The Dichotomy of Yoga Business: Money or passion - do I really have to choose?

Dichotomy, the fancy-pants word for “two things that are mutually exclusive”.

But why does dichotomy come to mind when thinking of yoga and business? We’ll get there (if you read on)...promise.

Let’s start with some background on why we decided to talk about this.

For one, there seems to be a lot of talk about how yoga teachers CAN’T make a decent living doing what they love - teaching yoga. The conversation (on online and on social media) was  fueled by an article in The New York Magazine last year called The Brutal Economics of Being a Yoga Teacher.

This article points out the some major pitfalls of being a yoga teacher in today's seemingly booming yoga industry.

It refers to how yoga studios need to host several yoga teacher trainings (YTT) a year to in order to “make it” because studio classes are getting cheaper trying to compete with new studios popping up on every corner of the US. This in turn has created a crowded job market with less opportunities for both aspiring and seasoned yoga teachers to find decent work.

The article says:

“All these trainings have generated a huge oversupply of would-be instructors. “There’s been a massive growth in the number of yoga teachers since 2008 [...]." “They’re all going out there and saturating the market. It’s the devaluation of yoga on all fronts. Pay rates for these teachers have, in turn, stayed stagnant since 2007.”  

Truth is, we see many teachers struggling to stay afloat, working one or two side jobs to pay the bills, struggling to find new students, or even giving away their classes almost for free (donation based classes). 

Sound familiar?

Just a disclaimer here: we DO believe donation based classes have their purpose and serve an important function in the yoga world - it’s just not a way for most teachers to make a stable income.

So, is there a way to make ends meet???

Or -Shiva forbid!- actually save for a retirement account, buy a house or take vacation? Or should we all just give up and get  “real” jobs?

This conversation is one that we ALL need to take part in.  And we're glad that the New York Magazine article has done just that: started the conversation.

But we also feel there is a missing link not mentioned in the article, something that may run deeper.

Another important reason why many yoga teachers are not being able to "make it" (in financial terms) is the mental/emotional energy many yogis have about money. Sometimes talking about money can even seem TABOO in the yoga community!

Let us explain...

Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice and is loaded with philosophy and invaluable teachings. It is wisdom and knowledge that has been passed down from guru to guru, generation after generation. It teaches us a life of mindfulness, compassion, contentment, spirituality and seva (service).

Business, on the other hand, does not have the best reputation on the “yoga block.” We usually picture salesy and sleazy marketing, profit over people, and dollars over compassion.

Here's where the perceived dichotomy begins:

“Yoga and business don’t go together.”

We are faced with the question: “How can I, as yoga teacher, think in terms of business when it’s really an HONOR to pass this spiritual practice on to my students and my community. I’m here to help others heal. I’m here to connect with a higher truth. I’m here to serve. If I focus on business won’t that take away from real reason why I’m teaching?”

We believe the answer is adaptation  

Yoga has changed to adapt to our modern reality and to heal our busy, stressed, hurried and technologically driven lives. And we have the potential to change how we do business, away from the Mad Men-style of doing business, into something 110% aligned with our yogic values. 

The small business model is re-emerging as a real option today.

The small biz model has been greatly supported by the streamlining of online business tools and social media platforms (it's never been this easy to DIY a website!). The most important thing is that It incorporates many values of our beloved ancient practice:

Honesty, compassion, consciousness + giving back.

Today yoga teachers serve a broad audience, a melting pot of people from all walks of life. If you are a yoga teacher, and this is your main occupation (or you want it to be), you HAVE TO incorporate business tools, strategies and systems in order to succeed, and to reach your students. If we can't make a living teaching it's impossible to support our students in their healing and growth.

Our two cents: we as a community need to change this idea that yoga and business are dichotomous.

It’s up to us to create a space where yoga and business can be harmonious. To do so is really following the true meaning of yoga: union, oneness, connection between all things. We have to bring our yoga values into the way we conduct our business.

The change we want to see in the yoga industry begins with us.

Stay tuned for more on how bridge the gap between yoga and business, and how to build a socially conscious yoga biz.

Now we want you to be a part of the convo in the comments below! Do you feel there is a dichotomy? Is it difficult to make it as a full-time yoga teacher?

Paloma and the RYYR team