22 August 2008
This is another topic that Yoga Journal won't touch: how much is a yoga teacher worth in this American consumerist society? forget for a minute what our emotional or spiritual value is to our students (actually priceless), but what is our monetary value? in a culture where fitness instructors never have to step foot inside a yoga studio and can get "certified" online as yoga teachers, are yoga teachers now a dime a dozen?
My post "the price we pay" gave rise to some interesting comments:
"have had several conversations with other yoga teachers recently about how they want to earn x amount per class or they won't teach. Got me to thinking: if I can pay my bills on less than that, and I am maybe helping some people, sharing my knowledge of yoga a bit, isn't that enough? We aren't supermodels, we are social workers..."
"i thought going to india for 11 months, teaching in japan and thailand, australia, bali...i thought all of that would make a difference. it actually hurt me. i make less money than ever. no one is impressed with my resume. it means nothing to anyone.
except for me and the handful of students that i am actually reaching. that's all we can hope for. that's just how the world is. anyone can teach yoga. we're indespensable. you are fooling yourself if you actually think you are anything more.
still, i would do it all the same. for me at least."
"I think yoga teachers are a "dime a dozen" now.
Point - Teacher Training programs. This has become a cyclical conundrum perhaps? An organization decided yoga teachers should be 'certified'. Studio's/gyms/fitness centers decided this was a good idea. So, in order to teach you have to be certified and there are a whole slew of students needing those inital hours to become certified because the studios require it...see where it goes?..."
bindifry said this about yoga teaching in her blog: "...and i reached another person. i turned them on to yoga. they turned me on to them. and for that moment i had a purpose." to which I responded: "yup....that's what it all comes down to, isn't it? it's not about the money, it's not about some sick inversion to impress or intimidate people, it's not about lululemon pants....it's just about the yoga." and bindi said: "well said....yoga is for everyone to enjoy. yoga teachers should spread it around to who wants and needs it regardless of their economic situation. it's our duty. if we all did that, we could alleviate much suffering in the world. teaching yoga is the ultimate "green" action. how many yoga teachers teach without the thought of dollar signs? i do not know many."
Nadine believes that yoga teachers are social workers. bindifry said that teaching yoga is the ultimate green action. I say that teaching yoga is a pure expression of the bodhisattva path. and with my private students, I'm also a psychologist. like bindifry, I'm still going to India to study even though it does not make me one dime extra as a yoga teacher.
I truly believe all of the above. however, I still need to pay the bills and buy food and gas. and I pay the same for food and gas as the person does who makes $200,000 a year. last year I made about $10,000 teaching yoga. I'm not crying about it, it's merely a statement of fact. it was my choice 10 years ago to stop working for lawyers after 20 years (and making damn good money) and become a yoga teacher. our lives are determined by our choices, not by our circumstances.
I've been struggling a lot with this money question as I am in the midst of a life-changing decision that will literally affect how and where I can afford to live. as Nadine said, I know more than a few teachers who won't teach if they make below X dollar amount -- and I am one of them. over the years I've invested over $10,000 (probably closer to $15,000) in my training -- this does not include travel to India to study. I also know some yoga teachers who've been teaching 20+ years who won't teach a workshop for under $500 even if only three students sign up -- they have their minimum show-up price. I believe that to teach a class under a certain dollar amount devalues yoga and puts it on the same level as an aerobics class.
one of the places I teach is a yoga studio where I get paid by the person...so one day I make $12, another day I make $60 per class. I also teach privately, one-on-one, and my prices in my area may range from $75 to $100 per session. what a teacher charges for private yoga in the United States is dependent upon the geographic area, what the market will bear. I feel that prices for private yoga are comparable to getting a massage or a physical therapy or chiropractic or acupuncture session -- it's all about holistic health modalities. unfortunately, most people don't understand this. I've found that people (at least in my area) don't "get" what private yoga/yoga therapy is all about, not when they only know health club yoga (and I'm not dissing teachers who teach at gyms or health clubs, so don't get your yoga shorts in a knot.) there IS a difference between yoga one-on-one and yoga in a group class. yoga one-on-one is the the traditional way -- Krishnamacharya did not teach Iyengar or Jois or his son Desikachar in a group class.
however, my favorite class to teach is one where I don't get paid at all -- I teach yoga and meditation at a domestic violence shelter. I've been teaching there for five years and it's my hope to start a yoga therapy program there funded by grant money. some day.
I know of yoga studios where the owners have yet to pay themselves, the studios literally don't make money, they just break even. from a sound business standpoint -- and let's get real, yoga is definitely big business in America-- that situation can't continue forever. my yogini friend in Oakland, California tells me I should move to northern California, that I'd be turning people away, that people can't get enough yoga out there. in the suburbs of Chicago, yoga studios struggle to survive.
The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram where I study in India has no qualms whatsoever about charging westerners much more money than it does its Indian students. teachers such as Gary Kraftsow and David Life and Sharon Gannon charge at least $8,000 for their teacher trainings here. so why, as not-famous-no-Yoga Journal-cover everyday yoga teachers, are we not supposed to make a livable wage?
what's a yoga teacher to do? this is not India where I can go live in a cave and spend my days meditating, living off the kindness of my devotees. while I'm Kali's girl, I'm still waiting for that Goddess-in-Residence yoga gig somewhere that my gal pal in Nepal told me I need to find. this is America where it currently costs $35-$40 to fill my gas tank to get to the studio to make $12 for a 90 minute class.
so it is a fine balance between the bhakti and the bucks, between the dharma and the dough. I don't want to make what a supermodel makes -- I just want to be able to afford to live and do what I love to do.
support your local yoga teacher.