In the practicum of our Kids Yoga Teacher Certification, we offer free kids yoga classes. In the world of yoga, classes with student teachers are usually free. You can get great experience from volunteering if you are a new teacher.
But occasionally I get emails from people looking for a kids yoga teacher willing to volunteer. The classes are positioned as “opportunities” rather than working for free. It’s an opportunity to promote classes or sell associated products or gain experience.
Having done a few of these classes, I’ve learned the hard way that you’ve got to be choosy about what volunteer opportunities you accept. You want to make sure they are a good use of your valuable time and not a drain. They all don’t work out the way they are supposed to work. They can end up taking a lot of preparation, setting up the area, planning signs, hand outs and bringing products to sell to only have a few people attend who are not that interested in kids yoga.
I remember one volunteer “opportunity” early in my teaching, where no one showed up. I didn’t realize I was volunteering to both teach the class and advertise the event.
Since then I’ve thought more about volunteering especially because seva (selfless service) is a cornerstone of the style of yoga I practice (Kundalini yoga). There is beauty in performing acts without thought of personal gain. It can be a form of meditation.
So you want to examine the question: When is the right time to volunteer?
Volunteer When you Need Experience Teaching Kids Yoga as a Business
Volunteering can be fun because there’s less pressures than a paid position. So if you need experience, before you start charging for classes, volunteer. Everyone wins.
You get to learn the tools of your trade. When our teacher trainees get in front of all the kids when we volunteer it brings everything they have learned to life. They realize exactly how things work. They see all the bumps and bends on the road and how to navigate them. Like when kids don’t want to do something, or want to take over teaching, or someone cries.
Through volunteer work you handle all these situations and you gain confidence. It’s a highlight of our kids yoga training that makes it more practical and professional.
When you charge for teaching, you’ve got to be able to deliver, you can’t charge for a job you can’t do.
Volunteer to get the experience and the legitimacy to run your business.
Volunteer to Get a Ton of Exposure
There’s exposure and then there’s EXPOSURE. I’ve volunteered at school functions where only 15 people showed up and most of them were not interested in yoga. It was a waste of time. However I do volunteer at The Yoga Conference, where thousands of yoga lovers are in the building, that is the right kind of exposure.
Get as much information as you can about an event before you agree to volunteer. How many people will be there, do they expect to spend money at the event (if you are selling products), do they have kids or like yoga? Get all the facts so you can choose your “opportunities” wisely.
Most important: Make sure you will be able to put out your email sign-up page so you can follow up with people after.
Volunteer When You Feel Passionate
Of course there are times when you feel the call to volunteer because you believe in a cause or have a passion to reach out to a certain group.
This is seva, you do it to give, not to get.
For what causes do you feel called to volunteer? Feel free to promote them in the comments and let us know how your volunteering works there.
When to Pass on a Volunteering Opportunity
Pass When It Will Devalue Your Profession
Consider how volunteering impacts your business, and the whole niche of kids yoga teachers.
If you are teaching as a hobby, you can afford to volunteer. But when you teach for free you may undermine your future teaching opportunities.
You may be taking the value away from what should be a paid position.
The way I see it, if I value yoga for children then I need to value the work of those that teach it to them. If these teachers don’t get paid, they have to find work elsewhere. If they find work elsewhere, they aren’t teaching yoga to children.
If you are working for no pay, there better be a good reason. Sometimes you’ve got to educate people about your value and push for kids yoga to be a priority in time and in budgets.
Pass When Your Schedule it Already Full
Yoga teachers usually have big hearts which can make it hard to say “no” when asked to help out, and especially to help out kids. It takes practice to say no, but there are times when in your heart you will know it is the right thing to do. Don’t let yourself become like Bendy Em (see pics) – trying to fit yourself into all kinds of places that make you feel more like a circus performer than a yoga teacher.
Pass When You Feel Exploited
As I said before, if you are teaching yoga as a hobby then you can afford to volunteer but what about when you do volunteer and you feel disrespected.
You’ve invested in proper training, put years into your own yoga practice and become a specialist in kids yoga. You want to help others, but sometimes what starts out as a volunteer position morphs into being taken advantage of.
You are being taken advantage of if you are doing a job for free that everyone else gets paid to do. You are being exploited if your volunteer classes are constantly shifted around and you are not being respected for what you are offering. It’s just not right.
When this happens, its time to have a heart to heart talk with the organization. Let them know that this regular position should become a line in the budget. You’ve volunteered to prove the value of the yoga class, so lets make this happen and take the next step to make it legitimate.
Otherwise it may be time to give your notice. Just think twice before helping them find another volunteer.
When do you Volunteer to Teach Yoga to Children?
Have you had any tough calls when it comes to whether to volunteer or not? Have you had a volunteer opportunity go on a little too long? What rules do you follow to help decide what to do?