When it comes to yoga and wellness, there are a lot of misgivings around money. From the outset, many of us are made to feel guilty about charging for our services or making a living. And if we are able to make a living, then there is even more guilt about having the ability to thrive and not just survive. I get where it comes from. There are a lot of charlatans out there who are just trying to make suckers of vulnerable people. There are lots of bad people disguised as spiritual leaders who are at the helm of multi-million organizations. And here we are, just trying to teach yoga so we can help people.
But here’s the thing. Though you may want to help people, you still have to help yourself. It doesn’t do anyone any good if you can’t support yourself comfortably. It doesn’t do your students any good if you spend the majority of your time so stressed about paying rent, that you don’t have time to continue your study of yoga. And as you’ll see, it doesn’t do any good letting the bad people have all the money.
Below I’ve outlined some common ideas floating out there around why yoga teachers (and other wellness professionals) shouldn’t make money. I break down these and challenge the logic behind them. I hope this changes your mindset around supporting yourself through your yoga/wellness business.
Yoga should be affordable to everyone.
Yoga is already affordable to everyone. Anyone can go to their public library or browse the Internet and find the Yoga Sutras or the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and learn about yoga for free. It might take extra effort, but no one is entitle to easy yoga (because it doesn’t exist!). But if say, Sally wants someone who has dedicated time and money towards the understanding of yoga to explain it to her, then Sally should acknowledge the value of her teacher’s dedication by supporting her teacher’s ability to live and to continue the study of yoga. (This example comes from @raeindigoyoga on Instagram. She made a great post about this and articulated it even better than I did).
As human beings, our responsibility is to take care of ourselves, first and foremost. As much as we want to help others, we must first help ourselves so that we do not become a burden on others. Only when we have taken care of ourselves can we truly help others.
There are many ways to give yoga for cheap/free. It doesn’t mean that every minute of yoga you teach has to be free. You get to decide if you’d like to teach a weekly class or create free videos on YouTube. You can give seva AND not worry about paying your rent. They aren't mutually exclusive.
You shouldn’t capitalize on spirituality/good works. Yoga is an offering.
So if I need money, I should only profit from other peoples suffering and misery? It’s only okay to make money if I am adding suffering in the world?
So anyone who does good works should do it for free? So doctors, police people, fire people, etc. shouldn’t make a salary?
Yoga can be an offering, but the teacher gets to choose the conditions of such offering. Again, that teacher can choose to give free yoga online or just occasionally so that they can survive and thrive in the social setting where yoga is most needed.
Nobody is owed yoga. We teachers can give offerings when we like, but we do not owe anyone yoga. We do not have to make everything we do an offering. Forced service would negate the concept of offering.
As yoga teachers, we are not yogis. We are householders. That is our dharma. Our responsibility is to take care of our household. According to the tradition of dharma, you either leave your household and all your relationships and connection to the material world behind to become a yogi (and then you can live in poverty and provide free yoga all day), or wait until you don’t have much responsibility (i.e. retirement) to dedicate all of your time and energy to service.
If all yoga teachers took vows of poverty and lived in a remote location where it was possible to live in poverty, then we wouldn’t be able to provide yoga to those who need it most.
Money is bad and makes us materialistic/evil.
Money is neither good nor bad. It just is. Any yogi will tell you that.
Money can be employed to do good. But if we insist that only bad people get money, then only bad things will be done with money.
If we get money, it is up to us to practice non-attachment, non-materialism, non-hoarding and contentment. This is very advanced yoga. But it can and should be practiced.
What do you think? Do you agree? Are you more convinced than ever that yoga teachers shouldn't make money? I'd love to hear your thoughts.