People are drawn to yoga teacher trainings for a myriad of reasons. Some immerse themselves in a teacher training to deepen their practice but never intend to teach; others quit full-time jobs or invest thousands of dollars thinking that teaching yoga will provide an income steady enough to live on. While most don’t choose this path expecting to get rich, many do jump in heart first, only to consider the financial reality after the training is over and they are set loose into the world.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—choosing to follow your heart instead of your head often leads to the best things life has to offer. Being your own boss also has its rewards, especially when you’re passionate about your work. Yet, as with any business venture, it helps to be aware of what you’re getting into before you drop everything to pursue it.
An MSNBC article posted last month suggests that eking out a living as a yoga teacher is a constant hustle for most. The piece also implies that the rapid growth of the yoga industry is actually a bad thing for teachers because of increased competition. Between the hours, which include prepping for classes, teaching and travel time—not to mention often being approached by student followers for emotional and therapeutic support outside the studio—the average hourly independent contracting rates don’t always add up to a sustainable income.
Though the article contains some flaws (for example, the concluding claim that many yoga teachers aren’t making it because they’re not comfortable talking about money—a typical blame-the-underdog copout), if you’re planning to invest in a yoga teacher training with the intention of making money as a yoga teacher, this piece does point out some things to consider before you start. For instance, pay structure can vary greatly from studio to studio and class to class. As a new teacher, you may be assigned a less than ideal time slot for your classes, and if you plan to teach full-time, you’ll be giving up the paid sick leave and vacation time that are usually perks of a 9–5.
If you are planning on taking the leap anyway, remember that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. You may be able to maintain your current employment and pick up a class or two during your off hours. Some do this to ease in gradually; others find the balance to be the best of both worlds. For those of you planning to teach and work other jobs, other non-traditional, part-time or freelance jobs pair well with a yoga-teaching schedule. The classes you teach can also help you meet students that may be interested in private sessions, which typically pay more than studio classes. You will most likely be purchasing your own insurance and paying your own taxes, so a business class may be helpful if you don’t have those skills.
If you are even more pragmatic, take the time to research the opportunities and competition in your area. A saturated market may not be a deal breaker, but it helps to know what you’re getting into. It may take some time and creativity to find a niche that hasn’t yet been filled. Figure out the minimum monthly income you need to earn to make ends meet, and make a plan to get there. You’ll probably still face a lot of unknowns and have to hustle some in the beginning, but having a plan can add a sense of security as you take (what will still be) a leap of faith.
Reality is never the same as the dream, and before quitting your day job or committing to an expensive training, it’s wise to consider what you are seeking. Whether you want to teach full time, part time, or just take a teacher training for your own enrichment, there is plenty of room for all.
Are you considering a yoga teacher training as a way to make a living? If you’ve already completed a training, how do you feel about the pay you receive as a teacher?