Yoga is for everyone. Never a truer statement was ever made. Yoga really is one of those practices that can be done by anyone for anything. With such a broad application though, it can be difficult to find how you can make a difference as a teacher.
Thankfully, with yoga becoming more popular each year, more people are looking for classes that relate specifically to their needs. This is where you can start to carve out a niche that truly resonates with you.
Whether you are just starting out as a yoga teacher, or are looking for a way to continue your education or try something new, looking into the different niches of yoga could be an exciting option for you.
What is a "Niche" or "Speciality" Yoga?
A niche is a small segment of a large market. Yoga is taking over the world one downward dog at a time, so if you want to get a piece of that pie and really want to make a difference, perhaps it is time to narrow your target audience to help you focus. Instead of just learning how to be a Vinyasa yoga teacher, what about a Kids Vinyasa yoga teacher? Or Vinyasa for the elderly. Getting the picture?
A niche is different from the “types” of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Hatha. These “types” of yoga change the pace and sequencing of traditional poses, but their aim is still to ultimately prepare the body for meditation, to enlightenment. These classes attract students that A) are physically fit enough to participate B) are looking for a practice that will calm them and C) looking for a practice that will strengthen them. However, there are many people who have different expectations of a yoga class, and those people can be targeted.
Over and above these “types” of yoga are niches that focus on specific groups of people that tailor the poses, pace and sequencing based on the needs of the group. This can be a breath of fresh air to the elderly (for example) who would love to practice yoga but are not physically fit enough or ADHD children who could benefit from the calming elements of yoga.
Why might you decide to specialise
You might decide that you want to focus on a niche for several reasons.
- There is a need for it in the community: Perhaps you have children or are in a community that has many children and there is not currently an offering for children’s Yoga. Or perhaps you live at the beach and notice that there is an opportunity to offer “Stand Up Paddle-boarding” (SUP) yoga classes.
- You have a need for yourself that has not been met: Perhaps you are someone who is elderly, or has a disability or is a professional athlete who wants to bring yoga into your life. You realise that there may be others like you who would also like to see a yoga class specifically to them.
- Specialising would help you stand out: If you are interested in making Yoga a career move then specialising in a niche market would mean that you have a bigger slice of that particular pie. Talking business for a moment, having one particular group of people to market to it much easier than marketing to everyone. There is a very good saying that you might want to ponder over; “if you are selling to everyone, you are selling to no one”.
- You have a passion for something in particular: Another reason why you might choose to explore a niche is that you have a passion for something such as Stand Up Paddle-boarding and want to combine them. You are not that interested in getting ahead in the business side of yoga, you just love something and want to work in that area. Go for it!
Do you need to have special qualifications?
This is a very good question, and the short answer is yes. In 2016 Yoga Alliance released a new designation that would allow professionals outside of the yoga community to contribute their speciality. This new designation is the YACEP or “Yoga Alliance Continued Education Provider”. Schools that proudly display this designation show that they have met the teaching requirements of Yoga Alliance to provide you with a certificate.
For some specialities such as working with children or prenatal work, Yoga Alliance has specific certifications to ensure postures are taught in a specific way and safely. If you are looking to work at a studio, it is likely that they will ask to see your qualification.
The good news though, is that you do not have to take them in a particular order. If you are looking to specialise with children you need to complete a 95-hour children's yoga certification as well as 200-hours YTT, but you can decide which order to do them in. That is the same for working with pregnancy ladies, you will need to complete an 85-hour prenatal program as well as your 200-hour YTT.
Other specialities may vary in their pre-requisite requirements and on the time needed to qualify. It is best to contact each school to find out what their requirements are before booking your spot, to avoid any disappointment.
What types of specialisms are there?
There are as many speciality programs for yoga as there are people practising! This is very exciting but can also be overwhelming. In this article, I will share with you the ones that are the most popular niches that you could choose to specialise in.
Prenatal Yoga (RPYT Yoga Alliance)
Prenatal Yoga was developed as a way to allow women to stay fit and healthy, both mentally and physically, during pregnancy. Yoga Alliance has a set curriculum that each registered school will need to incorporate. This curriculum will ensure that each student is fully aware of how to guide a woman in yoga throughout the stages of pregnancy, as well as what complications might arise.
As a teacher, you will learn how to guide each woman through a series of postures gently, in a way that will stretch and strengthen their muscles, and also (possibly more importantly) teach them how to control the breath.
The breath is incredibly important for a pregnant woman, as having good breath control will help with pain, anxiety or stress during pregnancy, during labour and embracing being a new parent. Many women also join prenatal yoga classes for community support.
Yoga for children (RCYS Yoga Alliance)
Yoga for children is becoming more popular in schools as a way to bring a sense of calmness and relaxation into a teaching environment, as well as improving concentration. Even outside of an educational framework, yoga for children has many benefits such as improved flexibility, self-awareness and improved body image perceptions from a young age.
Yoga Alliance has a very specific curriculum that will need to be incorporated by the registered school to certify you are a children's yoga instructor. The curriculum includes understanding the developmental stages of children (ages 2-15), specific anatomy, physiology and phycology of children to learn how to appropriately communicate with them.
You can further narrow this niche my learning how to teach yoga to children with special needs or requirements. Depending on the school you may need to have prior qualifications or experience with dealing with special needs children.
Chair yoga (YACEP Yoga Alliance)
Chair yoga is a great option for the elderly or people with certain physical disabilities. It can be an extremely rewarding niche of yoga to focus on if you know of someone who is physically struggling with the practice and wants an alternative.
This can also be a particularly useful skill to learn if you want to focus on yoga at work, as many people do not have time to go to a yoga class in their lunch break, and could, therefore, benefit from chair yoga at their desks.
Chair yoga falls under the Yoga Alliance YACEP certification. This means that there is not a particular curriculum that needs to be followed, but rather four main teaching categories that must be included to register as a school. Other than that, the school can choose what elements it wants to focus on and how it wants to deliver the training.
Another popular yoga niche is combining yoga with a sport such as Standup Paddle Boarding (SUP). This has become quite the trendy thing to do this summer so if you are looking to work at a studio near the beach or a lake, or have your own studio near one, this might be something for you to look into.
SUP Yoga schools will need to be accredited by the Academy of Surf Instructors (ASI) for you to be able to teach SUP Yoga, as they hold the international standard. The requirements for an ASI qualification require a 200-hour YTT from Yoga Alliance before you can begin.
Founded in 2008, Curvy Yoga has become one of the most popular styles of yoga to teach. Anna Guest-Jelley developed curvy yoga because she felt that the yoga community did not cater to people who were not slim and lean. She wanted to create a body-affirming practice for all shapes and sized that would reconnect people to their bodies and appreciate them.
This is just one of the many body-affirming yoga teacher training programs that are our these. As a student, you will learn anatomy that doesn't just include the bones and the muscles. Attention is put on the flesh that we have, and positive cues that can be used to work around that flesh.
Often yoga poses focus on alignment which is key but doesn't always talk about how to achieve the same benefits of the pose if you are larger framed. Body-affirming teacher training like Curvy Yoga will give you the confidence to lead a class and have your students leaving it feeling included and fulfilled.
To sum up
These are just five of the many yoga niches you could branch into and explore. If there is something that you are interested in, get those fingers working and hit the search engines. There is likely a course out there for you to enrol in, and if there isn't then perhaps you have found a new niche to grow yourself.
It is never too late to learn, so keep adding to your teacher's toolbox. In my next article, we will look at some of the best schools that offer specialist programs. So stay tuned!