A Yoga teacher is an expert in the Indian practice of Yoga and qualified to pass this on to students.
Yoga is a several thousand year old art from India comprising moral, religious, spiritual and physical study in order that the practitioner, a Yogi, can achieve enlightenment in his own lifetime. Outside India Yoga is commonly known as a set of physical exercises that bring health, calm and happiness to the practitioner. Yoga in the UK is usually taught with four main aspects:
- Asana: the moving physical practice of Yoga, from one position to another, ascending in difficulty and exertion.
- Pranayama: Breath work, sending energy round the body.
- Dhyana: Meditation, calming the mind.
- Mantra: Yoga chants to focus practice prior to commencement.
Due to its tangible health-giving properties, Yoga has grown in popularity massively since its introduction to the west in the 1970s. These days UK metropolitan centres have scores of Yoga teachers instructing packed out classes and the demand for Yoga teachers is ever on the rise. Yoga has long since divided into different branches that place differing emphases on aspects of the art. Here are some of the main branches of Yoga available in the UK today.
- Ashtanga Yoga: a particularly strenuous physical practice emphasising the rapid advancement to difficult positions.
- Iyengar Yoga: uses blocks and straps to assist students to achieve correct alignment in the Asana.
- Bikram Yoga: a modernised form of Yoga practised in a hot room and emphasising maximum exertion to achieve maximum flexibility as quickly as possible.
- Hatha Yoga: a more traditional form of practice encompassing breath work and meditation alongside physical work.
Many Yoga classes are paid for on a per head, per class basis. The amount charged depends on what the students would be willing to pay and depends on factors such as the experience and teaching ability of the teacher and the facilities of the club. Classes usually range in price from £10 – £15 a session. Over time a good teacher will build up more and more students, so space permitting, their income will rise accordingly.
Many Yoga teachers work part-time. A full-time Yoga teacher may earn from £15,000 – £60,000 a year depending on the size and regularity of their classes.
Some large Yoga organisations have their own dedicated teaching space and here students can pay for a monthly or yearly subscription. Teachers are likely to be paid a salary and to be employed by the Yoga centre.
Yoga teachers have the following set of duties and responsibilities:
- Communicating correct Yoga practice with their students, irrespective of ability.
- Modifying difficult positions to conform to particular students’ abilities.
- Leading Yogic chants.
- Leading students though breath work (Pranayama) and seated meditation.
- Keeping up to date with their own development as Yogis through protracted daily practice.
- Liaising with students outside class to discuss their development and commitments to Yoga practice.
The first and most important qualification a Yoga teacher must have is a lengthy period of study with a single Yoga teacher or organisation. When that teacher or governing body feels it is right for a person to begin teaching they will give authorisation.
Some Yoga organisations run specialised teacher training courses that qualified practitioners can be admitted to. These courses are usually very intensive and test a Yogi’s commitment and ability on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.
There is also a nationally recognised qualification to become a Yoga teacher:
- CYQ Level 3 Yoga teacher
This course is recognised by REPs, the Register of Exercise Professionals and takes 240 hours of guided study.
A Yoga teacher must have a unique set of personal attributes and abilities:
- Excellent level of ability in and understanding of Yoga.
- Good at communicating complex ideas to a wide range of people.
- Ability to empathise with people of different abilities.
- Organised, motivated self-starter.
- Excellent anatomical knowledge.
Yoga teachers usually work from within a dance studio or dedicated teaching space. This could range from a community hall to a dedicated Yoga centre comprising of several studios, a café and changing rooms. Private Yoga classes can take place in clients’ own homes.
The hours can be long with early morning Yoga classes in some centres starting at 6am and the last class beginning at 8.30pm. However, classes are rarely longer than 1hr 30 mins so classes will be distributed amongst several teachers. As classes may involve a large amount of demonstration on the part of the Yoga teacher, a day’s work can be tiring. Add to this the daily practice required of a dedicated Yogi and you can see the commitment that being a Yoga teacher requires.
To be a Yoga teacher, literally years of experience (with the exception of the CYQ qualification) in the art is required. Aside from that, some Yogis can find their career into teaching accelerated if they have a particularly good understanding and control of their own bodies. Professional dancers, Martial Artists or gymnasts may all be able to progress more quickly.
Major employers of Yoga teachers are large chain sports clubs such a Virgin Active, Fitness First and Cannons. There are also several large Yoga organisations in the UK such as TriYoga, Bikram Yoga and Jivamukti Yoga, who all have their own unique teacher qualification and accreditation structures.
Normally a prospective Yoga teacher will work for some time as an assistant to the main teacher, correcting the positions of other students in the class and observing the teacher in his job.
A successful and very experienced Yoga teacher can go on to train other Yoga teachers and may one day run his own organisation with other teachers working under his guidance.
Also known as…
- Yoga practitioner
What’s it really like?
Liz Monks, 28 is a Yoga teacher of the Yogamonks style, working in London.
How long have you been in this particular job?
I have been practising Yoga for about 9 years now in the Yogamonks style. During that time I tried a few other classes but none of the others seemed to embody the whole Yoga philosophy and physical practice. I’ve been teaching for just under two years. I teach a mixture of private classes, group classes and office sessions.
What did you do before this job?
I was a professional dancer. I studied dance at the London School of Contemporary Dance / The Place, a BA Honours for three years. It was physically and emotionally very demanding work, mostly as there was lots of variation in work periods – short contracts, long contracts, individual gigs or performances. Also I did commercial dance, photography, and magazines etc; the work extended into being a performer, not just an artist. The reason I got into dance was that it was a medium of expression, so when I felt that it was turning into someone else’s expression I felt that I was losing my individuality; it was not as rewarding as when it was a purely creative organic process. Basically it turned into a job rather than an art.
Now I’m my own boss and my involvement only goes as fast as it’s ready to, as opposed to someone else being in control or pushing it. Yoga is much more in line with the organic process of development rather than the western time based one. While dance is externally judged, Yoga is internally referenced; while dance all too often places the emphasis on achievement, Yoga places it on self-development.
What do you do in a typical day at work?
Early morning practice starts with the Mala practice, working with beads, somewhat like rosaries. You repeat a mantra that has been given to you by a guru from your heart. Then I do a physical practice that ranges between 30 to 180 minutes. The asana here varies on a daily basis, depending on what my body is asking for. Then I do a seated practice (pranayama), a practice of sending energy round your body in three specific channels. After that I take breakfast and go out to work. I teach a mixture of lunchtime, evening, private and group classes. I may go home and go out again some days but I usually get home quite late; around 9pm would be the earliest.
What do you like about the job?
I like being able to go at my own pace, developing in line with nature’s clock. I love teaching, I love offering the potential to experience greater ease of existence, expansion of confidence, clarity and a sense of grounding and rootedness to other people.
Is there anything you dislike about the job?
What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing this job?
Not to put their intelligence down. What I mean to say is that because it may be a new area of study or experience for the individual there should still be a scientific methodology just like you would expect from any other discipline. In the realm of spirituality, people too often tend to throw common sense out the window. They may end up following a certain teacher or profession that has not been proven. If you look at the Yoga texts, the paths that people follow have been tested over thousands of years and they’ve been formulated to open up the individual in a specific order. It’s OK if people choose to consciously deviate but if they think they are getting one thing and they are getting another because they have been caught up in the mystical blurb, then all they are doing is manifesting an illusion. Basically you should question, practise, question and practise. If the teacher is not embodying the teaching then question the product that you are being sold.
What job do you think you might do after this role in terms of career progression?
My other practices include Tai Chi and I will continue to study this, although I don’t intend to become a teacher. I cannot imagine a deeper fulfilment from any other career. It has become more of a life-path than a job.
What other inside-information can you give to help people considering this career?
An individual practice is your gateway to self-awareness. Do not rely entirely on teaching programmes to understand Yoga in its fullest sense.
Do you mind us publishing your salary – this is very helpful for job seekers?
Probably about £400 a week and I’m teaching 10 classes and private classes on top to bring that in.