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.

1 comment:

jindi said...

Yoga (Sanskrit, Pali: yĆ³ga) refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines originating in India. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In Hinduism, it also refers to one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of Hindu philosophy, and to the goal toward which that school directs its practices. In Jainism it refers to the sum total of all activities—mental, verbal and physical.

Major branches of yoga in Hindu philosophy include Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Hatha Yoga. Raja Yoga, compiled in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and known simply as yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy, is part of the Samkhya tradition.[10] Many other Hindu texts discuss aspects of yoga, including Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and various Tantras.

The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings, and is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj," meaning "to control," "to yoke" or "to unite."[12] Translations include "joining," "uniting," "union," "conjunction," and "means." Outside India, the term yoga is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures) or as a form of exercise. Someone who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy is called a yogi or yogini