How to become a yoga instructor
If you’re a passionate, dedicated yogi who feels ready to lead their own classes professionally, follow our step-by-step guide to find out how to become a yoga teacher
Imagine laying out your yoga mat, taking a seat, closing your eyes, and finding stillness, ready to begin the first asana. So far, so standard yoga practice. Only this time, you are the teacher, leading the poses. But how do you go from student to teacher, exactly?
Are you interested in teaching yoga, but unsure what the legal requirements are? Do you know which qualifications you’ll need? On top of your passion and ability, what are the other skills yoga teachers should possess?
There are also more practical questions to consider. How much does it cost to become a yoga instructor? And how much money can you expect to make?
We’ll provide a detailed guide to help you become a yoga teacher, exploring the different aspects of the process, including skills and training. We’ll also offer insight into potential income, and real life views from other teachers.
In this article, we’ll cover the following steps:
If there’s a step that you’re particularly interested in, simply click the relevant link above to go straight to that section. Or, for a more general overview, read the whole article to understand the key steps you should take to become a yoga teacher.
1. Understand the skills you need to become a yoga instructor
Once you decide that you want to teach yoga, the first step you need to take is identifying the necessary skills. Here we profile some of the main competencies that teachers should demonstrate:
It’s no surprise that to teach others yoga, you need to be at a fairly high standard yourself. This is likely to mean a regular, consistent practice developed over a number of years, so that you’ve gained the practical experience and understanding that can be applied to your students’ requirements – as well as the confidence to correct postures when necessary.
Teaching yoga isn’t only about standing at the front of the class and moving through a sequence of poses for others to follow. You’re likely to be interacting with your students a lot, too.
This could be friendly conversation before class begins, or responding to people’s individual requirements about their injuries, aims, or other requirements. So you need to be a person that others can relate to and feel at ease talking with.
As a yoga teacher, you can create your own schedule and offering. This means you’ll need to be able to tailor your teaching style, depending on the location, style, and level of each class you lead.
For example, you may find yourself teaching a 30 minute advanced Ashtanga practice in a gym, followed by an hour-long beginners Hatha class in a community centre. These classes are likely to have different requirements!
While you may spend a lot of time with other people when you’re teaching, you’ll need to be confident in your ability to work alone for long periods of time, as you’re responsible for directing your work. Plus, you should enjoy being out and about, with a varying work schedule.
From the basics, like compiling spreadsheets and sending emails, through to more advanced uses, like social media marketing, you may end up spending more time on computers and the internet as a yoga teacher than you first thought.
Being a yoga teacher doesn’t stop when you step off the mat. In addition to your practical ability and personality traits, another essential characteristic is understanding how your teaching works as a business.
This could mean conducting competitor analysis to find out which are the most in-demand styles or locations to teach, researching the studios and centres you could partner with, and identifying opportunities that are most suited to your brand.
And, just like you would with any startup, you could benefit from attending networking events to get to know others in your industry. In time, depending on how you want to grow your business, you may even consider taking on staff.
Michelle Taylor, owner of Live Happy Live Healthy, says: “You will need to complete a yoga teacher training to become a yoga teacher. The syllabus may vary depending on the training chosen – it will cover anatomy, physiology, and the history of yoga and the poses. Before starting, you will need to have yoga experience in terms of your own yoga practice.
“Yoga teaching is a business, so you will need to be organised – managing your own diary, tracking your expenses, replying to enquiries and bookings are all part of the job.
“Sometimes, the students you’ll teach will be vulnerable or battling illness or injury. Regardless of their experience or skill, you need to be able to relate to them and build a relationship with students, so good people skills are a must. Empathy is a huge part of what makes a good teacher for me.”
Shuntao Li, yoga instructor/teacher at Tao’s Yoga, adds: “Yoga teachers are there to teach students to practice safely, and guide them to experience the benefits of yoga. The ability to observe, and to provide clear and concise coaching points, are therefore very important.”
Annie Clarke, founder of Mind Body Bowl and yoga ambassador for Lululemon, comments: “A willingness to learn is pretty essential, and a sense of compassion goes a long way too.”
2. Research and decide on a yoga instructor qualification
While there are many reasons why someone may want to take a yoga teacher training course, such as for personal development or to enhance their own practice, we’ll focus on how to choose qualifications for those who are set on becoming teachers.
When deciding on the best yoga teacher training course for you, there are a number of factors you should take into consideration. These include:
Courses tend to be offered at lengths of either 200, 300, or 500 hours. You may also see training available at level three or level four standards. The 200 hour or level three courses are a minimum requirement, while the higher levels and greater hours offer more advanced training.
There are a number of places throughout the UK, as well as internationally, that you can do your training. Which you choose is likely to depend on your lifestyle, budget, and preference.
A quick Google search will show you that there are many training providers available. However, it’s wise to look for a course with an official accreditation or regulation, such as Ofqual.
Find out what others who have been on the course thought of it, if possible. You might be able to find testimonials on a course provider’s website, or search online for forums and articles to gain insight. Also, if you know anyone who’s completed the yoga teacher training you’re thinking of doing, you could ask them for their thoughts.
Assess what’s included on the course, how it’s structured, and whether the content has a particular focus. For example, some teacher training courses may have a strong physical component, while others highlight the spiritual aspects.
As the training is a big commitment, you’ll want to make sure that you engage with the teachers who’ll be leading the course.
If possible, try some of their regular classes before booking onto the teacher training. And visit the studio where the course will take place, to help you decide if it’s suitable for your needs.
There are a number of ways in which you can obtain your teachers’ qualification, depending on your individual circumstances.
It’s possible to take an intensive course over a short timeframe e.g. full time learning in one month. Or, training can take place throughout an extended duration, such as a part-time course during the evenings and weekends.
You may want to focus on a particular style of yoga, such as Iyengar or Hatha, so review which courses match the type of yoga you’d like to teach.
While you may need a minimum qualification to begin teaching yoga, it’s likely that over time, you’ll take more training courses. For example, you could specialise in a certain style of yoga.
Some suggestions for yoga teacher training courses include:
– The British Wheel of Yoga, an independent organisation that offers Ofqual-regulated qualifications. It offers a level four certificate or diploma, which (according to its site) is the highest level of yoga teacher training available in the UK.
– Yoga Scotland, another option for completing your training with a governing body in the UK.
– Another useful resource could be the Yoga Alliance course listings. The Yoga Alliance is an international yoga membership organisation and network which profiles different courses.
How much does it cost to become a yoga instructor?
In general, yoga teaching training courses cost in the region of £1,000-£3,000.
This can vary depending on where you learn, as well as the level of the qualification. It may be possible to find courses that are cheaper and more expensive than this too.
Taylor advises: “I searched for teacher training courses that were registered with Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Professionals. These courses have been assessed for quality, and will allow you to register with these professional bodies and to get your insurance to teach.
“There are a lot of intensive courses available, but I believe that for most people, a longer course would give a better grounding for teaching. I chose to start with a 200 hour training course spread over 10 months – one weekend a month.
“I spoke to the teacher trainers for the courses I was interested in, and asked questions about the number of students per course, content of courses, the dates and hours of training, and what I would need to do between training dates. It was important for me to understand the
commitment, and plan around it for my family.”
3. Decide where you want to teach yoga
Once you’ve completed your qualification, the next step is deciding where and how you want to teach classes. Essentially, you can choose to either teach independently, or work with companies. Here we profile some of the main advantages and challenges that come with each option.
Do you want to go it alone?
Teaching classes independently offers you the ability to set your own schedule, working at times and locations that you suit you.
Plus, you have the freedom to teach exactly what you want: for example, you could focus more on alignment or breathwork, depending on your preferences.
Your teaching schedule needn’t be limited to a specific location, either. You could run classes at your home, online, or locally, across the country, and abroad.
However, it can be more difficult to generate income teaching yoga independently. This is especially true in the beginning, when you may have to teach a lot of class hours to establish yourself – and that’s provided you’re able to find students to study with you.
Do you want to work for a company?
While you’re likely to be a freelancer, it’s possible to work with companies, such as gyms, yoga and fitness studios, as well as working on cruise ships or at hotel resorts.
Working with such companies can be appealing, especially since they often bear an established, respected brand in the industry. Also, they may have multiple locations that you could work from.
In turn, companies may be able to offer you a more regular class schedule, as well as payment. Companies also offer a way to expand your network, as you can get to know other teachers.
However, this route can be very competitive, and less experienced teachers may find it particularly difficult to secure work with yoga studios and other popular companies.
While the above should help you decide where you’d be best suited to teaching, it’s also possible to mix and match where you teach, allowing you to create a schedule with a balance of independent and company classes.
Taylor states: “I currently teach a combination of my own classes and sessions for local studios, which gives me a good mix.
“I run my own classes at Bisley Yurt – a beautiful wooden and canvas yurt on a farm, surrounded by fields and horses. It was important to me when setting up my own classes to find a venue that felt a little bit special, with a calm energy.
“I also teach in some local yoga studios, again in great spaces, and for studio owners who I feel aligned with.”
“So far, I have not taught in gyms regularly – I personally prefer the ambiance of yoga studios, but wouldn’t rule it out if an opportunity felt right.”
Li says: “Generally, the pay is better through private clients (typically £60 to £70+ per hour), but teaching at gym or yoga studios is excellent for profile raising.
“Since I still have a full time job, I started looking for yoga clients the easy way – through the network of friends, family, and colleagues.
“I’ve been teaching private classes either at clients’ houses or my own flat over the last year. I am also going to teach group classes after work in my office soon.”
Clarke comments: “I currently teach a small number of public classes in London at a few different studios. When I first qualified, I was teaching much more than I do now. But over time, I reduced this to find a balance that allowed me to really give fully in every single class, as well as maintain a healthy practice myself. This also means I can make space for my other endeavours, such as private clients, running retreats, taking up residencies and ambassadorships etc.”
4. How much money can you make teaching yoga?
One of the deciding factors in where and how you teach yoga is likely to be the potential income opportunities.
While it’s difficult to predict what your earnings could look like, here we provide an indication of what you could expect to make teaching yoga.
Do you want to go it alone?
If you decide to teach independently, your main sources of income are likely to be from running group classes, as well as offering private tuition. On average, these are charged at:
- £7-£15 per group class
- £40-£60 per hour for a private class
Do you want to work for a company?
Another option is to be a yoga instructor in gyms, fitness and yoga studios, health centres, and other similar places.
Salaries from this type of teaching are in the range of £20-£30 per hour across the UK, and around £22 per hour on average, according to data collected by Indeed.
Taylor says: “If you are aiming to teach through gyms or studios, you will likely get paid a fixed fee for teaching a class – this can vary, and in my local area averages around £25-£35 per class.
“Again, that may seem like a great hourly rate if you’ve been in an alternative job, but you need to allow time to plan your lessons, travel to and from studios, and be there before the class to set up and afterwards for any questions. An hour’s class is not an hour’s work!
“Also, think about how many classes a week you want to teach – yoga teachers can
burn out trying to run from class to class, teaching 20 odd classes a week, so be
realistic about what you can manage.”
Li advises: “Based on my limited experience, I would suggest working part time at first to see if you prefer working with private clients or working at a studio, then scale up the income from there.
“Once you have a reasonable level of experience and a steady client base, there are many other avenues of income to explore, such as retreats, collaborations with other people at events or festivals, and online courses etc.
“Remember that even if you go full time and only teach private clients, you still need to work most of the days in a week to have a decent earning – unless you are very successful or famous. Your working hours can be flexible, which is a big bonus, but it’s still hard work.”
Clarke adds: “My biggest piece of advice is to maintain a second income stream. This may be through yoga still, as mine is, or by using your other skills to earn a base level of income, which will take the pressure off your teaching and afford you an element of choice in terms of what classes you take on.”
5. Becoming a yoga instructor: the essential considerations
So far, we’ve covered the skills and qualifications necessary to teach yoga, as well as how to decide where to teach and what amount of income you would expect to make.
Before you get going and start your business teaching yoga, there are a few more essential factors to consider.
It’s essential to ensure that your yoga teaching business is lawful. The main points to consider are:
- You’ll need to register as self-employed with HMRC for tax purposes
- If you keep records of your students’ personal information, then you may need to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- If you plan to start a studio from your own home, you may need to apply for planning permission. Or, if you plan to run a business from a rented property, you’ll need to ensure you comply with your tenancy agreement
As a yoga teacher, you’re in control of your working hours. While this gives you the freedom to decide when and how often you work, certain times of day are more popular for yoga, including early morning, evening, and weekends.
However, this also depends on the type of classes you plan to teach. For example, if you intend to specialise in yoga classes for kids, you can expect your work hours to fit in with school days and holidays. Conversely, yoga teachers that run corporate classes are more likely to work weekdays on a more year-round basis.
Variables such as times and days of the week, as well as locations, can affect how you price your classes. Also, if you’ll be providing the equipment and hiring the space, be sure to take these into consideration when calculating charges.
When pricing your time, this is likely to depend on your skill level and experience. Naturally, more experienced teachers could expect to charge more for their services.
Also, think about whether you’ll offer classes in packages, as well as if your classes need to be booked and paid for online in advance, or if you’ll offer drop-in classes where people can pay in cash.
The main type of insurance you’ll need as a yoga teacher is public liability insurance, which covers you for the legal fees and compensation if a student is injured during your classes.
Other types of insurance to consider include:
- Employers’ liability – if you have staff
- Business contents – for your equipment
- Building insurance – if you have a premises
Equipment and costs
There isn’t a great deal of equipment required to teach yoga. Here are the essentials:
- Yoga equipment – this includes mats, blocks, straps, and other props. In addition to those you use for classes, you’ll need some for your students too, as well as mat cleaner and other products to keep them in good condition
- Yoga clothes – you should have a selection of suitable clothing
- Music player – if you decide to use music in your classes, you’ll need a suitable device to play it from, whether that’s your smartphone or a speaker. You may also need the relevant licences to play the music
You should take the following elements into account when working out costs:
- Music licensing
Once you’ve become a yoga instructor, you’ll need to let people know! Some key ways to promote your business include:
- Setting up a website
- Handing out business cards
- Going to networking and industry events
- Using social media
- Printing flyers
6. What’s it really like to teach yoga?
Describe a typical teaching day.
Li says: “Depending on the client, I would prepare the class at least a day before to tailor to their level of experience. I’d double check the time and location before travel, and make sure I have everything needed for the class e.g. mat, Bluetooth speaker, watch, essential oil, or any other props. I also journal about each class on things to note, or things I could do better after a class.”
Clarke advises: “There really isn’t such a thing as a typical teaching day – it varies so much from day to day and teacher to teacher.
“I try to teach a maximum of three classes a day (a huge difference from the six that I used to do when I was a newer teacher), being a combination of studio classes and private or corporate clients.
“Then of course there is self-practice, learning and inspiring to ensure that you have enough to give to others. This is the bit that can be forgotten the fastest, but is so important.”
What are the key considerations that our readers should think about when becoming yoga teachers?
Taylor says: “If you are looking to cover classes at gyms and local studios, you will need to be available at short notice. Make sure you have some lesson plans in your head that are ready to pull out, and which can be adapted to suit different abilities.
“Also, don’t forget that most people want to practice yoga in the evenings and weekends if they work a standard work week, so expect to be teaching at those times. Most cover class opportunities will also be short-notice evening or weekend classes, if and when they pop up.
Are there any myths about being a yoga instructor that you’d like to bust?
Taylor states: “Well, we are not all vegan or super flexible, and living it up on a beautiful beach somewhere! Instagram and social media are amazing, but also really dangerous if you’re looking at yoga-related things.
“Your yoga teacher is not your guru. Yes, we may have a spiritual practice, we may meditate, we may have our own views on life and happiness, and are happy to share what works for us – but you design your own path. And as soon as a yoga teacher starts to think they are a guru, then they have lost the whole essence of yoga – the unity and equality of all.”
Li advises: “You don’t have to be incredibly flexible, or be able to do extreme poses, as long as you are knowledgeable about your practice and can teach well.
“Om is not a necessary practice, and not everyone chooses to do it – yoga is not dogmatic, and you can choose to be as spiritual as you wish to be.
“There are no rules about becoming vegetarian or vegan – you may get that impression because one of the eight limbs of Ashtanga (yoga philosophy) has a guide on “Ahimsa”, which means ‘no harm’, but it’s a philosophical guidance. You are free to apply it in your life and teaching to any extent you like.
“Yoga teachers are not physiotherapists – we don’t claim to be the experts – but it’s important to know if there is injury or discomfort so we can modify the poses to make it safer for the students.”
Clarke adds: “Being a yoga teacher isn’t all green juice and a toned body. It’s hard work and it’s rewarding. It’s humbling and challenging. I do less yoga on the mat than I did before I taught, but I definitely do a lot more off the mat! It is a lifestyle, and a beautiful career, but it definitely isn’t an easy option!”
What are the next steps?
And so we’ve reached the end of our guide, in which we’ve flowed through the main steps you need to take to teach yoga. We’ve also highlighted the skills and training you should have, as well as how much money you can expect to make, and provided tips and advice from yoga teachers.
Explore our guides on how to start a gym business and how to become a personal trainer for other related information. Or, for further inspiration, check out our page on alternative fitness business ideas.
This should help you on your journey to become a yoga teacher. Good luck, and namaste!