I taught 298 group yoga classes in 2017.
This does not include the workshops I led, or the senior adult private sessions I offered.
I made less than $9,000 teaching the 298 public classes last year.
If I were to get paid hourly, that would be about $15 an hour of studio time. That’s just studio time, though – that doesn’t include the class planning or the research or training, or the driving to the studio.
$15 an hour is a pretty awful amount to get paid for leading something that could cause harm to people, something that involves emotional and physical breakthroughs, something that we say is holy and spiritual and life changing.
I am saying this rather frank, as I get asked this question a lot, partly because I write a blog and partly because I teach in a lot of different places, so I’m around a lot of different people:
Is it worth it to go through a yoga teacher training?
I’ve written about this subject before, but since it’s a new year and since I kept a running tab of where I taught and what I made last year, I thought it would be a good time to start this back up again.
You teach yoga to enrich your life. You do not go down this path to make money.
You might get the money, after all, after years of teaching and gaining clients and experience. I hope to be there someday, I really do. I don’t want this to always be a side gig. I want to teach, and I want to be able to support myself teaching, well into my senior years.
However, I didn’t go down this road to make money. I didn’t even go down this road to teach, quite honestly. I had no plans to teach when I went through my training; I just wanted to learn. It has always been the learning that has taken me down new paths – I can’t stand staying static.
But here I am, and last year, I killed it – I taught constantly, I mean really, constantly. I had so many friends outside the yoga world seeing my schedule and saying damn, girl, why don’t you just teach and quit your other job? And I’d always respond with, you don’t get it.
And you don’t. If you’re not a teacher, you don’t get it.
Notice first of all, how I am not saying instructor. I have never called myself an instructor. I have been in yoga classes taught by instructors, and my god, I hope I am not an instructor. I am sure at times I have been.
Yoga is not an easy thing to teach. It’s more than the poses, it’s more than the spiritual, it’s more than planning a safe sequence or a safe peak pose. It’s more than reading who has shown up to even see if these people can attempt the peak pose. It’s more than just showing up. It takes a lot of planning, and a lot of learning, and a lot of body reading, and a lot of spirit reading. The people who teach yoga are not instructors. They are teachers.
We teach to share, and we teach because we believe that things that are really hard to explain happen during the practice of yoga, especially in a community environment, and we teach because we are called to do so. We have to follow our paths in life, and we have to create our own hero’s journey. Some years, we can do it, and other years, we have to refuse the call. Some years we go astray. I spent a lot of years going astray, and dammit, I don’t want to go astray any more.
Being in the corporate world for so long taught me a lot of things, one of which is, you have to stick up for yourself, and you have to demand what you’re worth. No one else will do that for you.
So I have spent the last several months making a lot of hard choices, hard for me because all I want to do is teach. But the more I taught, the less I was focusing on the things that really matter: my family, and making enough money in order to ensure that my basic needs are met. At this time, teaching group yoga classes cannot keep my basic needs met, and really, it has taken my focus away from the things that do. And so, I had to back off.
I have started and stopped this blog post many times. The hard thing about being a writer is that my words are taken very seriously. And words like these have the potential to piss a lot of people in the yoga world off. Please know, this is only my experience, obviously. I can’t speak for the other teachers in this community, or in your community. I have two years of experience teaching, and many have decades of experience. I am not giving up teaching, and I don’t do this for the money, however I fully believe that people should get paid well for the work that they do, especially if they are doing it in for-profit areas.
Now, if I took this base and I taught 5 times a day, 5 days a week, I would have brought in closer to $45,000. That’s still not enough to live, not in the way I want to live, at least. But it’s something. However, that’s 5 classes a day, taking up about 10 hours of your day, not including drive time. If you don’t teach yoga, you might think, what’s the problem with that? But if you do teach, you get it. Teaching is freaking hard work. It takes a huge toll on your body. 5 public classes a day is a lot to ask of someone, especially someone not in their 20s.
The paths we go down in life are no mistake. I didn’t become a teacher to make a ton of money, and I don’t want that to be the impression here. I hope I am making it clear that this is still a beautiful path, and it is a path you also should go down if you wish to go down it. Just know that you are doing this to enrich your life. You are doing this to make it more beautiful, to be surrounded by new people, to have new experiences and new possibilities. You are doing it because your life will feel emptier without it. You are doing it because we are stronger than me. You are doing it because you can’t imagine your life without it.
A few years ago, my husband and I hiked Guadalupe Peak in West Texas over Thanksgiving break. It was brutal: cold, incredibly windy, a steep hike without places to stop and look. You just keep walking up, and walking up, and walking up, and then literally, turning around, and walking down, and down, and down – looking down at your feet most of the time, with your eyes and ears and hands covered to shield you from the cruel, bitter wind. It was the most challenging hike I had ever been on, and I’ve hiked a lot. On our way back down, we passed a couple who were on their way up the mountain, clearly worn out, clearly not wanting to take another step in the brutal cold, and the woman asked, is it worth it?
I have never forgotten that moment, and I will never forget that moment. The hike stopped our vacation, literally – I could barely walk after; I ruined my right knee. We couldn’t even walk through the streets of Santa Fe, let alone go to Bandeleir and White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns as we had planned on this trip. We ended up coming back home several days early.
When she asked me that question, I laughed, and my husband responded with something funny, as he always does. And we went on, saying to ourselves how bloody awful the hike was and how it was so not worth it.
And looking back, it was.
Had we told her it wasn’t worth it, she would have missed out on the incredible scenery once she got to the top. She would have missed out on the journey, the breaking down, the completion of the challenge. She would have missed out on looking at all this land and seeing how incredibly small we all are. How these little silly questions shouldn’t change our course. How someone else’s opinion shouldn’t change our course.
If you want to teach yoga, go for it. It’s a challenging climb. It’ll break you down, and ruin your body, and then also strengthen your body. It’ll make you cry and it’ll keep you up at night, and it will make you question everything you say and do.
It will also be one of the most beautiful experiences you’ve ever done. It will connect you to some of the most incredible people you have ever met. It will literally enrich your life.
So please don’t ever take my words as gold, please don’t ever read what I say and have that change your course in life. You know the path that you need to be on. Just get still, close your eyes, and listen. Do that enough, for long enough, and the path will start to appear. (And guess what, you can also call that meditation, but somehow the word meditation scares us. It’s just listening, and trying to sit still, for a short time each day, that’s all).
With love to you on the path you are on,
I jumped for joy with these empanadas. They are much easier to make than I thought (they take work, but it’s worth it – hehehe). I made these for our Christmas brunch and oh my gosh they are delicious! I’ll be making them again this week. Happy New Year!