Yoga articles and career guides

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Yoga instructor leading a class
Yoga instructor leading a class

Become a yoga teacher

7 minute read

Blend ancient ideas and modern concepts to become a leading teacher

According to recent reports, group exercise attracts over 4.86 million participants a week in the UK. Yoga is firmly planted at the top of the list with 1.3 million people taking part in classes each and every week.

These impressive figures are a testament to the wide appeal of yoga and if you already have a passion for the practice and you’re interested in benefiting others, becoming a yoga instructor or teacher could be an excellent direction for which to take your fitness career.

For those completely new to the world of yoga teacher training, it’s important to cover the basics. Firstly, the origins of the name. Yoga derives from the ancient Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’. There are almost as many interpretations and translations of this word as there styles of yoga, but one of the most commonly accepted is that it means to ‘merge, join or unite’.

The world over, the people who practice yoga strive to achieve a union of mind, body and universal spirit, as well as perfecting the art of truly knowing yourself. Yoga, itself, is steeped in ancient Indian tradition which dates back well over 5,000 years. Despite its history and association with religion and spiritual practice, it’s an incredibly inclusive form of exercise.

As the figures show, it’s enjoyed by those of all abilities and ages, regardless of religion or belief. Many people choose to engage with all aspects of yoga, others just the physical side, it really is a powerful thing to appeal to so many.

Today’s yoga perfectly blends ancient ideas and practices with modern scientific developments and current principles of anatomy and physiology. For those committing to a regular practice, the benefits extend far beyond mental clarity and stress relief. Yoga poses, or asanas as they are officially known, focus on developing the musculoskeletal system.

So well-documented are the effects and benefits of yoga that athletes and professional sports teams regularly use yoga as part of their training. You only have to look at how long someone like Ryan Giggs was able to extend his career to see the benefits.

Yoga is also incredibly suitable for special populations groups like children, older adults and pre and postnatal women. One of the reasons for this is that there is little to no impact involved with a typical class, it’s also functional, low load and the various poses can be adapted and tailored to anyone’s needs.

Yoga instructor and teacher qualities

It’s important to note that those who are qualified in yoga and lead classes can be known as instructors or teachers, so you may seem these terms used interchangeably. With most popular forms of exercise, those who partake are known as clients or class participants, with yoga they are referred to as students. Because of this, those who lead yoga classes are commonly known as teachers.

It’s not enough for a yoga teacher to simply stand at the front of their class and relay information and impart knowledge. They must truly master the principles of the practice, become an authority in their own right and act as a role model to their students. A yoga instructor or teacher will primarily teach a combination of poses (asanas), breathing activities (pranayamas) and relaxation and meditation techniques.

The best yoga instructors and teachers have:

Keen observation skills – needed to assess how asanas are being performed
Sensitivity and empathy – students will vary in age, prior experience, body shape, ability, and even temperament
Strong communication skills – both verbal and non-verbal are key
Expert knowledge about asanas and other techniques – it’s a must that you lead from the front
A commitment to self-practice and development – yoga should be seen as a lifelong journey, rather than a hobby or pastime

Yoga instructor and teacher training

If you’re confident that you have the mentality and qualities needed to truly succeed as a yoga instructor, the next stage is to gain the right yoga instructor qualifications. It is an incredibly vital part of the journey.

Level 3

The industry’s most popular yoga instructor course is the Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga. It’s recognised internationally, which is something to note later on when we explore the various job opportunities available. As this is an entry-level qualification, there are no formal prerequisites. As you might expect, however, a keen interest in yoga and experience of attending yoga classes will go a long way. Typically, the level 3 diploma is completed within 6 months, though this does vary on a person’s lifestyle and the amount of time they can commit to studying.

While the Level 3 yoga course can be completed via blended learning (so face-to-face training and home study), there’s also the option of doing online yoga teacher training. It works very much in the same way with the exception of all the work being completed at home.

The course itself covers a range of topics including the history and philosophy of yoga, understanding yoga asana, yogic breathing and pranayama techniques, mindfulness and planning and teaching yoga. You’ll also encounter the all-important anatomy and physiology and health and safety.

Other qualifications

Thinking back to the start of this guide and how yoga is an inclusive practice, many teachers and instructors don’t stop their education once they’ve achieved their Level 3 qualification. It will, of course, depend on the type of classes you intend to teach, but many will gain additional qualifications to increase the number of students they can teach.

The Level 3 Pre and Postnatal Exercise Instructor and Level 3 Exercise for Older Adults qualifications are two very popular options if you want to adapt your classes for pre and postnatal women and/or older adults. This also provides a great opportunity to run classes specifically for those special population groups.

To enable you to effectively take a range of chronic conditions and diseases, the Level 3 Exercise Referral Diploma is a must. Not only does it enable you to work within exercise referral schemes, but it’s also an entry-requirement for Level 4 courses such as Low Back Pain and Obesity and Diabetes.

Yoga instructor and teacher job opportunities

After completing your yoga teacher training studies and gaining a qualification, several exciting employment opportunities can become available to you. The list you’re about to read is far from an exhaustive one, but it should give you some idea of the many available routes.

Do remember that you don’t have to be tied to one specific type or place of work. The most versatile and successful yoga teachers involve themselves with as many opportunities as possible.

Here’s where yoga instructors and teachers can find work and apply themselves:

  • Working with clients on a one-to-one basis
  • Teaching yoga as part of an exercise referral scheme*
  • Teaching classes in a boutique yoga studio
  • Creating and distributing online classes and workouts
  • Teaching freelance classes in mainstream gyms, health clubs and leisure centres
  • Working on cruise ships or teaching classes in holiday resorts
  • Teaching classes on fitness retreats, either within the UK or overseas**

* As discussed, this requires the Level 3 Exercise Referral Diploma

** To learn more about the exciting opportunities that can be found with general fitness or yoga-specific retreats, be sure to read our interview with Antonia Johnston, notable HFE graduate and co-founder of the internationally-renowned YogaFit Retreats.

Pay and salary for yoga instructors and teachers

Most yoga instructors and teachers will be paid on an hour-by-hour basis for the classes they teach. On average instructors and teachers are paid between £20-50 per hour. Pay and salary can be wildly different depending on the area of the country and the specific employer. For example, you might expect a boutique yoga studio in the centre of London to pay significantly more than a mainstream gym in the north of the UK.

Self-employed yoga instructors and teachers could potentially earn more, but again that is dependent on other factors including the demand for yoga and competition in a given area.

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