The idea of “yoga teacher" conjures up images of a waif, smiling yogini happily greeting hopeful students as they enter the yoga studio and set up their mats. The yoga teacher dreamily tells you to close your eyes as she leads you through a short, beautiful guided meditation at the end of class. Money, it seems, is not of importance. But there it lies, behind the thick curtain of humility and modesty. Money is not everything, clearly, but it is necessary for any yoga studio to at least operate.
I feel dirty when I handle money inside a yoga studio. It’s almost like the awkward feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when the basket is passed during church services. By nature, money is the most materialistic object in the world. And yet it is crucial for a successful business -- not only to pay instructors but for rent, utilities, yoga equipment, paper/toiletries, and upkeep. Yoga instructors might teach a free class now and then, and I would bargain to say that 99% of all instructors do not enter the field as a means of making money (we know you guys don’t make that much!!), but they need to receive a little bit of monetary incentive to keep going, and studio owners are business owners!
So how does one balance these two distinct yet very contrary roles? First, we examine what makes a great yoga instructor. You know, the one that’s funny but not cheesy, who plays good music, and whose language flow is more helpful than the teacher who only speaks in sanskrit -- causing the newbie’s eyes to constantly dart around the room at other students for clues as to how the asana should look. Great yoga teachers practice what they preach: they can perform the pose and all modifications perfectly as if their bodies look like moldable dolls as light as air. They should be happy and upbeat, but not sickeningly sweet. Although Bikram instructors were trained up like they would be heading a boot camp, this doesn’t warrant the most positive responses from students. Many times this approach comes off as elitist and pretentious -- definitely not “spiritual". Good instructors are passionate and knowledgeable about yoga and can ignite the same passion in and impart knowledge upon their students. Lastly, a good yoga teacher in my book lives a yogic lifestyle.
Figuring out whether or not you have what it takes (TONS of time, money, and energy) to open up a successful business doing what you LOVE is the first thing you will need to determine. After all, some of us just aren’t cut out for certain careers. For example, I recently quit my job at a non-profit because, although I loved the organization and helping people, the long hours and low pay were causing me to be miserable! I finally realized that it just wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. There is nothing wrong with changing your plans, especially if it means saving yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars, time, and quite the headache in the long run. Not all yogis are created equal, and there are a ton of personal attributes that yoga people have that complement the concept of an entrepreneur. Yoga teachers that are focused and driven can harness their creativity and, if demand is great enough, launch a really kick-butt awesome yoga studio. I say ‘yoga teachers’ because I imagine it would be hard to own and operate a business catering to one specific activity if you aren’t professionally proficient in that subject. Plus, if you have a large following, a successful studio of your own might not seem too wild of a concept. Successful studio owners have a very specific vision with specific goals, and know how to execute a plan to achieve such goals. They need to be dependable, and realistic. While there are lots of positive inherent traits that translate easily from ‘yoga instructor’ to ‘yoga student", there are some not-as-helpful traits commonly found among those with the mind of an instructor that might hinder potential success. Yogis tend to be very generous of their time and money. Some might lack the cutthroat ambition commonplace amongst small business owners trying to generate clientele and revenue. Yoga supergiant Lululemon has admitted that meditative-minded employees are frequently “too slow", and now looks for athletic types that are “more on the ball, more type A". As a generalization, yogis aren’t as good with numbers as their meticulous, left-brained counterparts. Coming up with a plan and acquiring a firm grasp of basic accounting are the next couple steps you will want to take before opening up a yoga studio of your very own. You might want to take a few basic business classes at the local community college to prep. Or, if you are self-motivated and patient enough, grab a few business 101 textbooks and teach yourself (tuition isn’t cheap...).
Practicing yoga takes hard work and dedication. Teaching yoga and owning your own business take more of the same. Whatever you choose to do in all of life’s endeavors, we hope that you do it well and wish you the best of luck!