The Reality of Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Teaching yoga. This has been a dream of mine for so long, and in April this year it finally came true after I qualified to teach. When people asked me what I did for a living, I could finally say, “I’m a yoga teacher!” Amaze!

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Looking after a baby and studying IS doable!

 

 

I hadn’t, however, given much thought on where and how I was going to teach once qualified. My mind had been so focused on passing the exams that the period after qualifying hadn’t been at the forefront of my mind. The time during which I was studying was made all the more time consuming due to looking after my son, who was around 8 months old at the time. Character building, though!

 

 

 

 

Luckily, a lovely girl with whom I trained recommended me to a yoga instructor friend of hers who needed cover. I started teaching corporate yoga classes in Central London a couple of weeks after qualifying. I was actually teaching! Another friend of mine, also an instructor, regularly needs cover, so I now teach beginners’ classes from time to time.

But this isn’t enough to pay the bills! Getting a permanent slot on a studio timetable is incredibly difficult-sometimes I feel that there are too many yoga teachers for the number of jobs available in Greater London. I look at studio timetables and think, “Hmmm, where would they even put me as a new teacher?!” Still, I put myself out there by assisting at studios and making myself known to teachers’ classes I go to. I have also recently qualified as a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher which will hopefully benefit from being quite niche-y.

I had hired a room at a studio to host a beginners’ yoga course but, due to my poor marketing skills, or perhaps a lack of demand for this in Chiswick where I live, there was not enough to make it a worthwhile venture.

I have a website, I have posted CVs to studios and health clubs; I was naive to think that this was enough to make jobs just fall into my lap! And with another baby on the way, sometimes I think that perhaps I should go back to doing a real job, as I have a family to support.

In hindsight, I would have stayed in my original job and just started teaching around my main job, at least so that I had a regular salary coming in. This is so obvious to me now, but at the time I was so desperate to leave my old job and follow my dream!

So, a few home truths about being a yoga teacher:

  1. This profession does not necessarily make you rich. I meant, I guess it could do if you are lucky enough to become a celebrity teacher, like Kino et al. Otherwise, don’t give up your day job if you already have one. Teach alongside your current job, otherwise the world becomes an incredibly scary and stressful place!
  2. Teaching is tiring. I’ve only ever taught a maximum of one class a day and even this exhausts me! An hour or so of pretty much constantly talking, modifying and assisting students, and creatively structuring a class can be mentally draining. However, teaching can also be exhilarating-just pace yourself and take time to relax!
  3. Teaching yoga can make your self-practice less of a priority-don’t let this happen to you. If I’m honest, I barely practice at home anymore. If I do manage to practice at home, I end up using the time instead to create new sequences for students, or cut it short to attend to my son. I go to external yoga classes in order to practice, which means I have lost my own meditative home practice, that which made me want to teach in the first place. Something I need to work on!
  4. Being a yoga teacher can be expensive. I know this sounds weird, but if you look at Yoga Teacher Trainings, both in the UK and abroad, they are rather pricey. For example, an 200 hour YTT in London costs up to £4500. Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training can cost around £600. A CPD in restorative teaching can cost up to £500. It is generally expected that yoga teachers keep their trainings up to date, but this can be costly.

Please don’t let my comments put  you off teaching, though! It is such a creative and rewarding profession, as is teaching anything that you enjoy doing yourself. It just pays to plan in advance, especially when it comes to finances. Don’t be disorganised with your head in the clouds like me.

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Despite not being the easiest career to get into, yoga teaching makes me feel like this!

 

Everything considered, I am going to keep promoting myself and continue to train with my favourite teachers, as I know that this is something that I love. And I am making a resolution right this minute to have at least a 15 minute self-practice every day. If I do end up deciding to go back to the ‘normal’ working world, I know that I would have given this my best shot!

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I Passed!

I did my final practical exam in yoga teaching on Saturday-I wasn’t actually nervous beforehand, but more anxious to get it done so that I could teach in real life! I’d practiced the sequence many times on my husband (who is now mega-bendy) and various friends and neighbours, so I knew it like the back of my hand. I really enjoyed it and was told by the examiner that I would suit Power Yoga and Vinyasa Flow, which are both styles that I am planning to teach anyway.

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Where to start?

The hardest thing now is deciding on where and how to teach. Studios cost a lot and it can be difficult to break-even as a new teacher without an established following. Luckily, a friend recommended me during the course to a teacher whose classes I will now be covering in Holborn. So lucky! I will also be assisting at YogaWest, a boutique and calming studio in Acton. We need more dance and yoga studios in Acton, though! My dream would be to open such a studio, so watch this space…

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What next?

I will be studying to be a Barre Instructor and also specialising in Pre and Post-natal Yoga. I found that there were not enough of these classes when I was pregnant, and if there were, they were always at awkward times of the day or you had to commit to a course. I have a new-found respect for pregnant ladies and new mums-this motherhood thing is hard! Yoga has been my ‘thing’ that helps me unwind and feel like me. Cannot wait to start teaching a fun but relaxing mama’s yoga class!

I LOVE Child’s Pose

 

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Now, THIS is yoga…and sleeeeeep

Wow, it’s HARD being a mum. I actually used to (inwardly) roll my eyes when I heard people at work go on about how little sleep they were getting, and how their baby was going this or doing that. I couldn’t relate, so generally switched off. In fact, I found the subject boring. Now, of course, I try not to bore other people with talk of sleepless nights, feeding routines and post-pregnancy tummies. Now I realise that those parents at work needed an outlet, and that the easiest way for them was to talk about their problems, even if the listener had no clue as to how they were feeling.

Using yoga as an outlet

So I only talk about baby stuff to those who may relate to what I am on about. Otherwise, my other outlet is through yoga. Whenever I have been going through hard times in the past, yoga has helped me focus on something else, and I have always felt better after my practice. The problem does not go away but I find that I am more equipped to deal with it after yoga. I’d like to share with others this way of helping ourselves deal with emotions. For this reason, I am embarking on a Yoga Teacher Training Course with the YMCA. I don’t exactly love the YMCA training so far, mainly because I called my tutor and he didn’t even know who I was/ask if I needed any help. He only seemed interested in taking my money for another course. Anyway, more on the course in another post. I am aware that the yoga teacher market is pretty much saturated within London, and that everyone knows someone who is training to become a yoga teacher. I would still like to give it a go though, hopefully without becoming a cliché! I am not suddenly going to call myself a Yogini and wear yoga clothing All. The. Time.

Unfortunately, procrastination is fun.

The YMCA blended learning consists of online theory covering Anatomy and Physiology. I’ve always found it difficult to motivate myself to study without being in an actual classroom. When needing to learn online, I find that Asos is much more fun, as is the Topshop Lookbook. And Instagram. And then there’s that Whatsapp message on my phone I need to reply to. What makes it even more difficult to sit down and study is needing to look after my six month old son. I try to read when he is napping, but as those with babies may know, sometimes naps can only last half an hour-just enough time to have a shower! My son just LOVES to catnap, just like a cat. I have, however, managed to complete some of the online work which I have been able to do when my husband is home. He is my saviour!

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This is currently my version of  Wheel!

The hardest part has been getting back into my physical practice. My core has become significantly weakened since pregnancy and birth, as have my inner thighs, making poses difficult which I once used to find easy. These are poses such as Wheel and any plank variation. In a public class, I spend a lot of time in Child’s Pose, something I used to be embarassed about doing, but have no idea why.

 

 

 

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One day I will jump back into plank.

Sleep deprivation makes it difficult for me to actually get my yoga clothes on in the first place. Seeing as I am so incredibly tired anyway, I have resorted to waking up an hour before my son at 6am as that is the only time I seem able to practice. Actually, I have only done this once (this morning) but I will try to continue this. The practical side of the course doesn’t start until January, so I am hoping by that time that I can at least hold a Wheel without wanting to cry!

Last trimester exercise! The end is in sight…

At my prenatal exercise class the other night, my teacher told me that the exercise I had been doing in my barre class were actually quite dangerous! I have always loved Barre and anything ballet based, so thought that I’d be okay to continue throughout my pregnancy. I have read many places that if you did a certain exercise before you became pregnant, you’re safe to continue it throughout! Obviously I was so wrong. So no more hip opening pliés and leg raises. However, here are a few of my favourite exercises that I am okay to do in my final month.

Yoga based stretches

I’ve really slowed down my yoga practice as is it has become a lot less dynamic.I do a couple of incredibly modified Sun Salutations to warm up, some side stretches, following with some yoga poses (including the ones mentioned here) and then I end with some pelvic floor work and some light twists.

I am generally unable to go straight into Downward Dog without first putting my knees on the mat. I still find it great for stretching out my calves which have become so tight with the extra weight.

FullSizeRender 5As you can see, it is a very short Downward Dog as I am really trying to get into the lower calf muscle, the soleus, as I feel that it is so tight it’s causing crazy heel pain! A complete self-diagnosis, but it really seems to help me. Also, I can see from this photo that my arms are not straight-I think it was because I was about to come down as there was a huge amount of uncomfortable moving around going on in my uterus!

 

Another favourite is the wide-legged squat, which I am also hoping to use during labour. I’ve always loved this pose anyway as my inner thighs get such a great stretch.

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A few other stretches I have been doing include a mini back stretch on my knees (also stretches my hip flexors as I do a lot of sitting at work) and a quadricep stretch, which again also stretches out the front of the hip.

I also use my green theraband (about £2 from eBay or Amazon), the green being of a high resistance, but you can find many different types online. I use this to perform a number of pilates based exercises to strengthen my back, chest and arms. I also use them to add resistance to my lunges.

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Using the theraband to perform arm raises-it’s a shoulder burner!

And of course I have to mention my block that I love to sit on when doing seated stretches else my big tummy gets in the way of forward folds! The block offers me extra height and helps the baby tip forward into the pelvis, especially now as he is head down, a good position for birth. I also find my strap (as seen in the photo below) great for stretching out my lower back.

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Sitting on my block and using the strap to create a slight twist and alleviate lower back pain.

Finally, if a bit random, a tip given to me by my Pilates instructor: use a rolling pin under your feet to create flexibility and improve tone. I have always had what I call ‘straight’ feet (not flat but not high arches either) and am trying to improve the arch. I roll the soles of my feet across the top of the rolling pin for 5 minutes for each foot every day. It really hurt at first (apparently that’s just the tight muscle fibres breaking down!) but now it feels like a really great massage.

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It is safer to do this on a mat so that you don’t slip! After doing this exercise for a month, I am able to point my toes without cramping and am getting less pain in the soles of my feet when I walk to work. Who knew a rolling pin could be incorporated so easily into an exercise regime? At least it’s getting some use seeing as I rarely use it for baking….

 

 

 

With only four weeks to go until my due date, it was actually a relief to be told that I needed to take it easier exercise-wise as I wanted to cut down anyway, but felt that it would be a lazy thing to do! I can’t wait to get back to my dynamic vinyasa flow self-practice, but am happy to slow down for the safety of myself and the baby.

Mum’s Delicious Filipino Curry

Since becoming pregnant I have found that there are not many meals that don’t leave me feeling nauseous. One thing that I still absolutely love is my mum’s chicken curry.

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It is so tasty yet relatively low in fat, and goes great with thai jasmine rice and green salad. Apart from peas , vegetables are not added to the curry as they tend to spoil it. I so look forward to it when I’m visiting my parents for a break from London! Here I share the recipe with you.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

Chicken thigh and drumsticks (not boneless)
1 medium onion
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1/4 tsp ginger powder
4 tbsp tomato puree
4 tsp hot curry powder (add water to make into a paste)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 pinch coriander powder
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 oxo sized coconut cream blocks
1/2 cup garden peas
season to taste

Method

  1. On a medium heat, saute the onion, garlic and ginger.
  2. Add tomato puree. When this starts to bubble, add the curry powder and cook until a paste is formed.
  3. Wash the chicken in running water and put straight into the pan (do not remove the excess water from chicken).
  4. Add two pinches of salt. Turn up the heat until ingredients start to boil.
  5. Add soy sauce, coriander, sesame oil and then stir. Turn heat down to simmering. Cover the pan.
  6. After 10-15 minutes, stir and add the coconut. Do not stir again and do not cover. Increase the heat a little.
  7. When the coconut has melted, stir. Add the peas, simmer and then cover.
  8. When chicken is cooked, bring to a quick boil and remove from heat.
  9. Add garam masala, stir, and then serve.

Enjoy!

 

Getting sweaty at a prenatal class Frame style

I love Frame. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Frame is a dance/fitness studio with locations including Shoreditch, Queens Park and recently opened (and my local) Kings Cross. Before becoming pregnant, I regularly attended ballet and Music Video classes at the Shoreditch studio. Now, at nearly 14 weeks, I’m only allowed (as advised by instructors) to take part in prenatal and Get Leggy classes.

Outside Frame Kings Cross
Outside Frame Kings Cross

Tonight’s Frame Bumps class was seriously hard, and I can thoroughly recommend it to non-pregnant people as well. We worked through a series of plies and lunges plus exercises with therabands and then a load of core work. I thought I was fit before this class but I was proven wrong!

A non-sweaty me in the studio before the class
A non-sweaty me in the studio before the class

Lisanne the instructor was encouraging with high energy that we all tried to match. Small muscles that are not worked in regular gym workouts were focused on making my arms incredibly shaky!

The waiting area inside Frame's Kings Cross venue
The waiting area inside Frame’s Kings Cross venue

I’m looking forward to Get Leggy with Susie on Monday morning, a mixture of ballet based moves and kickboxing to hopefully give me a bikini worthy bottom!

I love Frame for it’s quirky classes (80s Rave, Jane Fonda Tribute) and the passionate instructors. Frame is a breath of fresh air which, unlike some studios, don’t take themselves too seriously.

No more caffeine-say what?

After chatting to a friend recently, I realised just how much I depended on my at least three-a-day tea and coffee fix. I drank it even though it gives me palpitations and disrupts my sleep pattern, but have always seen meeting up for a coffee as a social event. With the memories of a fluttery heart rate and sleepless nights in my head, I went out and bought some caffeine free tea bags.

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During the first day of replacing my usual flat whites with these ‘virgin’ bags, my head was absolutely throbbing. Today, however, I have had no headaches and actually have more energy, if this is possible? The tea bags do not, admittedly, taste as rich as my old brew, but it’s worth it for sound sleep I had last night.