You can make a great living teaching yoga, while doing something you love.
There, I said it. I know—it contradicts most of what is out there on the web. But it’s true.
So why is there so much negativity on the subject? Why do people title articles “You Can’t Make A Living Teaching Yoga”?
Why is it so common to hear aspiring yogis express disappointment on their post-teacher-training experience?
Well, first let me clarify —you can make a living teaching yoga, but it takes time and having a good game plan. It also really helps to examine some of the unwritten assumptions and biases many of us have about money, service, and having a realistic, flexible plan for success.
I remember when I started teaching at the small Forrest Yoga Circle in Santa Monica, back in 1994. I was young and enthusiastic and wanted to not only have a great time, sharing meaningful work with people, I wanted to pay my bills. Some of the other teachers on the schedule at that time had a very different attitude.
They said things like:
“We teach here to give back to our teacher for everything she has done for us. Money is not something I focus on at all.”
“Great,” I thought, “If you have a trust fund or wealthy spouse!”
On the one hand, success and money can seem for many of us to be in conflict with our ideas about being spiritual, creative, authentic, hell—even being a nice person.
We often have an ugly stereotype in our head of the greedy, unethical, money-hungry swindler who just doesn’t care about people. As yoga teachers (or massage therapists, or self-employed photographers, designers etc.) we can feel that we just want to create, serve and keep the focus on caring about people and doing quality work.
Somehow the money should just follow without too much focus on it.
On the other hand, there is a second perspective that mystifies money and actually turns it into some kind of spiritual magic trick to be able to make a living! At that same yoga studio, one of my fellow teachers told me she had heard that to fill your classes you should visualize other people’s classes becoming full while meditating.
I remember being a bit confused by this yoga-pretzel contortion of trying to magically make others successful so as not to be “greedy,” in what seemed like the hope that maybe the universe would bestow success on you only if you pretended you didn’t want it!
Well-meaning and idealistic for sure, but seriously, both of these common spiritual relationships to money and success just make me sad.
There’s got to be a better way!
Now, don’t get me wrong: meditate on your aspirations, create your vision board, journal about your goals. Hold good hopes for your colleagues. Do whatever helps you to get in the zone of believing you can live your dreams.
Likewise, do great work, offer amazing value, and care deeply about people—but not like a martyr!
Not like the yoga version of a starving artist.
I suggest creating a grounded, well-informed plan that is sustainable, flexible and realistic.
You are running a business—embrace it! You have to make money so as to be able to serve others effectively while offering something of great value.
Your business plan may include a mix of private, corporate and studio classes, it may include business cards and a website, starting an email list, and (especially for the first few years) having a secondary stream of income that keeps your finances stable.
In a future article I will share some specific strategies for surviving your first year teaching yoga and heading in the direction of thriving in years two and three.
But for now, I want to leave you with some initial questions to journal on if you choose:
1) Do you have negative beliefs about money and success that might sabotage you getting on track with your yoga (or other service oriented, creative) career? Write them down and meditate on whether they are actually true. How could you positively reframe?
2) Have you bought into a spiritual idea about success and money that overlooks the practical process of embracing business and wants it to just manifest out of thin air? If so, let’s begin now considering ways to have a more grounded and effective relationship to your business!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman