6 tips for balancing life as a yoga teacher

It has been 2 months since I began teaching full-time and WOW, I can’t quite believe it. Overall, I am really enjoying it. Of course, I still have the occasional tough day. And the fear can surface some weeks more than others, but overall, I am actually starting to live it… WOW (did I say that already?). And now, 2 months in, I want to share with any new yoga teachers reading, one aspect of being a yoga teacher I had underestimated (even with pre-warning from my teacher training).

How does a self-employed yoga teacher balance teaching, growing a business and continuing to be a student of yoga themselves?
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On the face of it I am a yoga teacher, right? Therefore, I spend most of my time teaching, right? Wrong. Or at least, not in the beginning. When I started, I was fortunate I already had two confirmed regular classes per week, plus weekend substitutes of around 3 hours. A total of 5.5 hours a week teaching. And as the weeks go by that average is gradually increasing (yay!). But still, what else do I do with my time?
 
Well, there is class preparation. One day I may be a teacher who can spontaneously read the energy of a roomful of students and devise a sequence on the spot… but I am certainly not starting like that. Writing my classes, practicing my sequences and tweaking them as I go takes time. Then there is the travel time to and from the studio, plus the studio set-up and set-down (it all adds up).
 
And then aside from the teaching, there is the business side of all that a yoga teacher does. Invoicing, expenses, meeting studio owners, speculative emails to studios, website maintenance, social media (if you are so inclined), blog writing (if you are really so inclined), and then there are business development aspects – do I want to market myself to local companies to offer corporate yoga classes? How do I grow my private teaching business? And then ALL of this comes before I’ve even mentioned, arguably THE most important aspect of being a yoga teacher… my own practice, my own yoga journey, reading, anatomy studies, philosophy studies, yoga workshops, attending classes and just generally being a student.
 
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I am completely loving the variety of this journey! But at times, the balance can be a little tricky. So how can new yoga teachers approach this? I am still learning as I go but here are my 6 tips for finding balance between teaching, growing your business and continuing along your own yoga path.
 
1) Don’t be so hard on yourself
First, before I go into anything about time management, lists (I love a list) and routines, first things first. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Everything you are doing, all the steps you are taking (however small they feel at the time) are absolutely, positively good enough. Whatever we do to try and be more efficient, we first need to do this from a place of gratitude towards ourselves for how well we are doing ALREADY. Being self-employed is tough. Starting out in a new career is tough. First, just stop, give yourself a bit of self-love and be kind to yourself (what a novel idea ey?).
 
Personally, I know I have a long way to go on this first tip – and I am sure many of you can relate. So, first, let’s promise to work on this. Are you in? I’m all in.

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2) Establish a plan by week
One thing is for sure – every week as a yoga teacher is different. You may have your regular classes each week, but, you are likely to have a range of substitute classes to cover at different times and places. Plus you may have a few networking meet-ups planned with different people, as well as website work, your own practice and of course your own personal life (don’t forget about that… see tip 6!).

My suggestion is to acknowledge it as a reality and instead of saying “every Monday I will get up at 6am and practice for 2 hours”, look at each week in turn and see what fits best as a routine. Maybe one week you end up teaching 2 evening classes on a Sunday and you are exhausted early Monday morning, so instead of rushing to get up, you adjust your routine and say to yourself, I will do my meditation first thing, but then later in the day I’ll come to a Yin yoga practice and in-between I’ll catch-up on emails and prepare for my Monday evening class.
 
Be flexible week by week and enjoy the variety that comes from living this life!
 
3) Split your day
A friend of mine is also self-employed as a fashion consultant. Her words of wisdom to me were to purposefully split out the day. Look at your tasks e.g. class preparation, blog writing and home yoga practice and allocate time slots to each task. Literally set yourself a time limit. It may not be appropriate every day and it certainly doesn’t suit all personality types, but if you have an admin-heavy period where you must get some computer-based tasks done, this could be a nice idea to ensure you maximise the time spent on those projects which will move you closer towards your intentions.

4) Keep track of your to-do list
I love a list (insert Type A joke here). So much so, that I actually have a to-do list broken down into all aspects of my yoga “business”. Corporate yoga, private teaching, group classes, Lavender Yoga marketing, networking. By having them laid out in clear areas you can allocate time to each one and again, make sure that you are working on the things that move you closer to your goals.

5) Get out of the house!!
THIS is the one. And is more my personal input (everyone is different), but I feel so much more part of this city, community and world when I am working from a café or co-working space. It doesn’t have to be expensive (price of one coffee), but it can be make-or-break for your mental wellbeing. Especially if, like me, you are transitioning from a team/corporate work environment to a self-employed one… being home alone can be depressing.

Find local coffee shops and even if you need to put your headphones in to concentrate, every so often look-up, look around and take in the world you are part of and the world you are CONTRIBUTING to with your yoga :)

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6) Don’t forget to be YOU
So much of this post has been about yoga as work, yoga as a career. And yes, as a teacher we need to approach these things as methodically as we can to ensure we sustain our dream and share what we love for as long as we have something to share BUT in amongst all of this, do not forget to be you. You still need rest and non-yoga time. Give yourself time and space for other hobbies, meeting friends, cooking, a long bath, dancing, or if still yoga related (because, seriously, is there such thing as too much?!), maybe trying a new teacher or new yoga style could be an idea to find balance. Whatever it is, be YOU. One teacher friend of mine always insisted on at least one non-yoga day a week – meaning no practice, no work and even no Elephant Journal! Could that work for you?
 
My favourite ever quote was from my wonderful friend and mentor Shelby. Not long after my first teacher training she said to me “Don’t be a yoga teacher. Be yourself and teach yoga”. Every single day, step-by-step, I try and remember this, and maybe now you can too...
 
I would absolutely love to hear from you and how you are approaching the teaching, practice, business balance! Do you have any other tips from your experience?