Should You Teach Yoga for Free?

I remember the last weekend of my yoga teacher training so vividly. My future as a yoga instructor finally felt real. The aches and pains from doubling up on yoga classes during training weekends were starting to fade. I felt strong and I felt ready.

During the last training weekend, we had our first and last session on the business of yoga. This was the first time learned what I would need to do to secure a teaching position at one of my top choice studios. This was also the first time I heard the words “offer to teach/assist for free”.

By no means do I consider myself an experienced teacher. By all means do I consider myself someone who is worthy of being compensated for the time, preparation, and effort I put in to teach a class.

This brings me back to question: Should you teach for free? After all, if you consider teaching yoga your job, would you want to work for free? There are many reasons why you might decide to teach for free (or not). I’ve outlined a few of them below as well as my decision not to teach for the time being.

Reasons to Teach Yoga for Free

1. You are teaching a class for a charitable cause.

If you decide to teach a yoga class to raise money for a cause you believe in, teaching for free is an act of service. Similarly, if you choose to teach yoga at an organization that does not have the resources to compensate you but you support its mission, your yoga class is a contribution to the community.

2. You want to gain experience on your own terms.

Since March, many people have been staying home and are looking for a way to relax, stay moving, and tap into their inner thoughts. Organizing classes for family and friends through social media is an option to gain experience teaching. It also allows you to set your own schedule and get creative with sequencing.

3. You want to teach for free.

Simply put, if you desire to teach for free and it brings you joy, why not teach?

Reasons Not to Teach for Free

1. You need to make money.

If you plan to teach yoga as a source of income, teaching for free will not get you there.

2. You would like to be compensated for teaching.

Preparing for a yoga class takes time. Creating sequences and playlists and making it sure it all flows together smoothly won’t happen in just a few minutes. If you believe that you should be paid for your efforts, you should not teach for free.

3. You would like to be compensated for teaching in the long run.

If you are building a business as a yoga instructor, offering classes for free may help you to attract an audience. However, if you want this same audience to pay you at some point in the future, think again. If people are accustomed to accessing your content and classes for free, it’s possible they will be reluctant to pay for it in the future.

Why I’ve Decided Not to Teach for Free

It was a tough decision not to teach for free. Obviously no one saw a pandemic in the future when I graduated from yoga teacher training last December. With most indoor group activities on hold, I made the decision to teach virtual classes for free for a while. I’ve decided not to teach for free at the moment for a few reasons. With in-person classes, you feel the energy in the room. There is an unparalleled liveliness to practicing yoga in the company of others. Virtual classes, on the other hand, feel empty to me. Talking to a camera in a room does not bring me joy. Editing videos is not how I choose to spend my free time. And if I have two free hours on a Saturday, I’d much rather spend it practicing yoga than creating playlists and sequencing. That’s how I feel right now. I recognize that my feelings may change in time, but they also might not. And that’s ok. Overall, there are good reasons to and not to teach for free. I’m sure this is a question I’ll revisit later.

Structuring a Yoga Class

This post is for all of my new yoga teachers out there and aspiring yoga instructors to-be! I am a proponent of tangible advice, and that’s what inspired me to write this post on how to structure a yoga class.

When I graduated from yoga teacher training, I had so many questions about how to actually teach. I did not know where to start! Given that I immediately decided to throw myself into preparing for auditions, I had to learn quickly. There are many different ways to structure a vinyasa yoga class, but my strategies are listed below.

Know Several Key Sequences

For the months of my yoga teacher training and the months following, I recited sequences whenever I could. Sometimes I was in the line at Trader Joe’s and other times, I was walking to school! In my free time, I learned the basics-sun salutations, warmups, cooldowns, etc.- by saying them out loud and repeating them to myself in my head. Gaining confidence in these basic sequences helped me to become more comfortable in what I would be teaching. I also knew how much time these sequences would take up in a class because I had rehearsed them.

Use a Stopwatch

This brings me to my next point. If you are planning to teach a class, it’s essential to be cognizant of the time so that you allocate enough time for the class to safely warm up and cool down. Because it can be difficult to gauge how long a set of sequences will take when you are just starting to teach, I recommend using a stopwatch during class. This will help you to keep track of the time and make adjustments during class if needed. I keep my stopwatch out of the view of my students because it can be distracting to look at the clock while practicing yoga.

Take Your Own Class

One thing I love about vinyasa yoga is how free flowing it is. There is an endless amount of poses and transitions. You can try something new each time and tap into your creative side. That said, if you’re working on some unique transitions or teaching poses that are new to you, record yourself teaching and take your own class. It might seem like one pose flows easily into another until you try it out and realize it feels a bit awkward. Experimenting with different poses while you develop sequences will help you to figure out which transitions will work best in a class setting.

Write It All Down

I love writing (if you couldn’t tell already) because it helps me to get my thoughts out and not forget things. Writing down your sequences will help you to keep a record of everything you’ve taught in the past. You can build upon these sequences in the future or use them again in a future class. You’ll never have that feeling of teaching a great sequence you wish you remembered if you have everything recorded! I like using Excel for my sequences, but keeping a notebook would also work just as well.

Divide Your Class Into Sections

Dividing your classes into sections will help ensure that you have created a balanced class. For a more specific example, this is how I would structure a 45-minute vinyasa class:

Grounding/Warmup: 5 minutes
Sun Salutations: 10 minutes
Flow: 15 minutes
Standing Poses: 5 minutes
Seated Poses/Cooldown: 5 minutes
Savasana: 3-5 minutes

And with that, I hope you have some more clarity around planning yoga classes – happy sequencing!

5 Things to Know Before Yoga Teacher Training

Last summer, I decided to take the leap and sign up for a 200 hour yoga teacher training program. It was undoubtedly a life changing experience, and I am so grateful for it. There are so many things that I wished I could have know before I started my teacher training, so I’ve decided to share them with you below! I love sharing my YTT (yoga teacher training) experience with others, so feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

1. Get familiar with the studio where you’ll be training.

Yoga studios are unique when it comes to style, instruction, and training. If you are not already practicing yoga at the studio where you plan to train, I’d recommend taking a few classes and speaking with the instructors that will be facilitating the program. Remember that this is your training experience – it’s important to find a studio that aligns with your goals and how you enjoy practicing yoga.

2. Save money and then save more money.

Most 200 hour training programs range from $2,500 to $4,000. Even if you are not completing a destination teacher training outside of the US, this is still a significant investment. During training, I found myself needing more yoga attire since it was difficult to find time to do laundry on the weekends when I was at the studio for 12 hours. I also purchased a few things so that I could practice at home such as blocks, straps, and a yoga wheel. I would say the most surprising thing I ended up spending more money on while I was in training was food! I normally spend my Sundays meal prepping, but during YTT, I spent my Sundays at the studio. By the time I got home at 7pm, I often had homework (I was in grad school at the time) and other tasks to handle before the start of the week. I found myself ordering more takeout so that I could manage my time and complete my other necessary tasks.

In addition, if you decided to teach after you complete training, there are a few optional expenses that you may incur on the path to finding a teaching position. These expenses may include registering with the Yoga Alliance, getting CPR/First Aid certified, or getting professional headshots taken, etc.

3. Establish a practice routine and stick to it.

Before YTT, I practiced non-heated vinyasa yoga once a week, typically on Sundays when I took a day off from my other workouts. Once I registered for YTT, I knew that this once a week practice would not suffice. My training weekends involved two 90-minute hot vinyasa classes per day. In addition to those classes, I also took two classes during the week at the studio. Although yoga is much more than the asana practice, developing an understanding of the poses, observing other instructors in the classroom, and getting used to moving in the heat are important. Looking back, I could have prepared more for the start of my training by taking 2-3 classes weekly. I was able to push through it, and I certainly enjoy a good physical challenge. That said, I was incredibly sore for the first month or so of training. After each training weekend, I felt like I had just run a half marathon and needed a rest week!

4. Find a YTT with a schedule that works for you.

YTTs come in all formats. There are some 3-4 week intensives, where you train daily. There are also many weekend programs, which work well if you are interested in completing training while still working on in school. My program consisted of eight weekends with training from morning until night on Saturday and Sunday. What I liked about this schedule was that my Friday evenings were completely open. I spent this time packing my yoga bag, cooking a nice dinner, and getting some sleep before the busy weekend ahead. I saw many beautiful sunrises when I was waking up at 6am to be in the studio by 7:30am. These long days taught me discipline. I did trade some nights out for nights in to catch some sleep, but it was worth it.

While I do think that an intensive, especially one in a travel destination, could be a great experience as well, I knew that it wasn’t for me this time around. I had recently come off of a running injury before entering teacher training, so I worried about potential re-injury with an intensive program.

5. Research the yoga industry and start seeking out teaching opportunities while you’re still in training.

Depending on where you’re located, yoga teachers might be in demand. But they might not. I’ve found that seeking out opportunities to teach yoga is similar to finding a professional job; you’ll need to continue to build and use your network. Job postings alone aren’t likely to get you through the door. Take classes at studios in your area where you may be interested in teaching. Meet with instructors and studio owners. Ask about being placed on the sub list. And remember to get creative – there are many places to teach yoga besides a yoga studio. Your path as a yoga instructor is in your hands.

6. Keep an open mind and have fun!

You will be pushed mentally, spiritually, and physically. You’ll come into training with your “why”, your reason for going through this transformative process. You’ll start questioning your “why”, and eventually it may change. Some things may not resonate with you the minute you learn about them in training. But a few months after training, you’ll reread one of your yogic texts and it’ll all just click. It’s an exciting journey, and this is just the start!