Truth, Love & Money – The Economics Of Being A Yoga Teacher

This goes out to all the full-time yoga teachers out there! Let’s talk about the unpleasant topic that we all try to constantly avoid: money! Money is not very „yogic“ you might think. But is this really true? Since it is a part of our daily life we have to face it.

I want to tell you that you have my deepest respect and appreciation for what you are doing.  I know that most of your work is done hidden in your so-called free time. I want to take the opportunity to bring more light behind the scenes.

First of all let me be very clear here, I am talking to those of you who have chosen to dedicate their life to the path of yoga and do not just give a few yoga classes from time to time besides your real occupation. Cause this is a crucial difference folks! I remember a few years ago I was sitting in a studio meeting I was working for and we had a discussion about a new pay scale. Our team was a mix of full-time yogis and those who teach yoga only as a „hobby“, not less committed, though. Anyways I will never forget how a very young teacher was quite irritated that the senior teachers were complaining about the payscale and that they want more money for their work. This young teacher raised her hand and responded, that she cannot understand we all just argue about money and how grateful she is to be working in this particular studio and she doesn’t care if she only gets €20 or less. I really had to take a breath when I heard this…

She just started teaching – fair enough! But I really get emotional when I constantly see new yoga studios opening up and expecting teachers to work for nothing or €20 because „it takes time to get the studio running. Please have a bit patience and understanding.“Why? Why is it so normal to expect that a yoga teacher naturally has understanding and is willing to work for their „karma“? Don’t use the spiritual dedication for your money making, seriously! I would say that it would help your karma to appreciate and respect the work of others. In the most yoga studios at least in Germany, it is common that you get paid for the number of students in your class. So for you as a teacher, it is great if the classes have 30-40 students.

I don’t know any job (except artists!) where it is absolutely normal to let people work for (almost) free. Now I am not saying that money should be your motivation to teach! If this is the case I than suggest to reconsider your decision or find out what brought you to yoga in the first place. BUT I also don’t share the opinion that it’s un-ethical to take money and make your price.

Here is the thing: if you are a full-time yoga teacher, it means you run a business! Most people share the opinion that all we do is to show up for our 60min. or 90min. class, give some instructions and enjoy free time for the rest of the day. I am sure that you have your daily or at least regular self-practice on and off the mat during your day. You have your office as everyone else where you have to respond to emails, organize your classes and private sessions, do your social media, check transferals, preparing your classes, online courses, going on regular trainings etc. Isn’t it like this? And this is what we have to keep in mind! Honestly, it took me quite a while to really see this also as working time. Since I have always been a freelancer, it was always normal to me that I have to take care of all of my stuff and that I don’t have this 9-5 wok time. But the bigger my little business is growing the more I see how much time I spent for office. Most of your clients don’t know all of this and that’s absolutely fine – they don’t have to. But you need to have respect and appreciation for all the work, time and energy you spent in order to give your clients the best you can. It is ok to take money for teaching yoga! It is a form of self-love and self-care to earn the money that you need for a normal life in a society. I am pretty sure that everyone of you, who is seriously dedicated, do work for free or little money if someone does not have the money but do need help. I believe that this is out of question. But sadly enough the people who actually do have the money are trying to negotiate your price as being on a bazaar. And those who don’t are often those people who are simply grateful for the help they get and are happy to give money in return for the energy they got from you. Money is energy exchange. And it is amazing if you look a bit closer how many believes we have around money, f.e. money is bad, money makes people greedy and corrupt. Just look around how much money is connected to power, to love… If you are curious, simply take a piece of paper and write down every belief you have around money.

The yoga industry is growing more and more, studios are getting bigger etc. but you, the teachers, are the one who are actually right there with the students and actually bring the teaching to the students, still get paid the least. You bring in your full heart, your energy, your wisdom, your soul and spirit. What is more precious than that? The expansive yoga pant and the water bottle with the OM on it isn‘t the way to happiness and enlightment.

After thirteen years of running from one class to another I was exhausted. I was tired and frustrated of putting in all my heart and energy again an again and yet I didn’t know how to pay my bills by the end of the month. I still earned the same amount of money I got when I started with teaching. I decided to quit and become my own boss. Now I am mostly teaching private classes, because this is my passion, offering yoga retreats and I am teaching two small groups of five students in my apartment. With this little group I earn more than I ever earned with classes of 20 students. And this is almost ridiculous. But that’s the reality. I changed my relationship to money completely.

Our relationship with money shows us so much about our relationship with life. And just as yoga is about finding balance it is about finding the balance between greed (grasping) and austerity (avoiding). We so often talk in yoga about realizing our divine nature and the importance of truth and consciousness. It’s time to bring this also into a realm of business.

namasté: my soul honors your soul.

5 Tips to find more balance:

  1. Honor yourself and the work you are doing.
  2. Clarify your relationship with money.
  3. Clarify your motivation for teaching yoga.
  4. Become aware of your worth and make reasonable prices.
  5. Appreciate and respect the time and energy you spent into your path as a yogi.
  6. Remember that money is an energy exchange.