I get asked whether or not teaching yoga is a viable career option at least once a week. As a yoga teacher trainer, and mentor of up and coming yoga teachers I expect to get this question and I think it is probably a very valuable question to ask when considering making a shift into full time teaching, giving up your day job, or even making a large investment in Yoga Teacher Training. And I wish that I had a straightforward answer to this query, but the truth is that my answer is always along the lines of – “well yes, you can make a living teaching yoga…BUT it depends on what you classify as “making a living”, and on how hard you are willing to work, and on how much time you are willing to invest before you see a return on your hard work”
Like so many questions regarding the practice and teaching of yoga, when it comes to the question of making aliving as a teacher the answer is, once again, “it depends”.
So I thought in today’s post I would share some of my own journey on this path as full time yoga teacher, and take a look at some of the variables that are worth keeping in mind when your are assessing whether or not to take the leap into teaching as a career.
What does it mean to be a successful yoga teacher?
This is a question that each of you must answer for yourselves. Does success mean teaching large classes at a well-known studio? or teaching 2-3 pre-registered series with an ongoing community of students in your home studio or local community centre? Does it mean teaching at big name yoga festivals to hundreds of students at a time? or making enough as a teacher that you have the time to volunteer more for your favorite outreach program or local charity? Does success mean to be offering a number of yoga teacher training courses per year with 30-60 students in them? Leading large retreats? Or mentoring a small group of students as they move from A-B on their path? Do you want to be a freelance teacher, or own your own studio? Does your vision of success include travel to many places, and meeting new people every week? or are you more inclined to be a well known local teacher with a community of committed students that are in for the long haul?
I suggest that you take some time to sit with your journal and ask yourself the question, what does it mean to me to be a successful yoga teacher? Give yourself the space to ruminate on what success means to you and how it would look in your life. This type of clarity is key in helping you to make the decisions about what to say yes to, and what to say no to, so that you are moving in a focused direction that is in alignment with your unique vision of what success is.
What does it mean to make a living as a yoga teacher?
Again there are many variables at play here and what constitutes a comfortable living for one person may seem like poverty to another. Are you a single person, or do you have a family to support? Are you monthly expenses low? Or do you carry a lot of debt? Are you paying off a mortgage? Or sharing a rented home with others? Do you want to save money for retirement, or a child’s education, or a home of your own? Or do you simply need to make enough to cover your living expenses and have a few dollars left over for fun?
Sit with your journal once again and answer the following questions.
- How much money do I need to make each month to cover my expenses and pay off any debt I may have?
- What are my financial goals? (further schooling, home ownership, yearly vacations etc)
- What is the value of money to me? What would I do with my money if I had enough to cover my expenses easily? How would I like to invest or spend my money if I had excess at the end of the year?
These are big questions so take the time to answer them honestly and thoughtfully, as the answers will support you in making career choices.
How much money do yoga teachers make?
This is the question I get asked the most and the answer is, you guessed it, it depends!! I can tell you that the average is somewhere between $25-$60 per hour/or per class, and it can vary greatly from community to community. Often as newer teacher you will be coming in at the low end of the pay scale, and it can take years to make your way to the higher end. It is common practice for studios to hire teachers as sub-contractors which means you are responsible for paying taxes etc. out of the income you bring in from your classes, and benefits such as health insurance, sick days, and paid vacations are not generally an option. I myself have worked in situations where I take a percentage of the money made in given class and the studio takes a cut as well. This can work very well if you have a good class time and a strong following of students, but it also means you can’t actually bank on making an exact amount each week. Another option is of course to rent a space and run your own pre-registered classes out of it which is a fabulous way for students to learn and can help you organize your time and financial needs based on how many students sign up. This approach can take a while to get going, but if you are a skilful teacher and your offer good value then it can build in time to be a very lucrative way of teaching.
- Find out what the going rate of pay is at your local studios
- Figure out how many classes a week you would need to teach to cover your monthly expenses
- Make a list of other expenses such as income tax, commuting costs, clothing and advertising costs for the year so that you have a better idea of what you truly need to make
- Assess your current financial situation and determine whether or not quitting your day job, if you have one, is a realistic idea right away
- Draft a 2-5 year plan that moves you in the direction of full time teaching (if that is what you desire) without putting you into financial distress
Answering these questions can be very sobering, and that is a good thing if you have a low tolerance for financial stress and insecurity. If however your decision to jump in feet first as a full time yoga teacher is more of a heart based choice than screw the numbers and go for it! (Just be prepared for the ups and downs!)
How many hours a week will I be working?
Again this entirely depends on your career vision, what kind of support team you have, and how many income streams you are juggling as a teacher. If you own a small studio, are running your own teacher training programs and retreats, or offering programs online such as I do then you will most likely be working full time plus both at your computer, and in the classroom. There is a lot of administrative work that goes into offering programs and keeping even the smallest studio going and you may be surprised to hear that most people I know who have taken that path spend an average of 3 hours doing back end work for every hour they are in the classroom teaching. So for myself I am currently teaching an average of 30-90 hours a month teaching classes and trainings, and 90-270 hours a month doing administrative work that includes marketing, bookkeeping, answering emails, creating program content, and maintaining compliance with the various associations I must work with in order to teach what I do. So you can see from the above numbers that in a slower month I may have a 30 hour work week all in, whereas in a busy month I am putting in more like 90 hours. For myself my average workweek is in the 45-65 hour range with teacher training weeks putting me in the range of 90. Most full time teachers like myself are solo-preneurs, meaning they do it all on their own, but as you grow your business you can begin to hopefully get an assistant or have a team to support you. I myself am not there yet- but that is the goal for sure!
Assess how much you may likely be working to bring in your monthly pay cheque by answering the following questions.
- Do you need to do your own marketing for your classes/programs/offerings?
- Can you afford to hire someone to do your marketing if you don’t have the time or knowledge to do it on your own?
- Are you planning to have a blog, a You Tube channel, and/or a newsletter? And if so factor in time to write posts, shoot and load videos and create newsletter content.
- How much time does it truly take you to teach a class? Factor in class planning, commuting, set up, closing the studio etc?
- How much time does it take to teach each of the workshops/programs etc that you offer? Factor in content creation, advertising, answering emails and enquiries, registration, and bookkeeping.
- How many hours a week do you spend commuting to work?
- How many hours a week do you need to do your basic administrative tasks?
Having these numbers will give you a much better idea of what you are truly making per hour!
How do you balance work and the rest of your life?
This is a really great question and one I am constantly working on in my own life. For anyone who runs a small business, and make no mistake that being a full time yoga teacher is a business if it is your primary source of income!, will require a lot of time and effort. And yet it is critical that you still make time to practice yoga yourself and keep up your studies. Without that your offerings will lack power and you will feel burnt out an uninspired very quickly. And of course there is more to life then teaching, practicing, and studying yoga so you want to ensure you have some time for the other things that nourish you in you life as well as the primary relationships that you value. Again this will look different to every person. If you are a single person without children than you can direct a lot of your time towards developing yourself as a yoga student and teacher. Whereas those of you who have obligations to family have to fit your yoga hours in around your primary responsibilities, which may include having a day job that pays the bills for many years.
- What nourishes you deeply beyond your yoga practice? What do you need to make time for weekly, monthly, yearly?
- How much time do you need on your yoga mat each week in order to maintain your own physical health and stay inspired?
- How much time do you need each week/month/year where you can focus on simply being a student of yoga, learning from your teacher, and being nourished by a community of fellow students?
- How much time do you need to maintain your health by cooking your meals, getting groceries, getting enough sleep, doing your daily self care practices, getting bodywork, etc?
- How much free time is important to you? Can you get by on a few free hours per week or do you need 1-2 clear days where you can just play? Be honest!
Okay so this has turned into an epic blog post already so I will leave it at that for now and will let you know that each of these areas of inquiry are an ongoing process for myself, and most full time teachers I know. I have been teaching for eleven years now, and full time for the last four. I juggled a restaurant job, a desk job, and my teaching schedule for many years before I felt ready to take the plunge and rely solely on my teaching income. And the last four years have been some of the richest, and busiest of my life! I would also like you to know that I didn’t ever come to teaching with a desire to make it a full time job, and certainly never took the time to do the metrics to see whether or not it was a viable career. I jumped into teacher training because yoga was the only thing in the world that made sense to me at the time and was offering me the tools to heal myself. I had no idea where it would take me. As a teacher I have had many rewarding days that put me on top of the world and nourished me deeply, and I have had many sleepless nights where I considered quitting and getting “a real job” so I could be sure to pay my bills and have more financial security. I am constantly re-defining what a balanced life looks like and now that I am firmly on the path of teaching full time it has become paramount that I am assessing my goals, clarifying my vision, and checking in with my intentions regularly lest I get off track in any domain of my life. Teaching yoga, and making a business out of teaching it, has been a steep learning curve for me and I certainly don’t have all the answers but my experiences have offered me some perspective and I feel that I can offer support to the students that come out of my training programs, or choose to mentor with me, as a result.
If you have read this far down into my post I am touched by your attention and I thank you for listening- I hope it’s been helpful for you. I’d like to wrap up by announcing that in the spirit of re-defining balance and focusing on what is most important to me at this time I will not be offering my Refine & Amplify Online Business Course for Yoga Teachers as a group program. I may offer it in the future, but for now I am going to focus on my teacher training programs, lifestyle coaching programs, weekly classes, retreats and workshops and I am going to be available to work with a small number of yoga teachers each year that want private mentoring. I feel right now that that is the best way that I can support up and coming teachers, giving me the chance to customize what they need and create a program that is specific to their needs and visions. If you are interested in working with me in this way you can email me directly or find out more information here.
In the meantime I hope that you have found this article valuable and I welcome your comments and questions. I feel wildly supported by each of you that make up my community and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the inspiration for my life’s work and my incentive for being a better teacher.