You’ve become a yoga teacher or opened your own yoga studio. What are you giving people? The things that people come to yoga in search for, which range from physical benefits to the spiritual—strength, flexibility, better health, less stress, more happiness, more calmness, self-actualization, ancient wisdom, inner peace, nirvana.
People are prepared to pay money in the hope that they get these gifts. The desire in us for these things is so great that if we think a studio membership or a yoga course can help us get closer to them, we will put it on our credit card. Buy strength; buy flexibility; buy union between mind, body and spirit; buy enlightenment.
The yoga business is built on this.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong a yoga business charging money for gifts of the body and the spirit. Yogis are not monks or swamis; we don’t renounce the material world, retreat to a cloistered abode, put on robes, take out begging bowls and live on alms. We are men and women who live in society, have families to raise, mortgages to pay and livelihoods to earn.
But the ethical complexities of running this type of business are stark and the responsibility on the shoulders of studio owners and yoga teachers great. How do you balance doing good with turning a profit? How do you maintain a yogic-calmness with the demands of running a business in the real world? How do you become popular enough to attract enough students but not over commoditize yoga and turn it into another Zumba? How do you keep the integrity of your practice in the face of competition? Getting this right is trickier that learning a one-armed handstand.
How do you, as a yogi running a yoga business, walk the talk—and survive?
The truth is, many really struggle to.
The yoga industry is as downward-dog eat downward-dog as any other industry.
Competition has intensified in the yoga industry as more people gain yoga experience, and more teacher training courses produce more yoga teachers, some of who go on to open studios. Rivalry between studios can turn even the most conscious yogi into a hardnosed survivalist, living by their wits. Trust in the universe? Sorry, in my universe, a competitor is waiting to grab my students’ mats and if I don’t beat them I go under. If you have to fight to keep your yoga business alive, it’s easy for pure bliss to turn into pure stress.
So sometimes you do what it takes—hard sell, promotions, giveaways, change your product to make your customer happy. No one would batter an eyelid at this if you were selling mobile phones, but because it’s yoga, it sometimes feels wrong.
I’m searching for the answer, the balance.
Right now faith-based statements come to me—believe in yourself, remember why you became a yoga teacher/business owner in the first place, stay true to your practice, stay true to yourself. Practice, practice, practice. Meditate. Go deep inside yourself, trust your instinct, find your wisdom. So you can continue to make the myriad of decisions you have to make, from small ones like whether to put a flyer up on your notice board or reception to big, business-changing ones like whether to train your own teachers, and put one foot in front of the other day after day.
The Noise Behind
It's stressful being a yogi in the yoga business
Artwork by Levi Van Veluw