Way back in 2013 I decided I wanted to be a full time yoga teacher. I loved yoga so much, I wanted to make it my living. My full-time income.
I was inspired from a mastermind program that served as my alternative MBA and I was coming out of a full-time job that was disappointing in that I did not make enough money to support myself financially after graduating college with two degrees (turns out, no one cares).
Because I made so little money at my full-time big girl job and because I had surrounded myself with entrepreneurs figuring things out on their own in new and innovative ways (and because most of these entrepreneurs also had a passion for following their passion), I thought it surely can’t be that hard to scrounge up a measly 20 some odd thousand dollars a year…doing anything!
I was wrong. It’s really hard.
Follow your passion
Until I realized your passion is not synonymous with what you’re really good at and my God-given talent wasn’t social media marketing, I freelanced in the online marketing world for a bit.
When I made the decision to become a full time yoga teacher, I was living in a small Texas town with one yoga studio and a general aversion to the practice because, according to many locals, “it’s against my religion.” Yes, this was in 2013.
Being a full time yoga teacher, while fun, didn’t quite work out in that small Texas town.
I went back to the situation most yoga instructor’s find themselves in. Part-time instructor with other work to pay the bills. It was back to the marketing world for me.
Two years and 2 states later, after moving to Washington D.C. — a market that could support being a full time yoga teacher — I hung up my online marketing freelancer hat for good.
The truth about yoga instructor salary
In the beginning of 2015, right around the time I was transitioning to be a full time yoga teacher again, CNNMoney came out with a report listing “Pilates/Yoga Instructor” as the #10 slot in an article titled Top 100 Careers. Specifically, the report mentioned that teaching yoga has good potential for growth and a median yoga instructor salary of $62,400.
I found this to be funny but had no real-world experience to back up how incredulous I felt this number was. Now, with experience and some financials to look back on, I can affirm that is indeed somewhat of a misleading number, although not as incredulous as I first suspected.
Earlier this year, Well + Good published an interview with a yoga instructor talent agent (yes, there is such a thing), describing how full time yoga teachers can make up to $400,000 a year.
It was this article that inspired me to start a new project.
Integrating yoga and business
Remember how I told you that making 20-some odd thousands of dollars a year doing your own thing is actually harder than I thought it was? Yeah, it’s still hard. And if it’s hard making $20,000/year, I can assure you it’s even harder making $62,400. Just to be average. The reality is, some days I’m just real down in the dumps about how hard it is to do what I love.
Since I’m a sutra girl and yoginis look to their yogic texts to inspire, there’s an apt yoga sutra that is helpful here. It wasn’t meant for this context, but in a modern interpretation, it works:
It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed.
When that practice is done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion, then the practice becomes a firmly rooted, stable and solid foundation.
Long unremitting sincere practice develops into habit.
Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.
It becomes firmly grounded by long constant effort with great love [for the end to be attained].
In other words, it takes a long time and a lot of earnest practice to get to “success” in yoga practice…or as it so happens, in business.
And it helps along the way if you keep a positive attitude.
The reality of being a full time yoga teacher
The reality of being a full time yoga teacher is not only that it’s hard but also that it can be lonely. It seems that everyone is in competition with everyone else so it’s not exactly easy to find a support group of fellow full time yoga teachers. Despite centuries of combined yoga practice, we still live in a modern world gripped by the realities of rent and the high price of organic food (kidding…kind of).
Driven by a base need to at the very least survive, it feels a little bit like self-sacrifice to give away our yoga teaching business-building secrets. Ironic that self-sacrifice plays such a big role in the history of yoga. I’ll save that post for another day. And forget about thriving. Most days that feels like really, really wishful thinking. We remind ourselves we don’t need much and get excited about minimalism and being frugal because we’re yogis and that’s what we’re expected to be doing, but honestly, um, why? Why can’t we thrive? Why can’t it be easier?
My new project
That’s where my new project comes in. Inspired by a podcast interview, I decided to embark on a journey to find out what it’s really like to be a full time yoga teacher. Cailen Ascher attempted to paint us a picture in her 2013 interview of 2 instructors. I’m aiming to interview 100.
If you’re a full time yoga teacher who does NOT own a yoga studio and you make 75%+ of your income from teaching yoga, I want to talk to you!
Please send me an email and I’ll get you on my calendar to ask you some questions.
After 100 interviews, I’m writing up a comprehensive report of what it’s really like to be a full time yoga teacher. Not just from my vantage point but from the many collected stories of all my peers who are in this profession alongside me, even though sometimes it feels like we’re all so very far away.
My hope is this report will help yoga instructors, yoga students aspiring to be teachers someday, and the rest of the world understand that teaching yoga is very much a “real job,” we work really hard, and we really care about what we do.
I look forward to sharing my findings with you sometime in the near future!
If you’re not already on my mailing list, make sure to sign up so you can keep up with my findings and see the final report!
Yoga Sutra translations taken from The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar and The Unadorned Thread of Yoga by Salvatore Zambito.