A few years ago, I made a spreadsheet that changed my life.
The spreadsheet was my “financial overview,” outlining the various ways I earn money as a yoga teacher, and how much I earn from each service. Among the services listed were: private sessions, retreats, workshops, teacher trainings, and of course, drop-in classes. What struck me most in creating this financial overview was just how little I earned from drop-in classes, relative to the time and energy they took up. At the time, I was teaching 9 weekly drop-in classes, which may not sound like a lot, but, allow me to break it down:
1 drop-in class typically involves the following:
10-15 min of planning
10-35 min commute to the studio (depending on which studio, and how bad traffic is)
15 min of setting up and checking students into class
75 min of actual teaching
15 min of chatting with students and cleaning up the space after class
10-35 min commute home
Add this all up, and one “75-min class” equals approximately 158 minutes, or 2.6 hours. Multiply this by 9, and we get ~24 hours per week - more than half of a 40-hr work week.
This would not be a bad deal if a person could live off of teaching 9 drop-in classes per week (or if the classes could be lined up, back to back, rather than scattered throughout the day), but unfortunately, this is not the case - at least for me, living in Portland, OR, with a house, a dog, several hobbies, and a desire to have a kids.
At the studio I work with - which is, incidentally, one of the best paying studios in the city of Portland - I get paid an average of $75/ class.* This means that, for 24 hours of work, I was getting paid an average of $675/ week, or $35,100/ year (before taxes), as long as I took zero weeks off.
$35K per year.
With zero weeks off.
For one of the most important jobs IN THE WORLD!!
Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, “Why not just double it and teach 18 classes, or even 15?!” here’s the thing:
9 classes per week is already a lot - physically, and energetically. I am a pretty fit and strong person, and I have pretty strong energetic boundaries, and still, 9 classes was too much for me to sustain for more than a few years. Plus, for me, work is not purely about earning the most I can from putting in the least amount of time and energy. I want to feel like I’m growing toward something, like I’m striving and evolving. And in dedicating so much time and energy to drop-in classes, there was simply not much time or energy for professional growth.
Of course, I had my private sessions, workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings. Those were great, and most certainly did allow for professional learning and growth. But, similar to drop-in classes, most of these things require quite a bit of work beyond teaching hours, and require us to work at odd hours, and often on weekends. Plus, the money we make from them is entirely dependent on whether or not people showed up, and how many. And as any teacher knows, there are plenty of events that end up being canceled last-minute, or yielding very little money, due to low (or no) attendance.
All this is to say: It’s really hard to make a good living as a yoga teacher.
Or, more accurately: It’s really hard to make a good living as a yoga teacher, if we believe that teaching yoga needs to be done in a studio.
Since making this life-altering spreadsheet, I have reconsidered where I put my energy. I started to invest more into teaching private sessions, and developed curricula for teachers, such as advanced workshops, teacher trainings, and mentorships. I have also developed coaching programs for students interested in self-inquiry, self-knowledge, and physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. I have considered what it means to practice and teach yoga, especially in a thin, white body, especially in the western world. I have felt excited, guilty, proud, nervous, overwhelmed, and confident about my choice to be a yoga teacher. I still have a lot of feelings as I continue to consider and think. I am still trying to figure out how to teach (and practice and live!) well.
But I know this much is true:
Everyone deserves to earn a living.
“Teaching yoga” should not be confused with “teaching asana in studios.”
Sometimes, we need to do something scary in order to grow.
So, it is with much excitement and a whole lot of nervousness that I am announcing a big shift in my teaching life. I will still be teaching a few drop-in classes at The People’s Yoga (because I really do love them!), but the majority of my professional energy will be spent on a) training and mentoring teachers, and b) working with students who are deeply invested in learning. In making this shift, my vision is to support students to deepen their understanding of yoga, their bodies, hearts and minds, and to support teachers in developing their careers. I also hope to earn enough money to live comfortably in Portland, and support a family!
To this end, I will be offering a few things this fall that I am very excited about:
On Sept 23, my Yoga Immersion & Foundational Teacher Training begins! This will be the third time I’ve used this curriculum, and each time, it gets better! This time, I am especially pumped to incorporate more practical, business knowledge into the teacher training, in addition to all the good stuff that’s already there: philosophy, alignment, mythology, trauma-informed care, etc. If you’re craving more depth in your practice, or if you’re considering becoming a yoga teacher (now that you know how glamorous a career it really is!), check it out!
Starting Sept 30, I’ll be launching a new 6-week teacher mentorship program called Making a Living as a Yoga Teacher. We will discuss everything from how to create your own financial overview, to setting your financial goals, to how to create a business plan. My goal is to encourage teachers to value themselves and their work, and to dream bigger than working their asses off for $20-$40K/ year. If you’re a teacher, come and join us! It’s via Zoom, so you can do it from anywhere.
For all you teachers in Portland, I’ll be leading a 4-week advanced series on Offering Skillful Assists, starting Oct 6. I have wanted to lead this workshop since 2020, and now, it’s time. We’ll be looking at all kinds of assists, from my favorite dynamic sun salutation assist, to restorative assists that are basically mini-massages. We’ll also discuss effective ways of asking consent, and the importance of skillful, consenting touch in healing trauma.
I cannot wait to see how this new chapter unfolds, and to work with all of y’all in new and different ways. If you’d like to be kept abreast of all the new and thrilling happenings, join my email list!
Take care y’all, and keep on valuing yourself and your work.
*It’s worth noting here that I only get paid this much because my classes are typically well-attended (with 20-30 students in most classes), and we get paid based on attendance. Most teachers get paid an average of $30-$50/ class, and some, even less! So, maybe also do that math if you want to see just how little the majority of teachers get paid...