Yoga: What's it Worth?

One day I was checking in my class when a very nicely dressed gentleman came up to the desk and said, “Will you take five dollars?”  And I said, “For what?”“For the class; I understand donations are taken.”  The man is wearing a freaking Rolex.  Right?  I think he can afford the drop in fee.  So I said, “Dude, are you kidding me?”  To which he replied he wasn’t kidding, he was offering me $5, “take it or leave it.”  This occurred at a studio which in the spirit of bringing yoga to the people allowed their classes to be “donation based.”  It’s like flying in coach; even though you paid full price the person next to you might have a supersaver fare.  And the result was that students were encouraged to negotiate the rate.“I’ll tell you what,” I told this man.  “If you want to play that way, why don’t you take the class, and then tell me afterward what you think I am worth?”  Because before I was a yoga teacher, I was a top-ranked sales executive and you do not get there by leaving money on the table.  “Are you feeling lucky?” I asked him, “Because I am.” I’ve been teaching yoga for five years now and in that time I’ve seen at least at least a dozen studios go out of business.  When you talk about abundance on the mat, it’s pretty hard to live it off the mat when the mat is constantly being pulled out from under your feet.  I met with a man recently, who is looking to invest in a yoga community center, and when I asked him how his business model would differ from the many others who tried and failed throughout the U.S., this is what he said:  “Studios today don’t pay their teachers enough.  If you are going to live with abundance, then you have to start with salaries.”  Whoa, dude, sign me up.Yoga changes peoples’ lives.  It offers a chance to live better, on and off the mat.  A great class can save you thousands of dollars in therapy, and gives you a nicer butt as well.   And, teachers are mostly underpaid and do this out of the goodness of their hearts.  If yoga studios and yoga teachers are going to thrive, then we have to start by valuing what we offer with a better business model.  Studios need to pay teachers a fair wage and on time with checks that don’t bounce. By the way, after class that man came up to me and said he was right.  “You were worth about $5.” So I packed my bag and left for good, because if I’m going to be underpaid and undervalued, I don’t have to be at a yoga studio; I have teenagers and piles of laundry waiting for me right at home!Michelle Berman Marchildon is the YogiMuse.  She’s the author of “Finding More on the Mat”, a yoga memoir available in January.  You can find her blog at