Live Your Yoga, Make a Living Teaching Yoga

As a dedicated yoga teacher, you know the importance of living your yoga off the mat even moreso than living it on the mat. But you also know the importance of making a living and making a living teaching yoga can be a bit of a hustle and a lot entrepreneurial. So how do you find that sweet spot of living your yoga and making a living as a yoga instructor? With a lot of creativity, patience and perseverance.

“Do what you love, and the money will follow.”

The saying is so clichéd but, really, so very true. When you couple that with the yogic elements of opening your heart, planting the seed and setting an intention and feeling the truth of it, you’ve got a powerful combination. The bit of that statement that’s left off is eventually. Eventually the money will follow.

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According to this nifty infographic, and an accompanying article in Elephant Journal, the average salary of a full-time yoga instructor could be $45,000/year. Not too shabby for immersing yourself in yoga culture all day, every day and doing something that you love. It seems in the range of $40K a year is about where the full-time salary of a full-time yoga instructor rests.

Of course, there are the yoga rock stars who are in the upper echelon of the yoga pay scale, but they’re also getting endorsements and making DVDs and high profile appearances. If that’s your yoga dream than by all means live it. There’s even a talent agency that can help you along. YAMA Talent – a talent agency exclusively for yoga instructors and based out of New York City with a roster that includes Dana Trixie Flynn, Raghunath and Leslie Kaminoff.

In order to reach that full-time salary goal as a yoga instructor, it’s a good idea to wrap your brain around the fact that your yoga is a business. Some of you might be cringing, as talk of finances and business and grown-up subject matter of a similar ilk often does to types with creative, artsy leanings, but the fact of the matter is, treating your yoga as a business will only serve to add to your success.

As long as the yoga business’ profits are being used to promote…spiritual knowledge in order to alleviate pain and suffering…the essence of yoga is not affected

I stumbled upon this very eloquent and accurate quote by Dharma Mittra while researching this article. Mittra believes, “As long as the yoga business’ profits are being used to promote, expand and disseminate spiritual knowledge in order to alleviate pain and suffering for the students, the essence of yoga is not affected. There are lots of yoga schools with restaurants, juice bars, yoga shops, massage options, etc., but everything still runs professionally. Rent is extremely high in many cities, and every teacher and employee has to be paid. As a direct consequence, yoga instruction must be offered for a fee.

Even when spiritual instruction is given, there must be some method of exchange. For everything one receives, one should offer up something in return. Asking for free things indicates poverty of spirit.”

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You’ve put a lot of money into becoming certified to teach yoga, much like anyone who goes to school puts a lot of money towards earning a degree in, say, nursing or accounting or journalism. And as those people go to school with the hopes of foraying that degree and education into a paying career, you, therefore, deserve to be compensated for the certification you’ve learned and earned. The fact of the matter is, no matter what you do, you want to make enough money to be able to pay your bills so that you’re not stressed out about making ends meet and creating a lifestyle that you truly love in every way possible. I think, ideally, that includes freedom from financial burdens and doing what you love. As many of you know, that’s a tall order, and yes, some sacrifices need to be made, which is something else you need to wrap your brain around. What are the tradeoffs and sacrifices you are willing to make in order to teach yoga on a full- or even part-time basis?

First and foremost, you should figure out how much money you need to live and how much money you want to be making. This number may include teaching yoga on a full-time basis, or it may be on a part-time basis. Yoga can be a very lucrative second job. I currently work two jobs, the second of which is teaching yoga. I figured out how much money I need to live, and I make that happen between my two jobs. The goal for me, as I build my yoga business, is to shift the balance so that teaching yoga becomes my primary occupation and the other one can be considered may second job until I can (hopefully) phase it out completely.

So many options, so little time.

In any yoga class open to all levels of practice, as a teacher you’ll offer lots of options for each asana you move through. Like a lot of the asanas we teach, there are many options when it comes to where to teach. There are a number of venues where you can teach and all vary on the scale of what they pay. While many yoga teachers have second and third jobs in order to make ends meet, and to get health insurance, here are a list of possibilities.

Gyms – The gym where I sometimes sub yoga classes pays hourly. The pay is lower on the scale of all the places where I teach, but the classes are typically bigger, which I like, and the goal is more focused on the physical aspects of yoga rather than the spiritual, which doesn’t necessarily bother me given the environment. Depending on the market where you’re teaching (ie a huge metropolitan area, an upscale suburb or a middle of the road rural region), landing a gig at a gym can range from $20-$40 an hour. Perks like free gym membership and even health insurance if you teach a certain amount of classes per week can sweeten the deal.

Studios – There’s two ways to earn money at a yoga studio and that’s by teaching at one or owning your own. When teaching at a studio, salary is hard to pinpoint, as each studio is different in how they charge. For instance, at one studio where I teach, I make $40 per class. At another studio, I make $12 for the first student and $6 per student after that. Owning your own studio can allow you to really build up a brand and a following, however, there’s the added expense of rent and utilities.

Privates – This one’s tough to pinpoint, as well. The average seems to be $60-75 per hour, and I’ve heard of yoga instructors charging upwards of $150 an hour. As a teacher just starting out, I could not, in good conscience, charge that much. However, my time is valuable, and I put in a lot time and yes, money, to become a certified yoga instructor, and I deserve to be paid for the service I provide. As a yoga instructor, you must decide what your time is worth and what amount of money your skill set warrants. What you charge is dependent upon geographic location and what the market is like in your area, as well.

Colleges – As yoga gains popularity and legitimacy, many colleges are starting to offer yoga as a gym elective and a few are even offering yoga as a college major. The pay for a yoga instructor at a community college or university ranges in the $30-40 per class range.

Retreats – Hosting retreats requires a bit of the “pay to play” mentality. You’ll need to put money out in order to make money. Travel, food, lodging and paying any instructors you invite along to help you out all need to be factored into the overall cost of the retreat. Hopefully, you’ll not only be able to make that money back, but you’ll ideally be able to make a profit with all the people who sign up.

Workshops – I teach a four week series at a local studio and receive $75 per class. While I couldn’t find any concrete data, I would imagine the average charge is in the $200-300 range for those rock star yogis I mentioned earlier, many of whom travel the workshop and festival circuit exclusively. I have found some research where teachers will charge a $500 show-up fee even if only a few people show up.

Corporations – Many corporations are paying more attention to the work/life balance in their employees’ lives, and many corporations are offering yoga during business hours. The charge can be in the $100 and above range to teach corporate yoga classes. Deliver Me Wellness is one company who works with businesses to bring yoga to them.

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Another great way to make yourself more marketable and to make yourself more appealing to studios and gyms is to find a niche. The yoga series I teach is a Reiki Restorative. Which leads me to my next point – get creative. Add an additional skill set like Personal Training, Reiki, Thai Massage or Myofascial Release that can coincide with your yoga but that can also work as a stand-alone supplement. While this may involve putting out more money rather than bringing more money in at first, again, you’ll be more marketable and it could help you achieve full-time teaching status much quicker.

Be patient.

Building up to a full-time yoga salary will take time. It will take experience, faith and focus. It will take experience because you likely will not be able to ask for $150 an hour for a private session right away. You likely will not even get your own class at a studio, but rather will have to pay your dues subbing for awhile. Keep open lines of communication with everyone you meet in your yoga community so that when an opportunity does arise, you’re the first person they think about and can slip right into your very own teaching slot.

It will take faith because you may have to plunge yourself headlong into teaching yoga full-time in order to make a real go of it. I, for one, do find it frustrating that I can’t dedicate all my time to yoga and have to strike a balance between two jobs. I watch in awe at those who live their yoga 24/7 and have those 24 hours a day seven days a week to eat, sleep and breathe yoga. If you can do it I say GO FOR IT!

It will take focus because you will want to maintain a level of tunnel vision and dedication in order to achieve your yoga goals. Remember your teachings. Return to them, allow them to offer inspiration in your classes and carry you if and when times get tough.

The power of prana.

Racing from a studio to private session to different studio to gym and then somehow fitting eating, seeing family and friends and sleeping into the equation can be stressful. And a stressful lifestyle is counterintuitive to teaching yoga – you don’t want to bring those stresses you’re feeling onto your mat. And when your livelihood depends on it, there’s an element of added pressure to teach well because your livelihood depends on it. Your ability to deliver a stellar yoga class in whatever capacity that means for you and your students is imperative so that your students come back again and again and again. Finding grace and really living your yoga in those moments of stress is crucial. Keep reading, keep practicing, keep meditating and keep breathing.

If you’re going to be all yoga, all the time, taking care of yourself becomes a top priority. Your job now depends on it. This can influence how often and how much you teach.  Making a decent living teaching yoga means teaching a lot of yoga, at least in the beginning. You will likely have to teach 14-20 classes a week in order to generate a following, as well as enough income to sustain yourself.

The schmooze factor.

How do you generate a following? Marketing – plain and simple. Like the amount of places where you can teach, there are a lot of options as to how you go about marketing yourself. Old-fashioned flyers, postcards, direct mail, networking with members of your yoga community and using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are all ways to get the word out about where and when you’re teaching.

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Embrace technology. Start a blog. Create a website telling a little about yourself and advertising the services you offer. You could even include a calendar that lists the times and places where you teach.  You could start a YouTube channel, offering turorials and classes online, which, while you wouldn’t be able to charge for those, they could generate followers to the places that you do teach which in turn would generate income for you. You could also conduct yoga sessions via Skype, widening the radius where you teach to include virtually anywhere, pun intended.

One of my teachers once said, “Something’s only impossible until it isn’t,” and it has become a mantra I refer back to again and again. I encourage you to get out there and just start teaching; start doing some of the things mentioned in this article, and sure enough, you’ll find the seemingly impossible is suddenly possible.

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