Survival Guide for New Yoga/Pilates Teachers

Three years ago I decided that I was going to try to make a living from teaching yoga and pilates. 

Today I am almost at the stage that that living is being made.

It has been a bit of a slog and not entirely an easy process. Accordingly when Yogi Nomads‘ writer/coach and yoga teacher Melissa Mak asked on Facebook: “Have you got any tips for new yoga teachers on how to survive the first year of teaching?” I was quick to reply.

You can see what I said right to Melissa here on page 33 of the July 2014 edition of Namaskar Magazine (Screen grab of the article is below)

Top Three Tips for Surviving Your First Year as a Yoga Teacher - by Melissa Mak. Namaskar July 2014

Top Three Tips for Surviving Your First Year as a Yoga Teacher – by Melissa Mak. Namaskar July 2014

Reading this article I realised that there are a bunch of things that I really wish that I had known before I started teacher training.  For example, putting some money aside to cushion me for a long period when I didn’t get paid would have been a really good idea.  I went into the whole thing with a lot of optimism and not a lot of financial sense it seems looking back.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that I recommend doing to survive the financial leap of faith involved in becoming an (almost) full time yoga/Pilates teacher. I hope that it helps some of you.

1.   Make time for your own practice

Go to as many classes as you can.  Very often in the early I felt as if I had nothing to give my students as a teacher. I was unsure of how effective my teaching was, I was nervous and uncomfortable and felt like a fraud.  Having a chance to share the energy spread by other teachers in their classes made me feel as if I had something to pass on.  I was very lucky to be a student at Preshana Yoga in Sydney for over a year. While I studied there I had the opportunity to take classes with truly inspiring yoga teachers – creative, generous, revolutionary about alignment and philosophy and 100% authentic.

I would like to take a moment to thank them all for their insights and the genuine breakthroughs that I experienced practicing with them: Vicki Smart, Vanessa Rodriguez, Holly Coles, Christine Lee, Ananda Trettin, Laurence Jay and visiting teacher/trainers Sadie Nardini, Darren Rhodes and Gopala Amir Yaffe.  My Pilates practice in the first year of teaching consisted almost entirely of taking online classes, tutorials and workshops through Pilates Anytime, there is a vast database of talent over there. Recently I have been blessed to continue studying with Melanie Payne as one of her hand picked team of teachers at Body Mind Life.  

I remember Darren Rhodes telling us in a workshop that students are drawn to the energy of a teacher, accordingly we have to ensure that we nurture our own energy.  To do this I practice yoga and the Pilates Method every day.  If I don’t I get grumpy and depleted very quickly.

2.  Be prepared to be a substitute teacher at short notice as often and as willingly as possible

In the early days I had clear ideas about when I would prefer to teach – during the day mainly when my kids are at school. Every other new teacher would also like to work during the day but the during the day slots are very seldom the class slots that need a teacher. Be prepared to work at 6 am in the morning and then to teach again at 7.45 pm at night.  If another teacher gets sick and you are free to cover that class, COVER IT. It may mess with your evening plans or your long lie but if you help a teacher or a studio owner out willingly and at the last minute you will make an excellent impression.

When you do substitute try to find out as much about the class that you are going to teach as possible. Who is in the class? What kind of class are they expecting?  Get there early and be super friendly and welcoming to the students who will usually be a bit put out that their favourite teacher is not there.  Reassure them that you will work with them at their pace and give them whatever they need so that they enjoy their class. Don’t take any eye rolling personally – they aren’t used to your cues or teaching styles and most people hate change. 

 3.  Find out the invoicing dates for each studio you work for and diarise those dates

Your cash flow will really suffer if you don’t stay on top of invoicing.

4.  Get to bed early, eat well and often

There is no way to adequately cover up a hangover or 6 hours sleep when you have a full class at 7 am. Get at least 8 hours sleep a night or you will find yourself blacking out in the middle of a class as I did recently. If you don’t eat sensibly you will find that you just crash and burn half way through a morning or evening teaching. 

5.  Show no fear

It is entirely likely that the first few classes that you teach will be really quite crap. If you are lucky you will have lovely students who will give you the benefit of the doubt. If you are not lucky you will have someone who pipes up loudly: “I don’t know what you want me to do!” or “You talk too much!” or worse still walk out on you.  It can hurt but there is usually a kernel of wisdom inside every bit of seemingly harsh criticism. I go into classes expecting people to be critical of me and trying to put myself in their shoes to figure out what would annoy me about my teaching.

The worst thing that you can do  though as a teacher is to be unsure of yourself. Students will pick up on it right away and they will simply not trust you to teach them. Teach what you feel comfortable with teaching, keep it simple, light and fresh.  A big smile and the ability to laugh at yourself if you stuff things up (as I do at least once every class) is a big advantage.  

Once I started to see teaching as a conduit to passing on what I had learned it made life a lot easier for me. Standing up in front of a class was less about my ego (will they like me?) and more about the students’ needs (will they be safe/will they have fun/will they sleep well tonight?). 

Actively ask for feedback after class and be prepared to consider any sensible practical suggestions that students make. This will in turn lead to you finding that some students want you to teach more regularly. Some students of course will not want to see you back and that is fine too. “To each their niche” as my teacher Vicki Smart says, in other words the students who like the way you teach will find you. 

6. Have more than one job

Being a yoga/Pilates teacher is a bit like being a jobbing actor. Some weeks you will have heaps of work and no financial worries and then Christmas/New Year comes along and you have no paying work for 3-4 weeks.  You need to have another job/income stream in addition to your teaching to guarantee that you can pay your bills. 

I shall probably add to this list through time. Meantime, if you are a new teacher (or even a really experienced teacher) please leave a note of your personal survival tips below!

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Not all those who wander are lost

You’ve taken the long way around the houses

a friend of my father said to me about 25 years ago.

At that time I had left the legal profession to go teach law at University. I didn’t realise, as I slowly started to enjoy life again, that it was teaching I loved – not law.

Now it has been two years since I walked away. This was the post that I wrote about walking away.

I have reached a destination of sorts.

If you want to join me on the path, you will be most welcome to share my sandwiches.

Core Factory - Yoga and Pilates

Core Factory – Yoga and Pilates

Blimey, my kids just ate real yoghurt

Most of the time I mainly endure yoghurt.

For example, for breakfast I’ll bung together bunch of grains and nuts and seeds and something in the soft fruit family and then sprinkle this lot over greek style yoghurt.

Then I will eat the combination in such a way that my tastebuds by pass the yoghurt bit of the breakfast entirely. It is quite difficult to curl your tongue and crunch and chew and swallow without it all going horribly wrong.

For a while now I’ve been meaning to spread my food net a bit further and go back to trying to make the effort to get to farmer’s markets.

Yesterday morning was the first Saturday morning in ages that I had no teaching to do so I arranged to meet up with friends at Eveleigh Markets. I’ve been doing a bit of Twit for hire work on Country Valley’s twitter account for a while and was desperate to try some of their stuff because everyone raves about it. Country Valley’s award winning Lush yoghurt has been described thusly (and variously) as:

the greatest yoghurt of all time” –

To me, no other yoghurt comes close and in fact tasting Lush has ruined every other brand of yoghurt that I liked before” Kate Freeman Nutrition

the thickest, lushest, creamiest yoghurt I have ever tasted” – A Food Story Blog

ambrosially creamy“- Not Quite Nigella

So I had fairly high and hopeful expectations of a yoghurt that finally I would enjoy eating.

The lovely Ester at Country Valley plonked a little plastic beaker of yoghurt in the Minx’s hands and one in mine. The Minx pulled a face. “Go on” smiled Ester “It is really very nice. Honest. Try it!

Esther - Country Valley, Highland Organics Eveleigh Markets

The Minx did try it.

Mummy” she said with a big smile on her face “that is the most best yoghurt ever.” She paused. “It is” she added looking me straight in the eyes and nodding at the same time. Just so that I knew she was (a) telling the truth and (b) serious.

She also tried various cheese made with Country Valley milk with even more rapturous results.


This just tastes so much different to normal yoghurt. Can we get this all the time?” my eight year old asked today after polishing off his third bowl of Lush.

I had some for my breakfast this morning with just one pear cut up into small pieces. I found myself trying to ignore the taste of what I had put on the yoghurt and celebrate the flavour of the yoghurt itself.

Wondering if I can hire Ester on a consultancy basis to get my children to eat other things…

Yoghurt in Ceramic Cups by Fergus Stewart ________________________

Neither Esther nor Country Valley asked me to write this post but I do so with the great pleasure that comes from sharing wonderful food with other people. To find out more about Country Valley Dairy Products have a squizz here:

Country Valley Website :

Twitter: @Country_Valley


I Shall Play This Only Once

Sitting on the sofa last night the news is clearly and crisply delivered:

‘Margaret Thatcher has died from a stroke’.

My husband turns to me with a look of what? Relief maybe or just a weary cognisance of the machinery of inevitability chewing steadily forward.

This morning an email from my mum with a link to an article pounding irresponsible persons from congregating in George Square to mark her passing. They unleashed the horses and police in riot masks at us there, once upon a time in the days when university education was still paid for by the State and we still felt that activism could make a difference.

There was a time when the very mention of her name brought up an irrational anger in me.

My days of anger are mostly behind me now. Yesterday morning and well before the news broadcast, however, I was irrationally out of sorts. A young woman running for the traffic light nearly barrelled into me as I crossed the road heading towards the yoga studio. Stuck between her forward trajectory and a slightly stationery car, my shoulder instinctively turned and I buffeted her physically away from me.  An entirely over the top defensive movement – she gasped in shock more than pain (I hope).  As I walked away I looked at the reaction. Why on earth suddenly was I so frigging angry?

Not that I am blaming Maggie or her demise for my actions. I can choose how to feel, how to behave. I am a grown up and a yogi after all or so I would like to think.

How can you possibly blame one woman for the wreckage of social justice, the slow dissolution of the welfare state? She was probably no more than an emetic for the aspiration of greed.  A crusader for salvation through home ownership, a pinup girl for free market forces the zeitgeist she brandished like an axe polarised allegiances more effectively than any war ever could.

It is clear to me now that I was always going to be one of those destined to stand on the outside watching as others cranked the wealth machine inside still and dusty corporate factories.

Today I live in a suburb that is a veritable Australian shrine to her legacy. Multi-million dollar homes built by self-made men and women. Amongst these people I am a renter, a lower caste to each and everyone one of my neighbours. Renting is a dirty word round these parts. Such is my destiny that it is more likely than not that I will never own my own home either in part with the bank via a stonking great mortgage or outright. How will that change my life? All I know is that not to have the same goals of acquisition as others puts me in the precarious position of relying on charity in my dotage or hoping my kids will put me up (and put up with me).

Maggie did not create the schism that places on either side of the wealth divide but she grabbed a palette full of residual fears and anxieties and painted a broad social canvas of indifference and self service with it.

I will never say that I am happy that someone else is dead. Death is but a dissolution of a life force that chugs on unabated in her absence. I will only be happy when that frissure that she worried open is filled or the carapace onto which I  presently cling splits away entirely letting me drift away with it.

Maybe true freedom will follow?

RIP Margaret Thatcher

The Parable of the Iron Lady

My Son, My Hero

Last term before Christmas my son was picked on in and out of school.

It hurt his heart to walk to a place that he had always thrilled to go to.


What hurt him most was that people who he thought were his close friends made fun of him.

‘GAY-briel’ they taunted ‘GAY-briel is a big BABY’.

This was a hard nose smashing against life’s window for us as his parents.

‘Are you a baby?’ we asked him, my husband and I.

‘Of course not!’ he replied.

‘Then they are lying. You can ignore lies’ we tell him.

This week the Easter weekend arrived rather earlier than the school holidays. There was the customary Easter bonnet parade to prepare.

My husband picked up a few odds and sods from the local dollar shop. Gabriel surveyed the constituent pieces and gave me my instructions …

‘Mum I need you to put this here, that there and THESE’ he waves a hand left and right.

‘Perfect’ he says of the end result which he joyfully wears to school.

On arrival one of his little adversaries says: ‘GAY-briel – your hat has FLOWERS on it’.

Gabriel looks over his shoulder briefly on his way to the bookshelf.

‘Yes’ he says ‘it does.’


Och honestly – enough with the acne already

Once upon a time a LONG time ago I looked forward to getting old.

I looked forward to getting old not because I could yell at people in public and hit them with things.

I looked forward to getting old not because I could pretend not to hear things I didn’t want to hear.

I looked forward to getting old not because I could wear leopard print and fire engine red lips with complete and utter lack of irony.

I looked forward to getting old because no longer would I suffer the indignity of (miscellaneously):






In my youth I took every known cure for acne known to teen-woman. Oxy this and that. The contraceptive pill (and that was A Big Mistake). The months and months of Oxytetracycline which finally knocked the whiteheads on the head.

Nowadays you can blame me and my spots for the prevalence of superbugs.

For a while in my twenties I was pimple free. Then in my late thirties I had children. The bitter irony of childbirth that was not only was I twenty years too old to be giving birth in the first place (a fact I feel keenly every day) but my plukes reappeared. Quite ferociously in fact.

Now and again I will go out and spend a lot of money on zit cream and.or wodges of skin care regimen products. These usually work for a couple of months and then not so much thereafter.

Today when I woke up I had face spots, shoulder spots, back acne and (horror) bum spots.

Enough is enough – I thought to myself.

Today I went back to basics. A homemade salt shower scrub with lavender and tea tree oils followed by a trip to the pharmacy to buy all these things.


Let’s hope they work because let’s face it – being a pensioner with pustules would be weird, right?

Half way through FABruary

Left to my own devices I would, most morning most of the time, be flinging on black yoga pants and a singlet. After all it is only a matter of time before I will be going to practice yoga or teaching a pilates class myself. Why bother to change clothes half way through the morning and again half way through the afternoon?

This is, of course, my lazy arse equivalent of wearing pyjamas all day, including to the supermarket.

It is good, therefore, to have my arse kicked by the lovely Fox in Flats once more for another month of daily style challenges.

For those of you unfamiliar with the last style challenges I would encourage you to read the following posts:

The Dress Dare (wear a dress a day for a week)

The Colour In Dares: Day 1 – Looking on the bright side, Day 2 – Green Grass and Yellow Icecream, Day 3 – The Saltire Compromised, Day 4 – By the Peacock, Day 5 – Rehabbing Orange, Day 6 Indian Trucks and Day 7 – The Entirely Unroyal but Still Spectacular Wedding .

and more recently the DAREcember/Dressember posts.

This month’s style challenges in an eggshell blue box shaped nutshell are as follows:

And here is my first fortnight’s Fabruary photo album :

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Losing My Bottle in Backbends

Mostly I like to think of myself as strong and fearless.

Sometimes I am and sometimes I am shit scared.

This week I looked a fear in the face and

Iyengar drops back into Urdhva Dhanurasana


ran away from it.

My nemesis in yoga is upward bow or wheel pose – the sanskrit name is Urdhva Dhanurasana.

The entry level in wheel pose is to push up from a bridge pose, which looks something like this:

Both bridge pose and wheel pose rely on two main things – leg strength and butt strength. Rodney Yee counsels that you should not attempt wheel pose unless you can support it with strong glutes and deliciously open hip flexors.

I am rather partial to Rodney Yee so I have given heed to his advice.

For a long LONG time I would go no higher in Wheel Pose than the version above.

Anything higher than that would crunch into my lower back and cause me a huge amount of discomfort.

I learned to deal with my ego.

The ego used to encourage me (with Gollum like whispers) to try to drop back into wheel from standing. A bit like this…

I can’t of course because that is crazy yoga voodoo.


What I have done, day by day is to push up from bridge pose into this position.

Yoga Pose Weekly - Bow Pose



This week, quite by accident, I found myself in a position where I was in a deep back bend against the wall on blocks. It looked a bit like this

It felt good.

It actually felt awesome.

‘Walk your hands up the wall’ my teacher suggested lightly.

I did.

‘Now walk them back down the wall to your blocks’.

I sort of did until I was about an inch of the way away from the blocks. The block stared up at me. I growled back at it. There we were, immovable object meets immobile yogi.

The block won.

Later I wondered why I find it so hard to trust my own judgment.

I guess it is a common problem.

Post-script: If you fancy conquering your own better judgment there is a useful blog tutorial by Annie at Supportive Yoga here here


Photo credit above: Chauncey Harrison ‘The Elegant Klutz’

Dressember 2012 Roundup

Dressember 2012 Roundup

This gallery contains 32 photos.

How on earth did I come to be doing two dress up challenges in one December (DAREcember and Dressember)? The obvious answers are that I have: too many clothes too much time on my hands a complete lack of embarassment … Continue reading