Being a Super Sub

Substitute teaching at a studio is a great way for new teachers, or teachers new to a studio, to gain experience as well as to start building your reputation in your local yoga community. If you’re ready to start building your yoga biz, subbing for other teachers is a perfect first step towards establishing your yoga business.

Before becoming a yoga teacher, I worked as a school teacher. My husband and I moved frequently for his job and I often found myself in a new town as a sub.The tips I discovered while teaching mountain ranges to unfamiliar seventh graders helped me when I started teaching mountain pose to unfamiliar yoga students. The same tips will take you from so-so to super sub.

Before Class


Plan your sequence. It’s okay to refer to a notebook during class. Place the book somewhere unobtrusive. If you wear reading glasses, write your notes large enough so that you’ll be able to read them without your glasses. I like to use coding such as arrows or squiggles to indicate when I plan to demonstrate a pose and when I plan to practice with the students.


Think about the name of the class as you plan. Respect students’ expectations. For example, a “Flow Fast and Sweat” class will be different from a “Rest and Release” class.

Be safe.

Lean conservative when planning. Your first responsibility is student safety. Save poses that require a lot of strength and precise alignment for another time.

Show what you know.

Only teach the poses you have practiced. A lot. Subbing is a great time to share your favorite poses. Your pleasure will be contagious. Your knowledge will be effective.

Be creative.

Add challenge in other ways. Consider longer holds, perhaps moving in and out of a pose. Focus on breath. Include a meditation component, providing an opportunity to develop concentration.

Love Constructive Rest.

Starting students in constructive rest will give you a chance to come into the room with the students as they rest and breathe. You can observe them for a few moments, synching with the energy in the room as everyone settles.

At Class

Arrive early.

At least a half hour before class starts. Familiarize yourself with the lights, thermostat, sound system (if you use it), check-in procedures. Sweep the floor and tidy the bathroom, if needed. You are representative of the studio from the time you cross the threshold.


Stretch a bit yourself. Protect your body by moving the joints through their ranges of motion.

Be still for a moment.

Align with your intention for the class.

Be low-key.

Dress professionally. Save statement t-shirts for another time. If you have a shirt with the studio’s logo, wear it.

Say hello!

Greet students as they arrive.

Talk with students.

As they file in, ask them what they’d like you to know about their practice. This provides an opportunity for them to share injuries or limitations. It also lets you know that you care about their experience.

Introduce yourself.

Acknowledge the regular teacher and, if you genuinely can, say something nice about him or her. But avoid offering a reason for the regular teacher’s absence. If asked, say, “I’m not sure why Teacher isn’t here. I look forward to practicing with you.”

Be discrete.

Don’t talk too much about yourself. Launch into class. This is not the time to overly personalize the class to your style. Save philosophy lessons for another time.

Be ouch-less.

Ask student to observe the “ouch” versus “oh” rule. Ask them to back out of anything that hurts.


Did you explain a pose only to find it’s not happening? Say, “Everyone have a seat and take a peek up here.” This slows things down, addresses potential confusion and allows you to provide a satisfying experience.

Ah, savasana.

Leave time for students to set up comfortably. Offer them a little extra TLC by fetching eye pillows, dimming the lights, covering them with a blanket, whatever they need.

Be a team player.

Be sure to announce any studio offerings {*Bonus Tip* If you want to be invited back as a regular sub – take time to learn about the studio!}. Talk up the classes.

Ask for feedback.

Ask for feedback from your students. Invite questions and comments on the practice.

After Class

Wait for students to pack up.

Stand by the desk or door. If they want to talk, be ready. If they don’t, merely hold the space for them until they leave.


Check the props, the bathroom. Leave the studio cleaner than you found it and ready for the next teacher.


You did it! Do a happy dance! Take up the whole floor!

If you have the contact information for the studio manager or the teacher for whom you subbed, make sure to say thank you! Subbing is a perfect opportunity for new yoga teachers – or new to the area yoga teachers – to build experience and become a familiar face to potential students. Let them know you acknowledge that.


Alexa_2Meet Alexa Mergen! Alexa teaches yoga classes and private yoga sessions in Washington, DC and leads movement-based poetry workshops throughout the country. Her poems and articles appear in a variety of publications including elephant journal, BreatheRepeat, Do You Yoga and Virginia Quarterly Review. Her new poetry chapbook, Winter Garden, is available at Yoga Stanza.




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