Will teach for food
By Tony Briggs
I woke up one morning last week with one of those burning questions that you just can’t get out of your head, like a tape-loop from some way-earlier-in-your-life song. The question was: How much money does your average panhandler make?
How much money do panhandlers really make? Well, wanting to find out, naturally I googled it. (Go on, try it. I’ll wait.) Tons of stuff comes up, yes? Needless to say the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t keep records, nor does the IRS. I checked. Most of what you find hardly qualifies as “information” at all, more like just-so stories, urban myths and all sorts of uninformed opinions — some more compassionate, some more mean-spirited. So you have folks who say that most panhandlers only bum enough money for their next bottle of cheap wine or their next fix, and then stop for the day. Other folks are sure that it’s all a scam, and that the really clever panhandlers are pulling down over $150,000 a year. Possibly both of these things are true.
To find out what’s really going on, one obvious strategy would be simply to go out and ask panhandlers what they take in on an average day. Lots of investigators have tried this, but, no big surprise, that guy standing out there on the median strip with his back-pack and his cardboard sign doesn’t really want to tell. For one thing, a lot of them are crazy.
How else could you investigate this?
I found two different journalists who each grew a beard, dressed up like a homeless person, set themselves up with their signs at likely freeway off-ramps and tried their luck. After several hours of being ignored, glared at, cursed at and spit on, plus being hassled by the police and the local panhandlers whose turf they were invading, they came away with between $20 and $40 apiece.
Maybe they would have done better if they had picked different off-ramps in different neighborhoods. It turns out that just like any other commercial enterprise, panhandling is all about location, location, location. It also turns out—because some panhandlers actually are willing to talk— that being a woman helps, having a dog helps, and of course having a child really helps.
So, you ask, how much?
Setting aside the outliers, e.g., the psycho-drunks and the con-men, it seems that panhandlers in America make somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000 a year, depending on what part of the country they live in, how many days they go out, etc.
Thus buoyed by my initial google-success, another question now arose: How much money does your average yoga teacher make?
See, this is getting to be fun now, isn’t it?
Click SEARCH and you find a little more info than for panhandlers, but not a lot more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website doesn’t have a category for yoga teachers. The closest I could find was personal and fitness trainers. I’m assuming that yoga teachers are probably lumped in there. Okay, so there’s a range, a bell-shaped curve. It depends on a whole host of factors. For example, part-time or full-time, corporate or institutional or free-lance, what part of the country they live in, if their clients are movie-stars and musicians or folks in assisted-living facilities.
I started to see that it might be a bit difficult to relate very much of this directly to yoga teachers, so I plunged deeper into the internet, into the gaseous nether regions of the blog-o-sphere, otherwise known as the blah-blah-blah-o-sphere.
Turns out that most yoga teachers don’t really want to tell either. [Ahem]
However, with some diligent and tedious searching of various websites, a picture does start to emerge, and it appears that your average yoga teacher in America is making somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000 a year. (Whoa, do those numbers sound familiar?) Again, I’m setting aside the outliers, e.g., the hobbyists who teach only one or two classes a week, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the glam-yoga rock-stars. (We all know who they are.) So we’re just talking about the middle part of that bell curve, where most yoga teachers work. $10,000 to $50,000 a year.
I found one website that claimed a teacher could make as much as $70,000 a year, but that in order to do that they would have to teach two to three classes a day, four or five days a week, and that those classes would have to be very full, which they defined as 30 to 35 students each, plus teach three or four private clients per week at $100 a pop.
If you are a teacher, do you teach that much? Could you teach that much? For very long? Do you know any teacher who teaches that much? Does that seem right to you?
Bottom line: In America today your average yoga teacher makes just about as much money per year as your average panhandler.
Now admittedly the working conditions are much better. You’re not as likely to get mugged on your way home from work, or get hassled by the police, or spit on. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that most panhandlers don’t spend $3,000 to $10,000 for a panhandler’s certificate from the OMG Training Center, nor do they shell out untold amounts of money every year for ongoing classes, retreats and workshops, nor do they pay for insurance, nor are they registered with any Panhandler’s Alliance. After all, they are the ones with their hands out.
Also no website, no newsletter, and oh joy! no Facebook. And, most appealing of all, they don’t have to go around spending a whole lot of time pretending to be saner than they actually are.
About Tony Briggs
Tony Briggs studies with some of the most accomplished yogis in the world in the early days of his training: B.K.S. Iyengar, Judith Lasater, Manouso Manos, Ramanand Patel and Zhander Remete. In the last ten years, he has also studied Taoist Chi Gong with Larry Johnson. Today, Tony teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area—particularly the North Bay—and invites student of all levels who want to penetrate into the depths of yoga, where the truth lies. You can find more information about Tony at www.tonybriggsyoga.com.