You enjoy teaching yoga. The afterglow of teaching an awesome yoga class is undeniable. Eventually, the inevitable thought creeps in: “How much money does a yoga instructor make? Can I make a living teaching yoga?” The bills need to be paid and there are mouths to be fed.
What do you do?
It’s easy to say, “Follow your passion and forget the money.” Unfortunately, we have to be realistic. You don’t want to cut off your primary source of income, dive head first into the unknown and wind up in a difficult financial spot. And if money becomes too heavy a burden, you’ll end up hating teaching.
We wrote this article to help you decide whether teaching yoga could be an enjoyable, sustainable career for you.
First, let’s take a look at how the yoga industry itself is doing.
According to recent studies by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, yoga practitioners spend $16 billion a year on yoga classes, clothing, equipment and accessories. This is a significant increase from $10 billion over the last four years.
Meanwhile, CNN ranks being a yoga instructor tenth in the Top 10 Careers. Given that the yoga industry is booming and being a yoga instructor is one of the best jobs around, it sounds tempting to drop everything and start teaching full-time.
But let’s look deeper into the topic.
Yoga instructors don’t necessarily get paid a lot. In fact, their income varies greatly. According to PayScale, yoga instructors earn an average of $24.96 per hour. Lower pay rates for yoga teachers are around $12.66 per hour, while higher rates can go up to $49.94.
Teaching yoga is a very hands-on career, and the longer you’ve been doing it, the more experience you’ll have and therefore the better equipped you’ll be to teach. The yoga instructors who are earning higher rates have probably been around the block for quite a number of years, so they already have their fixed clientele and are more in-demand compared to fresh teacher training graduates.
Even if $24 an hour sounds like a good deal, you have to take into account travel cost and time, as well as the amount of prep time needed before class. Yoga instructors usually do not get reimbursed for their traveling expenses. This can amount to a lot of time and money because you will not necessarily be able to secure a job at your nearest yoga studio or fitness center.
Some establishments pay their yoga instructors a fixed salary, whereas others go by head count. There are pros and cons to both payment methods. If you are established and popular enough, getting paid per head is definitely more lucrative. However, the risk is that if nobody turns up for class, you don’t get paid anything, despite your time spent preparing for and travelling to class.
Bearing this in mind, the number of students who turn up for classes also varies according to the time of year. For example, some students will not turn up for class during summer holidays. This means that your income will fluctuates throughout the year.
Also consider that as a new yoga instructor, you will not immediately be offered prime slots in yoga studios or gyms. To put yourself out there, you will often have to accept whatever offer comes your way. From there, you can slowly build up your popularity. Your students are your advertisers. How well you conduct yourself in class will spread through word of mouth. Once you have enough of a following, more offers to teach will start coming in.
Location can also influence how much you’re getting paid to teach yoga. A yoga teacher will be more in demand in different locations, especially in big cities. More demand means more job opportunities, but the cost of living may also be higher. The good news is that if the demand is there, you have the option to conduct workshops and private classes to supplement your income.
Considering how easy it is to become a certified yoga instructor, the market is quickly becoming over-saturated with instructors. Competition is fierce and for the first few months, if not years, you will constantly have to prove yourself to your community and build your reputation.
To stand out from the crowd, you can opt to specialize in an area of yoga that you’re passionate about— like kids yoga, prenatal yoga or acroyoga, to name a few. You will have to find your niche in the yoga community. Which parts of the population do you want to focus your energy and expertise on?
Another way to set yourself apart from other yoga instructors is by specializing in subjects like Anatomy and Physiology or Philosophy. Someone who is well-versed in these subjects can be employed by multiple yoga schools at a time to teach just that subject. You can also conduct workshops or seminars on these subjects.
Yoga instructors are usually freelancers, which means the establishments that employ you are not obliged to give you one month’s notice or any reimbursement for laying you off. This makes the job an unstable source of income. Knowing this, you wouldn’t want to quit your day job and end up with no job at all!
Diving head-first into a career as a yoga instructor can be hard financially and emotionally, causing you to regret and resent your decision. Instead, a career change should be a gradual, thoughtful shift so you have time to establish yourself in the yoga community.
It will require hard work to improve your skills as a teacher, widen your professional network and stabilize yourself in the industry before you can quit your job. But ultimately this slow, careful decision could be the best one you’ve ever made.