Money Talk

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 I have decided to edit and repost this entry (originally published in March last year)  because it feels very relevant to discussions that I have been having lately with some yoga colleagues.

Perhaps a generalisation, but Yoga teachers really don’t like talking about money,  often finding it difficult to ask for the going rate for their work or to reconcile earning a living from what is – after all – supposed to be a spiritual practice (isn’t it?).  Because of my artsy background and from conversations with other professionals, I am aware that the same is also true of artists, musicians, actors, dancers, photographers, film makers and all those whose talent has driven them outside the mainstream world of work. Some of the most talented and brilliant people I know earn very little from their chosen profession, requiring to top up with income from a “proper” job. ( I do use this term ironically!)

So why is it so hard? Well, for yoga teachers, it is because we are, on the whole, motivated by the desire to teach, to help people and to share the wisdom that we have benefited from as practitioners. Many of us also adhere to a set of principles, one of which translates as “non-grasping” and there is., perhaps,  an underlying belief that spiritual teaching should be freely given.  Truth is, most of us paid for our yoga training, and it wasn’t cheap!

“aparigraha sthairye janma kathanta sambodhah – When one becomes selfless and ceases to take more than one needs, one obtains knowledge of why one was born”  – Patanjali 2:39

But it’s more complex than that. It is also often the case that people choosing to train and then work as yoga teachers are often holding down a full time job at the same time. Most teachers do another job as well as teach yoga, because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to afford to eat. It is a rare opportunity to be able to teach yoga full time. So those who can afford to teach yoga, either have a job which guarantees their rent is paid, or ( dare I say it) they have a partner who can support them while they pursue their yoga career. So, I suppose, for some, there is no real imperative to earn an actual living from teaching. And this sets a precedent.

I wonder if it is easier to practice – or preach- Aparigraha, when you personally don’t need to worry about the electricity bill? Hmmm – There is a whole other essay in the demographics of this scenario – and the fact that only a select few can afford to take a yoga teacher training in the first place!

Nowadays, I am one of those rare creatures, I teach yoga full time. I worked full time in a job as well as teaching my yoga classes for a number of years before I made the leap, from which I have never looked back. OK, sometimes I miss the paid holidays, and the sick pay. Oh yes, and the salary! I have never worked so hard in my life, or earned so little. Flicking through magazines like Yoga Journal, one might be led to believe that Yoga teachers live like rock stars . Maybe some do, who knows? The marketing does a good job of maintaining a multi million dollar industry. In my world, the reality is a wee bit different. There is no doubt that yogis who devote themselves to teaching, are doing it for the love of it and not for the money, but we also have to eat, and pay the rent and the bills, the same as everyone else.

A  fellow teacher once pointed out to me that when she worked it out (taking into account number of students, how much they pay per class, studio rent, overheads, travel, preparation time, training costs etc.) she realised she was earning significantly less than the minimum wage. On quiet nights, when there are only 3 or 4 people in class, then it is very easy for it to actually cost the teacher to do the class. And yet, yoga teachers often find it hard to ask for the going rate for their classes. In Glasgow, this is about £8 for a 90 minute class. Private yoga lessons up the difficulty rating, asking for £30 or £40 for a private yoga lesson can be excruciating to those who only ever wanted to teach yoga from their hearts. But we will gladly hand £40 over to a chiropractor for 10 minutes of manipulation. When it comes to making a BUSINESS out of yoga, then this takes us into a whole other platform of inner and outer tensions!  You may like to read my piece about Heart Centred business on this the topic of keeping it real.

The other side of the issue is of course, how other people value the work we do. My experience as a yoga teacher and complementary therapist is that I have often been asked to offer my services “on a voluntary basis.” This is a topic about which I can become rather passionate. What this actually means is that they want me to work for nothing! Volunteering (voluntarily) for a cause close to your heart is one thing, but being asked – or indeed expected –  to do so, just because of the type of work you do… hmmm. Perhaps there is the underlying knowledge that therapists/yoga teachers etc. are doing what they do from the goodness of their hearts (which of course they are) but is it maybe also about how much people believe the work is worth?

In our culture,  goods and services have a price, everyone understands this, and whilst they might complain that a latte and a scone cost £5, or that plumbers ask for a £60 call out fee, or their dental crowns cost £700, or that their new bathroom cost £8000, most people understand that this is what stuff costs. And whilst I personally can argue about the sustainability of this system, I am in it and I need to sustain myself.  But how much should yoga cost? Nothing of course. Yoga is about self enquiry, and this has always been free. As yoga teachers, we are essentially charging for our time, our training, our knowledge. If yoga teachers don’t put a proper value on our work, then why on earth should anyone else?

Even if it doesn’t come naturally, or easily, I believe it is possible and necessary for yogis  to be able to have easy, civilised, non-grasping conversations about money. To ask for a fair price for the work that we do, and still be true to the principles of Yoga. It is all to do with how much we believe that our time and energy is  worth and how much other people value that belief.  Money is simply a form of exchange. It is how we manage the exchange of time, effort and energy in our culture. I have some other arrangements with people where I trade yoga lessons or massages for services and favours and this feels (energetically at least) wonderful. But the bottom line is that I also have to go to the supermarket to buy food, I have to travel, buy clothing, pay bills and also continue to keep myself up to date with new training and skills. I could go back to be that Vata- deranged worn out yogi that was struggling to hold down a full time job AND then I could teach yoga for nothing. OR I could offer heart and soul, and be full energetically present for my practice, my students and my clients and pay myself a living wage. If I was on of my students, I know which I would prefer.



Too Skint For Yoga?

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Here, in the second in this series of posts on reasons not to go to yoga, we are looking at reason#2

“I can’t afford it”

This is a tricky issue. Who am I to say what you should spend your hard earned cash on? However, just like the “no time” reason, we can acknowledge some of the self-sabotaging excuses that we come up with to avoid what we know what is good for us, and what we need.

I suppose the first thing to say is that Yoga really isn’t expensive. I once worked out that many Yoga teachers often earn less than the minimum wage for an average class!  Yoga isn’t expensive compared to other things. Here is a list of comparisons to put it into perspective.

1 Yoga class = £8


£8 =  1  bottle of Rioja



£8 = not quite 2 taxi rides home (based on Charing Cross to Merchant City)





£8 = 3 (and a bit) lattes



Most yoga teachers are socially minded sorts and will offer discounts for block booking, or concession rates. And some, like me will even consider barter economy and energetic exchanges (meaning I sometimes swap yoga classes  for other services, goods and favours)

At In The Moment, we have the “Karma Fund” specifically designed to support yogis who can’t afford to pay for a yoga class. We take a small donation for the use of a yoga mat, and for cups of tea, and this goes into a pot to pay a yoga teacher if they choose to offer a free or subsidised class to someone who would otherwise not be able to afford to come.

I simply trust that those who CAN afford it are happy to pay the full amount and to make donations towards those who can’t. Some people are proud about accepting things for free, so pay what you can. I also believe an energetic exchange is a wonderful concept. If you don’t have a specific service to offer, then there are always things to be done at a Yoga studio, so perhaps you could offer a little of your time doing some cleaning, or handing out flyers, or helping to tidy up after class?

What I am saying is, please don’t let not being able to afford yoga be a reason for not coming to yoga. There is always something we can work out.

Next in the series – reason # 3: ” I can’t do yoga right now because have a sore knee/shoulder/wrist/back”



You’re Worth It!

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So here it is… Jude’s Guide to Asking for What You’re Worth (for what it’s worth!)

For all my sisters on International Women’s Day!

Firstly, do an (objective) analysis of your skills, qualifications, training and experience. If you find this difficult to do for yourself, ask a friend to do it with you. Someone else will always notice the things that you tend to play down or think are worth less than they actually are.

Find out and acknowledge the top level “going rate” for what you do. Find out what others in your field are charging for their services. You may find that there are people with less experience than you who are charging a lot more simply because they are more confident. I have to say that there is a notable gender divide here! Women are often less confident about their own skills and certainly less comfortable in asking for more money. Self belief has a lot to do with it – but once again, that’s for another post!

Then, add up the pounds and pence. How much does it COST you to do your work? Taking everything into account – include rent, memberships, insurance, training, time for preparation, travel time, transport costs etc. If you had to pay for training to do what you do, include the cost of that.

Assume that you want to earn at least the minimum wage! Taking into account your costs, add the figures up. What is the absolute minimum you can earn in order to cover your costs and pay yourself the minimum wage?

Here is an example. Because I teach yoga, it’s for a 90 minute yoga class

Actual hours worked. You are not just working for the time it takes you to teach the class.

90 mins. teaching

+ 40 mins. travelling to and from the venue

+ 40 mins lesson planning

+ 15 mins prep time

+ 15 mins clear up time

+ 15 mins admin (minimum)

= 2 hours & 35 mins

And this doesn’t include the amount of time you spend promoting your classes, answering e-mail and phone enquiries, updating your website, posting on Facebook etc. I’m guessing nobody is paying you to do all that?

 Let’s say the absolute minimum you want to earn per hour = £7 (really?)

That means you want to earn at least £18 per class after all your costs are taken into account.

So, let’s look at costs

Studio hire = £20

Travel costs = £5 If you drive, take into account petrol, car maintenance, tax and insurance etc.

Parking = £2:50 (if you don’t hang about)

Proportion of other costs (training, memberships insurance etc.) = £6

Let’s assume you will make your own lunch but your subsistence costs should really also come into the equation.

(Conservative) TOTAL = £36

 Costs £36 + minimum earnings £18 = £54

 If you charge £8 per class then you need seven people in the class, to earn around about the minimum wage.

 Uh –huh!

Right, let’s think about private yoga lessons – and this also applies to consultancy work– then going by the same calculations you should be charging about £50 for 90 minutes. Pro-rata, that’s about £35 for an hour.

 I can hear you all gulping but that is how much your time is worth. Pure arithmetic and we haven’t started on the self esteem stuff.

If, like me, you believe that your skills and experience and worth a little more than the minimum wage, then perhaps you will begin to feel a little easier about maybe asking for more, especially if you are now at a level in your career where you have more experience under your belt, and therefore, one assumes, more to offer.

If it helps, think about how much you would be prepared and happy to pay for 90 minutes of another professional’s time. Perhaps bring to mind your dentist, vet or lawyer! The last time I took my dog to the vet (out of hours) they wanted to charge me £100 just to allow her paws to cross the threshold of the surgery. That was before any examination or treatment, just dog into the same room as vet. 100 quid.

Most professions charge more for the time of more senior professionals. Bear this in mind and place yourself honestly somewhere along the Rookie to Guru continuum.

Be bold. Compassionate, loving and sensitive, yes, but bold too! Ask for what you need. Say no to what you don’t need. Be firm with those who want you to work for less that you’re worth (particularly if that = nothing)

Have a price and stick to it. It helps to publish your price list so that there are no surprises. This does not guarantee no awkward conversations, but be prepared for those and practice what you might say… following the following simple rules

 1. Be OK with using the word NO. Everyone knows what it means and there is no room for misunderstanding.

2. Make no apologies or excuses. Why should you? You’re sorry you need to eat and therefore require to be paid for your work?

3. Offer an alternative – there is always something that you CAN offer.

 For example…

“Do you offer concessions for …”

“No, the price is … for everyone, I do offer a block booking discount though”

I can hear your toes curling at the very thought… but as the guru said “practice and all is coming…”

Regarding concessions – if you want to help people who are on a low income then have a price for that too. Have a written policy and stick to it. If you choose not to offer concessions, really, that’s OK. 

If you do want to genuinely volunteer your services, make sure that it is just that, voluntary and that you haven’t been emotionally persuaded into it.

Karma Yoga is a wonderful thing. Doing things as selfless service is a wonderful choice. But, earning a living is a necessity, not something that you need to be ashamed of.

Finally, if the thought of all of this is making you cringe with discomfort, then what about this…

An “Asking for what you’re worth” workshop for women?

 As a little experiment – I shall be offering this workshop on a donation basis. You can either pay what you think the teaching is worth, or pay what you can afford, no questions asked. But as a guideline, for a four hour workshop – I reckon the going rate would be about £30 – £40 per person. If you can’t afford this, pay what you can and maybe offer some karma yoga on the day.

 If you are interested – let me know and we’ll sort out some dates.