With the growing number of experienced teachers and yoga teacher training graduates, it can be difficult to stand out in a crowded job market—especially when your dream job is teaching at a busy, sought-after studio. Careful thought about what makes you special, a clear sense of yourself as a teacher, and being open to various positions in the studio will help you as you apply for a studio job. Such work promotes the greater goals of flexibility and knowing who you are as a teacher and a yogi, skills and knowledge we hone through yoga practice. Here are some important steps in your journey toward landing a studio job.
Identify the studio where you would like to teach, then learn as much as you can about it—including its style and its administration. Take classes with various teachers and ask one whom you should approach about working there. Emily Conradson, director of Om Factory Yoga Center in New York City, recommends that you take a class with the studio's owner, then follow up with an email: "Say, 'Hi, my name is so-and-so, I was in your class today, I specifically dug [some particular element]. I've been taking classes here, and this is why I think I'm a good fit, this is what I'm about. Please check out my website. I'll be following up again to see how I can add to your community.'"
As you explain why you're a good match for the studio, be brief but specific. Sherry Goldstein, owner of the Yoga Sanctuary studios in Las Vegas, says that when a new teacher contacts the studio, "our first concerns are where did they receive their yoga teacher training, what is their yoga teaching experience—where and for how long—and what styles and levels do they teach." If a studio offers a range of styles, it's useful to show that you can teach in more than one style. Simply explaining that you teach "hatha yoga" or "flow yoga" won't be specific enough; listing your primary influences and using examples will make you stand out. Mention any experience teaching a specific population, such as seniors, teens, or cancer survivors.
Rebecca Pacheco, creator of OmGal.com and formerly the lead teacher at the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute in Boston, says, "If you're a newer teacher, without much experience, it's OK to indicate any trainings you plan to attend in the near future to further round out your knowledge base. Moreover, be sure to share the names and styles of the people who certified and/or inspire your current teaching style. If you have extensive experience in another field, share that!" Studios love providing students with teachers who possess an array of skills and life experiences, she adds. If you have been a prima ballerina, paramedic, dolphin trainer, or chess champion incorporate that information into your bio.
Show Your Base
Whether you are a new teacher or having trouble landing a studio job, leading classes in other facilities—corporate settings, community centers, even tennis clubs—will help you build both experience and a client base. Invite your students to subscribe to your email newsletter, if you have one. When you approach a studio owner, you'll be able to show your marketability and the number of potential clients you can bring along. "When I first moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I phoned every club, gym, resort, and senior center in the area," says Genevieve Harper, who teaches alignment-based yoga inspired by B.K.S. Iyengar. "Working at diverse places gave me experience teaching a wide variety of people and helped me to find my focus. Then when I applied to studios, I already had a great résumé and experience teaching, as well as references and a following."
Be prepared to explain how you've marketed your teaching in the past and how you'll market your class at this studio. Owners must think about the bottom line, and they'll be more open to hiring teachers who come in with business savvy and a readiness to keep working to fill the class.
Demonstrate Your Skills
In your initial contact with the studio, offer to provide a demonstration class. Most studio owners will want to see you teach before considering hiring you. In this class, you should offer a good representation of your style and demonstrate your ability to teach many levels, not just advanced students. "I'm always keenly aware of how people treat the brand-new students, the most needy, the most novice," Conradson says. "[Don't] whip through and go for students who follow the flow, ignoring the brand-new students . . . spend time with them, demo for them."
Conradson says she looks for three points in a demonstration class: "One, did I learn something? Did you teach me something? Make sure you offer some sort of gem. Two, did I get a good hands-on assist or a verbal correction? Did I feel that they were interested in teaching, not just standing up there and performing? Three, would I pay money to take this teacher's class? Would I take this person's class again?"
Goldstein says she looks for more than an in-depth understanding of yoga when she auditions yoga teachers: "We also want to see that spark—that special quality that will inspire others to follow a yogic lifestyle." Take a moment before your demo class to connect with the reasons you're teaching yoga, and you'll feel less intimidated as you walk in to teach.
Many studio teachers begin their association with a studio by substitute teaching or by working as a volunteer or work-study employee. Be open to such an assignment. Goldstein suggests, "This way a new teacher can gradually get their feet wet, plus we can gather immediate feedback from our students on their reactions to the new instructor." Subbing also gives potential teachers a chance to see if that studio is really a place they want to work. Plus, it shows your openness and positive qualities. Pacheco says, "By being available as a sub, you show enthusiasm, flexibility, and reliability—all marks of any sought-after employee."
When you are offered a studio class slot, don't be picky about times or days of the week. You can't afford to be choosy. "If you're a new teacher, take everything you can get," says Conradson. People who smile, say thank you, and always show up are the ones we have gratitude for. Treat your first teaching experience like an internship." This advice—to keep a beginner's mind—will serve both you and your students.
Sage Rountree, an endurance sports coach and E-RYT, is author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga and The Athlete's Pocket Guide to Yoga. She teaches workshops on yoga for athletes at studios nationwide; find her schedule at sagerountree.com.