Teaching Yoga in Over-Saturated Markets

crowed yoga class
Photo Credit: Veganicat

For an increasing number of yoga practitioners, yoga is becoming a second career and a way to augment existing income. The increasing number of yoga instructors—70,000 in 2005, the most recent year for which data is available—has raised some concerns about over-saturation of the market in certain regions.

Yoga Journal’s publisher, Bill Harper, points to the recession and yoga’s skyrocketing popularity as a cause for this increase; in the past 8 years, circulation of Yoga Journal has increased nearly 300 percent, while most other print publications have decreased in circulation. Enrollment in yoga teacher trainings at Kripalu Center increased by 43 percent between 2008 and 2010, driven, comments Kripalu marketing coordinator Nicole Flisher, by trainees’ “desire to get out of the corporate rat race” or find more balance in the workplace.

The considerable influx of yoga teachers is a boon to yogis everywhere, but some have experienced difficulty finding work. Instructor Stephanie Brail muses “I would not say that becoming a yoga teacher is a path to instant riches. The training can be very expensive, [and] it can be challenging to get classes at first.”  Brail’s experience was in LA, where she initially had to sub classes but eventually landed a regular teaching position.

In New York, however, where the market’s arguably equally over-crowded, instructor Liza Laird readily found work as a full-time yoga instructor when laid off from her corporate marketing job. Comments Laird: “It’s almost like yoga studios are becoming like Starbucks. There’s one on every corner now. So there’s plenty of opportunity for teachers—it’s just a matter of finding your way into the studio.”

I live in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, a region hosting many devoted yogis. This is reflected by the number of studios and instructors, some of whom are drawn by Kripalu, the country’s largest yoga retreat center. Yet even here, I have yet to hear of difficulty finding teaching gigs or a lack of classes. Even though there may not be regularly scheduled classes initially available to new instructors, subbing is a fantastic way to become eligible for regular classes (and obtain valuable, needed experience).

Ultimately, no instructor will have the same experience finding teaching gigs, no matter what the region. Whether a new or seasoned teacher, if you find yourself in a saturated market, there are many creative and innovative solutions to teaching yoga that don’t involve starting in a studio or other structured setting. Some ideas include offering classes in various community settings, classes for special populations, marketing to local businesses or healthcare settings, or teaming up with healthcare specialists or other instructors to offer class series targeted to specific populations.

Are you a yoga instructor in a saturated market? What has your experience been in finding or creating yoga classes?

Comments 6

  1. I’m not an instructor, but rather a devotee; and it makes me happy to think that certain areas are saturated. Perhaps it presents a challenge to studios, but I understand it as the demand is just that great. I think that’s wonderful for everyone involved! :-)

  2. Yes, as a yoga student this is wonderful news. I remember having to search long and hard to even find a teacher when I first started yoga 20 years ago!

  3. I guess the real question is what does saturation mean? Does it mean 1.) there are — Right Now — enough yoga teachers satisfying the currently EXISTING demand by yoga consumers?

    AND does this also assume that most of those who would be employing yoga teachers or therapists ALREADY ARE doing so with not much more room for growth in the market?

    Or 2.) does saturation mean EVERYONE in a geographic area who is potential a candidate to do yoga is already doing yoga?

    My implication here is there are MANY, MANY people whom could, would or should do yoga whom are not. Just from the simple idea of keeping one’s various physical tension levels down would be a VAST number of people who are not using yoga as the useful tool it is for Tension Reduction Strategies, maybe even most of the population. …

    Anyway, I suspect those two numbers — existing versus potential demand, whatever they are — are VERY far apart! And if the meaning of saturation leans at all toward #2, then the REAL question is:

    Are yoga teachers developing their marketing & communication skills to adequately spread and increase the understanding of and demand for yoga? … Not to mention educating people on the many different approaches to yoga and how to choose the one(s) most suitable for a particular consumer’s needs?

    This also includes getting really clear on why another human being would want to do yoga. Because if we try to sell them on why WE want to do yoga, we miss the boat for many people. One could argue that there is a emerging an trend that marketing is actually becoming a more spiritual pursuit. That’s what I’ve ben seeing, anyway.

    But, while it seems most people in general have an aversion to selling and marketing, my experience is yoga teachers, for the most part, are even more averse to doing so. … I’m certainly one of those people who’ve invested a LOT of time and energy in attempting to get over MY aversions to it. And I’ve only been marginally successful in doing so because my resistance is VERY high.

    Even though I get almost 100% positive feedback on my group and private work, and most of what I write, I still have trouble putting the word out. I frequently & viscerally lock up when I have an opportunity to talk about — to SELL my work! This issue has literally become one of the life-long focuses of my own **mental yoga work.**

    Yeah, it’s nice to believe our work should sell itself, that if we were just applying The Secret correctly, everything we need would flow to us. Yet after a few decades of observing incredibly competent and good people fail, I don’t believe it to be a highly reliable principle. On the other hand, I’ve seen many people’s lives change dramatically when they started applying good marketing principles. (Which is what the producers of The Secret did anyway!)

    So for NOW … we need more courses not on how to teach yoga, but on Ahmisa Marketing, which is both about outer techniques and the inner-work on mental & emotional resistance to marketing. And to also understand that the word Competition literally means To Seek Together. Most competition is peaceful anyway, we just don’t notice it because peaceful competition is happening all around us all day long all of the time.

    So Bottom Line is I think a LOT of this conversation about so-called **saturation** would go away if we start thinking more about non-violent Marketing, Sales & Public Relations, and the inner-work necessary to get over our resistances to it, whatever all that might look like.

  4. I live in Southwest Florida and this is definitly NOT an over-saturated market. Since I moved here a year ago, I have had to give up yoga. There are very few classes and the ones there are are not convenient for the working people. They are during the day for the older retired crowd. Yoga, especially Birkim teachers, MOVE HERE!

  5. I live in Dallas, which is pretty over-saturated. I was certified last October and have not been able to land even a subbing job! And I have been practicing yoga for 13 years, so I’m not a newbie.

    I started teaching at my apartment complex once a week, although turnout isn’t great and I may have to cancel the class if it doesn’t pick up. I will be starting at a Taekwondo studio next month during the day, but so far the interest seems low based on what the owner told me. I have reached out to just about every type of establishment with no luck. So yes, it’s been frustrating and not at all what I expected!

    1. When I first started teaching I had a similar struggle to find places to teach and to get students to show up. It can take a lot of patience, persistence and luck to begin teaching yoga classes.

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