For love and money
By Deanna Hirsch
Being a yoga teacher is kind of like being a cop. Once they see you in “uniform” everyone wants you to fix their “ticket” for free.
Soon you’ll be Facebooked by everyone, from former kindergarten classmates to your own students, past and present. Girls who didn’t want to sit next to you in the high school cafeteria will suddenly ask if you think they should go vegan or gluten free. You’ll be polled for DVD recommendations on how to get them off the couch and onto the mat. Friends of friends will get referred to you, seeking treatment plans for their tennis elbow and tight hips. Everyone from your Mom’s friend at church to the dry cleaner will want a piece of your peace and your professional advice—but none of them will want to pay for it.
Talk dollars and cents with those who come seeking your support, and suddenly it’s like you’re Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, saying “F*ck you. Pay me!” You see, once you start wearing luon for a living and teaching cow pose, everyone wants the milk for free. Now I don’t mind sharing a link here and an article there, but copies of my written work and an hour of my time? That’s an exchange of energy—and a consultation fee. Hold me hostage after class for half an hour to solve your sciatica—and that’s a private. Much as I’d love to, I cannot cash your hug. Just because Pattabhi Jois said, “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal… but don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain,” you can’t expect professional teachers to coach in exchange for good karma and cookies. Even if they are gluten-free.
I’ve never been seeking worldly gain, but rather my place in the world.
I became a yoga teacher when my daughter was ready to enter school and I was ready to enter the workforce. I’d always been passionate about health and wellness, especially seeing my own mother struggle with hers. Like my mother, a former nurse, I’ve always been drawn to service. And like my mother, those in need have always been drawn to me. I consider it a blessing, even though I may curse about it from time to time. What can I say?
Like my mother, I’m also a New Yorker. Those who know me, and call on me, know my empathy outshines my sarcasm. What they don’t know is that the knowledge I’ve acquired to become a yoga professional costs, and costs BIG!
- A 200-hour training certificate, the universal requirement for becoming a teacher these days, costs anywhere from $1500 to $20,000, according to Lisa Wells, PhD, E-RYT 500. In 2007, when I got mine, it was somewhere around $3000, once you factored in the books, the supplies and the matte lattes during breaks.
- Unlike college tuition, YTTs generally don’t offer student loans, and there’s no financial aid from the government.
- Once you graduate, you will need to purchase your own insurance ($150-$200/year) in order to work at a studio, where you will be paid ($3-5) per head.
- You’ll also be strongly encouraged to get professional pictures taken ($200+) and your own website created if you’re “really serious”($500++).
- At least once a year, you will go to a yoga conference, workshop or YTT to continue your education (cha-ching-cha-ching-cha-ching). So you see, it’s not that yogis don’t think about money; it’s that if we did we’d never make it out of child’s pose!
On top of my $3000 plus start-up fees, I’ve invested in four other teacher trainings and countless conferences, workshops and apprenticeships from 2007 to present day. What I’ve incurred in time, tears and travel expenses will never be repaid. What I’ve gained in experience and interactions with others can never be quantified. I have made $3-5 a head in studios and $60 an hour in homes. Despite the incredible cost, financially and spiritually, I’ve kept on. I’ve kept on, found the money and made the time, because I’ve loved what I’ve been able to help others do.
I believe that teaching has value far beyond the yoga mat. Yes, it is an honor to be your guide. But if I’m not willing to ask for what I’m worth, unapologetically, then I’m complicit in devaluing my time, and the time of all teachers. Where’s the honor in that? I’m not asking to make the big bucks, or make it to the “big time.” All I’m asking is for my time and experience to be valued – in a tangible way. After that, I’m more than happy to have that hug.
About Deanna Hirsch
Deanna Hirsch, is the yogini next door. Born and raised in New York, she guides her classes with a mix of humor, love and vulnerability. A former women’s health counselor and personal trainer, she began seriously practicing yoga in 2004, when pregnant with her daughter. She became a teacher in 2007 and has completed certified trainings in Prenatal, Restorative, Kids and Kinda Hot Yoga. Drawn to the healing and restorative sides of the practice, she specializes in Yin yoga. She can be found at Karma Yoga Center and Kindness Yoga when she isn’t freaking out in the Whole Foods parking lot.