I was speaking with a trainee today. She shared that she had recently read an article about the economic reality of being a yoga teacher. In that article (one that I remember reading) the author stated that relying on your weekly classes to provide an adequate income is not wise and went on to encourage diversified sources of income. For yoga teachers who don't have another career or family support (inheritance or spousal), this would mean sources such as private classes, workshops and teacher training.
My response to this was, "Well, you have to have something to offer."
Teaching any subject or skill with depth and wisdom requires experience that only a longterm commitment can provide. The process cannot be hurried, especially for yoga asana teachers - those who teach the physical practices. My clearest first memory of an authentic yoga class was this: It feels like physical therapy and psychotherapy in one session. I loved it! But think about that - physical therapists and psychotherapists do extensive training to prepare for their careers. The same is true of yoga teachers, or should be.
Earning a living as a yoga teacher is not impossible but it is rarely easy or abundant. It's important to know this if you have aspirations to teach. Here are a few thoughts about categories of teaching situations.
Group classes are quite variable. When we start out, new to a studio or new to students, we'll be very lucky to make much money at all. I did plenty of these classes and came to look at them as a way to gain more experience and, most importantly, build community. If a particular class brought in enough money for weekly groceries I was pleased and still am - 30 years later.
As time goes on, if you develop a strong network of regular students, and you have a reasonable agreement with the studio, you could do well teaching these classes. Just don't fall into the trap of trying to teach more than 6 group classes per week to pay the bills. That's how yoga teachers burn out.
Private classes are intimate in nature. It is just you and the student. In that setting it is all about that particular student and how you can best provide yoga techniques for him or her. A teacher also quickly learns to respect privacy issues, establish healthy boundaries, and see clearly what an individual can do safely. Private sessions tend to be slow in pace and progress, thus requiring patience.
I've also learned from doing hundreds of private sessions that they are just as demanding and tiring as group classes. When you and the student are well matched they are fun sessions but when there isn't much rapport, they can be tedious - sorry, but it's true.
Workshops come in many forms - half day, full day, weekend, multi-day and retreats. This way of teaching requires a clear message (a theme) that is chosen in advance, organized by the teacher or the host, and presented as advertised. The best aspect of workshop teaching is the element of time - a teacher has more time to develop a theme and guide the students to explore the theme. It's the difference between a quick shower and a long luxurious tub bath.
When students go to workshops they are willing to spend time with you, lots of time, so it is important that you take their confidence in you seriously and give them a learning experience. You have to have something to offer - certainly, your own learning experiences are something that you can share.
In other words, "Don't teach what you do not know."
Teacher Training was another suggestion in the article and I can't dispute that it has been a reliable source of income for me since 2005 but it definitely is not something a new teacher should think about. Even a naturally strong practitioner and gifted teacher has to go through several years of on the job training (teaching) before she can dream of doing this type of mentoring.
My advice on this topic is practical : teach weekly group classes, many private classes and a few workshops for 10 years and then maybe, after all those experiences, you might have something realistic to offer to those who aspire to teach. You'll get hints from your students, the ones who attend your classes regularly, who will give you feedback and ask for "more". The more is what you have to offer.