Being a Visionary: How to Manage Yoga Teachers at Your Studio

Presented by Carisa Ciuca; Rob Walker, E-RYT 500; Lynn Bushnell, E-RYT 500; and Mary Catherine Starr, E-RYT 200, RYT 500 | Published On: July 23, 2014

Where do you find yoga teachers who share the vision you have for your yoga studio? What expectations should you set for teachers? How much should you pay them? At the 2013 Business of Yoga Conference, moderator Carissa Ciuca tackled those topics and more with panelists Rob Walker, Lynn Bushnell and Mary Catherine Starr during a discussion, "Teacher Management to Transform Your Studio".

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Hire Teachers Who Prove Themselves To You

Lynn, the Yoga Alliance® board of directors Secretary, explained that while she hires some teachers for YogaWorks through its own teacher training program, she also recruits others from "all over the place" who show her that they're experienced and have charisma too. "I need people that can come in and hold a classroom of 40 to 50 people," she said.

Mary Catherine and Rob both hire teachers from their own Teacher Training Programs. Rob noted that it is easier for studios with varying types of yoga practices to hire outside teachers than studios that focus on a single type of yoga. Carissa also mentioned that hiring primarily from your own teacher training "ensures a strong sense of community in your own studio so people who are teaching for you are carrying… the same vision that you have and they feel a sense of ownership that a teacher who may have trained somewhere else may not have."

At Tranquil Space, Mary Catherine pointed out those wishing to lead classes must first become a teacher assistant and then audition. "It's… a group of people who have… proven that they want to teach at our studio and also have been kind of working as an apprentice, almost, under our teachers," said Mary Catherine.

Five Tips for Reviewing Your Teachers' Performance

From the moment your teachers apply for their positions until they leave your studio, you'll need to make time to talk to your teachers. Instead of late-night socializing and gossiping, Lynn and Mary Catherine both recommended setting aside tea time or something similar so you can discuss their classes, personal experiences, class loads and lives as teachers. The panelists also offered other advice for managing your teachers:

  1. Set expectations that your teachers will teach within the style and culture that your training program provides.
  2. Allow your teachers the freedom to conduct class in a way that lets them be creative but is consistent with your studio's guiding philosophy and training.
  3. Ask for student feedback about how your teachers are performing.
  4. Offer positive feedback when your teachers' actions deserve it.
  5. Monitor class sizes and how often your teachers call in substitutes.

It's hard to grow a class if a teacher consistently does not show up or teaches postures that are not appropriate with the class level since that may discourage beginning or novice students from attending again. Rob pointed out that he tells teacher trainees, "It's not what you taught that brings people back but how they felt when they left your class."

Offer Perks For Your Teachers

Mary Catherine described positive feedback as the "the food" and "the nutrition" your teachers need in order to stay engaged and enjoy teaching. If you have a guest teacher coming to your studio to teach classes for your students, consider asking that person to conduct a class only for your teachers. It may cost you up front but it may also result in team building for your own teachers who enjoy it. There are some other perks you can consider offering teachers too:

  • Free yoga passes and workshops;
  • Discounts on extra trainings and local community businesses;
  • Continuing education;
  • Something special on their birthdays;
  • Non-monetary compensation as a way to show appreciation for little things, like attending staff meetings.

"The supportive community that you build is another way to give teachers something extra," said Mary Catherine.

Find Out the Market Rates For Teacher Pay In Your Area

Where your studio is located can be a big factor in determining how much you pay teachers and substitutes. Rob found that in Alberta, Canada, he would set a basic pay rate of around $55 per class.

"I would pay up to $70 a class but I would try to pay as little as I could; not because I'm a mean person but because it's really hard making a living as a studio owner and I don't know if the teachers even understood that," said Rob, later adding, "You have to find out what other studios are paying."

Mary Catherine pointed out that in the greater Washington, D.C. area, the range for teacher pay varies between $30-75 per class, though it's typically around $35-50. Lynn mentioned that the pay structure is similar in California, though teachers in Los Angeles typically make a little more than the rest of the state. In any case, substitutes typically receive the same rate of pay as the teacher they're replacing for that specific class.

About Carissa Ciuca

Carissa Ciuca is the founder and owner of Breathing Room Yoga, a thriving yoga sanctuary in Portland, Maine. In addition to teaching classes at her studio, Carissa directs teacher trainings throughout the year, conducts workshops in various locations and leads retreats internationally.

About Rob Walker

Rob Walker, E-RYT 500, is the co-director of the Alberta Yoga Teacher Training College and was formerly the director of The Yoga Studio South and the Yoga Studio College of Canada. Rob is also certified through the Yoga Association of Alberta and the Iyengar Yoga Association of Canada at the fourth level.

About Lynn Bushnell

Lynn Bushnell, E-RYT 500, is the regional manager and teacher manager for YogaWorks Orange County, California, which includes overseeing more than 100 yoga instructors at five different studio locations. Lynn has served on the Yoga Alliance® board of directors for the last seven years, as governance chair, board chair and as the current board secretary.

About Mary Catherine Starr

Mary Catherine Starr, E-RYT 200/RYT 500, is a vinyasa yoga teacher, painter and blogger living and working in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She spoke about her experiences as the Teacher Director at Tranquil Space in Virginia and D.C., where she was also a teacher, a part of the teacher training staff, and formerly a studio director.

Eligibility for Continuing Education

This workshop counts for one Continuing Education Non-Contact Hour or one RYS Curriculum Non-Contact Hour under the Teaching Methodology category.

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