[su_note note_color=”#4DB2EC” text_color=”#ffffff”]Dear readers, say hello to Agni. She is our anonymous columnist who will be responding to your questions about what happens on and off the mat in the yoga world. She is a yoga practitioner and teacher with several decades of yoga experience. She has had many amazing teachers, and even more amazing students. She chose the “nom de plume” Agni in homage to “Dear Abby”, and because she hopes to help us burn down our obstacles to joy and freedom. Send Agni the questions you won’t ask your own yoga teacher at AskAgni@seattleyoganews.com – no topic is taboo.[/su_note]

[su_quote cite=”Worried Yogi”]Dear Agni,

Most yoga teachers I know have at least one other job to help pay the bills. Why are yoga teachers barely making a living teaching yoga and what can they do to change that?[/su_quote]


What a great question. And boy can I relate. I have always had a job other than teaching. I know that reality can be frustrating if you have a certain image or ideal of the yoga-teaching profession, because for a long time, I did! I felt like I’d only be successful when I could teach full-time.

The longer I’ve been doing this gig, the more I look at it another way. I actually really enjoy having another job. It allows me to teach a smaller number of classes that I can really focus on and plan, rather than teaching so often I can barely practice. I get to have a diversity of experiences in my week so that some of my work is quiet and balances all the talking I do in the teacher’s seat. Ahhh.

You might argue that yoga teachers put significant time and money into training and study, and it would seem only fair that they could support themselves through the trade they’ve pursued. Sure, but the classes and trainings I take are learning opportunities I would want to have whether I taught or not. They are part of my lifelong path as a student of yoga and life. And I get to write them off, as well as my yoga clothing, music, books and props.

The teachers who teach full-time successfully are either at the top of our field (think Seane Corn, Shiva Rea, Rodney Yee), who have an extremely popular teaching or yoga style (Vinyasa, Hot yoga) and/or have diversity in their teaching; they might teach just a few drop-in classes to bring in new students and then they offer those students other options–privates, series, workshops, retreats, and even teacher training. Many teach a corporate class or two, which are usually more lucrative than studio classes. If you want to teach full-time, you have to put intention into making your teaching its own small business, with a website and in-house marketing expert – you!

The key is not teaching too many drop-in classes. Many of us have experienced the burn-out and drain that can come from teaching as many drop-in classes as it takes to make a “living” – fourteen or more depending on all the factors of your teaching and lifestyle. The reality is, in our day and age, the standard workweek is 40 hours a week to live in a city. But we all know you just cannot sustainably teach 40 hours a week. That’s where another job comes in, something that is different from teaching yoga, like a counter pose, pratikriya (a Sanskrit word for the opposite action).

Now we can’t fail to mention the fact that teacher pay is dictated by who is paying. As alluring as it is to teach at a popular yoga studio, the pay is not usually correspondingly sexy. Studios are mostly set up in the way health clubs were years ago – lots of members, lots of classes. Look for a studio that has a guaranteed base and shares the wealth with a per-head bonus. Ask about benefits, and take advantage of them. Negotiate your starting pay with confidence.

This may not satisfy your query. In that case, I think our next conversation needs to be about how much is charged for a yoga class. Ready to open that box?

[Photo by emily balsley– CC BY]

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