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  • Writer's picturelifexploratrice

Is teaching yoga a dream job?

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

It's hard not to make a concerned face at: "What kind of training have you done? I'd like to become a yoga teacher too". While in the city it seems that the tools of Yoga are increasingly democratised, at least within the limits of understanding their function and intention, everything would suggest that it is easy to make a living from this passion or interest.


The reality on the ground is quite different.


Far from being all rainbows and roses, we're talking here about potential job insecurity, burnout, and a profession full of anxiety. Are you really ready to read this unmarketable/unknown side of the profession?


Table of contents :

The profession of yoga teacher

Too little demand compared to supply

A closed sector

The self-employed title

The income of a yoga teacher

An anxiety-provoking profession

Isolating working hours

Yoga undervalued in society

Those who survive


The profession of yoga teacher

To begin with, although it is fair to recognise this profession verbally or legally, it is not yet a profession as such. Let me explain. A profession should enable the person practising it to make a living from it. At the moment, however, we are a long way from that... a very long way.


Listed in the Sports and Leisure section by the French government and Instagram when it should be categorised as "alternative medicine, health, well-being and spirituality/introspection".


The profession of yoga teacher is far from being zen.


Too little demand compared to supply

More and more people are training in just a few months, leaving the sector with a huge number of teachers and very little demand in comparison.


As a result, there are very few job opportunities because the sector is overcrowded, with a lack of resources and a poor quality of life.


Doesn't sound very appealing, does it?


A closed sector

Recruitment criteria can be highly discriminating, as training courses are expensive and time-consuming, with a return on investment that is often nil or that will take a year or more to make up for.


Teachers are often expected to apply to take classes at the studio/association (for a fee) or for training at the venue itself. In the same spirit, they are sometimes hired on the basis of what their body looks like during these sessions (flexibility), whereas what makes a good yoga teacher has nothing to do with the flexibility or stamina of the body.


As well as being a job that offers a precarious lifestyle, it's not open to everyone. Asking a teacher to take multiple training courses knowing that one costs around 3,000 euros and that you don't earn enough to live on can be seen as far-fetched. Even though the value is there and it is normal to pay the teacher training what it deserves.


To conclude on this point, as a result of these barriers to entry, as we would say in economics, the importance of the network, of friends in the sector, of a passionate and above all exotic story associated with the teacher, takes on a considerable importance when hiring, to the detriment of real skills and personal understanding/experience/sensitivity to the practice. The latter does not depend on travelling to the other side of the world, on the amount of training, or on one's family background or societal context. It is an intimate inner understanding and exploration that is independent of all circumstances.


The title of auto-entreprenor

The desire to use the title of auto entrepronor resides in the independance that it allows; no boss, no rules imposed by someone else on how to organize the day, how one's should work, the use of one's full potential of creativity, leadership, doing small tasks and big tasks and not being trapped in a job title and company defined methods.


And yet, many teachers who are sharing these values and sensibility, shout inside while experiencing places paying and firing them however and whenever they want and in the same time asking contracts or verbal pressure to dress a certain way, what to say and not say to their students, do their class a certain way, title the class a certain way without the teacher consent, giving them goals to reach (certain numbers of clients) or they will loose their job opportunity.


Maybe because the title is not benefiting from society working protection the possibiliy to organize a strick to express ourselves and be heard is not even a thing.


Moreover, the title of autoentreprenor is precarious because it does not allow you to borrow from the bank or rent a flat. As the income is not fixed and quite low, unless the teacher earns a lot or has other incomes, it seems difficult to find a flat to live in. To illustrate it, an internet search suggests that the only way would be to share a flat, or to share a room with another family... This can be done when you're 19, now when you're 25-30 or more...


The income of a yoga teacher

Most yoga teachers are employed as auto-entreprenors, with a special tax on their turnover (the amount earned at the end of the month) from 21.3% to 22% plus antother state tax on that same turnover. The turnover is not the same as profit. It is what is earned without taking into account the expenses associated with the business, we call it in french Chiffre d'affaires (business revenue).The amount allocated to retirement seems to be... almost non-existent. Which can be worrying if you want to make it your life's work.


A teacher's expenses include transport, equipment if necessary, insurance, rent (if a room is rented), maybe other spendings like the web site, visit cards...and we might add: time. Without a permanent contract or fixed-term contract, a teacher is expected to spend 1 to 2 hours at a venue. Sometimes more, but beware of more. *See also the section "An anxiety-provoking profession".


This job is like no other - it's physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually demanding - you can't go on for hours on end without a proper break. In the space of an hour, you are invited to draw on your resources in anatomy, therapy, sales, presence, listening, teaching, artistic abilities, public speaking, language, attention... This is close to the energy required to give a presentation to a jury/speach every hour, if you like.


Many accept very low salaries from gyms, but also from studios, associations and people looking for private lessons. There are also intermediaries who hassle for companies who take 25% and more of the teacher's hourly income. So you have to teach a lot of hours and risk overwork. With the feeling that there is too little recognition of the value of the service given.


Now, to your calculations, take into account the travelling time to get from one place to another, which generally asks to work for no more than two hours in a row, plus expenses, while leaving yourself a margin to pay for day-to-day expenses (water, electricity, rent, food, etc.). With the same pay on public holidays and Saturdays and Sundays.


There's another factor to take into account when making these calculations. Not being employed on a fixed-term or permanent contract means not being paid if you fall ill or have to cancel a course for personal reasons.


An anxiety-provoking profession

It's difficult to predict your income for the month, because if the course doesn't get enough registrations it can be cancelled without payment. This is very common in the sector.


Moreover, not only is it hard, if not impossible, to make a living from it (see next section), but this is also true for the organisations that pay for the teachers' services. As a result, the number of hours is not guaranteed... but worse still... at the end of the year, the organisation may be forced to end the classes on the grounds that they are not full enough. This has also happened regularly since the Post Covid period.


You also have to take into account the 'invisible' working time, the regular communication on the networks and other media set up, the articles or podcasts (all creative content), the administrative management, the time for personal practice and study which are necessary for this profession.


Finally, on this point, if you idealise the yoga sector as benevolent and full of peace... you're likely to be disappointed or even shocked. The challenges are the same as in any other sector: teachers exploited as merchandise by the studios, implicitly asked to handle the communication and marketing side of the courses, hired on the implicit condition that they canvass the teacher's network in the expectation that he.she will fill the course with hiers own network of students while demanding 50/50 remuneration, places that ask teachers to clean and prepare the practice room (the preparation part is very common, as is the demand for free marketing), opening and closing the venue, taking part in stands without being paid, teaching free of charge for a venue to promote sessions, aggressive and disrespectful internal communications, there also can be sexual or moral harassment (guilt-toxicity), etc. All this reflects a large part of the yoga sector.


Isolating working hours

Moreover, because of the anxiety-provoking nature of the profession and its financial instability, teaching yoga full-time means having to work special hours. The majority of classes take place very early in the morning, from 7am to 9-10am, and at lunchtime and in the evening from 6pm to 10pm.


Note that these are the times when you get out of bed, rest or socialise, meals in a daily cycle. Working in the evening means not going out to see your friends or to an event. It also means disrupting your sleep cycle. (even though what a joy to teach at night!).


Teaching hours also challenge digestion times. Because asanas massages the digestive system, it's not advisable to eat before practising - we're talking about 4 hours beforehand. For a teacher, this means either going on an intermittent or partial fast or breaking this recommendation. This last choice may lead to digestive discomfort. Digestive health is directly linked to emotional health and inner stability. As practitioners, it's clear to us that a healthy lifestyle is really helpful if we are to live to our full potential.


Yoga undervalued in society

A final obstacle that is often encountered is ignorance of the value and benefits of Yoga. Depending on our income, it's easy to spend money on restaurants, beer, a monthly subscription to Netflix, an iPhone, clothes, shoes, make-up, travel, etc. But spending money on a practice that has the potential to transform our daily life and our emotional, mental, physical, energetic and existential well-being seems to be about saving money. Yet we're talking about short- and long-term benefits, a radical change in our relationship with life and ourselves. We're talking about a technology that makes it possible to realise our potential and live up to our potential.


While the intention of these tools is introspective and focused on awakening, yoga is still seen far too much as a sport or gym, a leisure activity. Yet yoga offers a variety of methods for reconnecting with oneself, experiencing serenity and calm, developing clarity, opening up to new perspectives, taking a step back from thoughts, rediscovering our free will and what drives us, to sharpen our understanding of ourselves and others, to live consciously and fully, to realise what calls to us from deep within, what we know is possible, what resonates and what we neglect as we grow, what we extinguish with fears and distractions. It's an inner adventure worthy of science fiction novels and films, and yet it's life itself that we're exploring. We cultivate qualities of kindness, listening, gentleness, lucidity, inner stability and, here again, awakening.


Those who survive

There are some who are doing well, or at least better than others. For the most part, they are the ones who convey an ideal image of the profession. But who are they?


You have to have been struck by a flash of passion and determination - even if it means being out on the street, or having financial and/or material support from outside (family or others) in order to get started - we are talking about years here. (I am in this category).


The majority of teachers have a job on the side, in a company, bank or similar. These teachers receive a financial boost from their teaching after work. This makes it easier for them to access training and travel, and even to network with potential students who are interested. However, they will not escape the possible burnout that the two activities maintained could engender.


A final group could be mentioned, the most traditional no doubt (in the sense of a predefined career path): these are former students, who around the age of 40/50 start teaching after 15-20 years of practice and a little teaching here and there. Having built up their student lists and financial budget over a number of years, they have reached an age and time in their lives when it is easier for them to make a living from it.


We could also add New Age teachers who support their activity through partnerships and sales of clothes and objects. There is also a distinction between teachers who teach a shape of session close to societal expectations (cardio, sporting atmosphere, performance), who are much more in demand than gentle, meditative or contemplative sessions.


Yet being a yoga teacher is an incredible way of serving others. It's as rewarding for the students as it is for the teacher. So much so, that its unique and gratifying character goes beyond words. Rare are the professions that combine so much creativity, entrepreneurship, spirituality, ongoing study and gratification on a human and contemplative level.


Marie Mazeau porfesseure de Yoga Paris méditation douceur Lifexploratrice

Marie Mazeau, Lifexploratrice, certified full-time yoga teacher in Paris, specialising in gentle, joyful, educational and meditative sessions online, for individuals, associations, companies and studios.


 



*article traduced from French by Deepl.


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