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Full Time Yogi

I’m now one of “those” people who had a more or less sound & safe career who dropped everything to become a full-time yoga teacher. I worked in California State Politics for five years. About two years into my job, I signed up for my first teacher training, graduated & never stopped teaching.

Full Time Yoga Teaching: When to Make the Jump

5 Lessons I learned from dropping everything to become a yoga teacher

I’m now one of “those” people who had a more or less sound & safe career who dropped everything to become a full-time yoga teacher. I worked in California State Politics for five years. About two years into my job, I signed up for my first teacher training, graduated & never stopped teaching.

With my recent transition, a few people have contacted me via the ‘ole Instagram to ask how I knew when it was time to leave my full-time job to become a teacher, and what I did to prepare to make the jump. So! I’m sharing a bit of my story and highlighting some of the lessons I learned here in hopes of providing some insight:

#1. Only YOU know when it’s time to jump 

I’ll start with what I think the most important thing I learned and you’re probably not going to like it: no matter what advice people give you, only you are going to know when the right time is for you. When you talk to your friends and family (or people on Insta) some people are going to make leaving jobs or changing careers seem soooo easy that you almost feel stupid for asking the question in the first place. Others are going to respond with words of caution, especially if you had a “career” like I had with benefits and a slew of other ‘practical’ reasons they will use to try to get you to stay. Take what they say to heart, but remember to look inside of yourself for what you need – and don’t get pressured either way. There is no wrong answer, but there is also no perfect time. 

#2. Start small

My big girl job was much more than a full-time job – working late hours, early mornings & being “on-call” via phone and email – so it was especially difficult for me to make time for teaching since I didn’t always know when I would have time away from work. I started with teaching every other weekend, when I knew I would have some time to teach, and also to prepare for class. Some people are relaxed and confident enough to hop right into teaching classes without any anxiety. I am not one of those people. I would be nervous days before the class and would take much more time to prepare my classes then I do now. So, it was important for me to start small, gain confidence, and avoid stressing myself out (more than I already was). See if you can get a class on a day that you have nothing pressing to do beforehand, so you have time to relax and focus. As time goes on, your “teaching stamina” will increase.

The second reason why starting with fewer classes before quitting your job (yet), is that you might start teaching four classes a week and realize that you absolutely hate teaching – Which is actually a really good thing. What?? Yes! That means that you figured out you didn’t want to teach full-time BEFORE making the jump. You still have time to reduce your teaching hours to something manageable that you still enjoy – or stop altogether. You don’t HAVE to quit your job to become a yoga teacher. You can do both! Teaching on the side is a great creative outlet, an excellent way to make some extra cash or to serve your local community with karma classes.

#3. Get creative

As time went on, more opportunities started to open up. In addition to the yoga classes I was adding to my schedule, I received a fantastic offer to do my Pilates teacher training and to teach at a studio. Once I maxed out the hours I could offer outside of my work to teach, my full-time boss was kind enough to agree to let me go part-time at the office – working 75% time to make more room for classes and even some quality time with my pup. The Pilates studio also hired me to do administrative work, which really helped my financial confidence (and my ceaseless need to cross things off of to-do lists) as I planned my exit strategy.

There are all sorts of ways this can play out – maybe you reduce your hours at your current job, maybe you quit your full-time job, pick up a few hours at a low-stress part-time job and increase your teaching hours – have an open mind! Remember that there are no wrong answers, and you never know which other employment opportunities will open doors to meet new clients.

#4. Take care of yourself

With an already busy schedule and stressful job, adding so many classes meant that my days were absolutely packed, and it was nearly impossible to make myself a priority – or to even get myself anywhere on the to-do list. I thought that teaching the most classes would help speed up the process of becoming a “great” teacher. Boy was I wrong. It quickly became difficult to find time for my own practice and (most importantly) for SLEEP. When I lacked either of those things, the quality of my classes suffered, I didn’t feel good about how I was teaching, and it made it much harder for me to go to class. It takes time and hard work to become a good teacher, there is no other way around it. Don’t sacrifice your personal health, happiness, or quality of your classes to try to speed things along. 

#5. Start a “Quit My Job” fund

As soon as I started getting paid for teaching, I placed all of the money I made from classes into a separate account that I didn’t have a debit or credit card connected to (i.e., I couldn’t take out any money). I used this account to save money without being able to see it and continued to live off of my regular job salary. I utilized the money saved in the account to pay for other training and also as part of my “Quit My Job” fund as extra cushion for when I decided to quit. This created some serious peace of mind, and also a new lesson in learning how to save $$.

The way of the yoga teacher is not an easy one – despite how it may seem on Instagram – but for me, the benefits far outweigh the cons. It took me nearly two years of having way more than a full-time job to feel ready to jump. I was good friends with my coworkers and boss, and it was hard to part ways, but ultimately it was just too much for me to juggle and stay in good presence and health for teaching. So far, I haven’t looked back or regretted a thing. With the space to think and to breathe, I have felt more creative and motivated in my classes, I’ve had more time for my personal practice, and more wonderful opportunities have been popping up – almost as if they had been waiting for me all along.

I hope this has provided a bit of insight towards whatever you are going through (or at least a bit of demystification of one of those yogi Instagram accounts). I’d love to hear from you about what some of your experiences are with yoga teaching, so please feel free to reach out! If you are interested in this topic, stay tuned – I’m working on a post about things you need to know starting out in the yoga world – most of which I had to learn the hard way.

xoxo,

Alex T.

Yoga teacher, bodyworker & Founder of NAF