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The Business of Being a Yoga Teacher

I recently had an interview with Gwen Ferreira, a yoga teacher trainer, a mentor, and a business coach. She lives in Bali where she leads retreats, future trainings, and helps yoga teachers build a successful business and make a bigger impact online or in person. 
In my interview with her, we went over common pitfalls of being a yoga teacher, a yoga studio owner, and what to be aware of as well as what to look out for in this industry. We also shared our insights on yoga teacher tools which are some tactics and strategies on how to problem solve and create solution so you can have more time freedom, have more students in your classes, and even other revenue opportunities. You will learn the business of being a yoga teacher. 

In this blog, you will find the differences on our paths as to our businesses which are in the same industry. It just goes to show you there is no one right way and I hope that you learn a lot from this blog as you read about two successful and profitable yoga teachers and entrepreneurs on their path on how they grow their business and how we both help yoga teachers this day on creating a sustainable and profitable yoga teaching career for their life without burnout. So enjoy this one and let’s get started! 

Question to Gwen: Tell Us A Little Bit About What You Do And Who Do You Help 

Gwen: Like you Alison, I also support yoga teachers. I’m so happy we connect about that because there are now so many yoga teachers, that so many so that needs support. So what I do is that I’m a yoga teacher- trainer so I mainly teach-train yoga teachers, but also mentor them and also have them after being certified – like on how to grow their own business especially outside of teaching in a studio and all this transition online because that has been a big subject this last couple of years. That’s mainly what I do and I’m based in a small tiny island next to Bali in Indonesia.

Question to Gwen: Are There A Lot Of Yoga Studios Over There? 

Gwen: I think four now? Which is a lot, because the island is seven kilometers square. 

Question to Gwen: What Type Of Trainings Do You Do? Do You Do Yoga Teacher Training 200s or 300s? Do People Fly In For That? 

Gwen: So, we have people flying in, sometimes they fly to just try the day and they don’t even have the time to just explore Bali, which sometimes is such a shame because it’s so beautiful. But yeah, we do hundred hour, two hundred hour, three hundred hour, and retreats, and trappings, and workshops, and all of those studio stuff.

Question to Gwen: What Do You Think Is The Biggest Struggle You See With Your Students? 

Gwen: I think like we often feel alone especially when we start because that’s why the Teacher Training is such an amazing experience when we do it in person. For online, sometimes people want to do it in person because you have this feeling of “I’m not alone.” I can see that all the people who practice are not perfect with what they are doing while they’re also trying to become a yoga teacher. And so, I think the struggle is feeling alone and you’re scared and you feel like everyone else is doing it so well.

Alison: Oh yeah that’s a big one, right? Everyone else is doing it so well. We sometimes think, “Look at their practice, look at their followers.” 

Question to Gwen: What Advice Do You Give To Someone Who Is Feeling A Lot Of That Fear Or Imposter Syndrome? 

Gwen: I think the big thing for me is just tell them that I’ve been there and so I know the beginning of imposter syndrome. I still feel it now. I still feel it when I show up mentoring teachers being like, “Who am I to mentor them?” You know? I think it would be insane to not be and especially in the yoga world we know that we know nothing. Because as more our practice deepens or as more we teach or as more we grow our business, all of these things, we always have something else to learn. So I think my first thing to say to someone who feels like that is that, “I’ve been there and I still feel like this.” I still feel like, “Oh. How will my class be?” Like is there something or if someone shows up in my class I’m not expecting. We all have these feelings so it’s really about coming back to ourselves and for me knowing that it’s normal.

Our Take On Feeling The Fear And Discomfort 

Alison: I think it’s so important just knowing that it is part of the process and for me the other part of the learning was like, “Okay. It is normal and fear is going to be there.” That is just the business of being a yoga teacher. In the beginning, I used to do a lot of pushing and forcing and I tell myself, “Okay well I’m just going to kind of barrel through this fear. I’m just kind of going to do the thing.” But now it is a huge energy leap from me personally. I’ve learned to be in the discomfort of the fear. Feel the fear. Do something different or unknown. But at the same time, it’s from a place of allowing where I’m not. I realized also sometimes when I was doing something new especially when there was a lot of fear, I was afraid of failing in some way and also knowing that failure is also part of the process, and learning how to handle failure and disappointments and feeling those things – then I was pushing a lot less. 

Question To Gwen: Do You Notice That As Well? 

Gwen: Yeah. And also it’s so interesting because the word “resistance” for me is when sometimes we are just trying so hard. You know? Just like push against this wall and it’s not working and I think there was a big difference between having fear, but knowing that it is possible. If you know it and if you breathe through it, you can continue this way or the resistance and just try to think and it’s obviously not working. Because, I feel, as yoga teachers, we don’t know about business until we’re actually growing one and that’s how we learn usually because that’s not the kind of stuff we like. And then we try so hard. Like this memory of me just wanting to help yoga teachers and practicing on my own. I came to realize now that half of this probably did not work at all in my own business. During those times, I was trying so hard because I’m like, “You don’t have practice. You need one.” But that wasn’t working and sometimes I tell teachers what is important is to come back to who do you want to serve. You know? And stop trying to force things.

Our Take On Determining Whether To Move Forward Or Pivot Early 

Alison: It’s also meeting our students where they’re at, where you know what’s best is they need a practice! Right? Because you know the benefits of having your own practice. Just show up more while embodying that teacher knowledge to share with their own students but at the same time they’ll have to want it for themselves. And it is a little bit of bridging the gap of meeting them where they’re at. A big question I get from a lot of the clients and teachers that I work with is, “How do you know if something is not working or if you’re just kind of like in this experimental phase?” Right? What’s one way that you really determine, “Ok. No. This is really not working I’m going to kind of pivot from this” versus “Hmmm… I think I might quit on it too early when I’m so close to getting it.” Really, all of this is part of the business of being a yoga teacher. 
Gwen: Like in the group program that I have for teachers to have them build their business because we work like every way this comes often so many times and so I think it’s more of having someone that tells you, “Just keep doing it a little bit because by experience I know – that this is a great niche, this is a great program, or you’re doing great,” or having the experience of being, “I’m so reckless, do one more market research and if this is not working then let’s change.” So I think for me what had helped me was to have people just telling me, “Ok keep going because it’s going good even if it feels a little bit of a struggle,” or someone telling me, “Well this is not working – like we’ve been trying.” 
Alison: Totally. I agree. Having a coach I think you and I know too is it will just help you get to where you want to go so much faster with less struggle and at the same time it’s also learning how to trust yourself. So sometimes, the coach will give advice for you to keep going or maybe even there’s very rare, few times where I’ve seen a coach say, “That’s not working. It’s not like a valuable business. That’s not going to work.” Most of the time, it’s, “You just need to tweak a little thing.” It could be something like just your message that’s not resonating. Maybe it’s just where you’re showing up and that’ s not where your people are. Right? Because I have a friend who is a yoga studio owner and the majority of her clientele is 65 years and older. So they’re not on Instagram so she was doing most of her marketing on Instagram and it wouldn’t do as great of a job of driving people to her studio as other places where you know the people of that age are like hanging out and looking for help because their doctors are telling them to do yoga. They are looking for yoga and you just have to find them where they are. 

Gwen: Exactly. I just hear that all the time and I show you what to do and I don’t know where are my people. It’s true because sometimes we just try to be everywhere. So at the beginning, we always listen to our friends and families saying, “Oh you have to be everywhere,” but that should not be the case. 

Our Take On “Stop Being Everywhere And Find Your Niche And Market”

Before I recorded our interview, Gwen and I were talking a little bit about a lot of burnout in the yoga teaching industry. I think it’s a compound effect of trying to be everywhere, teach everywhere, sub everywhere, do all, and do private sessions and do more teacher trainings. It’s basically trying to do all the things all at one time. So, I asked Gwen what she thought of this and you will find her answer below. 
Gwen: I think exactly like this, too. Like for Instagram, it’s such a great example because everyone seems to be like, “Oh yeah, Instagram is..” because all you get to choose is a platform that we go and that’s why a lot of yoga teachers think it’s a great place to be and it might be for their niche. But not everyone goes for “not entertainment” on Instagram. A lot of people just go for entertainment and pictures and not for advise on their health for example. So, I think it’s definitely something of trying to be a little bit of everywhere and just getting burnout on the way. It’s not so sustainable.

Alison: I notice too like there’s a lot of burnout not only just general exhaustion or tired from being everywhere but also a burnout in the teaching. I talk to some people that we’re teaching like 15+ classes a week for example and they were similar styles. I remember talking to a teacher on a Friday, so it’s towards the end of the week, and she was like, “I feel like I’m repeating myself like a record and I’ll be in the middle of the class and I’ll be like did I say this already, did I cue this already? Did we do this pose already? What class am I in?” So, I think what you said earlier, your own practice can help so much with coming down and resetting the nervous system, replenishing the cup, and knowing the limit of how many classes for you individualistically a week or maybe a month that you can tolerate. Because it’s going to be different for everyone. And for me personally, for my one-on-one sessions, I’m not a high volume therapist. I’m not a high volume teacher who could teach a ton of classes of week so I knew my limit. Other people can do a lot more, works for them, that’s great but for me I’m going to stay in my own lane. 

Gwen’s Advice On Being Everywhere 

Gwen: It’s true and I relate so much because that’s exactly how I ended up like now, a yoga place, the result. It has become a six figure business. But, in the beginning, I was teaching five classes a day and I wasn’t making 200 bucks a month. You know? And just trying to see what the people would think. I was so burned out. I was teaching up to five times a day and I’m an Ashtanga teacher, so imagine how I was doing back then. And then one day, I just stopped. I was like, “Actually, I teach because I want to practice.” So I just stopped teaching completely to come back to my practice. And that’s why I think for teachers, as you were saying, that practice is so important to know your limit. I teach three classes a week so that’s fine. And I sit in all the time for teachers. But I find it now is that all the teachers want to go online and there were some sort of difference between a lot of them actually have never experienced this burnout maybe because they have been some teachers in the last two years there have not been that many in-person classes. You know? So I do feel like a bit of two generations of teachers for that like it was in the world of pandemic. Of the one that have been burnout just trying to have their class on zoom, and have people coming in their zoom class, and the one like we might have experienced before of teaching too many classes and being like, “This is not sustainable, how do I make it sustainable?”

Question to Gwen: How Do You Advise Them To Make A Real Living With Being A Yoga Teacher Since It Is Possible? 

Gwen: Well, for in-person and online, I find it a little bit different now. But in-person, I think what works is they’re not to be so specialized like it would be online but to have workshops and to have maybe retreats, and to just really take care of the people who come so they come back and to just stop trying also to teach everything to everyone , but just to feel like what you practice, then this is where you’re going to teach and that people can really resonate with that. And of course, along the lines of having bigger income in-person, is to have the retreats and then trainings. So we’ll say that this is what I’ve done in-person and I found that this was the way for me to keep my practice – which was what was important.

Our Take On Knowing What To Prioritize 

Alison: If you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can never lead a retreat.” For me, leading a retreat is my worst fear because I’m not a detailed-oriented person and there’s a lot of details to leading a retreat, right? But there’s still other ways, because, you can do private sessions, right? You can do workshops, and that’s how I filled mine – workshops, teaching a lot of classes and then both of those had my private sessions. So you can do that and then cultivate programs like the packages and what not. But yeah there are so many ways to do that or kind of a hybrid of those, but again, you just have to watch your schedule because if you’re leading trainings and retreats, for me, I have to be careful of leading trainings only because then I end up every weekend away from my family. So it’s prioritizing the way it will work best for you, your lifestyle, and also what lights you up. So it becomes more fulfilling and energizing versus an energy leak or drain. 
Gwen: Yeah. And I think definitely I also have a real one and I think that have sort of change our life and priorities and not to be so narrowed into something because there is actually other things that are important and I don’t work weekends. And same with trainings, I don’t do trainings every month, some 200-hour day every month and even here, I’m just like, “How do you have the energy to do that?” It’s very draining. 

Alison: Yeah. Exactly. You got to find your road and I know people that do, like myself, do a hybrid of in- person and online. There really is no wrong way to do that because for the most part unless you’re a studio owner with a large overhead, the teacher doesn’t have as much overhead and they can be a little bit more nimble in what they can do. And even for the studio, you know, that’s a whole other topic, right? 

Question To Gwen: Do You Have A Lot Of Studio Owners From Your Former And Current Students? 

Gwen: Yeah. But a lot of them just don’t want to have the studio anymore and they just want to go online alone because they just see that it is so much.

Alison: It is a lot. But we need the studios to keep the yoga going, right? And now it’s really hard. A lot of studios in our area have taken big hits due to the pandemic so of them are closing, which is understandable. I still think there’s hope for the yoga world but I do think something needs to change in the studio model in terms of being profitable and being able to pay teachers and still be profitable right? There’s a lot, there’s some fine tuning work that needs to be there. 

Our Take On The Profit Generating Aspect That Teachers Are Afraid To Change And Is Often Overlooked 

Alison: One thing that I do see with a lot of studios is there’s one area that could really make a big impact in their profit line, but they are so afraid to change it, is front desk help. So many studios do work for trade at the front desk, which is fine for check-in, but they’re expecting people that are not being paid to sell the packages and I think that is where it kind of goes awry. I think if there’s dedicated people working to clearly educate the students on the benefits of packages, what the packages are, the differences, because a lot of times they don’t even know what’s available or the weekly special is, or the group on special is, it gets really confusing. But if there’s a dedicated staff for that particular role, I think that investment could give back so much more. But it’s like taking the leap and doing it. 
Gwen: Yes. Especially for studios that have back to back classes. Because if they have two or three teachers, and they don’t have back to back classes, then the teachers can also have a little bit of this role at the end of the class depending on how people pay. For example, do people pay at the end of the class to the teacher? And so then when they pay they’re like, “Oh, actually, do you have like a three-class pass?” So I think it’s a completely different relationship. But everyone wants relationship so it’s true that if you just have someone saying like, “Okay here you go,” and there was no conversation, I think it might difficult. 

Alison: Yes. And there are so many models. There is this successful studio in our area that the teachers rent the space. In California, we teachers have to be employees but unless it’s really their business, their class, and that takes a lot of the pressure off the studio as well because the teacher’s the one in charge of filling the class and accepting the payments in both parties with market and that model did really well in our area. But, the teacher has to market and have a little bit of business savvy skills. It did work well and there was no front desk. 

Our Take On Creating Your Own Space 

Gwen: I think having a space is a great thing because teachers can feel that they’re doing their own thing, they’re renting a space, you can do a live and in-person at the same time, you can do what you want with the space. And I think one of the things that stress out yoga teachers that go online usually is to have space in their house. So I think sometimes it’s nice if they have a space.
Alison: A space they can go into. And I love that. Doing in-person and online at the same time is such a way to maximize everything. And I mean you don’t need a fancy space. You probably like preach this all day long. 
Gwen: Yes. Just find a corner. 
Alison: Yes. Put some plants there or have a tapestry. Use your individuality and creativity to bring the space alive, really. 
 
Question To Gwen: Are There Any Parting Wisdom That You Would Like To Share? 

Gwen: When we don’t know how to deal with it, the solution is to just look for support – with you Alison or with me – with people who have been where you are now and people that you want to be there. For example, you know that this type of business that you want is exactly what this person has built, then just go in there. Because there’s just so many different coaches and they are all amazing, and everyone has a different journey, different vibe. And I think it’s so important to look towards something that someone has already done. 
If you have questions for Gwen, you can message her Facebook via Elevate Yoga Career and on Instagram through her handle @gwendolineferreira. Her website is yogablisslembongan.com. 
I hope that you learned so much  from this interview I had with Gwen Ferreira! And before you go, are you ready for more? Your next best step is to sign-up for a free strategy call. Everyday you wait, is another day you’re just racing around, from class to class, session to session. It’s another day you miss out on precious moments with your family because A, you’re not home, or B, you’re at home but actually not present because you’re worrying about how to fill your class, where your next client is coming from, all the things you have to do. It’s also another day you might miss out on taking your favorite yoga class, or meeting a friend for a hike because you went all over your sessions and you spent hours agonizing over sequencing your next sessions and classes for the following day. Being a wellness practitioner can feel like a lot. 

Sign-up for a free strategy call with me! It’s one-to-one for sixty minutes. We’ll develop a plan. You’ll know exactly what to prioritize when you get off the call. You’ll get so much clarity. And if you decide to work together more with me, we’ll figure out how to fit it all in. You’ll be able to care for your health, relax your family, grow your practitioner skills, learn from all my knowledge base – one step at a time while developing and trusting your intuition in a streamlined process. 
There’s a solution, and I’ve got you! Figure out your next steps and just head to igniteurwellness.com. I’ll see you on the mat!
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Author

Alison McLean

"I help the Entrepreneur reduce stress and live a more fulfilled and balanced life."