From Office to Om: The Business of Teaching Yoga

Dreaming of ditching your office job for a new career as a yoga instructor? Don’t stray too far.

What if you could combine the best of both worlds by leading classes in a corporate wellness program?

Take it from Michelle Befus, a 12-year veteran of corporate America who made the transition to yoga teacher in 2011. Sensing a shift on the horizon, she enrolled in a yoga teacher training course that prompted some surprising life changes. “Teacher training courses tend to do that,” says Michelle. “You’re learning about yourself, not just postures and exercises. It’s a shock—and that’s what makes it awesome.”

She’s since carved out a niche as a corporate yoga instructor in Seattle. Her first gig? A teaching job with a company that manages wellness programs for Fortune 500 firms and other big players. As word of mouth about her classes spread, she gained new corporate clients and watched her career blossom.

An enterprising yogini, Michelle also teaches in studio and gym settings, and offers her own workshops and retreats. But the corporate setting makes some unique demands on an instructor. She offers these tips for success:

  • Polish your presence. Since you’ll be interacting with professionals in a work setting, sharp communication skills are just as important as a command of poses and sequences. Expect a fairly formal job interview process.
  • Build rapport. Getting to know your students is especially important in the closed environment of a corporate setting, where there are few drop-ins. Students tend to be consistent, and you can more readily “take students from point A to point B,” says Michelle.
  • Focus on education over spirituality. In a corporate setting, yoga students might be uncomfortable “om-ing” alongside their co-workers. Keep it light; remember that this is their lunch hour.
  • Expect slightly higher teaching fees. Corporations have deeper pockets than independent neighborhood yoga studios, and the pay is accordingly better.

Still, it’s not an easy way to make a living. As a new teacher, Michelle especially missed the financial stability and the camaraderie of office life. But, thanks to large measures of self-drive and determination, the journey from work station to yoga mat has been well worth it.

Thinking of taking the leap? Michelle’s advice for a successful transition from office to “om:”

  1. Have a substantial savings account in place. You’ll need the funds to take you through the ups and downs as you build your new career.
  2. Be strategic and allow time. In many large cities, yoga studios seem almost as common as Starbucks. Focus on your goals and invest the time to grow your teaching business.
  3. Line up other sources of income. Whether it’s dog-walking or consulting for your old employer, line up part-time gigs to support your move from salaried work to yoga entrepreneur.

Finally, Michelle advises new instructors to ignore the teaching fads and shut down the extreme yoga Instagram feeds. “Just trust who you are,” she says. “You’re going to be most successful by being you.”

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