Being a yoga teacher has become a lot more competitive in Spokane and North Idaho over the past four years. It’s the natural result of more people turning to yoga as a simple way to undo stress and find balance in their lives.
A survey completed by Yoga Alliance, a national advocacy group, said more than 80 million people tried yoga in the United States for the first time in 2016. The same study said more than 38 million Americans practice yoga regularly.
That rising popularity means a new yoga teacher here likely can find plenty of chances to teach, said Dawn Spickler, who has taught yoga for three decades, primarily at Yasodhara Yoga Center in Browne’s Addition.
But the number of other teachers around means it’s hard to make it a full-time career, said Spickler, who uses the name Swami Yasodananda. She changed her name to reflect her commitment to her guru, Swami Rhada, she said.
“It’s unlikely in Spokane that a yoga teacher can generate a full-time income,” she said.
If a yoga teacher supplements a partner’s income or doesn’t need full-time work, Spokane is a decent place to consider teaching yoga, she added.
Spickler, along with other veteran yoga instructors here and in North Idaho, say it’s a good time to become a yoga teacher if one’s lifestyle, health and finances allow that choice.
“Getting your name out there takes time,” said Jessica Richmond, a Coeur d’Alene yoga teacher who until earlier this year ran her own studio for classes.
“Being a yoga teacher in general is not something someone goes into for money and I think this wave of Instagram celebrity yogis shows something that just is so far from reality,” she said.
The solution she prescribes is being willing to cobble teaching jobs wherever they can be found.
For instance, teaching yoga at the YMCA or a fitness center, or a local college, will pay about $25 to $30 per session.
Or, if a teacher gets hired to work at an established yoga school or center, the pay is typically a percentage of the fees paid by students for that class.
Area yoga instructors said the best strategy is being flexible with one’s schedule and developing a network of students and employers who value the style of yoga one offers.
Those instructors offered up suggestions for would-be yoga teachers.
Steps to take
Consider taking a registered yoga teacher training (RYT) to build a stronger foundation and a solid skill set, said Alison Rubin, owner of Harmony Yoga in Spokane.
RYT training comes in 200-hour and 300-hour categories. They involve weekend commitments and intensive sessions with advanced trainers. The goal, Rubin said, is to learn a wide range of tools, including understanding physiology, anatomy, teaching methodology, proper alignment and yoga philosophy.
One can become a dedicated yoga instructor without completing the RYT, but the training is the best way to establish one’s credentials, Rubin said.
The RYT insures that a yoga teacher has learned not just the basic asanas – yoga poses – but also knows how to incorporate them in class and how to modify those postures depending on the student.
“There is a lot of competition if you’re a yoga teacher. So, you do really want good training in order to become a good teacher,” Rubin said.
A teacher starting out needs to be willing to teach at various locations.
Instructors should apply to athletic clubs, gyms and community centers to get hands-on experience in the field. Rubin added teachers should offer to work as a substitute at local yoga studios.
A good number of area firms hire yoga teachers to give on-site classes to employees.
Hospitals, nursing homes and universities all typically try to offer yoga instruction through hiring contract teachers, Rubin said.
“Be willing to patch together a teaching schedule to get out there and get known, because it can all contribute to generating a respectable income,” Rubin said.
Diversifying where one teaches should be balanced by deciding which style of yoga and what niche group of students best fits one’s style, said Richmond, the Coeur d’Alene teacher who ran Soul One Yoga Studio until closing it this March.
Yoga classes range in style from very active (vinyasa or power yoga) to more deliberate, breath-connected approaches (flow yoga). In general, vinyasa yoga has become the current preferred style for most younger practitioners, Richmond said.
Some teachers can try to cover the map by being generalists. Richmond instead prefers to focus on teaching a more connected, meditative yoga.
There’s also the additional choice of deciding which specific niche or specialty fits one’s teaching, Richmond added. Her specialty has been offering yoga for expectant mothers or for women with a newborn.
Other specialties include yoga for seniors, gentle yoga for people with injuries or disabilities, yoga for athletes looking for more flexibility and range of motion, and yoga for children.
Working as a solo teacher instead of owning a studio can be challenging in a market like Coeur d’Alene, Richmond said. That city now has too many yoga teachers, with overall teaching quality being uneven, she said.
Richmond said she shut down Soul One Studio when it was obvious she didn’t have a passion for running a business. “I love the freedom of not having a studio now,” she said.
“It’s important to market your work through social media if you’re a solo yoga teacher,” she said. Doing that puts you into the loop and eventually produces opportunities to enjoy teaching the style you prefer, she said.
Find a yoga teacher to be your mentor. “Find a teacher with a style that suits you and appeals to you,” said Shawn Brow, co-founder of South Perry Yoga, which has been in business for 10 years.
“If you find a good match, ask if you can help, be a volunteer and work (for the mentor), maybe take classes there,” said Brow, a part-time certified registered nurse anesthetist who relies on her own private anesthesia practice for a steady income.
A good mentor will help guide a novice yoga teacher into finding the best fit within the Spokane area yoga community, she said.
What to avoid
Yoga teachers by nature focus more on positives than negatives. Still, there are some things not to do when trying to become a yoga instructor.
Don’t open a yoga studio as your first foray into the business. “It’s a lot of work running a studio,” Rubin said. Far easier is starting out solo and gradually testing the idea of running one’s own studio, she said.
If teaching yoga is a calling, don’t overload your class schedule. “I’ve been teaching yoga for about 20 years and the one thing I don’t want to do is lose a sense of balance” and have it become a job, said Kathryn Hapke, a full-time staffer with the downtown U.S. District Attorney’s office.
Hapke is a regular teacher at South Perry Yoga. “I love teaching for the love of doing it,” she said.
Don’t neglect the specific regulations affecting yoga.
Whether opening one’s own studio or being a contracted teacher, do your homework related to insurance and taxes, said Brow, who like most studio owners have had to address continuing legal obligations placed on them by state regulators.
Washington state law also requires contract yoga teachers to carry liability insurance and an individual business license. If that’s the option followed, be prepared to keep track of income and learn how to file quarterly taxes, she said.
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