10 Business Secrets to Starting a Successful Yoga Career

Whether you aspire to open a studio or teach yoga online, these insights from biz-savvy yogis can help you craft a yoga career to outlast the trends.
JULY 11, 2017

Wanting to be successful is as American as pie, but we tend to forget that success comes in many flavors. In order to have a “successful” yoga career, you first need to determine what that means to you—whether it’s owning your own studio or positively impacting the lives of your students. Whatever your goals, the reality is teaching yoga is a challenging career path. That’s why we’ve asked some of the business-savviest yogis we know for their best tips for new teachers.

1. Hone your personal message.

What’s your story? Why are you teaching? “We believe your personal journey behind why started your career is the most authentic part of you,” says Karen Mozes, co-leader of Yoga Journal’s online Business of Yoga course. Once you have crafted your signature story, that should be the foundation of your message in every thing you do. “Right now, authenticity sells better than anything,” says J Brown, yoga teacher, writer, and host of the podcast Yoga Talks. “I made a practice of being entirely transparent and showing the sides of myself as yoga teacher that are conventionally sides you don’t show because it was thought to be bad business. And people resonate with what I do.” With highly successful yoga teachers of all ethnicities, shapes, genders, and personalities, know that you too can be yourself and people will love you for it. It’s what will attract clients who truly align with you and keep them coming back.

2. Narrow your vision.

Retreats! On-demand classes! Workshops! Conferences! There are so many things yoga teachers can offer—but you can’t do them all. “We see so many teachers try to do so many things, and a lot of those things are not in alignment with what they want to see for themselves,” Mozes says. Defining your vision helps you narrow down where to put your energy and go after it. “The more you can crystalize your intention of what you want to create for yourself, the more you can manifest it,” adds Sarah Finger, co-founder of ISHTA Yoga in New York City and co-leader of Yoga Journal’s online course Finding Connection Through Yoga with Deepak Chopra.

3. Create a big-ticket offering.

“Public classes don’t pay the bills,” Mozes says. “But those classes build awareness and give you exposure.” Once you have that, then you want to stay connected to your clients via newsletters and social media. Because then you can sell your higher-priced product, whether that’s workshops, retreats, or private classes.

4. Prioritize your own practice above all else.

Stepping onto your mat for yourself and nobody else will help you with your message and vision. “You need to have your own regular sadhana—a daily opportunity to connect to spirit,” Finger says. If you neglect self-study and personal practice, “it’s very hard to authentically translate your experience to other people,” she explains.

5. Try DIY online.

With the rise of yoga streaming sites and online education, it seems digital yoga is only going to grow. If that’s something you want to explore, Brown recommends doing your own thing. “I think online yoga instruction is viable to a degree. I have been putting out my own video projects for last three years, and I’ve made more money off that than I did off of drop-in classes at my center,” he says. If you already have a following, he suggests using a video account and password-protected page on your site to host your videos. Then email or post on Facebook to let your subscribers know when a new video is live. You’ll likely make more money this way than going through a big site that pays per view with so many other—often bigger-name—teachers to get lost among.

6. Consider your market before opening a studio.

If you want to own a chain location, be sure you love their teaching style and keep in mind that there will be restrictions to what you can and can’t do. If you want more freedom, opening your own place is enticing and can work, depending on your location. “If you live in a place that’s not the A market and get a space with low overhead, you can do it old-school way,” Brown says. It’s often harder in big cities, though, where rents are higher and people want more of a spa-like environment and to focus on getting a workout, rather than the other aspects of yoga. If that’s not what you are passionate about, it may be hard to find enough students who are attracted to your teaching style.

7. Want to open a studio? Get help.

Being a yoga teacher and being a business owner simply require different skillsets. “How to put together a team, have targets, projections, growth goals—those are all things you learn when you get an MBA, not in yoga teacher training,” Brown says. If you are a studio owner in a big city and want to grow your business, you need a manager, accountants, someone with marketing experience, and so on, so you can focus on what you know and do best. “What I have found is that I have to pick my battles of what is really important to me to focus on,” Finger says. “For me, that’s developing relationships with my teachers so they feel connected and empowered as teachers.” That way she can travel without worries because she knows her team is running payroll, teaching, and selling packages as she thinks bigger picture about ISHTA.

8. Learn how to negotiate.

“A lot of business in yoga has been between friends,” Mozes says. But business is business. Anytime you establish an agreement, sign a contract and be sure you are protecting yourself. Get everything on paper and read over every detail so you know your rights. Then negotiate if you don’t agree with any of the terms.

9. Be OK with networking.

Thought you’d escaped corporate culture by choosing to teach yoga? Maybe but networking is still essential in yoga—it’s all about unity after all, isn’t it? So it makes sense that developing the right connections can be key to a successful yoga career. Partnering with with companies selling products, other teachers, and other professionals, as well as your students can be a powerful way to grow your business. The goal is to create a network of people and businesses you align with that can also help increase your visibility.

10. Live one life.

Finger’s mentor, Claire Holtje, often reminds her that we don’t have a personal life, a professional life, and a spiritual life—we have one life. All three parts spill over into each other, so you want to learn to integrate all of it. “This is liberating,” she says. “I don’t have to be just a spiritual person or just a business person, I can do both. And when we work on one aspect of our life, we are also inadvertently working on another.” So take the lessons from each part of your life and apply them to the others. You may be surprised what you discover.

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