"I didn't really see [teaching yoga] as something that was going to be lucrative," says Watson, who trained for one weekend each month for eight months to earn her certification. "[But] it is going to end up, I think, being a decent supplement to my income."
Watson paid about $3,000 for a 200-hour course—that's typical pricing for teacher training—and she'll begin teaching three classes each week in May. "I'd estimate in about the time it took me to get my certificate, I'll get my money back," she says, "which is a lot more than I can say for graduate school … The return on investment is pretty decent."
Others aren't so optimistic about the potential to earn cash through the profession. "I would not say that becoming a yoga teacher is a path to instant riches," says Stephanie Brail, 41, who earned her certification in 2008. "The training can be very expensive, [and] it can be challenging to get classes at first."
Brail, too, enrolled in teacher training for health and professional reasons—to compliment her Internet-based, holistic-health business—rather than a strong desire to teach. But she decided to look for gigs in Los Angeles, where she lived at the time (she has since moved to Austin), and found the yoga market saturated with teachers. After substituting consistently, she was able to land several teaching positions, but she cautions that doing so isn't always easy.
Whether the number of teachers outpaces students' demand for classes depends on where you live; in Los Angeles, Brail says, yoga is so popular that "there's a danger of it becoming shallow and trendy." In New York City, where yoga is arguably just as trendy, Laird, the marketer-turned-full-time-teacher, says there's plenty of work to go around.
"It's almost like yoga studios are becoming like Starbucks," Laird says. "There's one on every corner now. So there's plenty of opportunity for teachers—it's just a matter of finding your way into the studio."
Corrected on 4/26/2011: In a previous version of this story, Cristie Newhart's name was misspelled.