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!