The Financial Myth vs. Reality of Yoga Teaching
I made $45,000/year working as a Marketing Manager in a New York City publishing company before I dropped out of corporate America to become a yoga teacher. I knew I’d take a pay cut, but I also assumed my life would get better. Both turned out to be true.
Here’s what happened.
I started out teaching around seven classes per week, earning about $35/class. This was back in 2003, and it was pretty decent payback then, particularly because I was living in Bangkok where the cost of living is very low. But all in all, even with extra classes, I was only making about $1,200 on a good month.
When I tell people this, they usually shake their heads in disbelief, but there is one important thing to remember. I was only teaching seven classes! For a personality type-A overachiever like me, that felt like not working at all.
I had more free time than I’d ever had in my life. I tutored English on the side, did some nutrition and chef work, wrote for some travel magazines, and studied at a Thai language school. Obviously, I was young and living on the cheap… but it was great.
After about six months of my yoga bum routine, I needed to get serious about life and career. So, as most teachers do, I started teaching more to earn more. At my peak, I got up to 21 classes per week teaching every single day.
I love teaching and I love yoga, but that kind of schedule is a recipe for burnout. And burn out, I did. It took me another couple of years to crack the code on yoga teaching as a career without burnout. Since you’re reading this now, it’s probably on your mind, too, as you wonder…
"How much can I make year one, two, and three as a teacher?"
Yoga Teaching ranks on the “Top 100 Jobs,” according to CNN Money’s Report. Here’s what their research showed:
- Median pay: $62,400*
- Top pay: $119,000*
- 10-year job growth: 13%
Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: A | Benefit to society: A | Low stress: A
*These numbers are accurate but are based on teachers with 7 years' experience, college degrees, and full-time work. Ninety percent of the industry works part-time and have been teaching for less than 3 years, so these numbers are for those of you playing the long game and aiming for a full-time teaching route.
Typical Class Rates
Since most teachers work part-time, let’s look at the numbers so you can do the math and see your earning potential. Below are the average per class rates based on experience. Please know that rates vary massively from city to city. London rates are much higher than rates in Kuala Lumpur, for example.
- New Teachers: $25-45/class
- Experienced Teachers: $40-65/class
- Workshop/Trainer Rates: $50 and up
There is an increasing number of yoga jobs that pay a salary or fixed fee rather than on a per-class basis. Some teachers are on staff at a health spa, fitness center, health resort, or yoga studio and have a fixed shift and fixed salary. These jobs are less common but can offer favorable hours, schedule, and pay.
“Off the Grid” Opportunities
There are many yoga teaching opportunities that are relatively unknown that offer exceptionally high pay that yoga teaches rarely consider including public and private schools, sports clubs, corporate wellness centers, and sports facilities. In these more specialized locations, particularly if the style of yoga is specialized, yoga teachers often earn 2-3x what they would make in a local studio.
Planning Your Financial Life as a Teacher
You need to be realistic and future-focused if you’re teaching yoga as a career. Realistic means doing the math and figuring out how you can live on less in the short term. Future-focused means actively planting seeds for higher-paying and more sustainable teaching opportunities in the coming years. This might include training events, studio ownership, yoga products, or consulting.
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Article by Lucas Rockwood