There are yogis and holistic health practitioners who have launched successful careers that were profitable within a few months and those who have struggled to pay the bills even after years of teaching. Instructors who have waiting lists for privates and those who have had to pick up shifts tending bar after their classes.
As more and more teachers are graduating from the increasing number of yoga teacher training programs – there are a lot of mistakes. A lot of stumbling, frustration and disappointment.
In a 2012 Yoga in North America Research Study of 800+ yoga teachers surveyed, only 22.3% of those surveyed claimed yoga as their only profession and 83.5% are teaching yoga part-time. Another study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that while the average yoga teacher salary is $35,000, 50% of yoga teachers earn less than $31,000 and 75% never break $46,000. Only the top 10% of yoga teachers make more than $63,000 per year.
Why is this? What do the top 10% in the business know that you don’t and how have they made a full-time teaching or business gig out of their knowledge?
Here are five tips for creating a holistic business that is thriving instead of surviving:
1. Be authentic. Be you. There is nothing worse than when a teacher is trying to sound like, teach like or be like someone they are not. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a course or a workshop you have taken or a certain teacher’s style that you love, but if you try to copycat this it will end up awkward, disingenuous and become an energy leak for you to sustain. Be YOU. There is only one you and that is incredible; celebrate this and share who you are more than what you actually do. By that I mean for you to think about all of the reasons, the passion and joy that have brought you to this place of teaching or running a business. Why do people love you? Is it your loving words? Do you make everyone feel like they matter when they walk through your studio doors? Are your classes fun and engaging? Do you play the best music, create the best butt-burning series or heart-opening flows? What is it about you that attract people in? No discount, promotion or copycat class will do for your business what true authenticity can.
2. Inspire during your class. Offer something dynamic. If you were to ask a group of instructors to describe how they teach a class, many would say “I take my students through a series of specific postures and breathing exercises and cue them on how to perform them correctly. I remind them to breathe, to let go and to honor their bodies, both on and off their mat.” If you were to ask the 10% who are leading thriving businesses, you would likely hear something very different. You would hear something like, “I ensure that every single being who comes through the doors knows how incredible and important they are and that they believe in their body’s ability and potential. I teach them how to deconstruct their yoga and/or Pilates flow so that instead of just going through a series of movements they actually learn how to engage their body and muscles properly. They start to learn landmarks and their own unique anatomy and body structure. I teach them the gift of knowing that what happens on their 2x6 mat is only a drop in the bucket compared to what they will take with them off their mats and into their lives and the world around them. I select specific songs for my playlist that evoke joy, laughter, excitement, reflection, belief, personal power and a deep knowing of how truly incredible they are. I share my own truths, stories and experiences while they move their bodies and get them thinking more profoundly and to ask bigger questions. I challenge their bodies. I ask them to dig deep. I ask them to do the work that’s needed to be done to discover their why. I also make them drip in sweat and feel that they have achieved both the movement class they were looking for but also the inspiration they were craving.”
3. You are building relationships, not just bodies. Many people would say that your business is about building bodies and while there is definite truth to that, your business is actually about building relationships. Make a point to know every member’s name, career, hobbies, kids’ names and interests, what brought them to your space and what they hope to achieve. Do the same with your staff. Choose to lead from a place of caring about the people first. Can you build killer bodies and offer strength, symmetry, balance and resiliency within your walls? Absolutely, but the reason your members will keep coming back is not because of downward dog or sun salutations, pigeon pose or a Pilates glute series. It is because when they walk through your doors they come alive and feel welcomed into their second home. Foster a tribe and ask yourself why it feels so good to be in your particular place to make it happen. Why wouldn’t your clients simply follow a DVD or do it on their own? The answer: there is something about the people and the space you practice that can change your clients’ lives for the better.
4.Yoga and group classes alone will not pay the bills. You must create additional revenue streams. Most studios will not thrive in an environment where mat-based group classes are the only source of revenue. You must offer a variety of classes and workshops, possibly a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program if you have the expertise and passion to. Bring in a few holistic practitioners to rent space from your studio for three reasons: 1) Their rent will help to cover your costs; 2) You will begin to create a one-stop shop for members and offer a level of simplicity where they can flow from their class to their massage, acupuncture, homeopathic session or reiki treatment without having to leave the building; 3) You create a feedback loop between your therapists’ clients, your instructors and the classes and additional offerings your space has to offer. Create a small boutique area carrying your absolute favorite products, brands and companies so that once again you are the “connector” for your members and continuously offering exactly what they need. Here is the reality with offering more, even if your members don’t fully utilize everything: people love options. They love to know that they are receiving the option of so much extra value for their membership fee.
5. Create a team that is aligned with your vision and values. Be very picky with whom you choose to align, add to your team and bring into your space. The best resume does not necessarily show if their personality does not align with yours, if they create drama, are unreliable and unpredictable or not a quality teacher. Sit with them, create a unique interviewing process with the key questions, demonstrations, training and probation periods that are aligned with your core values – not only your core business values, but how you function as a human in life. You want to ask yourself, “Would I be inspired being taught by this person?” “Do I feel safe under their guidance?” “Am I inspired by them and would I want to spend time with them outside of our workspace?” They may sound like trivial, un-important questions to ask or think about, but building a team is like building a family and solid relationship. Listen to your gut. Pay attention to that voice within. If you do that and stay committed to your own full focus and vision of your space the right teachers will appear.
These five principles will serve as a strong foundation for your career and business so one day you can join that 10% of professionals who can live their passion through their career as a leader of a holistic business.
Jenn Pike is a Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle expert and bestselling author of “The Simplicity Project~ A Simple, No-Nonsense Approach to Losing Weight & Changing Your Body Forever!” She is a nationally sought-after yoga educator and Medical Exercise Specialist on holistic living principles, host of Simplicity Fusion Flow & Simplicity TV, speaker and regular media contributor. Jenn sits on the Advisory Board for STRONG Fitness Magazine, iRun and Savvy Mom.
www.jennpike.com Instagram @jennpike Twitter @simplicityjenn