3 Ways to Practice Yoga in Business
There is a disconnect often felt between the practice of yoga and teaching yoga as a profession. The conversation around this sense that yoga and business can’t—or shouldn’t—go together is punctuated by questions like:
If we think yoga is so important shouldn’t we teach for free?
How are we meant to pay our bills?
How can we make yoga accessible to more people?
Is it even possible to sustain a teaching career without having a second job?
Doesn’t teaching for money take the joy out of yoga?
The simple reality for most of us is that we’re teaching yoga within a capitalist society. And teaching yoga doesn’t automatically exempt us from the usual pressures and obligations of that society. So to be able to keep on teaching we need to earn a reasonable living that enables us to focus on our craft.
Studying and practicing yoga is crucial for teachers to teach well, but it’s really hard to find the time and emotional energy to develop your practice if you’re having to squeeze it into stressed-out stolen moments.
If you are in a position to teach for free, that’s great. But most yoga teachers aren’t—or at least, they have to make a decent income from most of their teaching (or from a second job) in order to create the financial leeway to offer one or two free or very low-cost classes for people who can’t afford standard studio prices.
Time; Value; and Having a Life
Yoga teachers know that yoga is good for people. But the conversation needs to change. We need to stop feeling guilty about charging for our hard-earned skills and accept that we can’t share this valuable practice if we’re not also taking care of ourselves.
Equally, it’s important to look beyond the responsibility of individual teachers and address the wider issue of rates of pay within the yoga world. Well-known UK yin yoga teacher Norman Blair has recently opened up a much needed, and unusually transparent discussion about how much money yoga teachers earn. He points out that rates of pay haven’t changed much at all in the two decades since he started teaching.
And remember that when you’re paid for a 75-minute yoga class, that pay also has to cover your travel costs, class planning time, and admin and marketing.
But doesn’t teaching for money take the joy out of yoga? Not necessarily. But it does if a) you’re relying on that money to live, and b) that money is too little to live on.
If you’re earning enough to afford a lifestyle that works for you, teaching for money feels pretty good—you’re making a living doing something you love and making other people feel better at the same time. But if you’re teaching for not enough money, so you’re overwhelmed; worried, and anxious to see a 6th person walk through the door into your class so that you know you can cover your travel costs for teaching that day, then yes—it takes the joy out of it.
So, to the point: how can you apply principles of yoga to your business so that earning money doesn’t have to feel so uncomfortable?
1. Practice Non-Violence, Particularly in Marketing
Ahimsa means respecting all living things and not being violent towards others. Building your teaching business on a foundation of respect and non-violence allows you to create a community around your work that is open, supportive and supported, and respectful.
Conventional marketing techniques often are disrespectful and even emotionally violent, or manipulative. Businesses prey on insecurity to build client loyalty—promising solutions to people’s deepest fears and hangups.
But you don’t have to do that. There is space in the world to carve out a different way of connecting with your clients, as well as with colleagues, collaborators, and your wider network. Respect your current and potential students or clients by being honest with them. Tell them how you can offer value to them—and do it confidently. But avoid putting pressure on them or implying that spending their money on your business is the only way for them to be happy/fulfilled/attractive/relaxed.
The result will be a client base that really believes in what you do and won’t be disappointed when they don’t achieve that unattainable quick fix they’d been promised.
2. Support Your Community
Yoga texts speak of the importance of Satsangha, or good company. Being a part of a community and contributing to that sangha with love and dedication is a simple way to practice yoga in business. And it’s good for you—it will support your personal and professional growth.
This applies to the community you build through your yoga business; that respectful and open community that grows out of your commitment to sharing yoga without tricking or pressuring anyone. You can bring people together with relaxed events outside of the regular yoga class set up so that people who have something in common—an interest in your work—can connect with one another.
And it applies to the local community around you, too. Wherever you are, is there a way to collaborate with an organisation supporting disadvantaged groups? If you are earning a reasonable living from teaching, can you use funds from a well-paid class to cover your time for a free or donation-based class for people on low income? Or could you apply for funding from local organisations to subsidise a class for a specific group?
3. Be Steady and Comfortable
The words Sthira and Sukha roughly translate from Sanskrit as steady and comfortable. In yoga, these words refer to your physical posture. In order to get the most out of your practice and access a state of meditative clarity, you must feel steady and comfortable.
Apply this to your business. In order to live and teach with clarity and offer good, nourishing, inspiring classes, you must feel steady and comfortable in your business. You must be earning enough money so that you’re not counting bodies as they walk through the door because you’re desperate to have enough people in the room to make it worth your time.
You must feel steady and secure enough that you don’t start to resent each class because the bills are piling up and you really want to be able to drink a green smoothie like all the other yoga teachers are doing but…green smoothies are really expensive.
It’s OK to need to be comfortable. Sthira and sukha create the conditions for focus and development in yoga and meditation practice. And steadiness and comfort create the conditions for focus, development, and generosity in teaching practice too.