Like a lot of other people who are obsessed with yoga, I’ve thought long and hard about maybe trying to make a career out of it. But I also have to remind myself that making a career out of something you love is very different than just pursuing that thing as a serious hobby. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.
Presumably, there are both pros and cons to making a career out of yoga, just as there would be with any other kind of career. I know several professional yoga teachers personally, and although they do seem to work very hard just to make a modest living, for the most part, they also seem to love what they do. Nonetheless, there are a few things that worry me about the yoga teacher lifestyle. Most notably, I worry that it might start to get a little monotonous. Also, all the driving around from studio to studio and to private lessons seems like it would drive me nuts, especially in a place like LA. (I take it that if you are really going to try to make it as a professional yogi, LA is probably the place to do it, or at least a pretty darn good place to get started.) And I’m also discouraged by the fact that so many people take these teacher training programs, yet only a very small fraction of them can truly make a living out of teaching and doing yoga.
Sure, some professional yogis, the so-called yoga rock stars (see this article), actually do manage to make a really good living, in addition to getting to travel a lot and having the opportunity to share their practice with a very wide audience though books, DVDs, CDs, etc. But so few people can actually get to that level, and, if I’m not being too cynical, it seems to me that there is a whole game that one has to play in order to make it into the ranks of the yoga elite. There seems to be a lot of shmoozing and networking involved, as well as a high degree of unabashed self-promotion. After a while, the process of trying to become a successful yogi seems not to differ all that much from trying to make it as an actor or model in Hollywood.
Another route to making a career out of yoga is to open a studio, something I’m also seriously thinking about doing one day. But this route too is filled with potential problems. Making a business out of something you love, as many yoga studio owners have discovered, can be all-consuming and exhausting. Trying to attract more customers, keeping your teachers happy, paying the rent and bills, etc. are the sorts of things that you thankfully don’t have to think about if you’re just a student taking classes at a studio. But if you’re the owner of a studio, the day-to-day minutiae of running a small business will likely take up the a lot of your time and mental energy. In fact, I’m worried that running a yoga business will be so fundamentally different from just being a practicing yogi that it will alter my relationship to yoga in very undesirable ways.
In the end, of course, whether or not a career in yoga is the “right” thing to do is a personal issue. I suspect that it is the right thing only for a very small number of people, and that for most, just practicing yoga in a class a few times a week is good enough. But for a certain kind of person, making a career out of yoga may be a rewarding way of sharing with others and of taking one’s own personal practice to the next level. Now that I’ve started teaching a few weekly yoga classes here in Bloomington, I guess I’ve taken the first step towards making a career out of yoga. As I continue to move forward, however, I can’t help but wonder along the way whether or not it’s really the right thing for me to do.