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The Business Of Yoga

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Revealed: Why The Business Of Yoga Is More Complex Than You Think

Typically we yoga teachers like to think of ourselves as students of yoga who teach as a natural evolution of our studies. We often make the point that we are not “numbers” people, have no skills in accounting or business, and would much rather be teaching than organizing, marketing, or paying the bills associated with hosting classes. Sound familiar?

However teaching yoga classes and having students does require some familiarity with record-keeping activity, financial transactions, and administration. There is no escaping these details.

Even hiring or collaborating with others for these functions does not change the reality that there needs to be oversight in these areas as well as the very real fact that you are still in business!

The irony is that to be a yoga teacher (and offer the service of yoga), is much more of a complex business than people think. Moreover, yoga teaching is multiple businesses rolled up into one.  

Here is why:

Yoga education is not simple. There are many forms in which yoga can be offered to our students, and each method requires a very different business model than the next – requiring that yoga teachers and studios be agile as well as diversely skilled.

Consider the many ways of offering your yoga service –we’ll call them the different buckets for this article:

  1. Beginner and Other Specialty Series /Classes
  2. Group Classes
  3. Private Lessons
  4. Workshops
  5. Teacher Trainings
  6. Retreats
  7. Conferences/Festivals  
  8. Product Sales
  9. Teaching in Workplaces and at Schools, Colleges, and Continuing Education Venues
  10. Contribution and Volunteering (Seva)


Like it or not, at some point we all as yoga teachers have to take ownership for the fact that we are running a business to bring our teachings (services) to our students, and as we take on more and more types of these offerings, we need to have specific skills to run each bucket smoothly and successfully.

Let’s look at how each bucket or income stream differs as a business model and what specific skills are needed:

Why The Business Of Yoga Is More Complex Than You Think_Private Lessons

Private yoga lessons require building a clientele, preparing regular lessons catered to an individual, professional boundary skills, ability to track progress from session to session, and monitoring pricing and referrals.

Why The Business Of Yoga Is More Complex Than You Think_workshops

Workshops are very content-oriented and require skills in marketing, bookkeeping, student database management, record keeping, administration and much more.

Why The Business Of Yoga Is More Complex Than You Think_Retreats

Retreats have hosting, marketing and administrative aspects that include guiding the students on which accommodations to book (sales), guest services, database skills to keep track of who is coming, where they are staying at the facility, payments, and much more. Not to mention the additional pressure of being responsible for providing a positive experience during your students’ hard-earned vacation time.

Beginner Series. Specific marketing becomes the biggest focus with Beginner Series since you must communicate the value of yoga to those who have little or no understanding of what yoga is all about. Since you’ll be promoting your series largely to strangers, this requires unique sales and marketing abilities. (In the sales world this is called “cold calling”).

Why The Business Of Yoga Is More Complex Than You Think_Group Classes

Group classes whether at a yoga studio or in another community venue are typically ongoing. The group complexion is always changing and requires constant inspiration on your part to maximize retention. Although the venue may do the lion’s share of marketing, what keeps people coming back is rapport inside and outside of the classroom, and that might mean maintaining a social media presence as well as sending out regular newsletters to help jog people’s memory about your great classes!

Conference and Festival Teaching requires you to be prompt with your emails, writing descriptions, getting your headshot and bio to your host on time, and being keenly aware of your contractual agreements so you are sure to honor them in all your dealings. Marketing expectations are often a requirement in the contract.

Why The Business Of Yoga Is More Complex Than You Think_Colewater-Photography

Teacher Trainings. If you are already leading teacher trainings, these require academic know-how, ability to design and create application forms, team management skills, marketing, customer service skills, book keeping, data base skills, and much more.

  1. Some teachers create a yoga-related product, or sell an ancillary/related product to complement their services. This includes conceiving of an idea, executing on creating the product, finding a manufacturer, distribution, marketing, sales, and on and on!

Why The Business Of Yoga Is More Complex Than You Think_Seva

Contribution (or Seva). As part of their practice and career most yoga teachers make a point of doing something charitable for their community, contributing to a cause, or offering their teaching pro-bono at certain times during the year. Time management skills become critical here as it’s easy to give back so much that stress can creep up when we’re spread too thin.

As you can see, being a yoga teacher requires us to juggle many balls, swim in many streams, wear a number of hats – pick your metaphor!

Again if you are collaborating with a studio, they may do most of the administration for your workshops, series, and group classes, and in that case you are in luck and can stay on your yoga mat and rarely touch the computer.

But if it’s a true collaboration then practically speaking you will need to jump in to the process of running these events. Conversely there will be times when it makes more sense for you run these offerings on your own, making improving your skills even more critical.

You may want to look at the different buckets (income streams) and assess the areas you are strongest as well as ones you are weakest. Look at which of the buckets you find the most and least appealing, and then take action on improving your skills and understanding in the weaker areas. You can also determine whether you’d like to add a new stream you’ve not yet offered or improve a stream that has not performed as well for you yet.

While this complexity may seem daunting, diversifying your offerings and income streams gradually (through building your business skills over time) is the best way to turn your calling to teach into a profession that can support you and your community as you grow and mature as a teacher.

Our students are yogis in training but they are also paying clients who worked hard in life to be able to afford a yoga education. They will appreciate that you are doing your best to professionally deliver the service of yoga. Your efforts in creating a solid structure surrounding your teachings will not go unnoticed!

For more information on getting skilled in these buckets click here.

~ Amy Ippoliti, prAna Ambassador & E-RYT 500

Amy is known for bringing yoga to modern-day life through her clear instruction, intelligent sequencing, and engaging sense of humor. She is a pioneer of advanced yoga education, cofounding 90 Monkeys, an online and in person school that has enhanced the skills of yoga teachers and studios in 45 countries. Amy shares her passion for health, earth conservation, and yoga with her writings for Yoga Journal, Yoga International, Mantra Magazine, Mind Body Green, prAna Life, and Elephant Journal. She has appeared on the covers of Yoga Journal and Fit Yoga Magazine and has been featured in Self Magazine, New York Magazine, Allure (Korea) and Newsweek. Since the age of 14 she has been a passionate champion of earth, ocean, and animal conservation. Website: amyippoliti.com. Hang with Amy on Facebook, talk to Amy on Twitter, and share your pics with her on Instagram.