How A Yoga Teacher Does Money
The skill-set required for a yoga teacher seems pretty obvious: flexibility, patience and having a really soothing voice to guide you through your downward dog. But what does a yoga teacher need to make money and run their business?
Sydney-based Tess Williams is a yoga teacher who also teaches other forms of holistic movement like Ballet Barre and Pilates. Tess did her first yoga class when she was fifteen and she started teaching at twenty, while she was finishing up her Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Tess always knew she had a connection and an affinity with yoga and she naturally gravitated towards teaching. “You do it because you like doing it,” she says. “It feeds you. It gives back to your energy.”
Becoming a registered yoga teacher requires you to commit both your time and your money. Yoga Australia, the peak body for yoga in Australia, requires the completion of a 350 hour Yoga Teacher Training course, which can set attendees back over $4000.
That kind of financial investment meant that Tess never saw teaching yoga as a side hustle – it’s her job. She didn’t make a business plan when she was getting started but she emphasises how important the first six months after finishing your training are.
Tess explains that’s when you really need to make the most of any opportunities for kick-starting your career. “When you’re just starting out you have to say yes to everything,” she says. “You wouldn’t even want to turn anything down because you’re so chuffed to be getting classes. The more opportunities you can get, the further you can go as a teacher.”
“I was lucky, I had a few friends who worked in banks and they took me on to do private and corporate work. That’s when I got a job at a gym as well, and started off teaching a few classes a week there. It just takes one thing to start.”
Tess now teaches between 16 and 20 hours a week, working for three different studios in Sydney. Those teaching hours don’t include the time it takes preparing for each class, which includes planning sequences and choreography.
She also takes on private classes, where she teaches yoga one-on-one, as well as teaching yoga in corporate spaces, like offices and banks. Securing full-time teaching work is competitive and one of the most challenging parts of being a yoga teacher is creating your weekly schedule.
Tess explains that “there’s a lot of shifting and changing and you have to time it all for yourself.” At her most stretched Tess was working for four separate venues, balancing classes at each of them with a military-like precision.
How much does a yoga teacher get paid? Well, it varied, but Yoga Australia recommends $65 an hour for group classes, and $75 for one-on-one instruction.
Tess gets excited when she talks about her job and all of the students she’s taken from beginners to practising at an advanced level. She exclaims that it’s “so cool” to see someone progress and master a pose or a sequence they haven’t been able to do before.
Yoga teaching definitely has its downsides, with Tess acknowledging that it can feel like shift work. Balancing your teaching schedule requires a lot of working late nights and early mornings. Yoga also tends to be taught at convenient times for 9-5 office workers, making it hard to have lunch or dinner with friends.
Depending on the gym or studio that you’re working for, yoga teachers are usually employed as either sole-traders or casual employees. That means no sick pay, and no holiday pay.
Tess explains that it’s also fairly common for contracts to include restrictions on whether you can teach a style of movement at other venues. Tess says this is something she respects, as these kinds of studios usually invest lots of time and money into the teachers working for them. “I wouldn’t be as good a teacher without them,” she says. “It’s a mutual deal.”
The most profitable work for a yoga teacher is typically teaching specialist workshops or getting into running Yoga Teacher Training. This tends to be well-paid because of the level of expertise required to teach other yoga teachers. It isn’t something you can start doing as soon as you start teaching.
Tess says that her mum often worries about her getting injured and not being able to work. She says this isn’t as much of a concern as you might think because you don’t need to do the class along with your students, you can use your voice to instruct and motivate. “When you’re in the class you don’t realise how much the teacher is walking around.”
That being said, it does seem like it’s recommended to have a buffer of savings when you’re a sole-contractor who primarily works with their body.
“I’ll always do it because it’s creative and it’s fun,” Tess says. Even though she never intends to stop teaching yoga Tess is currently diversifying her skill set. After teaching yoga full time for a couple of years Tess started studying a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology, and becoming an Exercise Physiologist is the back-up plan if she ever had to stop teaching.
In the future, she’d like to run more workshops, including workshops that apply her knowledge of anatomical science and exercise physiology to yoga. “I like variety,” she says. “I don’t want to be a teacher for my whole life but I do want to teach for my whole life.”
Ally Garrett is a Sydney-based writer and performer. Her writing has been published on Jezebel, The Wireless and The Guardian. Ally’s work often touches on body positivity. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @allygarrett