If you have decided to become a yoga teacher, you’ve likely daydreamed about what that life would look like. It’s probably something along the lines of creating your own schedule, vibing with your yoga community all day, and meditating or journaling in a constant state of inspiration and complete flow with the universe.
In reality, yoga teachers are severely underpaid and overworked. Full-time teachers frequently don’t feel like they have time for their own practice and work when others are not working - nights and weekends. We don’t enter this field only for income - and certainly not for the ease of living that it implies. For most of us, the passion for helping others and the creativity it inspires is enough to keep us teaching, even with other jobs.
If you’re considering becoming a full-time yoga teacher, it may be worth exploring the other side of the coin: the part-time teacher, the side hustler.
What is a yoga side hustle or side gig?
The term side-hustle is a result of what people call the gig economy. This is exactly as it sounds, an economy bolstered by people taking on gigs outside of their careers or full-time job.
Side hustles are a great way to supplement your income, whether yoga teaching is your career or your side gig. In fact, if you’re looking to create multiple streams of income, “diversifying your income,” your side hustles can help you do that! Familiar with social media? Share your yoga tips on Instagram. Does your full-time job require a photo or video editing? Use that skill to create evergreen yoga courses! In this way, side hustles are not only income generators but investments in your yoga teaching career.
However, if you’re holding down a solid coffee-shop job 40 hours per week and teaching yoga “on the side,” you ARE a yoga teacher. Your offerings hold value. There is no minimum amount of teaching that you need to do in order to be taken seriously as a yoga teacher. You are a yoga teacher even when you also serve coffee (or work at a desk!).
So, cutting to the chase, why aren’t teachers quitting their day jobs?
Reasons Yoga Teachers Aren't Quitting Their Day Jobs
1. Studio Turnover
One of the many ways that the pandemic changed the world for yoga teachers is that it wiped out or completely shifted many studios. Even the studios that managed to stay afloat may have cut down to only a handful of teachers. In-person classes are only now starting to come back in force and, with it, the demand for more teachers and subs.
Another significant factor has been the economy. Yes, this fluctuating economy is not only a scapegoat for a myriad of problems but also a very real consideration when you’re looking to break out into a new career. It costs more to live. Groceries are expensive, clothes are expensive, and gas to lug you to and from your classes is expensive. Above all, when you’re creating your teaching schedule, know your budget!
3. Studio Burnout
Burnout has been a hot-button topic since working from home. In the yoga teaching realm, it has been an ongoing problem. Many teachers gain traction at yoga studios, where they build a following, but at $30-50 per class, there is no way to make a comfortable living off of studio classes alone (definitely not high-quality classes). The energy drain alone is a factor for studio teachers. With the expectation to consistently produce new playlists, flows, and options for accessibility, not to mention studio maintenance on top of it, studio teacher burnout happens swiftly and thoroughly.
4. Content Hamster Wheel
Those teachers that do diversify their income, may find themselves on what one may call the content hamster wheel. This never-ending demand to create more. From Instagram Yoga to YouTube, teachable courses, and in-person workshops, it seems like there’s never enough content for one teacher to constantly generate new clients.
5. Private Yoga Devaluation
What seems to be a unicorn in the modern-day yoga teacher’s income sources, private yoga classes are a surefire way to generate some significant income. But, whether it’s from the ubiquity of online yoga availability (which is wonderful for accessibility and cost barriers) or from the discounted studio classes available, the value of a private, expert-assisted yoga class has decreased. It’s hard to find someone who can justify and afford a $100+ private yoga class on a regular basis.
6. Health Insurance
In the US, health insurance is a must-have. Many government-funded insurances are costly, especially on a yoga teaching salary. This can drive many talented teachers to keep their other jobs that offer healthcare options. (Though some yoga liability insurance policies offer telehealth coverage).
7. Building Followers and Partnerships
And, when the stars align, it takes time to build your repertoire. A diverse, and ideally at least partly passive, income takes years to establish via relationships with affiliates and partners, private students, and studio classes that enjoy what you offer and can pay you what you’re worth. So, in the time it takes to build, many teachers will keep their other jobs.
On The Bright Side
Part-time teaching may be just where you need to be! Yes, teachers may feel they have no option but to keep their other jobs. Going full-time into teaching is not easy! If you’re still juggling side hustles, it isn’t a bad thing. It can be a beautiful way to “work the problem.”
For one thing, you’ll keep balance. When you’re teaching a few classes per week (or a single class) you have the time and bandwidth to make an amazing class. This is a gift, not only to you but to your students. You’ll, hopefully, keep practicing regularly and keep inspiration alive and flowing.
Additionally, since you will have a consistent income no matter what changes happen in the studio or community, you’ll have the funds to make an impact where it’s needed. Many full-time teachers simply can’t afford to offer classes at a lower rate for students in underserved communities or to volunteer at a charity for no cost at all. You can offer anything that lights you up with no risk to your livelihood.
It’s stressful to have to depend on your yoga teaching, your student-encouraging, and your content creation for your rent. When you rock the side hustles and find that sweet spot of balance, you can truly let gratitude into your offerings. How blessed are you to have the tools of yoga and the ability to share them? How often is it that we find something we’re passionate about that we can share with others, that can help others? Your desire to teach is a gift and whether it’s one class or a dozen, you are making an impact on the people who need your voice.