The Yoga Teacher Popularity Contest
Let me give you two words that are whole-heartedly “anti-yogi” – popularity and contest.
However, as a yoga teacher many of us are paid for our classes by the number of students who attend. Because of this, it can be hard to not let yourself get caught up in the numbers. If you only have a few students signed up for your class, and the class after yours is filled to capacity, it’s hard to not let your ego takeover.
Thoughts of: “I must not be a very good teacher” or “they like that teacher better than me,” are bound to float into your head.
Additionally, if you are working at a larger studio, you are also judged on how ‘successful’ a teacher you are by the number of students that sign up for your class on a regular basis.
We know that teaching yoga is about so much more than numbers. It’s about sharing something special and transformational with students, it’s about creating a safe and sacred space, it’s about offering up ideas, lessons and creativity – it’s about a lot more than popularity and numbers. Even still, especially as a new teacher, when you are just beginning to teach it’s hard not to compare yourself and your class numbers to other teachers, even if those teachers have been teaching for many years.
The reality is, there are many factors that impact the number of students who attend your class, many of which have nothing to do with your talent as a yoga teacher or your ‘likeability.’
So if you’re new to teaching, or you’re feeling low because of a small class turnout, consider these factors:
Time of day. Depending on where you live, there are certain yoga time slots that are deemed the “prime time.” If you live in a city, these slots are often midweek post-working hours – classes that range from 5pm - 7pm. These classes are easy for people who are working full-time to get to straight from the office and still make it home in time to cook dinner. These classes will often see higher registration numbers than classes closer to midday or in the early morning hours. Daytime weekend classes often have good attendance rates, but the consistency of students can be less predictable, as people’s weekend plans vary.
Location. The location of your studio, when added to the time of day you teach, also has a big impact on your class numbers. If you are in a residential area, you might get luckier with classes that occur during the middle of a weekday, catering to adults who work from home or are stay-at-home parents. In residential areas, weekends might be a great time slot as well. Conversely, if your studio is located in a metropolitan area with a lot of office buildings, you might get more students who are aiming to come to class right before or after work, but less people who want to show up during the weekends.
Class level. Class level is obviously an important factor that students look for when they’re signing up for classes. An all-levels class will appeal to a range of students, however, if you’re teaching a level 2-3 class, you will appeal only to more advanced students. Likewise, if you’re teaching an all levels class, more advanced students might be concerned that the postures won’t be challenging enough for them.
Local competition. The amount of other yoga students and options in the area will have an impact on the amount of local students who sign up for classes. If you’re in an area with many other yoga studios then the amount of students in the area are dispersed over many different studios.
Outside conditions. The conditions outside of the yoga studio can have a huge impact on your class size! Let’s say it’s a beautiful, sunny day outside. This means you might not get as many students, because they all want to be outside playing. Or, if it’s a snowy night, less students will want to trek out to the studio, opting to stay inside! The time of year, how sunny it is in the mornings, large local events – all these things can have an impact on class size!
Teacher tenure. This is perhaps the most crucial reason that class sizes fluctuate from teacher to teacher – some people have just been doing it longer! As a yoga teacher, you know that students have to try you out first, and then will perhaps start coming back on a regular basis. Longterm yoga teachers have had more time to cultivate 'regulars' or students who regularly show up to their class. For every ten students you get in class, you might get one regular (again, for a whole range of reasons!). It takes time to build up a following. So be patient and be you! Your students will show up with time.
So, fear not. Your class size will fluctuate. There will be days when you might be disappointed with your class size, but ultimately that might not have as much to do with you, as it has to do with all the other factors that come into play.
What I learned, after many months of internal work on letting the idea of a “popularity contest” go, is that all I can do as a yoga teacher is teach the best class that I can. The students who are drawn to my style eventually find their place with me.
Authenticity and showing up for the practice is all that really matters.