01 September 2008
This post is an email I received from a devoted reader. his thoughts, his opinion, your food for thought...
"I was interested in, and moved by, your posts on teaching. I hesitated to respond on the site 'cause as you know I'm a student, not a yoga teacher. But even though I am an off-the-charts creative artist type I have labored in the upper echelons of the corporate world long enough to have picked up plenty of business smarts by osmosis, and so I often wonder how it is that yoga in America has become such a lose/lose proposition - economically.
Teachers, unless they own the studio they teach in, make a meager income. And as you say, elite teachers usually do stop teaching led classes at some point if they can (Tias LIttle is a recent high profile example; the great Richard Freeman still does, but he does own the studio and certainly makes most of his income from TT's and DVD/CD sales). On the student end, to take Boulder, where we lived until just recently, as an example, it is very expensive to be a serious student: $150 a month for an "unlimited" membership, on average, at a good studio, or you might get your per class cost down to $11-12 if you buy the costliest punch card. So for us as a couple taking 3 classes a week $66 a week or $264 a month for steady instruction - plus workshops or trainings several times a year.
The most expensive of the many, many health clubs in Boulder costs $60-80 a month for a couple's membership and while there are lots of issues with "health club yoga" the fact of the matter is that nearly all of the top teachers in Boulder do teach in those clubs - it is a necessity to make ends meet and offers the kind of predictable income that teaching at the yoga studios does not.
It is just heartbreaking as sincere students to show up at a class in, say, summer when studios in Boulder are slowest and be 2 of 3-4 people at a class to be taught by a teacher with 30 years of experience and many trips to India under her belt, knowing she will net $18-24 for nearly two hours of her time. We offer dana on top (invariably refused), profuse thanks.....and meanwhile Bikrams and Core Power across town are jammed. And this is in one of the meccas of meccas. Yoga Workshop (Richard's place) would probably be more popular, but with him lecturing on impermanence and death, on how the body is only a vehicle, on confronting our kleshas through the knots in our body-minds - in short, 'cause he and the others there are guilty of teaching and praticing actual yoga, many come once and then go where there's music and a "real" workout.
I don't know the solution. For us as people who chose to live cheaply in order to have more time for yoga and meditation practice it has come down to spending our limited funds on periodic private classes with a teacher well-schooled in the later teachings of Krishnamacharya plus periodic weekend and longer immersions. Led classes are now an occasional but much-appreciated luxury for us; we have had to develop a personal practice. That maturing is good, but I'd be lying if we said we didn't miss the group energy and sangha that comes with more times together. But as you (and Desikachar and others) point out yoga was traditionally taught with a single student, or small handful, sitting at the feet of one teacher, with students and teacher both giving totally of themselves. Maybe that's the only model that's meant to endure."
Thanks, K, for being such a loyal reader of this blog and for sharing your thoughts. much metta to you....peace, love, and hugs.
I know through my site meter that many of you have read my latest posts on yoga teacher pay and gratitude. a few of you have commented and I would be interested to read more of your thoughts on those topics and on this post, from both students' and teachers' perspectives.