I was listening to a couple of really established international-circuit teachers talking recently on a podcast about how when they started out they offered their teaching for free, then asked for a minimal contribution from students, until they were ultimately kind of pressured into asking a proper fee. It sounds very noble. But I get it. At the outset it feels like such a thrill to be able to teach yoga. You’re doing something you love, sharing your best (imperfect) understanding with others. Really, to be paid as well?
Or maybe you look at it the other way and just see the need to recoup those training fees at least, never mind the hundreds of hours of classes and workshops racked up over the past years. Maybe that’s how you see it.
For me, I just recently completed my first tax return and it was an interesting business all round. Translating everything about my yoga into rows on a spreadsheet, income and expenses, and figuring out which of those expenses I think are reasonably tax-deductible (and hearing different opinions from other newbie teachers!). This notion of profit and loss is not something I’ve ever considered before in relation to my yoga.
Now that I’ve achieved some kind of stability in my teaching schedule I have a steady, reasonably predictable, second income stream. But we’re talking peanuts amounts. I am paid a token amount for my studio classes and I charge a token amount for my semi-private students (they insist on paying me now, although I used to do this for free). Now I can see in black and white that my income doesn’t cover my personal yoga expenses — the money I spend maintaining and developing my own practice — let alone any more specific workshops or trainings that catch my eye or that I feel might support my teaching development. But that’s OK. Much of this I’d be doing for my own interest anyway; there are few enough teaching-specific trainings I’ve done purely in the interests of my students.
Maybe one day I’ll ask a little bit more for my teaching and the whole thing might feel more financially worth the effort. But I don’t really know what that would achieve, apart from a few more quid in my pocket or contributing to something I believe in. I don’t think if I were paid more I’d teach any better; I’m just doing my best as it is. The main constraint is time and it’d take quite a bit more yoga income to buy me more time away from my office-centred week. Ah, one day perhaps the balance might shift enough to ‘buy me’ a four-day working week in the office. I guess that’d be nice…
And then I found myself coincidentally reviewing a few websites of local teachers, some I know, some I don’t know, and I was pretty shocked by how much they asked. Especially for private sessions. I benchmark this particular fee against what my own teacher charges and I think I could only ever ask for less than him. So I was pretty gobsmacked to see a trainee teacher even, and also one of my fellow graduates with just two years’ experience, asking for more than that. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, it seemed so absurd. Or maybe I’m hopelessly naive….