Learn About Being a Yoga Teacher
Updated January 26, 2023
What does a yoga teacher do?
A yoga teacher is a fitness and wellness professional who leads group classes in yoga. They teach students how to perform the various stretching poses, practice meditation and promote mindfulness in addition to overall wellbeing. These professionals are also often referred to as “yoga instructors” and “yogis.”
The specific responsibilities often include:
Instructing small or large groups of new, intermediate or experienced yoga practitioners
Demonstrating stretching poses, including alternative, advanced and adjusted positions to provide more accessibility to students of different levels
Advising students on ways to improve or refine their practice, including at-home routines, positions for certain benefits and techniques to make positions easier, safer or more challenging
Helping individual students perfect their form, including offering manual adjustments during lessons
Leading groups through quiet meditation by talking through the process of letting thoughts go and relaxing each part of the body
Sharing the basic spiritual and intellectual principles of yoga, including from the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and other teachings
Salaries for yoga teachers depend on whether they are self-employed or work for a gym, school, studio or other fitness organization. Their salary also often depends on the type of students in addition to their education, experience and certification. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.
Common salary in the U.S.: $30.33 per hour
Salaries range from $7.25 to $74.25 per hour.
Yoga teacher requirements
These professionals often need certain qualifications to gain employment, including the following:
Education requirements for yoga teachers are focused on their understanding of and practice in yoga, meditation and its spiritual principles. To prove their educational qualifications, they are often required or preferred to hold a certification in yoga instruction.
Yoga instructors come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Some teachers may have some secondary education, a high school diploma or GED or any level of post-secondary education. Though traditional education is not often required, some employers may prefer candidates to have a high school diploma or GED or even a bachelor’s degree. Some relevant degrees these professionals may pursue include education, sports medicine, sports management, physical therapy or other health science. All of these degrees would be transferable for yoga teachers also interested in serving as fitness instructors, personal trainers, athletic trainers or teachers. Depending on employers, advanced education may result in increased earning potential.
These professionals gain much of their training in yoga through years of individual practice, taking classes, learning new and advanced poses, and getting advice from practicing yoga teachers. Some of these fitness professionals attend yoga retreats or enroll in a series of classes — and do so over many years — before pursuing a training program and becoming a teacher. Aspiring yoga instructors can gain experience before certification by observing the practice of their teachers and even helping fellow students on their own.
Before selecting a training program, aspiring yogis must choose which type of practice they want to specialize in, such as ashtanga, restorative, hatha, bikram and hot yoga. Each practice has its own methods, principles, pose combinations, transitions and intended level of practice. Some programs offer training in a variety of practice types, though some may specialize in one or two.
Yoga teachers typically complete an instructor training program that has been certified through the internationally recognized Yoga Alliance’s Registered Yoga School. Training programs may vary in setting, length, requirements and cost, but RYS-certified programs follow the training-hour designations selected by the Yoga Alliance to ensure students who complete training can be properly certified.
For many employers, yoga instructor certification is often preferred or required. Yoga Alliance offers comprehensive options for yoga teachers looking to certify. All of their certifications require professionals to pay dues, pursue continuing education every three years and abide by the Yoga Alliance’s code of conduct. Here are the certifications yoga instructors can pursue through Yoga Alliance:
Registered Yoga Teacher 200
This certification is available for anyone who has completed a 200-hour RYS-certified training program.
Registered Yoga Teacher 500
This credential is for professionals who have completed a 500-hour program or a 200-hour program and an additional 300-hour program. They must also have at least 100 hours of teaching experience.
Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher 200
This certification is available for those who have completed a 200-hour RYS-certified training program. They are also required to have at least 1,000 hours of teaching experience in two years once completing their training program.
Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher 500
This credential is for professionals who have completed a 500-hour RYS-certified program or a 200-hour program and an additional 300-hour program. They must also have at least 2,000 hours of teaching in four years. They must earn 500 of the hours after completing their second training.
Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher
This certification is for those who have completed the 200-hour RYS-certified training program and a Yoga Alliance-certified 95-hour children’s yoga teaching course. They should also have at least 30 hours of children’s yoga teaching experience.
Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher
This credential is suitable for professionals who have completed a 200-hour RYS-certified training program in addition to a Yoga Alliance-certified 85-hour prenatal yoga training program. They must also have earned at least 30 hours of prenatal yoga teaching experience.
In addition to the Yoga Alliance, there are online certifying institutes that offer examinations on yoga poses, principles and other elements of practice to further an instructor’s credentialing.
These are the most common skills that enable yoga teachers to assist their students effectively:
Yoga teachers should have excellent customer service skills to bring in new students and build a rapport with current ones. They may use empathy to best connect with the needs of their students and patience when teaching new poses to beginners.
These professionals are required to lead their classes by example, performing the poses alongside their students. They should give positive yet constructive feedback as their students refine their practice. Yoga teachers often employ motivation techniques as well to encourage students to challenge themselves and find their inner strength.
Yoga teachers perform poses while in class as well as outside of class to challenge and perfect their own practice. Physical stamina and flexibility allow these fitness professionals to consistently perform pose combinations, some more advanced than others. They may also help students while balancing or complete partnered practice, so strength can also assist them in these tasks as well.
Active listening skills
To best fit the needs of their students, yoga teachers should listen to understand the types of benefits students want to gain from their practice. They often employ active listening skills to pause and think about what their students say before finding the best response and taking the most effective action.
Public speaking skills
These professionals can lead small or large groups of students and must be comfortable speaking in front of people. They should also be able to annunciate often while performing poses and walking around a space to observe and assist students. They should also be sure to move eye contact around the space from student to student to better engage them.
Yoga teacher work environment
Depending on their yoga practice and preferences, these professionals teach a variety of students at different practice levels, including children, young adults, athletes, geriatric practitioners and pregnant practitioners. Their job is inherently physical, so standing, stretching, walking and other physical activities are common.
These fitness professionals can work in a variety of environments, including:
Gym or fitness club
These organizations frequently hold yoga and other group fitness classes, making them an accessible opportunity for yoga teachers. These professionals may bring their own form of practice or apply it to teach classes focused on their specialty. Those who want to work with a variety of practice levels may appreciate these opportunities.
Many schools — elementary, middle and high schools, both public and private, and colleges — offer yoga as a fitness elective or part of their physical education curriculum. Yoga teachers who want to work with beginner-level students may benefit from these job opportunities.
These professionals may share class schedules with fellow yogis, rent studio space to teach or open their own studio to serve the clientele. Some yoga studios specialize in one or a few types of practice, while others may provide open teaching opportunities. Here, these professionals may find more opportunities to teach intermediate or advanced practitioners.
As part of their fitness programming, some community centers may employ a yoga teacher to lead classes for community members, often providing classes for certain age groups rather than those with yoga practice preferences. Those interested in working with more beginner-level students may also find these opportunities fulfilling.
Some yoga teachers may teach classes at one or a few of these organizations. Yoga teachers may work full or part time, depending on the needs of their employer or whether they set their own schedules.
How to become a yoga teacher
Here are the most common steps to take when considering this career path:
1. Consider education.
Though formal education is not often necessary, some employers may prefer candidates to have a high school diploma or GED or a bachelor’s degree. Consider earning a degree that fits your career goals, whether yoga instruction is part of your employment or your sole passion.
2. Practice yoga.
Yoga teachers must be interested in the practice and teachings of yoga and are often most effective when they have been practicing for a few years. If you’re interested in becoming a yoga instructor, begin your practice if you have not already. Seek out a gym or studio, and enroll in classes regularly.
3. Complete a training program.
These programs offer in-depth teachings and practice that challenge current practitioners and enable them to share their expertise with others. To earn credentials and become qualified for employment, complete a 200-hour training course, preferably certified by the RYS.
4. Earn certification.
You can go through the Yoga Alliance to apply for and maintain your internationally recognized certification. Earn the RYT 200, or pursue another training program to earn your RYT 500.
5. Gain experience.
The most effective way to refine your yoga teaching is through leading classes and helping students master their practice. A certain number of years and hours of teaching can help you get certified as an E-RYT, possibly increasing your earning potential.
6. Specialize your teaching.
Consider also completing training programs for children’s yoga or prenatal yoga to learn the needs of those types of students and certifying as an RCYT or RPYT to further specialize your teaching practice.
Yoga teacher job description example
Shiva Yoga Studio is looking for passionate, experienced yoga teachers to join our staff and share a large schedule of yoga classes. We offer hatha yoga for beginners as well as ashtanga and vinyasa for beginners, intermediate and advanced students. Interpersonal skills, effective communication and compassion are key in this role. Candidates should hold RYT 200 or RYT 500 certifications, but E-RYT certified teachers are also welcome.
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