I’m not going back to teaching at a yoga studio anytime soon

August 19, 2020

My inbox is flooded lately with notices of studios reopening. Is yours, too?

These are studios I’ve taken classes at all across the country from DC to Texas to Florida. I’m seeing it on social media, too. Notices of studios reopening, slowly and with strict social distancing guidelines in place, are popping up daily on my feed.

And to be honest, I’m not excited about it.

I’m not going back to teaching in a studio anytime soon.

Yes, of course I miss teaching people “in real life”. I miss the connection and the sparks that occur from simply sharing physical space.

And at the same time, I can and have created an awesome community in my online studio. We connect, chatting before, during, and after class, as well as sharing in our private facebook group.

Yes, of course it’s different.

Different doesn’t mean bad or worse. Just different. Something you can adjust and adapt to, if you want to.

I also think that transition of so many studios and teachers to the online space has exposed some serious issues with the traditional yoga studio structure, at least within the western yoga community. I can only speak to what goes down in the western world of yoga.

What this huge shift to online yoga has laid bare is how problematic the current model of business is in the yoga world.

It’s not necessarily easy to own and operate a yoga studio. Overheads are high, props can be expensive, and students don’t always pack all of the classes on the schedule.  Despite this, classes are relatively inexpensive, ranging from $7-25 — even less if you have a monthly membership or a class pass.

All of this usually means that yoga teachers bear the brunt of absorbing the disparity between how much it costs to operate the studio and how much classes cost. Some studios pay a flat rate. I’ve been paid (or offered payment) anywhere from $10 for a single class to $75. 

Other studios pay per student. I’ve been paid or offered payment of everywhere from $2 per head to $8.

Some studios do a combo, offering a flat rate up to a certain number of students.

There are positives and negatives to each of these scenarios. 

A flat rate benefits new teachers who might not be as well known, but hurts more experienced or popular teachers who might have way more students in their classes.

A per head rate can benefit the more popular and experienced teachers, especially if it’s a higher per head amount. However, a newer or less well known teacher might struggle.

Even the flat plus per head option has drawbacks — if the flat rate and per head rate are low or if there is a maximum amount you will be paid regardless of how many students, the teacher will not earn a decent amount.

This opens up a whole new can of worms:

What is a decent amount of money for a yoga teacher to make?

How much money should a yoga teacher make per class?

You could ask, how much should a yoga teacher earn per month or per year?

These are important questions and also tricky ones within the yoga community. Money is a sensitive topic for yoga teachers and students alike, especially while we’re in the middle of an economic crisis.

I know that some people believe that yoga teachers should give their services freely, regardless of what bills they have to pay or food they need to eat. Maybe yoga should just be a side gig, so it doesn’t matter how much you make, right?

Another argument is that yoga should be accessible and affordable to all, which means you are obligated to charge less. Otherwise, you are keeping people out.

And then, there’s the prevailing problem of constantly running yoga teacher trainings when there isn’t a good pipeline getting new teachers into legit, good paying jobs that not only allow them to make their investment back, but allow them to make a living.

Instead, newer teachers tend to make less because they’re new and then are conditioned to receiving less pay, so they don’t always ask for a pay increase or up their own rates even after teaching for years.

I could go on.

The system needs an overhaul.

Which is why I am not going back to teaching at a yoga studio anytime soon.

The class sizes are smaller, which is necessary to accommodate social distancing. Before the pandemic, teachers were required to do a certain amount of studio cleaning and tidying, to keep the space looking neat. It also offers a convenient way to opt-out of hiring a professional cleaner to keep the studios clean. 

The yoga studio business model has a lot of these, usually in the form of work-trade opportunities (you can have a listen to the Yoga is Dead Podcast about how problematic this practice can be).

The cleaning responsibilities have now increased considerably, with teachers required to disinfect everything before and after, a task which can take 15 minutes on both ends. And which teachers are still not paid for.

I love teaching at yoga studios. 

I can’t afford to teach at a yoga studio right now.

There are great benefits to teaching at a yoga studio or gym.

And please don’t think this is a blog hating on studio owners. While there are plenty of terrible studio owners, who profit off of this terrible system, I think they are more in the minority.
Most of the studio owners I know are good people whose hearts are in the right place. They are stuck in a system that doesn’t necessarily benefit them, either.

You are part of a community, which is one of the most important aspects of yoga. The studio provides a physical space for your classes that is clean and inviting, with all of the props your students might need.

The studio should also help market your classes and workshops, using their bigger list and larger reach to continually bring new students into the space. And within this framework, you can teach how you want to teach, to those who want to show up.

As a teacher, it’s also nice to not be in charge of all of the decisions. To just do your part: teaching your classes, taking care of the students, and leaving it all there when you go home.

This is actually why I resisted taking my classes online until it was absolutely necessary. I still promoted my classes, but if class sizes were small I could still pass the buck and say the studio wasn’t doing enough.

When we moved from the DC area, I knew that I wanted to keep teaching. I also knew I couldn’t work at a studio until we settled in one place for more than a year.

I was terrified to be the place where the actual buck stopped. There would be no one else to blame if I couldn’t fill classes or afford to keep my business going. My failure or success would be entirely up to me.

I took the leap anyway and I’m glad I did.

I love being my own boss. And while I do love my local yoga studio and am happy to teach 2 classes there during non-pandemic times, I am not going back to teaching at a yoga studio anytime soon.

I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in the past 3 1/2 years. 

These are the 7 reasons why I love offering online yoga (and why I’m not going back to teaching at a yoga studio anytime soon)

  1. I have built an awesome community who are located all over the U.S. plus a few people in other countries, too!
  2. My online courses can support more people than I could do in person — over 100 people from all over the world have taken my online yoga courses for shoulders, hips, and core. 
  3. I don’t have to leave my house, which in the current climate is a plus. It’s also great because I don’t have to deal with traffic or parking.
  4. My reach is even greater than before I was fully online. I have a Youtube channel with over 1000 subscribers. My most-watched video has over 12k views and has gotten so much positive feedback from people I’ve helped with it.
  5. I’ve gotten even more skillful with my language. I think of it as verbal assisting and I’m better than ever.
  6. My sequencing is more creative and also more accessible. I offer even more modifications, not knowing who will be watching my videos. This means i have to be even more clear with my words and instructions.
  7. I can wear whatever I want. Although, I always did that, online or off.

Do you like online yoga? Do you struggle with it?

Let me know in the comments below.

And if you want to be your own boss and start making a good living teaching yoga, join my FREE WORKSHOP Thursday August 20th, 12pm ET. Learn the 3 C’s of a successful online yoga business, plus my 5 pillars for building a better business online (and off).

Click here to sign up.


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