The Current State of the Yoga Teaching Industry

Some days you win, some days you don't! I have taught Beach Yoga to over 70 people, Deep House Yoga to over 100 people, and to-date I must have taught classes to thousands of students. This fact isn't to toot my own horn or anything, because I still have days when I show up to an empty yoga studio.



The current state of the yoga business industry is really different than what it was a decade ago. My mentors didn't have Instagram or Facebook. They didn't operate studios that did all of the marketing and kept most of the profits. Their studios collected rent from individual instructors who could have been extremely new to teaching, or could have been veterans who already amassed an immense student following. Every teacher was responsible for his/her own marketing, but could keep all of the profits, teach class in any desired way, and make a really great living.

Now, this type of studio is part of the 1% of yoga business models. The rest are owned by a private owner. Some are seasoned yoga teachers. Some are avid yoga students. (The rest are both. I'll leave that for another post!)

The owner hires a manager to do all of the marketing. Classes are listed in various platforms, such as ClassPass, Groupon, Meetup, Zenrez, MindBody, MoveWith and probably several others that I am not yet aware of. Then, there's the social media avenues: the Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+...

In a sea of yoga studios in San Francisco and East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda), there is indeed a lot of hustle that has to happen. How else do you make your yoga teaching stand out in this realm?

Various Yoga Studios in SF

As an entrepreneur, I didn't want to work for someone's studio. Call it stubbornness or determination. After deciding to try out this "old-school" business model of paying rent, creating my own Groupons, Meetups, and trying a few "yoga and fitness" startups, things weren't moving so fast. There weren't many students coming to class. Energy had to be spread out between working a bunch of part-time jobs, marketing for the class, and simply figuring out how the hell to survive in San Francisco. I had just moved up from Los Angeles with a plan to teach yoga for various startups in the tech scene, to grow the Rogue Yogi platform, and to just get the fuck out of my comfort zone. Living in LA all of my life led me to one of those "stubborn" moments of needing a change.

Juggling all of these things didn't result in much progress for this old-school style studio. Working for these random part-time gigs became tiring. Working hard without working smart is what happened.

Eventually, I swallowed my pride. I remember crying to my husband (my then-boyfriend) about the huge epiphany that I was not a big shot teacher. Not a rock star. Not an Instagram personality with 80K followers. How would anyone know who I am if I'm not physically showing up to places where tons of students would naturally go?

So, I bit the bullet. Applied to yoga studios. Applied to well-known studios. Applied to not-so-well-known ones. Rejected. Declined. "Not what we're looking for," one said. No responses from others. Some only hired teachers from within. Teachers that paid specifically for that studio's teacher training even though they had already paid over $3K to get certified in the first place. Some hired me but expected me to do all of the marketing. Some hired me, but weren't intending to be boutique yoga studios, so there would be a max of 3 students attending. Owners from so-and-so studio wanted no spirituality or chanting. Managers from this-and-that studio wanted the opposite. There were studios that I had to drive over 45 minutes to get to. Such an equally long drive in the middle of the night to come back home.

Every yoga business owner had their own vision for what type of experience they wanted their students to have. The majority of them wanted one thing: a kick-ass fitness class.

SIDENOTE: If you're one of those Rogue Yogis that just want to get your ass kicked in yoga, that's totally cool. As a Rogue Yogi, you take what you want from practicing, and you leave what you don't. For those of you that want a lot of chanting and singing with mala beads, that's dope, too. For me, I'm not the kind of teacher that does the chanting and singing, nor am I into the mala beads. I could go to someone else's class for that experience. I'm the kind that likes to give a sufficient amount of alignment cues, take you through a steady pace of flow, give you real talk about the shit that happens on your mat that happens to be the same shit that happens in your world, and give you the freedom to be yourself during each and every pose I'm guiding you through.

I don't want to just kick your ass is what I'm saying. It is amazing that a sweaty yoga class could help you lose weight (if that is your focus), or tone your body and strengthen your core. There's also some amazing components of yoga that deal with quieting your mind, helping you become less reactive when someone does something stupid in your experience, and keeping your entire self as healthy and balanced as possible.

So, knowing this about my style of teaching, and knowing that every existing studio has their own requirements on how to teach, hopefully you can see the dilemma that is the current state of the yoga teaching industry.

How does someone like me be able to teach for someone else's studio? How do I get paid far less for doing zero marketing but teaching a fully packed room, but also get paid the same amount for doing my own marketing and teaching to a few students at the "old-school" studio?

The main question is: how can I make great income doing something that I truly love? How do I make enough to disprove the stereotype that yoga teachers have to drive all over the place, to teach at 6am, to forego eating in order to teach classes back to back?

Is this a case of having to prove your worth? To pay your dues? To run through the yoga teaching gauntlet for X amount of time before you earn your street cred and garner your following?

-Rogue Yogi Out