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December 21, 2013

Want more Students in Your Yoga Class? ~ Katherine Austin

Then the answer is you.

A studio owner’s perspective on how yoga teachers can make more money by partnering to grow their classes.

As a teacher of yoga for more than 18 years and a studio owner for the last decade, I often hear from other teachers that they are frustrated that they don’t have enough students in their classes. I get it, they want to make a living, and they deserve to—but when you’re paid per person who attends, you are dependent on quantity to drive up your paycheck.

When I was starting out in my first teacher training, my husband balked at the amount of money I invested in the certification. “What are you really going to do with this?” he asked. He couldn’t imagine how I’d make up the cost in work or even make money teaching yoga.

It’s a fair question. I knew in my heart that I was supposed to do this. I could feel my calling even though I had no idea where it would take me. And I guess I believed that somehow, it would all work out.

Yoga teachers start out like actors do, dependent on another source of income while we are growing and establishing our yoga teaching careers. I was fortunate in the beginning to have my husband’s income to allow me the freedom to raise my children and teach and study yoga part-time.

Since many yoga teachers are paid by the head (per student) after a flat minimum fee, they can make a lot more income the more students attend their classes. Your pay can fluctuate based on your seniority in a studio or your following and reputation in the community at-large.

The dilemma is that most teachers are 1099 contractors and work at several studios/gyms, making it all the more important that they earn enough to pay taxes and buy medical insurance.

It seems like a no-brainer—what you put in, you should get out, right? So why do so many yoga teachers expect someone else to market their classes?

The fact of the matter is, it’s not enough to love teaching yoga. Yoga teachers must be entrepreneurs investing their time, energy and resources in attracting more students to their classes. For the pay, yes, but also for the impact and reach. This is a team effort—it’s not an endeavor for the lazy.

I believe teachers need to partner with their studios to drive more traffic for everyone. A busy studio is good for everyone; some packed classes and some empty ones benefits no one.

As a studio owner, I decided two years ago to invest in a PR firm to help us increase our reach. Print advertising never led to high sales. PR has been the right match. We are typically a word-of-mouth business, but even that can’t be a passive endeavor. Strategy, planning and investment on behalf of the whole team is the magic formula. Hiring a talented PR guru took us to the next level. It takes a team. I can’t do it all by myself. Isn’t that a core lesson of yoga?

For some reason, many yoga teachers believe that to be authentic in their yoga, they mustn’t amass wealth. Baloney. There is no reason you cannot be yogic at your core And live comfortably. The outcome is determined by your effort, plain and simple.

As a studio owner, I can only do so much to drive traffic to my teachers’ classes. I do promote others and often invest my own resources—like in the case with the PR guru—to benefit everyone at my studio. But they have to show up just as much as I do.

Studio owners and teachers can’t make excuses any more regarding technology. It just doesn’t fly to say, “I don’t do Facebook or a computer.” It’s the way of the world and how most of our students connect. It is so easy to attract students via social media. It’s an essential tool that we cannot ignore.

Beryl Bender Birch, an Ashtanga teacher and the author of the book Power Yoga, launched her own teaching career with fliers and mailings. Over decades, her classes grew from two or three people to crowds of 60 or more. Birch stresses that her teaching practice wasn’t built primarily through clever marketing but from putting in years of solid teaching—and effort at spreading the message.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” says Birch. “[It’s about] being in the same place at same time for a long period of time. It’s about practice. You have to do it for a long time without a break, with earnestness. If you’re a good teacher, people will come.” You have to toot your own horn. Students don’t just come without inspiring them to come.

Here are some tips that help grow a yoga business:

Social media exposure. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. It’s Free! Announce your classes, post pictures, tweet a “call to action”.

Host regular workshops where you teach. When people dip in deeper, the bond between you and your students grows stronger.

Blog regularly. Establish your expertise. Whether it’s your own blog or a composite one of the studio where you teach. Get your voice out there.

Sub. Take on other time slots to connect to other students.

Take on another class. The more you’re out there, the more you’re out there.

Promote privates before or after class.

Come early and stay after class. Be available to mingle with students and answer questions.

Build seniority. Be a team player who is loyal, trustworthy and a dependable part of your yoga community.

Continuing education. This is super important. Grow, Glow, Go. You never know everything. None of us do.

Create themes. I.e. “for four weeks we will be working with…” I’ve done t his before—once, I picked a book (The 4 Agreements) and had students read it. Each week I wove a chapter into my teachings.

Visibility. It helps to be more visible by attending regular classes/workshops at your place of work, so your community gets to see and know you. More exposure is the name of the game. We have to be our own best promoters. And it adds to our worth when we support others.

Keep up a strong daily practice. This is perhaps The most important: Daily sadhana, daily, sadhana, daily, sadhana. This is key. You can only share what you own. You will naturally bring in abundance when you vibrate in a high space from your own daily sadhana. You immediately elevate students, connect into their energy fields and lift them up so much they want to keep coming back for more.

Abundance attracts abundance. These are the laws of the universe. It really works. The more students you attract, the more you will earn. Be authentic. Live your yoga.

Whether your desire is to teach part-time or make it your career, it’s all beautiful. We need an abundance of yoga teachers on the planet now more than ever to spread the healing of these ancient teachings. Everyone deserves to live a life of joy, happiness and good health.

The answer is You. Be the light leader you came to be. We need you.

 

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Assistant Editor: Judith Andersson / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Katherine Austin