From Desk Job to F/T Yoga Teacher

MY TRANSITION FROM DESK JOB TO FULL TIME YOGA TEACHER

In my previous career I was a “Budget Goddess” – or technically a Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis for a global public private partnership in Washington, DC.

I worked with the staff to create and manage their budgets and wrote board documents.  I was either in a meeting or living in an Excel spreadsheet. I traveled quarterly to our second office in Geneva, Switzerland. I mostly enjoyed my job.

Just shy of my five year anniversary with the organization, I was informed that my post was to be relocated to Switzerland.

I had the option to keep my job and move or to be made redundant and leave the company. I was disappointed when I was told and it took me many weeks to mentally process.

At the same time as this offer was presented to me I was about half-way thru my first yoga teacher training.

I had originally planned on teaching yoga as a side gig and staying at my full time desk job with the idea that once I had kids (at the time a far off possibility) I would teach more and no longer work in non-profit or corporate finance. Once given the option to actually leave my job with a decent severance package on top of my six months emergency savings account, my mindset around what role my yoga teacher training would play in my life changed dramatically.

I decided that my life at that point did not include moving overseas, especially considering I had taken 15 trips to the other office in Geneva, Switzerland over the previous five years. In the end, I took the severance package with a plan to become a full time yoga teacher.  Curiously, the idea to get another desk job did not ever enter my mind.

I needed a plan to make enough money to come close to breaking even on living expenses.

My goal was to find as many teaching gigs as possible and rack up experience and hours. I decided I wanted to work as quickly as I could towards earning my E-RYT, the designation with the Yoga Alliance for an “experienced registered yoga teacher”, meaning I had taught at least 1,000 hours of yoga.

Looking back 7 years ago, I’m not sure why this goal was top of mind for me because nothing changed in my yoga career once I attained and surpassed that goal. I assume I set that as a goal to help me get as much experience as I could in different types of yoga so that I had more credibility as well as confidence in my own teaching.

I stayed at my desk job for another month helping to wrap up and pass on the projects I was working on as well as create manuals that essentially detailed how to do my job.

I remember my last day so clearly.

The small DC staff of around 30 all knew my plans to leave the finance world behind and focus on teaching yoga. They all gathering in the kitchen for my farewell party and they presented me with a $500 gift card to Lululemon, pooled from their own pockets, to start off my new “professional” wardrobe. I was so grateful and felt a great deal of support from this group I had spent so much time with.

I was leaving the office a bit early on that last day to drive out to the countryside in Virginia for our yoga teacher training weekend retreat. It was emotionally challenging and I was sobbing with my work BFF as I kept trying to leave the building and say goodbye to her. I knew it wasn’t goodbye to our friendship – that would stand the test of time – but goodbye to our daily interactions, knowing every little detail of our lives, and our almost daily standing lunch date. Leaving her consistent companionship behind was the hardest part of leaving that job.

I was about to learn even more how important those kinds of relationships are when your career is not at one office all day long but rather running all over and teaching in different towns at various studios, schools, and corporate offices – especially when you are an extrovert!

In the gaps between classes, I would often met up with other yoga teacher friends.  This was critical to staying sane in a career where you don’t really “work” alongside your peers.  I even met my husband a year after leaving my job thru a close yoga teacher friend.

Luckily, I was able to teach classes at the studio were I did my first training. 

It started with only one and at my peak I was teaching 5 classes a week there.  A friend from my teacher training got a class offer with another yoga studio and she connected me with the owner as well. This turned out to be a boon for me because at my peak there, I was teaching 7 classes a week and doing a kids yoga class thru the studio.  

Both of these studios were instrumental in my yoga career at the start and even still to this day.  I taught at many other studios and elementary schools around the area but these two studios were the ones I always stuck with. 

I branched out and taught all kinds of yoga to keep my calendar filled. 

I took a kids yoga training.  I took a prenatal yoga teacher training.  I did yin trainings. I collected and studied an entire bookcase of yoga books. It’s quite an investment being a yoga teacher.  Always feeling like you never know enough and there is so so so much more to know.  Wondering if what you are teaching is correct.  Discovering you’ve been cueing something wrong for years and then questioning your entire knowledge base!

At the beginning of my yoga teacher career I thought I wanted to someday be a studio owner. I don’t think I want to do that any longer after seeing all the management issues that can arise from having a brick and mortar location. I love working with students and that is what I want to keep my focus on. 

Being a full time yoga teacher is challenging and can easily lead to burn out. 

My busiest week peaked at 21 classes and driving all over the place, often back and forth on the same day.  After a few years, I finally decided I needed to cut back on teaching classes in order to be a better yoga teacher.  7-12 classes a week was a nice work-life balance.

Once I had my first child I cut back significantly since my husband and I agreed I would be a stay at home mom.  Teaching yoga now is a nice break from taking care of kids!

Now that I’m older, I sometimes look back on my decision to be a full time yoga teacher over getting another high paid desk job utilizing my college degree.  It was a risky choice, and I sometimes think financially it would have been better to take another desk job since I never did manage to make my teaching career as profitable. But then I remember that if I hadn’t do what I did, I may not have ever met my husband, I may not have the kids I have today. So no regrets!

I love connecting with other yoga teachers – whether you teach full time or not. Share any of your experiences in the comments below!

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