The art of subbing: what it means to be a substitute yoga teacher

In Non classé by Valentine Bois

More than ever before, becoming a yoga teacher in a fast growing market is about getting visibility, creating connections and ultimately landing regular classes. And for most newbie like me, the first stop on that road is substitute teaching. A process that is putting me to the test on a daily basis but also proving immensely valuable. Let me explain.


The Test

Be a perpetual newbie for different students who are not necessarily expecting me to hijack their yoga routine. When telling them I will be leading their practice, I can sometimes feel their reservation, hidden behind a «oh, ok, fine» but most of the time people are curious and open to new experiences.

Remember (or not) names, injuries, and limitations from one class to the next, which might only come a month later. I always listen carefully to what students tell me and try to get everything tattooed in my brain but the ink fades with time so it might well be that I ask a name 5 (or 10) times.

Communicate openly and with a smile to put everyone at ease from the minute they enter the room. Give easy to follow instructions throughout the class and thank the group for the opportunity to guide the practice when it’s time to say good-bye. Being an extrovert makes this one easier for sure.

Stand out rather than copy someone else. Yes, I carry a certain style, offer creative sequences (Forrest inspired for the most part) and share my unique energy and no, it might not all resonate 200% with each and every student. And that’s ok as long as there’s a little something that can fill their heart and make them feel good.

Play it safe when it comes to studio habits and preferences in terms of set-up, music, etc. I always try to enquire upfront but when in doubt, I try not to impose anything, letting people place their mats and playing no music or only instrumental even if I have the full album of MC Yogi on my smartphone.

Craving feedback, badly. Regular teachers know if their class is a success based on the number of returning students. But when subbing, I’m left with guessing based on the energy in the room, which, for a fact driven person like me is not a solid indicator. So next time you practice with a substitute teacher, please take a moment to share your thoughts before leaving.


The Reward

Grow through constant adaption to different skill levels, body types and personalities in different settings from fully equipped studios to gyms, community centers, etc. I can’t think of a better opportunity to expand my horizons, push my boundaries and gain a wealth of experience.

Establish myself in the market by 1) connecting with the teaching community and identifying the doors to open to land regular classes and 2) directly assessing needs and expectations of the local yoga community so I can tailor my offer to best match the demand.

Help my fellow teachers as I make myself available when they happily enjoy a vacation, recover from a bad flu, or pursue a certification to move ahead on their path. Will they remember my help? Doesn’t matter. I’m happy just knowing I was of service to someone.

Be free and have the flexibility when a studio calls to offer a class, to take it or not, depending on my schedule and priorities. And at the very top of my priority list are the regular classes I’m landing, one replacement at a time.


It’s a truly powerful experience to sub for someone else so I take this opportunity I thank every studio owner and yoga teacher I collaborate with for their trust and support. Above all I am grateful for all the students who keep an open mind and hold space for me to guide their practice.


The art of teaching is the art of assisting discoveries. – Mark van Doren