Your Yoga Teaching Pathway: Choosing Between a Career, a Side Hustle, and a Hobby
With ERYT-500 and senior trainer Heather Agnew
Watch the video discussion, or scroll down to read more.
Yoga Teaching Career, Side Hustle, or Hobby?
Teaching yoga can be the most rewarding vocation, business, and meaningful experience, but the path you choose—whether it’s a full-time career, a side hustle, or a cherished hobby—holds its own set of unique benefits, risks, and rewards.
Today we talk about all of these options for your teaching practice and go through some of the practicalities so that you can make informed decisions about how you will develop your teaching practice and business.
1. Teaching Yoga as a Career:
Teaching yoga as a career usually means that you spend most of your working time focused on teaching yoga, your income is largely derived from teaching, and generally you are making a longer-term investment in a business of your time, energy, and resources. This might be a teaching practice in studios and gyms, your own studio or gym, online, teaching retreats or workshops or corporates, or some combination of all of these.
Benefits of a yoga career:
Professional Fulfillment: A career in yoga allows you to immerse yourself in the practice and philosophy, dedicate your time and energy to yoga and to helping others experience the benefits and find meaning through the practice of yoga.
Income Potential: When you have the time and energy to focus on yoga full time, it can be easier to establish yourself as a yoga teacher or yoga business, which can lead to a steadier income through a variety of channels, including classes, privates, workshops, and retreats.
Yoga-Focused Life: When your only job is yoga, you get to be fully focused on yoga! Which is awesome to experience of course, but it also leads to a lot of creativity, skill development, depth of experience, and a life built around yoga practice and philosophy and ethics.
Community Building: Teaching as a career gives you the time, space, and engagement to build a vibrant yoga community. Creating a community of dedicated students can be immensely rewarding, fostering enriching connections that go far beyond the yoga mat.
Risks of a yoga career:
Financial Risks: without a steady paycheck, you’ll be reliant on your yoga income, which can fluctuate and requires you to be creative, innovative, adaptable, and likely will need a lot of variety in your business – classes, privates, workshops, retreats, corporates. All of this takes consistent work.
Burnout: Balancing the demands of a full-time teaching schedule and personal practice can lead to burnout if not managed mindfully.
Administrative Responsibilities: Running a yoga business involves administrative tasks like marketing, scheduling, client management, and managing finances, which takes time and in many cases training or outside help.
Entrepreneurial Responsibilities: To run a successful full time yoga teaching practice, you’ll need to get comfortable with marketing yourself, seeking out new business actively and consistently – which takes time and requires you to be developing and maintaining marketing skills.
Rewards of a yoga career:
Impact on Lives: Watching your students grow, physically and mentally, under your guidance is one of the most profound rewards.
Flexibility: While teaching full-time can be demanding, you will have agency and flexibility, and control over your schedule, when and where you work, how you work.
2. Teaching Yoga as a Side Hustle:
This usually means that you teach part-time, likely a few classes a week, outside of your full-time job or full-time caring role. Your income is not dependent on teaching, so you have some flexibility to choose classes at times and locations that work best for you. You might be teaching in studios and gyms, private sessions, online, or even teaching in your own workplace.
Benefits of yoga as a side hustle:
Less Risk, Less Pressure: without relying on yoga solely for financial stability, there is less pressure to develop a business, and often you can focus more on teaching and less on business.
Supplementary Income: Teaching yoga part-time can be a fulfilling way to earn extra income while maintaining a primary career or pursuit.
Happiness: teaching yoga along with a regular full-time job gives you a place to be creative, to have agency, to share your love of yoga with others, and, especially for those who aren’t as passionate about their full-time gigs, gives you a light in your week to look forward to.
Risks of yoga as a side hustle:
Time Management: Balancing a side hustle with other responsibilities requires careful time management to avoid burnout.
Limited Availability: Your availability for classes may be limited, potentially impacting the growth of your student community.
Rewards of yoga as a side hustle:
Passionate Pursuit: Teaching yoga as a side hustle allows you to share your passion without the full-time commitment, potentially making it more sustainable and enjoyable.
Diverse Interactions: Interacting with like-minded yogis and being exposed to students from different backgrounds and experiences can enrich your teaching and broaden your perspective on yoga and life.
3. Teaching Yoga as a Hobby:
This means that you, while you may be a registered yoga teacher and very professional in your teaching, you aren’t dependent on teaching as a profession at all. You might volunteer, teach by donation, share yoga with friends or family, or sub classes on an ad hoc basis as opportunities arise or as you have the time.
Benefits of yoga as a hobby:
Personal Enjoyment: Teaching yoga as a hobby ensures that it remains a source of joy and personal fulfillment.
No Financial Pressure: Without relying on yoga for income, there’s less pressure to fill classes or conform to market trends or studio/gym demands.
Risks of yoga as a hobby:
Limited Exposure: As a hobbyist, you may have fewer opportunities to share your knowledge and connect with a broader community.
Skill Development: When you aren’t teaching regularly, you might find it slower to build your teaching skills and strategies, and to develop your confidence as a teacher.
Rewards of yoga as a hobby:
Authentic Expression: Teaching yoga as a hobby allows you to express your love for the practice authentically, free from commercial pressures.
Flexible Approach: Without financial pressures, you can experiment with different styles and teaching methods, finding what resonates most with you and your students.
Pre-Retirement Yoga Teaching Plan
One pathway in teaching yoga that I see a lot is teaching part time or as a hobby during your main earning years, maintaining a career and teaching on the side, then transitioning through pre-retirement or retirement into teaching yoga.
I love this for a few reasons.
Rather than feeling like you are at the end of a career, you get to dream and create and craft a new chapter of your life, which is exciting and brings a lot of physical and mental health benefits.
Also, during your time when you are working full time and teaching on the side, you have this light in your life, something to look forward to each week, a meaningful and challenging and joyful role that you might not experience in your day job.
And, it also means that more middle aged and older teachers will be sharing yoga – and that’s great for all of us to benefit from their life experience and wisdom, and to have teacher who know what it’s like to practice yoga in an older body, with an older mind, people who know what it’s like to have to say ‘oof’ when you stand up. That’s of real value to the yoga community at large.
It’s Not a Career, It’s a Calling
When I asked for insights from my community about this question, some answered that it’s neither a career nor a side hustle nor a hobby, it’s a calling. And I appreciate the sincerity of that answer. It speaks to the passion that people are bringing to their teaching practice. But, I mean, it’s a calling for all of us. We are all teaching yoga because we love it, we’ve benefited from yoga, we derive great meaning in our lives through yoga and want to share that with others.
To help new teachers, or those looking to develop their teaching practice, we need to nurture our passion, but also get practical. How will teaching yoga fit into your life? Can you manage the risk and unreliability of teaching full time? Can you fit teaching as a side gig into your full-time career or caring role? Or do you want to take the business out of yoga and teach as a hobby with friends, family, or as a volunteer?
Looking at the practicalities of teaching is important. As a career, do you have the time, space, and risk-tolerance for a full-time business with no other income? As a side hustle can you carve out that space in your week to teach given work and family obligations? As a hobby, do you still need insurance, membership, are you teaching for free, by donation, or just subbing classes here and there. How will you maintain your teaching skills without a lot of practice?
In Closing – Yoga Teaching Career, Side Hustle, or Hobby:
Whether teaching yoga becomes a lifelong career, a fulfilling side hustle, or a cherished hobby, each path has its own set of benefits, risks, and rewards.
Ultimately, the key lies in aligning your teaching journey with your personal goals, values, and the level of commitment you’re ready to invest. The beauty of yoga is that, regardless of the path you choose, the practice itself remains a transformative force, shaping both the lives of your students and your own.
So, now I hand it over to you all. Have you had experiences in managing your own teaching practice to share, questions about any of these options, or something to add? We’d love to hear all your insights and keep this dialog going!
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