great class can’t be beat, but they also won’t pay your bills when you’re essentially making less than minimum wage and probably not teaching more than a couple hours per week. Teaching corporate classes or private lessons I’ve heard can pay significantly more, but I personally haven’t had experience with either of these, just stories from other teachers. I chose to teach only once per week, occasionally filling in for a couple extra classes per month if people were out of town. Teaching requires you to give a lot of yourself, and becomes very draining if it’s about the money. A good majority of teachers I know have full time jobs to pay the bills and teach a few times per week for the joy of teaching…and to fund their yoga habit! Which is exactly what I did.
200 hours is a huge time investment! As mentioned above, this can place a lot of stress on work and thus finances. It also can cut into down time/free time/family time/etc. For the most part, this wasn’t a huge deal for me. I like being busy, and working Monday through Friday and then being in training for 20 hours between Friday night and Sunday night made me feel really energized — for the most part. For a couple months, it was totally doable to buckle down and be constantly working or learning. I’m not a hugely social person to begin with, so it didn’t bother me as much as it might bother other people. And since training usually wrapped up by 9pm each night, I even managed to catch a few metal shows on training days. Nothing quite like spending 8 hours talking about chakras and practicing meditation and then going to a black metal show and watching Behemoth rip up Bibles on stage (see my last post about what kind of metalhead I am. Not so much the Bible shredding kind, but, damn, do I appreciate someone who can shred on guitar. See what I did there? YOU GUYS, I AM SO LAME.).
If you’re a social butterfly though, or require lots of time to yourself, make sure you can find the balance. Or just drink a fuck ton of coffee and live off of pizza delivery because that’s all you have time for and you want to do everything and you’ll be so full of adrenaline and caffeine you won’t notice how exhausted you are for the first few weeks. It worked for me…
I’m talking about both physical and mental energy here. You will learn SO MUCH. And there will be plenty of “classroom time” with taking notes and homework and reading and all that fun stuff. Gaining new knowledge is badass but it also takes a lot of mental power and having time (which you won’t have a lot of, see above) to mentally recharge is really important to prevent burnout.
Also, it’s yoga teacher training. You’re gonna be doing a fuckton of yoga. My particular training had an entire month of just vinyasa training that was very hands on (which was AMAZING because I got so much practice teaching that I felt prepared to actually teach after training — highly recommend finding a training like that!). We spent the majority of the vinyasa training teaching sequences to each other…which meant when we weren’t the ones teaching we were taking “classes” from our fellow trainees. Like, you think yoga helps stretch you out and limber you up, but there comes a point when you’ve done so many sun salutations your body can’t bend forward or backward. Also, don’t do what I did and think it’s a good idea to go to a yoga class prior to coming in for an 8 hour day of training. At first, it sounds like a good idea, but you will hurt. So. Bad. Be a badass not a dumbass and give your body a break!
4. Other Considerations
I’ll say this about any form of education, but I feel like it applies even more to yoga: Do it because you love it and want to learn and and further your practice, not because you want money or a job. I try not to look back on anything with regret, but when I think of my college experience, I dumped a lot of money into something I wasn’t interested in because it was what I thought I was “should” do (there’s that damn “should” again!) Looking back, I wish I would have pursued something I cared about! Those 4 years would have been a lot more enjoyable if I took classes that were about things I loved. That’s how teacher training was for me. Even though I’m not currently using my credentials for a job, I thoroughly loved and enjoyed every minute of the learning experience, and use that knowledge in my yoga practice and my daily life. Or try to, anyway. Those of you who know me know that I’m still just as Type-A and crazy and full of road rage as ever, but I’m working on it. The first step is awareness, people.
Speaking of enjoying your educational experience, make sure to do your research and find a studio that is going to provide the kind of training you want. You’ll get the same basic training anywhere, but some schools might be able to provide you with more of a spiritual experience, or really in-depth look at the anatomical aspects, or a deeper understanding of the history, or a better grasp of the Sanskrit language. Whatever it is that makes you love yoga, find a studio that is going to offer that in the training. A good way of doing this is by simply attending classes at different studios offering the training. It’s a great way to get the feel of the overall vibe of the place and what the training will be like. I trained at Yess Yoga in Minneapolis because I fell in love with the studio right away and it made me love yoga more than I ever had in the past. In fact, taking class there made me love yoga in general — I’d come off of years of hating yoga before I started practicing at home for a few months before I joined Yess.
I know this post sounded like a bit of a downer, and I am in no way trying to discourage anyone for pursuing the yoga teacher life! I believe it’s better to go into something with a game plan for success, and if I hadn’t had money set aside, a flexible job, a love of yoga, and a desperate need to stay busy all the time, training for me would have been purely stressful rather than successful. Though my teaching career is on hold for now, I don’t regret for a minute that I put everything I had into training and then teaching. One of my favorite quotes is: “Do things with passion or not at all.” I was so full of passion when I started, so despite the challenges, it was the right decision to pursue it. Once I was no longer filled with passion for teaching, I knew it was time to step away. I can’t wait to figure out my next adventure!