How to attract and maintain yoga and pilates students

For most of us, the most important thing about teaching yoga or pilates is that we are authentic in our teaching and give our students something that enriches their lives. Most of us, of course, do it for the love and I’m sure we would all agree: If we could do it for free we absolutely would. Many of us offer donation-based classes to make the practice accessible to everyone and find ways to give back to the community. However, at the end of the day we all need to make a living. And if we can do it by sharing something that we love then that’s a very big bonus in life – and we feel eternally grateful for that. Of course, making a living teaching yoga or pilates full time can be a little easier said than done. And a very big factor in making an income from teaching relies on how many bums are on those mats. So, how do we do it? What’s the secret to student attraction and retention? There are so many factors to consider, but here’s some food for thought to inspire you on your path.

Be consistent and reliable

This should go without saying but many of us give up before we’ve given our classes a chance. You may only get one or two students for a while. Be patient and give your classes the opportunity to grow. Once you get the word out, it won’t take long before the numbers start to grow. Depending on where you live, give yourself at least six months to build your community. At least. Don’t cancel classes at the last minute, try to teach your own classes as much as possible (no covers), have some consistency in your sequences so students can see themselves improving, don’t change around your class times and locations too much and always be on time. People like consistency and predictability. They will be loyal to you if you respect the time and energy involved in committing to a regular practice with you.

Run regular beginners’ courses

This is a wonderful way to get new students. As you’ve probably experienced, once people have been to a handful of classes they notice the difference it makes to their lives and have a genuine desire to continue. Choose a time (first thing in the morning or in the evening often works well so 9-5 workers can participate) and run the course for a minimum of six weeks. At the end of the course offer a discounted pass or membership to your regular classes to encourage them to continue their practice. Share the course details on community noticeboards and Facebook groups, and tell your friends.

Find your niche

With the abundance of yoga styles on offer, it helps to know what you’re good at and build your tribe from there. I personally love teaching beginners, office workers and mums. I feel like I can be completely myself with these students, without the fluff. I can drop the Sanskrit and the end of class omms and teach from a really grounded and often humorous place. For me, these are the people who can really benefit from the practice. What’s your vibe and who do you love to teach? If you’re good at creating killer, dynamic sequences then other teachers might be your tribe. If you love to be playful and integrate more gymnastics into your classes then you might love working with kids. Be clear about what you love and reach out to students who fit your unique niche.

Ask for feedback

It’s so simple. It lets your students know that you’re willing to evolve with them. And it helps you to become the best teacher you can be. At the end of class simply tell your students how much you value their feedback and be open to receiving when it is offered.

Keep in touch when you’re off the mat

Don’t think of it as marketing, but staying connected to your community. Share snippets of wisdom on social media and through emails. You can set up a simple and beautiful email newsletter with Mailchimp. If it’s appropriate, take students’ details when they first start practicing with you and stay in touch. Become Facebook friends with your students so they can see what you’re up to. Give away information for free without asking anything in return. Be consistent and open in your communication and timely in your sharing (i.e. if it’s the end of the year, simply share some tips about the holiday season rather than advertising your offerings for the following year).

Keep learning and working on your craft

Keep growing and evolving as a teacher to keep your students challenged and getting the most from the practice. At the end of the day, it’s not really about you. And anything you can do to help your students evolve is a bonus – and probably the reason you started teaching in the first place. It’s not always practical (or affordable) to do all the trainings – but you can keep studying, practicing with other teachers (online and off) and participating in the occasional workshop to maintain your enthusiasm and stay on the path.

It’s all about connection

And, having said all of that, throw your goals and expectations around numbers out the window and instead focus on connecting with the students right in front of you. Get to know your students’ names and what’s going on in their lives, be their friend, be honest and authentic (you don’t need to be up on the teacher pedestal all the time), give hands on adjustments and focus on how you can serve. The irony is that by letting go of the need for numbers, they are likely to increase!