After teaching two set classes every Monday and Wednesday for over 6 months, I (Alex) finally branched out and started teaching a various gyms and yoga studios. I found a new appreciation for the ever-changing experience that substitute teaching at various studios and to various students brings!

After 10 years of teaching the same classes, I (iRONFAERY) wanted to branch out into Seattle’s booming yoga industry to see how many people were interested in what I am most passionate to share. As an aside, my go-to is repetition, the familiar. Branching out, making myself vulnerable enough to spread my message, has stretched me way beyond my cozy zone. In addition to testing the waters all over Seattle, I wanted the freedom to go on tour with my signature workshops.

When I (Alex) first started applying at various gyms, many hiring managers thought it was odd that I only wanted to substitute. I told them it fits perfectly with my schedule and I am more than glad to be able to help other teachers when needed. Alas there are joys and challenges of being a substitute teacher. Overall, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Together we created a list of the Joys and Challenges of being a Yoga Substitute Teacher!

The Joys of Substitute Teaching

1. Variety of Environment — Every physical location has a unique feel, look, smell, sound, layout. This can ignite your active-noticing. Type of light? Noise? Stereo? Mirrors? Incense? Temperature? Windows? Ceiling? Floors? All of these qualities heighten your senses to internalize a new experience or environment. I love change, and going from studio to studio gives me the opportunity for continual learning and adaptation to what’s new.

2. Freedom — You are the master of your schedule. Need to block off a chunk of time for…you got it. I (Alex) use the Google Calendar to keep track of all my yoga related activities. I also link it to my blog so that my students can come practice with me wherever I am subbing.

3. Diversity — You develop relationships with several owners, teachers, practitioners. There is so much joy in breathing and moving with so many new and different people – especially if you’re an extrovert. In developing these relationships anywhere you teach, you also develop a bigger yoga community!

4. Practice — Some studios/gyms generously honor you with an “all-you-can-practice” buffet. During your ‘off-time’ you now have a plethora of choices. By teaching at various gyms, I also get to exercise with various teachers and my fitness community grows even larger!

5. Cueing — Unless you are doing a set (i.e. Bikram, Ashtanga) practice, no one will know your flow. There is opportunity to quickly find clearer, universal language. Also keep in mind that all environments are different. You will need to tailor your cueing for that specific room. That is where the appreciation for variety of environment will be helpful.

6. Know Thyself — Be yourself wherever you go. As long as you provide your simple message and give a few ways to dial-up/dial-down the practice, you’re golden.

7. Give ‘em what they want! Yoga Teacher Tip: If you’re new to teaching a new class, try asking the students what they want to practice (body parts, poses, meditation, etc.). Let them determine your plan and make it work towards their needs. You can’t read their minds, so why not ask them what they want? This will also make their experience more personable and memorable.

The Challenges of Substitute Teaching

1. Financial — The employee (W-2) vs. The Contractor (1099) negotiation can prove difficult. Some locations are not familiar with WA state laws. Throw in there that there is no ‘standard’ pay, so this needs to be navigated too.

2. Sleep — One tough route is teaching a late-night sweaty flow, then being able to wind down and sleep enough to be fully present at that 6am group! Again, you can always create your own schedule and avoid yoga sub pitfalls.

3. Tracking — How many classes at [insert name of studio here] did I teach? What is the payday of each location? Did I fill in the correct forms? Figure out a plan to manage all these details. I (Alex) use an Excel form to track all my subbing opportunities. When I receive the check, I fill in the date and dollar amount received and voila, I am up to date with my yoga subbing revenue tracking. My Excel form is also available online so it’s easily accessible anywhere.

4. Insurance — You need to create a COI (Certificate Of Insurance) for each location and keep them current!

5. Sub-for-the-sub — It happens, rarely, but even subs need subs. They seem to be twice as difficult to obtain, especially if yoga is only one part of a gym’s offering.

6. The Calendar — How do I schedule privates, workshops, events, sub classes at multiple locations, AND keep track of my personal life?!? In sum, I (Dawn) use Team-up and Acuity (all sync on my personal iCal) that sync on my computer, AND, a master paper (old school) backup for only my yoga-related classes/workshops/privates. Managing calendar complexity is likely the biggest headache.

7. Travel – As a sub, expect to be ALL OVER THE CITY. Each day may even be a different commute to work. Travel may be challenging especially if you take public transportation or work Downtown where parking is expensive. Always make sure you look up directions prior to the day you are subbing and ask the gym if they have parking validation or discounts. Plan out your route and make sure you allot time for delayed busses and traffic.

We love subbing. This is not to imply you should be one too. We also realize that subbing is not for everyone. We’re simply explaining the joys and challenges so that you can better understand the method behind our madness.


Alex Tran & Dawn Irene Aragón, PhD aka iRONFAERY

Dawn and Alex Acro Yoga Inversion Seattle Yoga News

[Cover Photo by Alex Tran | CC BY ]
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