Yoga may be 5,000 years old, but its relevance seems more vibrant than ever. According to Yoga Alliance, 37.4 million Americans currently practice yoga, up from more than 20 million in 2012. Although the job field is becoming ever more competitive, if you love yoga and are thinking of becoming an instructor, there's definitely opportunity.
What's the job description of a yoga instructor? There may be almost as many answers to that as there are yoga instructors — almost 73,000 in the U.S., according to the Yoga Alliance. Be that as it may, here's a sketch of what a career in yoga might look like.
However many yoga classes you've taken, formal teacher training is a must if you want to teach. There are many different styles of yoga, each offering its own credential, but the gold standard is recognition by the aforementioned Yoga Alliance, a voluntary, internationally recognized credentialing system. While the minimum amount of training you need to be YA-credentialed is 200 hours, there are also 300- and 500-hour designations.
Many yoga instructors train in more than one discipline or specialize in teaching yoga to specific groups, such as kids, pregnant women, post-natal women or the elderly.
Yoga training involves a lot of classroom work, studying yoga philosophy, muscular anatomy, meditation; however, there's also a lot of mat work as you learn to observe, analyze and correct postures.
Finding a Job
Yoga instructors, who typically work as independent contractors, may work for private or corporate studios, commercial gyms, schools or private clients — or, most likely, some combination of these. Kate Purnell, a yoga instructor for a large commercial gym, works for a large commercial gym with numerous locations in the Los Angeles area, teaches 4 classes weekly at four different locations. Twice a month, she co-teaches a yoga class for a charter school. For Purnell, like many instructors, teaching yoga is a part-time job, but one that complements her other job as the education coordinator at a Buddhist center, where she lives.
As you might guess, nobody gets into teaching yoga to get rich. Pay varies considerably according to area. Large urban areas are likely to pay more than small towns, but then there's a lot more competition in bigger cities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which includes yoga teachers in the category of fitness trainers and instructors, median pay is $17.39 an hour. Some studios offer a base rate of pay and may gives bonuses if the teacher develops a following and packs in the students. p
Some yoga disciplines have a very specific format or sequence of poses that the instructor is expected to follow to the letter. Bikram Yoga, for example, is a series of 26 poses and doesn't allow for improvisation. However, in most situations, it's up to the instructor to design the class or adapt it to the needs of those who attend on a given day. That means planning poses in proper yogic sequences to maximize benefit and prevent injuries.
In some situations, it's the instructor's responsibility to advertise and promote the class. In others, the studio or gym will advertise or market the class, according to Purnell. Yoga instructors are not necessarily required to carry liability insurance but it is recommended. Fortunately, the cost is low, running from $150 to $200 a year, according to Yoga Journal.
While it's important to have a plan, once in the studio a yoga instructor must be prepared to go off script, taking into account the limitations, possible health problems and various levels of ability among the students who come to the class. The instructor must monitor the students and adjust them in their poses, helping them maximize their potential as well as to avoid injury. You'll probably also be expected to leave the studio in order, with mats, blocks and other items tucked back where they belong.
But in the end, it's all about helping people, says Purnell. "My most important responsibility as a yoga instructor is to make sure that people feel better when they leave than when they came in," she says. "When that happens, it's really makes it all worth it.