Don’t Start a Yoga Business Like This


It’s almost 11:30 PM… dogs and husband are snoring away. I’m working later than usual because I’m leaving for my 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training for a few weeks. I’m tired, exhausted, and it’s all okay because I’ll be living in yoga for 4 weeks. As I wrap up some loose ends so my businesses can operate, a follow up comment shows on a business Facebook group I’m a member of. Without cutting and pasting this poor soul’s actual comment, this sums it up:

“I quit my job and moved to another country because it was cheaper and I started my blog. I wrote about 1 post every 5 days and 1 video every two weeks. My blog didn’t make enough money after 4 months and then I had to move back to my country, except now I’m poorer. Starting the business thing is ridiculous…”

I try to practice ahimsa often. It’s been my goal this year to swear less often. I have discovering the root of emotions in myself rather than reacting. However, as soon as I read that comment….”You’ve got to be f@ck!ng kidding me.” Really? Quitting your job with absolutely no experience in your new field with no calculated form of revenue wasn’t the ridiculous thing? So much for living my yoga, I may have projected some feelings on this poor unemployed guy who just made a few bad decisions.

This stirred the dark part in me that I hold back often because I try to be positive and uplifting but there’s also something to be said for being delusional. In 200 hour yoga teacher trainings, there’s the part of me that feels uplifted by the eagerness of new graduates and then the other part that has the same dialogue in my head. Making yoga a full time thing isn’t as simple as quitting a job and teaching some classes a few hours a week….it can’t create a sustainable living alone….yet somehow….somewhere….. people think this is a thing: mediocre effort with no experience and expecting to survive monetarily.

Talk to the people who’ve “made it”. Of course, making it means different things but the people who quit their old jobs to pursue yoga as a career and have succeeded. We all love what we do but it’s not something anyone started leisurely while expecting full financial bliss.

Most people who are successful with their business will have planned, struggled, re-evaluated, and worked their yoga butts off. Anyone who says it’s easy are either lying or forgetful…..or one of the very few outliers of the bell curve who just got lucky….those people are the exception not the rule. While it doesn’t need to miserable, it’s certainly not something we can gracefully fall into.

Now that I may have fully discouraged people, here are some tips to approach a yoga career with a realistic mindset.

Get experience

I don’t believe instructors need to be teaching for years and years to do anything in yoga. In fact, about half of the studios in my area were opened by people who were teaching less than a year and they are still standing. However, by getting some experience in some aspect of a new career path can really go far. It could mean helping a local yoga studio with their website or social media in exchange for some free classes so you can learn a new skill. Help a friend who has their own business and go to some networking events with him or her. Start a blog while you’re still trying to figure things out….but get experience doing something other than teaching yoga.

Why would I do that, I just want to teach? Some teachers make it by only teaching yoga classes. However, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of driving all over town, handcuffed to whatever time slot is available, and to whatever pay employers deem appropriate. If any of these places have you as a contractor, you are not an employee, which makes you a business owner. So while it is possible, it’s difficult and making sure you have enough money to live comfortably will usually require teaching yoga just one aspect of your day.

Have a plan

I’m not talking about a huge butt business plan but some sort of financial plan with some sort of guaranteed revenue. If you wish it, it will come……er……………It will come but saying mantras all over with no action and no plan doesn’t send the right energy to the universe. It’s like saying “I’m going to be healthy everyday” right before you hop in the car do McDonald’s for dinner.

Plans can be scary. Googling business plans pulls up 30 page templates. I did some of those, there’s value but at the same time even after all of the hours and hours of research….and planning only to find customers wanted something else from us. These days, for anything non brick and mortar related: yoga teachers, bloggers, retreat leaders, I’m a huge fan of the the 1 Page Business Plan from The $100 Startup. It’s non-threatening, we can all fill out a page right? However, it gets us thinking about critical points such as:

  • Who’s buying my products?
  • How will I actually make money?
  • How will I find people do buy my product?
  • How much money do I need to make?
  • Save money

Seriously save money, not just an extra thousand or two in your back pocket but as much money as you can while you’re planning. Starting a business typically takes more time to get the revenue they need and costs a lot more money. Cut expenses like a beast and not like missing a happy hour here and there….go down to the bare bones and start filling up the savings account. Have a garage sale, sell on eBay, or declutter and save that cash. Pay down credit card debt. If at all possible, start your yoga business while still employed. By wearing two hats it allows you to both get a feel of what to expect financially. It may be helpful to get in touch with a personal financial planner.

Study your butt off

We live in age where there’s a lot of information: books, internet, podcasts, local groups, etc. Start learning. While some courses are great and well worth their money there are also great free ones as well. Here’s a few of my favorite free resources.

Score: Local chapters have free mentorships, learning sessions.

Coursea: Free online business classes.

V-Wise: For female veterans and military spouses, this is an absolutely free 3 day conference with accommodations included for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Your local library: Look up your local library and there are tons of free courses paid for by taxpayers. Our county has courses in Adobe Photoshop, Premier, and hey even some meditation classes.

There’s also amazing bloggers and online courses to take. Some stuff is free while others are paid. If going for a paid program, check out their free online content before investing to make sure it’s a good fit. There’s a growing group of individuals creating courses about business without any real life business experience.

Plan for failure to be successful

If you’ve listened to the podcast or talked to anyone with their own business, we all failed. A lot……so much that it can almost feel embarrassing.

In my past life when I debated going into financial planning, I talked to a successful financial advisor about my fear of not being able to secure enough clients. He said, “You want to fail, in fact you want to fail as quickly as possible so you can get to the next person that says yes”. Success is a numbers game….learn to accept fail and fail as quickly as possible to get to your next victory. Failure is an experience, it doesn’t define any of us and more than getting a cup of coffee. It’s bound to happen and we’ll find our way to success by failing our way to success versus failing and quitting.