Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All of us are in the gutter...but some of us are looking at the stars

An interesting discussion is afoot on Linda's Yoga Journey, concerning the wages of yoga teachers. Are we paid too much? (hardly) not enough? (often) the same as aerobic instructors? (sometimes...but maybe we shouldn't). I've thought about it often, since I teach at the Y, where there are a variety of fitness classes offered alongside my yoga classes.

I think yoga teachers' fees ought to reflect their training. If you spend a year or two (or more) learning from a reputable source, your wage should be commeasurate. If you took an email test online and got "certified" in an afternoon--whatever that means--that lack of diligence should be acknowledged, too. Continued training ought to be rewarded, as well, but I suspect that is more rare. And, of course, there's the issue of market value...people pay more for yoga classes, so teachers can ask more (some chicken and egg at work).

The under-paid teacher complaint is an old one. Those that want to share their knowledge and expertise often have to take satisfaction in a job well-done as part of their renumeration, whether yoga instructors or college professors or kindergarden teachers. These are crucial positions, and vital to the improvement of a civilized population, but rarely is it rewarded as it should be. The world values lawyers, businessmen, movie stars and football players more.

As far as fitness goes, I'll bet it's the aerobic instructors that get the shaft, payment-wise, more than yoga teachers, tho. Maybe the training isn't as long, but the amount of prep that it takes to choreograph and learn the routines is time-consuming. A strong background in physiology isn't required, but there has to be some familiarity with how the body works and how you train it. And then there's the level of exersion necessary to serve up a useful, engaging class to a roomful of, perhaps, less-than enthusiastic participants. Cetainly worth more than minimum wage...

So, this is what I think about. I'm not sure I have an answer...life is not fair. I wish yoga teachers (most of them) made more money than than Lindsay Lohan. And people should want to invest in the instructors that help keep them hearty and hale. But they don't, so I suppose it's pointless to spend too much energy on it.

I read a quote that's pertinent: "Santosa (or contentment, one of the niyamas from the Yoga Sutras by Pantanjali) cannot be practiced; it has to come from within. We're all discontented. The trick is to be content with that."--B.K.S. Iyengar.



7 comments:

Linda Sama said...

thanks for the link! now for the discussion:

"the amount of prep that it takes to choreograph and learn the routines is time-consuming. A strong background in physiology isn't required, but there has to be some familiarity with how the body works and how you train it. And then there's the level of exersion necessary to serve up a useful, engaging class to a roomful of, perhaps, less-than enthusiastic participants. Cetainly worth more than minimum wage..."

but you can say exactly the same thing about yoga teachers! as for the minimum wage part, if an owner pays $5/student, and one shows up, a yoga teacher is making less than min. wage. but of course, teachers are not employees, they are independent contractors, so exempt from federal pay rules.

and there also are mere weekend trainings to become a fitness instructor or a pilates instructor, so the knowledge gap is there too.

as for santosha, yes, be content. as I said, if I was doing this ONLY for the money, I would have gotten a "real job" years ago! I could go back working for lawyers and make at least $60K a year, but I'm not that person anymore.

yeah, life ain't fair, in fact, it sucks. a lot. many times. I'm going thru stuff right now that will affect where I live and how I can afford to live, hence my musings. but one thing I am not going to do is give up teaching, because to me it IS more than "just a job", it is my dharma.

Brenda Plakans said...

I think I'm probably pretty lucky as far as my teaching gigs go. I've mostly been at the Y, where my hourly has nothing to do with attendance. My fee for other gigs has also been pre-determined, so that eliminates some of the uncertainty.

It's also why I feel the disparity with aerobics instructors more keenly.

I think your students are pretty lucky to get a teacher so dedicated, but also so unwilling to drink of any kool-aid.

Muse on!

Anonymous said...

Ah--yoga and pay. Sticky subject. I teach for the love of yoga. And it is so wonderful to hear reports back from students about how much better their shoulders/hips/etc. feel than they used to or how they used what they've learned in class to get through a particularly stressful time. That keeps me coming back, regardless of pay. I don't rely on my yoga income to support myself but I am changing careers to something that coincides much better with my love for teaching. I don't want to put too much pressure on what I earn as a yoga teacher--I fear I might lose my joy in it. Maybe that's silly, but there you go.
My dream is that one day soon, we move past the days of yoga being the latest trendy 'cool' thing to do, when yoga is recognized for its wonderful physical, mental and spiritual benefits and that is what draws people in. The teachers who are in it because they have a passion and lifelong commitment to yoga (and not a weekend 'training') remain and sustainable pay follows.
Hang in there everyone!

yogibarrett said...

I think most yoga teachers struggle with fees and earnings at some point. We don't want to do this for "the money," yet there's a lot of money out there going to yoga. I think lots of yoga teachers feel they don't deserve to ask for more. Of course, if you're a new teacher and need to gain experience, that's one thing, but if you're a long-time full-time teacher, there is a bottom line amount of money you need to earn to move away from anxiety over a very necessary resource. I guess I just remember that yoga is a 18 billion dollar per year industry worldwide. As a full-time teacher, I decided long ago that I'm worthy of a least some of that (and more than, say, 20K per year!). For me, that attitude has helped me be compassionate with others (offering free and reduced options) but also firm and entitled to ask for what I'm worth.

Linda Sama said...

the bottom line is that yoga teachers need to eat like the rest of the world. and we need to buy gas and to pay bills. as I said in my own blog post, this is America, and I can't live in a cave here like a yogi can in India and live off the kindness of my devotees.

the attitude that people have that yoga teachers aren't "supposed" to make money or we're "supposed" to give it away makes me want to vomit. yoga in america is a gazilion dollar business, look at all the ads in Yoga Journal - somebody is making the cold hard cash.

Lina said...

This is a an important topic and I'm living and teaching in Denmark. The pay here varies a lot and because yoga is not my main source of income I can be a little bit picky. But I don't do yoga jobs at gyms etc. that didn't pay well, where at the end of the day they do more money if I get less money. On the other hand I would happily teach disadvantaged groups at lower rate or for free even. I know money is a little bit sensitive, but out of curiosity, what is the going rate in the US? In Denmark I wouldn't work for less than about $100 for 1,5 h, which is regardless how many that turn up. But you have to remember that we pay 40-50% in taxes in Denmark...

Brenda Plakans said...

Lina-
I'll bet some teachers in big cities make that much (if you meant dollars...in Euros, probably not), the rest of us are probably floating around in the $20-$40 range. Altho, as Linda Sama pointed out, if you are an independent contractor you may get as little as $5-$10/class if only one person shows up. Not sustainable!

US taxes are usually around 15%-25%, but if you are self-employed, it is probably more.

Anybody else want to weigh in on this one? Maybe we need a union...