Yoga instructor as a career

Updated: Sep 30, 2014, 12:53 PM IST

Patricia Mascarenhas

“Yoga is not just about fitness or exercise, it is about changing one's lifestyle,” said Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on his recent vist to the US. This global cultural phenomenon also offers a lucrative career prospect, finds out Patricia Mascarenhas.

What's up with the millions of styles of yoga and trillions of training programmes and certifications? Why are there so many variations in a practice meant to better human race? Well, Yoga like everything else is going mainstream. “It's a trend that began as a philosophical way of life in the East and caught on like wildfire in the West. It changed from its humble beginnings and evolved into marketing propaganda," says Jahnavi Sheriff Saisuresh, certified personal instructor for yoga.

With the economy on the fritz, high unemployment rate and increasing stress of everyday modern life, it is no surprise that the demand for yoga teachers has grown exponentially. So if you're thinking about taking that step and becoming a yoga teacher, now could be a good time to do so.

But the decision to graduate from a yoga student to teacher is not easy. “You need to undergo a teacher training course for a month or two,” informs Diksha Lalwani, founder and teacher, Smiling Yogi, Mumbai. There are different styles of yoga. “Hatha, Iyengar, ashtanga, vinyasa are some of the styles and each of these require separate training. For example, you have to be trained for a few years at the Iyengar Institute, Pune before you could be called an Iyengar teacher,” informs Lalwani.

The best teachers live their yoga practices on and off the mat. It is your own practice for many years that will make you a better teacher. It involves a lot more than dedication and training. “Learning yoga is an indirect process. It is an experiential science. You cannot just do a correspondence course or read and give an exam and pass. A person has to apply yoga in life,” explains Hansaji Jayadeva Yogendra, director, The Yoga Institute, Mumbai.

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Yoga isn't just physical exercise, it goes beyond the mat, and you have to be open to making it as a way of living. Shameem Akthar, founder, Yoga Kuteer, Mumbai agrees, “Apart from training, to become a yoga instructor one needs a dedicated personal practice,” She addes that a training course can give an individual only some percentage of structure. “Rest of it is what you invest,” she says. Many people are taking yoga instructor's course casually, flippantly. “To be able to promise to make someone fit or healthy is a huge responsibility that can be fulfilled only with continuous study and practice,” Akhtar explains.

What you are as a teacher is what your practice says of you. So if you want to make this your career you should start, and keep going. It will take a some time for your career to kickstart, but once it does, there are many avenues you can get into. “You can teach in schools, colleges or become counselors or corporate instructors, work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers or in the preventive medicine department,” says Yogendra. “You can also conduct pregnancy, delivery and child care programmes. Or work on research work, or propagate and help in holistic health,” she adds.

It may give you personal satisfaction to teach others a healthyway of life but are yoga instructors making money? With so much of competition around, it is not easy to establish oneself and gain instant riches in this field. A beginner may not draw much income in the industry but with experience comes a strong client base, through which comes popularity. “It could vary from Rs 400 to Rs 1,500 per hour depending upon the policy of the institution and the experience,” explains Yogendra. The popularity of yoga amongst celebrities makes teaching yoga an even more lucrative profession. “Yoga teachers for the rich and famous can charge almost any rate for private classes if they have a good reputation amongst those they teach,” says Lalwani.

The number of hours you spend teaching yoga directly influences the salary you can earn. "The big time is when people get out of work, before work, holidays and weekends,” says Saisuresh. So, only if you are motivated to pursue a healthy and potentially lifesaving job, grab a yoga mat to learn your locust pose, tighten up your toe stand..and dream on!