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April 9, 2019

My ‘it’s complicated’ Relationship with CorePower Yoga

CorePower Yoga and I have a complicated relationship.

I first walked into a class in August 2012. My first ‘prospect date’ listed in my client profile is October 2012, two months later. This was the date I was first officially approached about doing teacher training. I was approached two more times before I signed up.  I started teacher training in Oct 2013.

I worked as a Yoga for Trade to cover the cost of my membership during teacher training. CPY yoga classes were a required part of our training, but we still had to pay full price for those classes. I couldn’t afford both, so I cleaned the studio for 3hours a week for approximately $9/hour (membership was $114-$124/month, I cleaned 12hours/month).

About five weeks into our training we were told if we wanted to work for CorePower we would have to take another 5week ‘Extensions’ training for about $500. I later learned that previous groups of teacher trainees were also surprised by the news of extra training and the extra money required to teach for CorePower.

Still, I was going to be part of this really cool community, so I did it. After completing the Extensions program new teachers had to teach 30 classes at a $17 a class rate. We were required to be seated at the desk 30minutes before the class and 30minutes after, so the hourly rate was $8.50. To get through the “Dirty Thirty,” as they were called we were expected to travel to studios that were 30mins-60mins away. A single class could be a 30min drive there and back, a 30min desk shift before and after and a 60min class, all for $17. 

We were told this was better than before when new instructors were required to teach the first 30 classes for free. We were glad to have these opportunities to teach in different locations, we really were and we hustled with each other for the opportunity to do so. After these classes, we could apply to be reviewed and hopefully be good enough to be hired and for our pay go to $30/class or $15/hour. 

After my Power training, I completed and paid for Yoga Sculpt and Hot Power Fusion teacher trainings and then workshops for C2 sequencing and Core Restore. I was all in, this was my tribe and I was going to do everything they asked of me and more. 

In December 2014 I was hired as the Western Area Assistant Manager with a salary of $26,000/year a position I held for two years. During this time, I was a lead teacher trainer for Power and Hot Power Fusion trainings. I thought I had arrived. Now I would be popular and get to do the cool things that managers did. 

CorePower does many things well. Brand consistency is one, studio appearance and cleanliness is another. You can go to any CorePower and get basically the same experience. The studios are clean, the locker rooms are great and the classes will all be on brand. They do a great job of teaching people to teach. The language that you must use to teach a CorePower class is very precise and effective. They have exacting standards for what and how you sequence and teach and continually assess their teacher’s delivery of these standards.

There are things that CorePower does not do well.

They train far too many instructors that they will never hire to teach.

Their focus on teaching a fixed sequence in a precise way produces effective teachers of this sequence, but it means there is less time for yoga philosophy and individual exploration. Teachers that do not or cannot conform to the CPY formula are unsuccessful and in my experience let down.

Teacher trainees are taught from the beginning to analyze and critique every yoga teacher and class they take, and for me, this has been something very difficult to turn off and permanently affected every yoga class I’ve taken since.

They do not pay their instructors well. Recently, at the studios I work in, they changed instructor’s pay to an hourly rate (half our class rate), valuing the desk time before and after class equally with the time spent teaching. If you teach two classes in a row, you get paid only for the hours in the studio and not two classes (if you teach a 9:30am and 11am class you will be in studio from 9am-12:30pm at $15/hour you make $52.50, if you were paid by the class you would make $60, $30 class rate x2).

You are required to teach two classes per week for CorePower to show your commitment to the team, there is no flexibility with this policy and advanced teachers with over 10 years experience have been fired for not showing commitment to “The Team.”  You are also required to make studio announcements after savasana, ironically right now we are pushing a Yoga Sculpt teacher training.

Instructors are generally treated according to popularity. Popular instructors are the ones who whole-heartedly embrace everything CPY, are unflinching positive, unquestioning, wear the branded clothing and post constantly on social media about #cpyjoblove, and of course, promote the teacher trainings. Instructors who do not fall in line and accept everything, or are not 100% on brand are marginalized, have classes taken away, are talked about and do not do well during pay rate evaluations. 

They do not pay their managers a living wage but expect them to work in the area of a 60 hour workweek, and do not allow them to work for any ‘competing’ industries to make up for the low wage. The managers are placed in the difficult position of enforcing corporate policy with instructors, often with exceptionally perky yet firm emails about what is expected of everyone. Managers are required to be relentlessly positive about everything CorePower and not to question corporate policies.

In my years as a manager, I listened to conversations about instructors that were catty and unkind. I saw many instructors reduced to tears over evaluations. I heard, and even got caught up in a culture that was toxic. I am not proud of that. The culture at CorePower is like that of a high school lunchroom with the cool kids all hanging out together and having a grand time and being unkind or straight up “Mean Girl” to the not as cool kids. Looking back I wonder if we ever get over that lunchroom popularity contest. When I was hired to be a manager less than a year after I started teaching I was over the moon, I was finally at the cool table! Then, as I saw studio managers struggle to make ends meet and work constantly I wondered why such an apparently upscale and affluent company paid its managers so little. The only people who were able to do the job, pay rent and eat had a partner or some other major source of income so they could do the job more for fun because they didn’t need the income. 

When I was a poor university student my mother and her husband would arrive once every couple of months to visit and take me out for a very expensive lunch and it would be fabulous, and while I loved the attention and the expensive afternoon I would then go back to my very frugal student existence. A part of me still wanted the attention and fancy outings, but the more pragmatic part of me knew that a care pack of groceries with a nice visit would have done more good.  As a manager, I got to go to some great parties, dinners, wine bars, pedicures and the such. It was like this envious lifestyle being dangled in front of you. We’re not going to pay you enough to afford these things, but we will take you out just often enough to make you forget you are working so hard for so little. Ultimately I know at least some of us (those without extra income) would have preferred simply to be paid more. It made the lifestyle they dangled all the more painfully out of reach. As I write this it is glaringly obvious how unyogic this set up was, and I wonder at myself for trying so hard to please and to fit in with the management team. I think that is part of the CPY culture, that striving to be cool enough to sit at the popular table. 

Part of being a manager at CorePower gets you on what they call a Swing Trip, a perk for being a manager for a year. The trip I went on was to Grand Cayman. It was for all managers and their plus one. There were about 60 people in total on the trip. The cost was about $10,000 per person. The trip itself was fabulous, and a non stop party. There was unlimited alcohol. The drinking started about 9am and continued to about 4am. There was a group chat that would have all the previous night’s pictures posted for us when we got up in the morning. My plus one was my 19year old daughter, and we didn’t drink and went to be early (at the next manager event I was told that my plus one could not be my daughter, I’m not sure why, but I think it might have had to do with our quiet, non-party behavior on the trip). I have never seen that much drinking for so many days. The upper management and the franchise owners partied the hardest, spending money without restraint. Here is where I am conflicted and I feel hypocritical. CorePower allowed me to take my daughter on a vacation I never could have afforded. We went scuba diving, we rode horses bareback in the ocean, we swam with stingrays, it was unbelievable and for that, I will always be grateful. But at the same time, while the event was unbelievable, it was also confusing. I felt guilty and embarrassed that I was so easily bought. This wasn’t about yoga, not even slightly, this was about that fancy lifestyle being dangled to keep me wanting to do whatever this company wanted me to. Here is a company that pays its instructors and managers so little, and is so hard on them, that charges and pushes expensive teacher trainings to students who they do not have jobs for, and then turns around and blows over $60,000 on a party that is all about excess. The disparity was awful, and still, I stayed because I thought it meant I was valued. 

Many businesses are run like this I’m sure, but it seems disingenuous for a yoga studio to be so.  They teach the Yamas and Niyamas in the teacher trainings, but they are not practiced in the studios. 

My career as a manager did not last, looking back that’s not surprising. At my last pay raise evaluation, after I had stopped being a manager,  I had almost completed my 500hr training, had taught about 1,300 classes for CorePower, been a lead at multiple teacher trainings for them, and done this while suffering serious complications from major surgery that required several hospital admissions. I had had consistently positive feedback about my classes, including the official pay raise evaluation one. My raise? 75cents a class, or 37cents an hour. The reason? I had been 5 minutes late to my desk shift a couple of times. They also cut six classes from my schedule. This is what it is like on the other side of the lunchroom after you stopped being allowed to sit with the cool kids.

Part of hanging with the cool kids is the constant pressure to be cool, trendy and popular, as much as I wanted it, I wasn’t good at it. 

I still teach for CorePower, my required two classes a week for ‘The Team’, sub when I can and continuously get passed over for more popular class times and formats. A fellow instructor recently told me how much happier I am now that I’m not doing ‘that job’ anymore, and it’s true. Still, I wonder why I stay. I love my students, the nice bright studios and I have some deep friendships with some of the instructors, but this may be just another way I am holding on to the possibility of being cool once again. 

Ultimately my taking teacher training with CorePower changed the trajectory of my life. My wholehearted fall into everything that was CorePower came at a very stressful time in my life, and my immersion in yoga was an island of sanity during this time – yoga is still this for me, it’s just a different kind of yoga now. I got caught up in what felt like a validation of my worth and I clung to that for as long as I could. It wasn’t. That is seen much more easily now. I don’t regret starting with CorePower, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them, not all of it was pleasant, but ultimately I am wiser and a little kinder from it.

 

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