My Beef with Yoga Teachers. ~ Ashley Josephine

Via on Nov 18, 2012

Here it goes. I eat meat. Gasp (Home Alone style!)

I had to laugh when a student recently approached me cautiously before class and inquired whether or not I consume animal products, as if her entire impression of me would change based on the answer. Apparently, she’d only encountered liberal-minded vegetarian yoga instructors in the past. It’s not like they’re hard to find.

So here’s my hearty serving of pot roast to you, my fellow yoga teachers:

I love money.

I’m a certified yoga teacher and I know I offer great value to my clients. They feel better after class, are happier, chattier, peaceful-ler. Mission accomplished.

You rarely get that when you leave a doctor’s office, yet you willingly pay out the wazoo for those quacks too.

That’s why I charge what I’m worth (yes, I know the practice is priceless)—that  means more than free and less than outrageous. For Shiva’s sake, when the mat costs more than the class, something is seriously wrong.

Money and yoga tend to be a paradox to most; throw in business to the mix and you’re approaching mutually exclusive territory.

Let me be honest: it took a lot of energy healing to get my money issues straightened out plus a healthy kick in the pants (lululemon) from Danielle Laporte’s FireStarter Sessions, a year and $15,000 worth of training and support from my mastermind tribe and mentor, and the ever-present continuing education and additional training expenses (and certificates of completion) to make me feel like I was qualified to bow my head in front of a class and even utter the word namaste.

That cost a lot of money, honey.

Source: via Sweet on Pinterest

Plus, I like nice things. So shoot me—with your yogi guns that extend from your fingertips and blow sweet kisses of compassion out to the world. Can I get a witness?

Yoga helps people live better lives. That shit costs money!

Maybe I’m not the most compassionate person alive, but I’m also not homeless, thank you, and I can’t respect you if you think I should be by default because I’m a yoga teacher.

I also hate, from the bottom of my heart (I do have one), worrying about money, frugality in general and starving. I refuse to believe that I can’t live a good life doing what I love. That means I’m going to make money teaching yoga. I’m not going to struggle. I’m not going to grovel. And I’m not going to live in a communal yurt.

I’ll spend money on the things I value and save when and where I can. I’ll put my kids through college like my parents did for me. I’ll travel when and where I want to because it makes me happy.

I’ll do what I want to do because money won’t be an issue.

Yoga got me to this point; I place my trust in my practice to get me where I want to be in the future.

I humbly bow to your priority to live a life with little, but respectfully disagree.

Now stop offering all your classes for FREE.

Namaste.

P.S. – Ask me about my definition of free and/or see Danielle LaPorte’s definition in her bestselling self-help book The FireStarter Sessions. Chapter 13, page 254. Unfortunately, I’m not an affiliate and will be paid no money for this endorsement. I’m just giving it away for free.

 

Ashley Josephine has been studying yoga for five years and currently lives and teaches in Wichita Falls, TX. A writer, traveler and a whole lot of other things, Ashley believes wholeheartedly in experiences and is passionate about empowering women with yoga and mindfulness based practices. Sign up on ashleyjosephine.com if you’re a woman working through life’s daily stresses. You’ll get worldly wisdom, yoga, meditation and other free resources delivered straight to your inbox.

You may also connect with Ashley on Facebook and Twitter.

~

Editor: Malin Bergman

Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

 

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44 Responses to “My Beef with Yoga Teachers. ~ Ashley Josephine”

  1. Rogelio Nunez says:

    I appreciate your honesty, i think most Yoga teachers who feel like you would not come out and speak their minds….I have met and studied with a variety of teachers and seen the whole myriad of incomes, from barely making it to high incomes….20% make 80% of the money. this rule seems to fit here…now i am semi retired and teaching very little. but i have noticed that teahcing for the sake of teaching and detaching from the need to make a lot of money gives me a clearer mind and attitude. when i was teaching in San Francisco it was very competitive market, expensive to live so i had to work my ass off, travel quite a bit and teach many classes. this was not good for my health overall. it also made me feel greedy as to how many students i would teach….Money for me muddys the waters in teaching Yoga….The one teacher/ guru i know is spending much of his assets to rebuild the town he grew up in, also to continue to spread the knowledge of Yoga. So he is giving back the many fruits of his lifelong labor…

    • Hey Rogelio. Thanks for your response. I've seen the struggle. It's sad to me that those who love yoga so much and want to share the practice with others have to work so hard to get by. I love that the people in your life have been able to give back with the money they earn. I also love that you have found more clarity in your practice as you scaled back. That's the real inner honesty at work :) Keep teaching!

  2. Elisabeth Ferguson says:

    As a fellow yoga teacher I totally agree that it's ok to make money doing what we do. I can't imagine anyone disagreeing with that. I do however feel quite strongly that killing animals when you're a yoga teacher sends a confusing message to your students. It's important to practice what we preach. Switching to vegetarianism is a really simple change nowadays. Without wanting to sound patronising, perhaps you need to spend more time in meditation and contemplative practices to deepen your awareness & connection toward all living beings. Hopefully your attitude toward animals is changed along the yogic path.

    • Hi Elisabeth. Thanks for your response. I have indeed tried the vegetarian path in the past. It's just not for me yet because of health concerns. Someday I may get there. And I ensure you that I do eat less of it than I have in the past and when I do, I try to eat the free range, organic stuff. I do feel strongly that mistreating animals is not the way to go.

  3. Andrea says:

    Your article makes a lot of sense to me, thank you for that. I do like work more when it is well paid, and I don’t want to feel bad about it.

  4. Andrea says:

    Also, I was a vegetarian for + 20 years. That came easy and naturally to me, no sacrtifice at all, therefore (?), I never cared what other people ate. When iron deficiency became a health problem, I started eating meat again. And a little bit of fish too. I feel better for it, and I am grateful for feeling healthy and strong again. Looking at it now, I suspect that lots of young people use vegetarianism and veganism to hide their eating disorders, or as a bolster for their ego. I might be wrong, of course.

  5. Rob says:

    I humbly respect your right to charge whatever you want to teach Yoga. I also humbly respect anyone else's right to teach it for free if that's what is right for their karma.

    • gphase says:

      Precisely. Why does the author complain that she is told what to do, then proceeds to tell others what to do?

      • Hey Rob and gphase. Thanks for your responses. If you read the definition of free that I pointed out in the PS section, it's based on understanding your intention. So many people offer things for free because they think they have to. I just want to let people know they don't have to. If your intention is to offer yoga for free because that is your karmic path, awesome. Just want to make sure you know why you're doing that. And the same goes for the other side too. If you're going to charge, I hope you're clear on why.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Remember, daily–and this is from a home yoga practitioner–NOT some yoga freeloader (I always pay the minimum freight at donation classes and don't show up when I can't–that's just me)–that online will grab your more self-motivated low-end students every time … you may be left with Lululemonheads, so deal with it!

      I just purchased a yoga dvd based on something I saw on my yoga. [Others' yoga is not the bulk of my home practice]

  6. Joe Sparks says:

    " Living a good life" is the key. If you are teaching and struggling to make ends meet, you might want to re-think why you are teaching. Everyone has to learn to trust their own thinking, and what works well for them. Until society changes, we need many teachers who can model for their students living a good life under these oppressive cultures. Liberation starts with self. You cannot be of much help to anyone if you cannot figure it out for yourself. Good article.

  7. Heather Morton HeatherM says:

    it was BKS Iyengar who said that if you offer if for free people won't appreciate you. They will not value what you are offering.

    So, let's say they don't pay you? How about at least a fair exchange like staying afterwards and sweeping the floor, doing some admin…or another mundane job? I am sure given the choice most people would just pay their fee.

    However, as a studio owner I do think it's great to organize classes for charity. Working without money does teach you something valuable. Most of us have been totally conditioned by the attitude that if you don't get paid it is not worth it. And that is so unfortunate. Most people would agree that there are many things in life that when done on a charity basis are extremely fulfilling….!

    So like the well known phrase, "it's not always about the money, honey".

    Funny enough, I had some very affluent clients they were the ones who often gave the impression that I was charging too much or that is was expensive. Well, you get what you pay for.

    I had other students with perhaps half the income and they were NOT focused on it. They knew the quality and understood the price.

    What most students forget and fail to see is the sacrifice of the teacher who quite possibly made trips to India on their own money (certainly those trips do not cost $2k), personal sacrifices in social life, private life, etc….

    There is a lot of hidden issues around money. However, it is an exchange. I get paid to offer what I have learned, the hours of personal practice I have involved myself with …and the fee pays for not just my nice clothes closet but all my bills.

    The Buddha never said BE POOR….it was all about raga (attachment)…and most often this gets totally confused.

    Thanks for bringing up these issues.

    • Hi Heather. You're comment is so juicy! Love it. Thanks for providing some of those quotes too. I love that you point out how fulfilling offering classes for charity can be. As long as you understand your intention, I'm all for it. But I've also seen way to many teachers feel like they absolutely had to teach for free to get anywhere, and they never get anywhere. And yes, isn't it funny that the most affluent are the ones who hold onto their money the most and refuse to value things for what they're worth. I think this culture has a real big problem with value and worth these days…because you can find everything for FREE! lol. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Anthony says:

    Good for you. I own and run a full-time Tai Chi studio, and I run into the same issues. Teaching for free is a mistake. As someone already said, people don't value free. So those free classes are filled with both teachers and students who don't value what they've got. I've seen it a million times: If you don't value this stuff, you don't get the same results.

  9. Roz says:

    Hey Ashley, when you figure out how to put your kids through college teaching yoga in a small town, please let me in on that secret. ;-)

    • Hi Roz. Lol. Here's the secret…won't happen. You've got to get creative :) Try looking to the online space. You need a way to scale. I teach in a small town right now for the love of teaching yoga in a classroom setting. I make about $300 a month. lol. I am fully aware that my livelihood will not come from teaching in a studio.

    • Blissful Girl says:

      I teach yoga part time and work full time in another industry. My yoga income is paying my daughter's rent while she's away at university. That's all it covers, but at least she (or I) don't have to borrow for her living expenses! There is nothing left over at the end of each month but it's worth it.

  10. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Remember, daily–and this is from a home yoga practitioner–NOT some yoga freeloader (I always pay the minimum freight at donation classes and don't show up when I can't–that's just me)–that online will grab your more self-motivated low-end students every time … you may be left with Lululemonheads, so deal with it!

    I just purchased a yoga dvd based on something I saw on my yoga. [Others' yoga is not the bulk of my home practice]

    (Meant to post it to the author)

    • Hey vision_quest2. Thanks for your response and thanks for valuing the practice of yoga!

      • Vision_Quest2 says:

        I'd taken yoga classes about $1,000 U.S.D. plus a tiny handful of workshops, etc. This is in the New York City area. It's been over a year since I showed up at a live yoga class of any stripe. Pretty much enough to get me restarted. Not my first introduction to yoga ever, and the classes had been spaced out over several years.

        My intention–I guess you could say it's nearly obsolete in the current commercial climate–was never to use the yoga studio for the lengthy frequent practices I have needed and have experienced, primarily at home.

        My latest wrinkle in yoga practice is because I'd won a free membership to my yoga. I would have been through with online instruction, otherwise. There are many, many sources online that one can use for reference, even if not to follow along.

  11. Kristoffer says:

    WHOA! You killed it, kid! Love your fearless honesty and voice on this piece. "For Shiva's Sake!" hahahaha.

    Your increasing understanding of yourself, your work, and your motivations is inspiring. I think that's evident in the flurry of comments here. I'd say you're stirring all sorts of pots.

    Wow. Just really impressed. Hahahahahaha. #LIFE(!!!)

    kc

  12. Kate Southward says:

    Great article! Who's to say 'there way' is the one true path?! Show me in the sutras where it says to be a great yogi you MUST be a vegetarian – you can't, because it's not there. If Pattabhi Jois walked off a cliff, would you follow? (article in itself) Meet people where they are at! Most of my students struggle with high fat, sugar and caffeine addictions, let alone cutting out meat from their diet. Each to their own! Absolutely, buy ethically, organically & locally if it is within your means. Yoga is not about forcing your opinions on other people, it's about helping people find their own path.

    • Mark D says:

      See "Ahimsa" – http://swamij.com/yoga-sutras-23545.htm

      From Sharon Gannon –
      Ahimsa is a yama, a restraint. It is a recommendation for how you should restrain your behavior toward others, not toward yourself.
      Nonetheless, some contemporary yoga teachers interpret ahimsa more as an observance than as a restraint, as a directive not to harm yourself. "Don't be aggressive in your asana practice, be kind to your body," they say, or "Don't restrict your diet with extremes like vegetarianism; it might harm you."

      Not to mention:

      One is dearest to God who has no enemies among the living beings, who is nonviolent to all creatures — Bhagavad Gita

      God said, Behold, I have given you every seedbearing plant on the face of the earth, and every tree that has seedbearing fruit. It shall be to you for food. — Genesis 1:29

    • onlyonelikethis says:

      "Yoga is not about forcing your opinions on other people, it's about helping people find their own path."

      Exactly so why force your views on the lives of animals. Animals are not objects they have wants and needs too. They are not something, they are someone. Treating them like objects is no better than having a teacher who objectifies women in my mind.

  13. Atreides says:

    mehhh.

  14. Olly says:

    we are all free to choose and well, I will not choose you as a yoga teacher. namaste

  15. Jenifer says:

    I don't think anyone thinks that a yoga teacher shouldn't earn a living, but rather, people tend to be frustrated with how teachers go about it.

    First, there are the wishers. They want to make a lot of money, but they seem unwilling to work for it. Mostly, they start and stop classes because they aren't growing fast enough, give up perfectly good paying gigs, and overall never behave consistently enough to actually create a viable business from their work.

    Second, there are the constrainers. These teachers insist that you can only teach a few classes a week (the magic number seems to be seven), and that those classes "should" only have a small number of students (usually around 12), and as such, in order to make the income that they want (which isn't very much after taxes and business expenses), they'd need to charge the student $26 per class. Most of them, btw, are not "worth" this amount. But, even when the teacher is, it takes a concerted time to develop that sort of student base (70 students to fill it), and that can take a good 2 years to get that many consistent clients. And many of these folks are like the wishers — they dont want to wait two years (assuming they hit their market right away) to earn the sort of income that they want to earn.

    Third, there are the manipulators. This crew does a good job of looking really professional: lots of classes, good prices, and they are consistent (showing up for class, holding them for a long time). But instead of focusing on client need, they focus on the manipulative up-sell that coerces students into classes, workshops and teacher trainings before they are ready for them — or whether or not they need them. And if the student refuses, they often get shamed for not being "truly committed" to themselves or 'real yoga.'

    It is entirely possible to teach yoga and make a good living.

    As an independent contractor — depending upon how many classes and private lessons I had — I earned anywhere from $35-70k after taxes and expenses.

    Now, I run a studio. Our revenue is in the low 6-figures. Our expenses are in the mid-5 figures. Our income, therefore, is currently in the mid-5 figures, and we have plenty of growth potential. I not only teach classes for revenue (16 per week charging an average of $10 per student for 45 and 75 minute classes), but I also have 3 other revenue streams in my business that don't involve me needing to manipulate or up-sell clients.

    And, whether I was working independently or owned my own business, it wasn't a "leisurely job of a yoga teacher." I planned to be able to manage holidays (I love to travel), to take a year off to have my baby, and yes, to grow the business to where it is now, even. Most years, I worked 50 weeks per year, and most weeks, I was working about 40-50 hours a week — the same as a "day job" — but different hours.

    While I know that people think we "luxuriate" in yoga and meditation all day long — but honestly, I spend about 45 minutes on both combined for myself. The rest of my time is focused in providing a good service to my clients from their first experience with us (usually word of mouth recommendation) to our web site, our email contact, our booking system, their class/treatment check-in experience, and on and on. I focus on making sure everything runs so smoothly that they don't notice the effort that it takes to make it go that way.

    Do I live well? Yes. Do I have nice things? Yes (though others might not think that my way of life is nice with nice things). Do I travel? Yes (not as often as I might like right now, but enough to keep me happy). Is my life really, really good and am I happy doing what I do? Absolutely, positively, 100%.

    And I am deeply, truly grateful to every client who helps make this possible for me.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      "I also have 3 other revenue streams in my business that don't involve me needing to manipulate or up-sell clients."

      Sure, community acupuncture and the like. At least THAT's ethical marketing done by a yoga studio.

      "And I am deeply, truly grateful to every client who helps make this possible for me."

      And if you truly believe that, then take that to the bank. Every client, including those like me, I hope. By the way, I did finally get a chance to put a somewhat panning review of one textbook-case manipulative studio back onto Yelp. They did not sue me yet–and to save face (since they believe in that–they have Oriental martial-arts practices in their background) they're not going to.

  16. Lisa says:

    I respectfully disagree. Namaste

  17. Jenifer says:

    To be sure, all of the practitioners who rent form us run their own businesses — so they are keeping track of their pricing and markets on their own accord. Our business model is designed for people who want to work in a group environment, but don't want to run a large business like ours. They rent either ad-hoc hours, half day or full day — and as many as they want. Movement teachers rent the studio space.

    This means that our carrying costs are paid by these practitioners, not directly by the clients. The clients pay the practitioners. The practitioners pay the rent out of that. So this takes off the pressure of the "up-sell."

    In terms of my own yoga clients, one of the central values of my work is that the practice is "belongs to the student." I simply teach them a skill — they practice it and utilize it as they see fit. And as such, they ask me for what they want/need, and I find a way to provide it.

    I have several clients who come 1x per month or less, but also utilize the worksheets that we provide (with pictures and descriptions), and our audio and video recordings. We have just introduced "open studio" time as well which allows people to use the space for free for their practice. All of our clients have access to these "home practice" materials.

    So, yes, I am truly grateful for every client — past and present. They make my life better in every way, not just financially.

  18. Jenifer says:

    oops. posted in the wrong spot. Sorry. ;) This is a response to VQ2 in response to me.

  19. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Let's hope the situation in New Zealand does not become like my blog post "Which Shakedown Ya Want? (etc.)" http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_

    You, of all people, have to know why "I love my Gail" ….

    • Jenifer says:

      Totally.

      I actually had a very similar experience with a place in the US in 2002 or so. It gets ugly out there — and after my similar experience in such a situation, I refused to pay them any more money ever again.

      Many of my friends — after it all went down and it went down badly — were like "you need to forgive." Apparently, I needed to show my forgiveness by paying a lot of money to the studio and also not working as a teacher without their permission!

      Call me stubborn, but after what I went through, I honestly never, ever, ever want to have anything to do with them again. I can forgive, but I don't have to forget. And, I learned from it.

      Since that time, I look around for subtle manipulations of students and teachers. It happens here, too, and more often than people want to admit. It makes me cry sometimes — I get so frustrated about it!

      To keep myself from getting involved in such things, I go to supervision. I just upped my supervision from once a month to twice, and I'm lucky that I have a very good friend (in Aus) with whom we do a weekly "head check" and work out and reflect on our "stuff" so that it doesn't bleed out into other people. Sometimes, we do that twice a week. We are human, after all. LOL

      End of the day, I think that every teacher needs to pay attention to this problem. And moreso, pay very close attention to what you really value.

      For me, I want people to practice yoga, to take ownership of that practice, and utilize it to their benefit. That is my value. By keeping my place (ie, I respect them, not vice-versa), I'm able to be clear that I need only provide opportunities as students ask for them (usually in surveys or just asking for it after class). They choose it or they choose not to. That's it. CHoosing not to is just as ok as choosing to. Right? It is for all of us — so it is especially so for my students.

      Of course, what all of this means is that I need to attract more people in order to earn more money. To me, more money means more sustainability and growth of the business to meet the unique needs of new people as they are attracted to the services that we provide. And, this also means more income for me, too — of course. And no one says it shouldn't, you know?

      But it means working hard at the openness, at attracting more people to grow — rather than pushing the people already coming into spending more money. Just, you know, no pushing. :)

      • Vision_Quest2 says:

        I do not for one second regret my decision never to have given that studio any more business since June 6, 2010. Yes, they got more business from me after absolutely last classes had been taken which I'd paid for in advance (why give them the satisfaction that The Queen Bee had humiliated me and just walk out on the tail end of class pack?). Merchandise only, until I discovered I could buy from some other company again.
        http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_

        You will see that a long walk cleared my head better than having the yoga class would have, that day.

        Don't pay for more and more frequent supervision. Just read my blogs, if you could stand reading about weight management infused in there somehow (a twofer, if you ask ME). You might discover a website you overlooked with other yoga people on it, who are a lot younger than I am, some with issues VERY MUCH in common with a good chunk of the yoga community (recovering from eating disorders, anyone?) …

        Maybe I personally will contact you too, as you once made such an offer to me …

        [My blog posts are about too many other things now]

        • Jenifer says:

          Professional supervision is actually really helpful.

          Throughout the years, I've spent a lot of time figuring out my crap, right? I did therapy and learned a lot of skills; I've been meditating since forever (i count from when I was doing it on my own accord at age 11 onwards, but still), and so I'm pretty adept at keeping myself 'clear.'

          When I got supervision for the first time, though, it was a really big, big difference. Everything was tailored and the supervisor points things out or brings up good questions and it allows me to work specifically through my own pathways — rather than trying to figure out the situation by myself, then find a way through by myself, etc.

          Yes, there's still all of my own "work." But now I have someone who helps me in that process. And, I think it's more important than ever because — in truth — I'm more isolated than ever and I have more responsibility than ever before in terms of my work.

          It really helps me see clearly my own patterns, giving me clear direction on where to work, which means I move through things more quickly, can make better, more clear decisions, and so on.

          And, it's worth the money. You know how you're not concerned about paying for things that you value? I think that going up to twice a month would benefit me. If it doesn't, then I'll go back.

          My aunt, who works intensively as a psychologist, goes weekly. Certainly, she knows how to manage her "stuff" — but supervision is required in her work (professionally), but she also goes more than the basic requirement because of how well it works for her. I am finding the same sorts of results.

          It's just so much easier to do my job.

          (btw, I'll definitely check that link, too! I have to go be an NSO — non skating official — at the roller derby in a few.)

  20. Auki says:

    I feel that it is only fair to charge those who can afford to pay for your class. However, don't deny providing a service to those who cannot afford to pay. One way of compromising on this issue would be to suggest a minimum anonymous donation with a policy of not turning away those who truly cannot afford to pay. Such an approach would be providing an honest service, which after all, could be a truly yogic and spiritual way to bless the money issue. ;)

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Anonymous doesn't work for a class that displays any level of professionalism–the anonymity could be abused …. and read below how they had to go out of business.
      http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110728/downtown

      And, Let's face it, yoga will be expensive until the parks departments get involved year round and more public, subsidized venues feature it. Among the not-so-well-heeled yoga students, I'd discovered that even the new "affordable yoga" (at least in New York City) lacks a more politically correct "consciousness" which includes the need for studios to reach primarily home practitioners and ultra-late adopters (and that's just my guess, since I'm not in the business) …but this does include factors BEYOND their control, such as their landlord raised their rent, or they could not deal with overcrowding, etc.

  21. Rianna says:

    Love this article, and I agree completely. RIGHT ON, ASHLEY! Shatter that silly yogi-culture glass ceiling. I also eat meat (consciously and responsibly, as I believe all food should be eaten), love money, and love yoga. We still live in a world ruled by money, and it costs to be able to educate yourself and to thrive in this world, while doing and practicing the things that you love. We can all work together with doing work-trades or other means of payment to help advance beyond the control of finances, but it's still necessary for living, so we should work with what we have now without any shame or judgement. YEAH!

    Major props to you for being honest about who you are. I'm in full support!

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