Yoga Teacher

The Job and What's Involved

Yoga strives to achieve a union between mind, body and spirit. It has been developed over thousands of years to promote good health and inner peace. Yoga teachers may instruct group classes or give one-to-one tuition.

There are various different types of yoga. The most widely practiced is hatha yoga, a combination of relaxation and breathing practices co-ordinated with moving into and out of various postures. Yoga exercises are low impact but they can also be strenuous. Yoga can be taught as a form of exercise to increase physical fitness and suppleness, or as a therapy to combat or control disease and ill health.

Yoga teachers devise lesson plans, which can be adapted for different class levels, from a beginner to an experienced level. A yoga class may be broken into:

Relaxation - around twenty minutes of a class being allocated to relaxation, at the beginning or end of the class, or both. This is achieved through physical relaxation and simple breathing exercises.

Limbering - warming up the muscles and joints to prepare the body for posture work.

Asanas - postures that strengthen and tone the body while improving the flow of energy. Teachers are trained to modify asanas for those with health and fitness problems by applying their knowledge of anatomy, physiology and structural kinesiology.

Pranayama - breathing techniques to develop concentration, awareness and relaxation.

Meditation - not included by all teachers in their class.

Some yoga teachers may incorporate history or philosophy in their classes, perhaps saying a traditional prayer of thanks at the end of the session. Very little equipment is needed, other than a non-slip mat for safety. Most teachers now use aids to enhance and provide wider access to postures, for example a belt used to aid passive stretching.

Through yoga, many people with chronic illnesses have learnt how to relax. They are taught how to cope with and take control of conditions such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Cancer
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Breathing disorders
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Arthritis and Parkinson's disease
  • Hay fever

Some teachers specialise in teaching yoga to pregnant women or children.

The majority of yoga teachers are self-employed and choose the hours they work. They tend to work flexible hours, which may include evenings and weekends. It is possible to work on a part-time basis.

Yoga teachers may work in sports and leisure centres, in health clubs and in people's homes. They may run classes at local centres or village halls. In order to be as mobile as possible it is useful to have access to transport or be able to drive.

Loose, comfortable clothing is worn, such as a T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms or leggings, and a good level of physical fitness is required.

Based on a 12-hour week, a new entrant may earn about £11,520 a year. With experience, this could increase to around £20,160 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Yoga originated in India and is now practiced by millions of people worldwide, to maintain and improve their quality of life. Interest in complementary therapies has increased over recent years.

Many yoga teachers are registered with the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) although there are other representative bodies, and teachers often maintain membership with the school that they trained with.

Opportunities can be found through local newspapers, by advertising on one of the registered yoga websites or by promoting a new class in a community centre. It may also be useful to approach directly health clubs and leisure centres.

Education and Training

No academic qualifications are needed and people with qualifications at all levels enter this career.

The BWY is the national governing body for yoga in the UK and represents the national federation for the UK at the European Union of Yoga. It aims to improve and maintain the standards of yoga teaching and is becoming an approved awarding body for vocational qualifications. It offers a range of courses for members, providing professional qualifications, including a Foundation Course and a Teacher Training Diploma. Its courses can be completed at accredited BWY local centres or through distance learning, and it also accredits a number of yoga training centres.

As well as the BWY, other awarding bodies offer nationally accredited qualifications designed for students to develop their knowledge and also for those wanting to train as teachers.

These qualifications can be achieved through an Advanced Apprenticeship in exercise and fitness.

In conjunction with SkillsActive, The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) was developed to protect the interests of people who use any health and fitness instructors (including yoga and Pilates teachers). The register uses a system of self-regulation that oversees training, recognises industry-based qualifications and requires members to follow a code of professional practice. To be placed on the register, yoga teachers must meet the standard at Level 3. Yoga entry to REPs is to be reviewed in 2009/2010.

Though public liability insurance is not compulsory, it is recommended, and teachers need to be aged 18 or over to obtain it. Ideally, they should hold a current first aid certificate and cardiopulmonary resuscitation certificate (CPR). ACriminal Records Bureau (CRB)check is required if working with children or vulnerable adults. Teachers may also need knowledge of child protection procedures if working with children.

Owing to the flexibility of working hours, this role may be ideally suited to people who want to combine their job with family commitments.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

In order to keep their qualifications up to date, the BWY requires its qualified teachers to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) in the form of in-service training. It offers a range of training days throughout the UK for members.

There are a variety of additional modules after the BWY Teaching Diploma, these include:

- Teaching Yoga to Children
- Pregnancy
- Teaching Yoga in Prisons
- Meditation
- Yoga for the Third Age (taking yoga into the community)

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Yoga teachers should:

  • Have a high standard of physical and mental fitness.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Have good interpersonal skills.
  • Be able to empathise with people.
  • Be able to motivate people.
  • Have a great deal of self-knowledge.
  • Be able to work on their own or within a team.
  • Be organised and keep administration up to date.
  • Be aware of health and safety issues and know their legal responsibilities.
  • Know when to refer someone to their GP.
  • Be able to work on a self-employed basis and run a business.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and training, yoga teachers can develop their expertise and the range of yoga classes they can offer.

They may decide to undertake further training to become a practitioner in other complementary therapies. Further business opportunities may be explored, such as setting up and developing yoga centres or running retreats

Get Further Information

British Wheel of Yoga (BWY),
25 Jermyn Street, Sleaford,
Lincolnshire NG34 7RU
Tel: 01529 306851

The Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health,
33-41 Dallington Street, London EC1V 0BB
Tel: 020 3119 3100

Register of Exercise Professionals, 3rd Floor,
8-10 Crown Hill, Croydon CR0 1RZ
Tel: 020 8686 6464

SkillsActive, Castlewood House,
77-91 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1PX
Tel: 020 7632 2000

Yoga Biomedical Trust,
90-92 Pentonville Road, Islington,
London N1 9HS
Tel: 020 7689 3040

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