Interview with Lisa Allwell: how to become a full-time yoga teacher

If you don't know Lisa Allwell, and you live in Melbourne, you should check out her classes. She's a most inspiring woman, great sense of humour, and she really cares about her students. She's mentoring one of this year's teacher trainees and she agreed to share her tips for transitioning into a full-time teaching life without going bonkers or broke.  Read on, such great info! 

Lisa Alwell doing vasisthasana

What are your tips for building up a portfolio of classes?

Finding work: My advice would be first to practice as much as possible with your family and friends to build your confidence and ability. Many baby yoga teachers graduate from their course without having taught a full class (note: not ours!!!!), and it's a learned skill to create a yoga class with depth, balance and flow. Gyms are generally less choosy than studios about hiring teachers (as they often don’t understand yoga) so it can be easier to get your first gig at the gym. This helps to build your yoga CV. Other things to try are your local Lululemon or Lorna Jane store. They are always looking for teachers to take their community classes, and while you don't get paid, they give you free clothes. They are happy for you to promote your own classes at these events.

There are some Facebook groups such as a Melbourne Teachers page which often advertises classes up for grabs, so keep an eye on the posts.

When you decide that its time to start teaching in a studio, become a student there first.

Understand their style and nuances before you approach the studio owner, so that you can think about what you will have to offer thats unique, within the existing teaching mix.

And finally, at the studios where I teach, we are strongly encouraged to give one another useful, constructive feedback. This applies to all teachers, no matter how experienced. And while this is potentially confronting, it really helps you to grow in teaching. Consider asking fellow teachers to critique your class and think about how you can act on their feedback. "Great class Lisa", is nice but not helpful - ask for real, uncensored feedback about sequencing, adjustments and flow.

Don't give up! Its challenging to get started and even more challenging to stay motivated if you are finding it tough to establish classes and students.

How do you balance all the different things you do?

I think its important to always remain a student. I try to participate in several classes each week as a student, as this keeps my own teaching fresh. An added bonus is that I nearly always pick up something new to add to my teaching tool kit. Similarly workshops and courses are great for ongoing learning and importantly, with connecting and networking with other yoga professionals. I read yoga blogs, ancient texts and sometimes dream in sanskrit…ok, i made up the bit about the dreaming…but i do try to stay current and engage with the broader yoga community. It makes my teaching life more interesting and colourful.

There’s lots of debate about how many classes teachers ‘should’ teach each week, and I don’t have an answer or exact number. What seems important is that you get clever about balancing your teaching schedule (lots of early mornings and late evenings becomes exhausting) and try to have two full days off to recharge, build your personal practice and step away from being the teacher.

I feel blessed to be now teaching yoga full time and I wake up every morning with a smile on my face. It seems that I’m in the business of making people happy, and a wonderful by product is that it makes me happy too.

Lisa xxx