I find it fascinating that the yoga industry has come to mirror Wall Street more than provide it with a new compassionate, abundant business model to emulate. Like the scarcity consciousness of Wall Street, there is the 1% of yoga millionaires and then the 99% of yoga teachers, most of whom are struggling to earn a livable wage, even if their lives look ultra glorious in the maya, the smoke and mirrors known as the Internet.
I highly recommend Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” to new yoga teachers – for like many other dead-end jobs, teaching yoga is not a good way to earn a living unless one has supplemental income or is financially supported (has “capital” – i.e. his family owns a factory, bank, company, real estate, or he has a trust, a wealthy partner, or has put $50,000 – $100,000 in the bank from exiting a previous career.)
If you do the math, to go through a yoga teacher training, then apprentice, then get on a studio’s sub list, then get a regular spot teaching 5 to 8 classes per week at a studio for $25 per class for the first 8 students and then $4-$7 for every student thereafter – without being financially supported by any other means – I think you will find that the market is oversaturated and it no longer makes economic sense to teach yoga unless you are also a savvy entrepreneur who can organize and lead retreats to exotic locations, conduct teacher trainings, teach private lessons to wealthy people in their homes, or have your own monetized online subscription-based yoga video website (and obviously most of above take start-up “capital” to finance along with great ingenuity).
Of course, it is incredibly emotionally satisfying to transform hearts, minds, and bodies on a daily basis, but unless you are also a stellar entrepreneur it is somewhat delusional for someone to exit a yoga teacher training today and expect to start earning a viable living purely from teaching yoga classes anytime soon.
Nobody I know directly earns money from their Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter accounts, nor from blogging or TEDx talks, and yet that “exposure” appears to be essential to launching a successful career for a new yoga teacher. Hitting the yoga teacher trifecta seems to mean appearing on the cover of Yoga Journal, teaching at Wanderlust or other festivals during good time slots, and getting video/DVD deals from corporations like Gaiam. And yet, none of those avenues will earn you meaningful (if any) income – in fact, it has been reported that Wanderlust is now charging some teachers to teach and other festivals pay teachers with entry tickets that the teachers must then sell in order to cover their travel and lodging expenses.
Getting on the cover of Yoga Journal (for which you will be paid $15, I was told) will give you excellent exposure, but don’t think that you are going to email a photo of you in dancer pose on a cliff at sunset to them and be spontaneously “discovered.” Here’s how it works: someone fairly well-respected who has probably already graced the cover is going to call their contact at Yoga Journal and say, “I think (insert your name here) would look cute on the cover.” Like many other industries, there is no longer a front door into the corporations; all real business is conducted through the back door – i.e. nepotism.
Lately, after my mentor Larry Payne or another colleague opens a door for me, when interviewing to teach workshops, studio and retreat directors have been asking how many “followers” I have on social media. I don’t have photos of me doing a handstand while wearing a thong on the deck of a friend’s or student’s or lover’s (or all three) yacht in Capri with Rumi quotes in some dope font strewn underneath so I don’t have an Instagram account. From what I have seen, people with the most followers on Instagram are not necessarily the best or most educated or most inspiring yoga teachers – most of them are like Kim Kardashian, they are famous for being famous.
The way I have been able to keep afloat is by producing yoga and meditation DVDs. I spent approximately $15,000 (“capital”) making “Yoga for Depression and Anxiety” in 2010 and I recouped my investment in under a year using an Amazon Advantage sellers account. Then Sam Napolitano from Bayview Entertainment called and offered to distribute my DVD along with Yoga Journal’s, Pranamaya’s and many fitness companies’ DVDs and Bayview has been distributing my DVDs ever since. Continue reading >>