Monday, September 29, 2008

The Mystification of the Yoga Business - Yoga Teacher Class Rates (Part 1)

As I was finishing up the last few requirements of my teacher training and really starting to consider a career in yoga, I became interested in learning exactly how much my yoga instructors were earning to teach group classes at studios as well as other venues around town. I had no clue how much anyone made, but assumed it to be a livable wage since I knew many full-time teachers who wore pricey Prana clothes and drove decent vehicles. Thankfully, during the last weekend workshop of my training, the agenda included an item related to the business of yoga. I was excited to finally get some real figures and calculate just how much a transition into the yoga business would affect my daily budget as well as the bottom-line of my savings account.

When the "yoga and business" discussion point finally rolled around, my trainers did a great job of further mystifying a yoga teacher's salary. Trainer 1 told me and my fellow teacher trainees that we should always make sure to value the services we provide as yoga instructors and never allow a potential or current employer to devalue those services with excessively low rates. Never, he said, should we accept payment of $25 or less to teach a class. Trainer 2 added, "It's best not to teach more than 10 classes per week because of the huge energy expenditure each class requires." And with that, the discussion on the business of yoga was over.

Well, if not $25, then what pay should we ask for? $40? $75? If only 10 classes per week, then how do we make ends meet? I had so many questions, but lacked the nerve to openly dive into an issue that my trainers clearly felt warranted little time and attention. I've heard that as yogis we should trust that the universe will provide for us in all ways, including financial health. Still, I believe that one way the universe takes care of me is through my gifts of foresight, attention to detail, and shrewdness. I believe I'll be cared for so long as I plan, prepare, and put forth sustained effort. I'm certainly not one to jump blindly into financial uncertainty without a plan.

Looking back on my training, I now wonder why my trainers were so illusive about teacher pay rates. I had a wonderful time learning about the eight limbs, the Yoga Sutras, and Vinyasa Krama, yet I would imagine a teacher training should also offer insight into how to actually have a career as a teacher. I have a theory on what I believe to be the intentional mystification of the yoga business:

The persons who lead teacher trainings are teachers themselves and the persons they're training tend to be their most devoted students. In sharing explicit information about to earn a livable wage as a yoga teacher, trainers are essentially telling their most important client base how it is they go about taking their money. For example, one of the most lucrative ways for yoga teachers to earn money is to hold teacher trainings. I'd imagine that to be an awkward point to discuss while amidst a teacher training. Of course, a teacher who believes in yoga should be able to offer (read: sell) their yoga services without affliction because they believe in its power. Still, I theorize that on a conscious or subconscious level, my trainers skirted the specifics of teacher pay for fear of calling into question their relationships with their trainees/clients.

The lack of clarity on class rates and teacher salaries left me concerned about the likelihood of a real future as a yoga teacher. Still, I knew that I needed to leave my job and felt strongly drawn to share yoga, so I decided to trust that all those full-time yoga teachers couldn't possibly be destitute and I, too, would find a way to make it work.

Did your teacher training program discuss class rates more specifically? If so, what was discussed? Did you feel the discussion was forthright? Helpful? If not, how did you feel about that?
Do you believe my theory on the mystification of the yoga business has any validity?

The Mystification of the Yoga Business - Yoga Teacher Class Rates (Part 2)
Finally, an honest look at actual teacher pay rates.

Goodbye Desk Job; Hello Yoga Mat! - Transitioning to a Career Teaching Yoga

Namaskar yogis and yoginis! My name is Felicity Bell and I am a yoga instructor in New York. Several months ago I decided to leave my traditional (and comfortably lucrative) desk job to pursue my life's dharma--sharing the joy and healing power of the divine science of yoga. Before embarking on this life transition, I knew very little about the business of yoga and wasn't able to procure many specifics from friends, teachers, or the internet though I knew it would be a financially challenging endeavor.

When I first began my teacher training in the spring of 2007, I didn't expect to pursue yoga instruction full-time because of the financial and health insurance implications. Not only is health insurance wildly expensive for individuals operating outside the realm of conventional employment, but I have a pre-existing condition which makes me particularly undesirable to health insurance providers. However, the universe started sending me clear messages when I learned that my boyfriend's new employer offers health insurance for domestic partners. We signed up right away and with one of the two biggest obstacles out of the way, I began to really consider life beyond my cube. My job was challenging and I loved learning from and sharing energy with my brilliant and kindhearted coworkers. Still, the stresses that came along with the job, including long and unpredictable hours, constantly detracted my attention from my highest priorities: the wellness of my personal and family life.

In March 2008, I made the big leap and resigned with only a faint idea of how exactly I would make ends meet as a burgeoning yoga teacher. These past few months have absolutely flown by and the lessons I've learned about the business of yoga are truly invaluable. I plan on sharing these lessons with you as well as the lessons I have yet to learn as time passes and I expand my offerings. I can't encourage you enough to please share your comments and stories to enrich this blog's content, providing the best insight possible for current or potential yoga teachers.

In love and light, Felicity