A great yoga studio does not always equate to a great business. There are many really fantastic yoga studios out there that cultivate a sense of community, are true to yogic philosophies, and take a vested interest in the growth of each individual student while making sure the teachers are supported. It took me 11 months to understand that the yoga studio environment did not meet my needs as a yoga teacher. As with the practice of self-study (svadhyaya) and one of my favorite yoga niyamas, it took reflection on my needs as a fulltime working professional with other priorities to understand the studio environment is not right for me. See below the reasons why working in a yoga studio no longer served me:
Not paid at all, not paid consistently, on time or the correct rate
Yoga is more than what teachers are paid to teach, it is about conveying the teachings of yoga philosophy, safely guiding students to explore their asana practice and building relationships. That said, if I am driving 30 minutes round trip, I should be paid. I could host free yoga in my own backyard, with my dog and my friends and family. The first three months of employment I wasn’t paid because the studio owner had my email address wrong in the payroll system. After multiple emails inquiring why I wasn’t being paid, it finally got updated.
My rate was initially $30 per class, however after 4 months of teaching it dropped to $25. Several back and forth emails with the studio owner later, it still wasn’t updated, and I gave up. I was tracking my teaching hours as I studied for my 300 Hour yoga teacher training as Yoga Alliance requires 100+ hours of teaching. With each paycheck there was a discrepancy between hours taught and payment, so there were several classes I wasn’t paid at all for. I’m sure my experience is not the norm, but it made me long for dependable and stable employment like a gym or other established organization.
Subbing, scheduling, and coverage was erratic
I have almost every moment of my week planned several weeks in advance. Also, I realize this isn’t normal, however I would receive sub requests 1 or 2 days before a class and not able to help the team out. I requested a sub several weeks ahead of my vacation and the studio owner would still forget about coverage. I had to text her leading up so that she remembered to get a sub on my behalf. It was frustrating to continue to remind the studio owner when it should have been documented the first time.
Lack of Infrastructure
There were a lot of growing pains with this studio, one being the scheduling technology and check in process. For several weeks at the beginning of my tenure I would have to text the owner to see if anyone signed up for my class. It took a long time to get my email synced up with the scheduling software so that I could automatically receive registrations. This functionality is basic, but instead of syncing it up at the beginning I had to text the owner each and every week. The check in process was just as clunky; eating into minutes of class while I tried to check people in on shaky wifi. The onus was placed on the instructor to handle admin activities for their class since there was no front desk. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if again, I was paid for it.
Treated like an employee but paid as a contractor
A contractor is paid to complete a job, and in this instance that job was teaching a yoga class. Employees on the other hand have a more open-ended arrangement, take on tasks as requested by management. I was paid as a contractor but treated like an employee, meaning I was not paid for no-shows, required training, required team meetings, or tabling to promote the studio at local events. Those activities are for employees, not contractors yet the expectation was to do all of that.
Expected to prep and clean the studio
I’m not a diva, I can put away blocks and extra items, however we were instructed to swifter between each class in addition to brewing fresh tea, setting out new cups and aromatherapy towels. By the time the lights were adjusted, tea was brewed, floors mopped, music queued you were looking at 10-15min of preparation before class time. My actual time spent at the studio was more like 80 minutes, not 60 and I was only paid for 60. My hourly rate in theory was $30, but with the payroll issue only paying me $25 and the extra time spent, my hourly rate dropped to $20. Not compensated for prep and clean up. Plus, I didn’t want to be a yoga instructor to clean floors.
Boundaries couldn’t be adequately maintained
I was asked to stay at the studio multiple times past my class when another instructor was late just to make sure clients weren’t left unattended. Unpaid.
I taught a weekly 6:30am classes with no-show clients, and after driving there, prepping the studio (see #5) and waiting around 10min, I would realize nobody was coming. This was so frustrating because I would have run my dog in the morning or gone for a swim. Instead I drove to the studio to clean, brew tea and make it beautiful without being paid for it. The time spent cleaning the studio, prepping the tea, checking in folks and cleaning up was not compensated. No shows happen, but they happened too consistently for the lack of being compensated to prepare myself, my class and the studio.
Towards the end of my tenure a new policy started that we could be cancelled an hour before class if only 1 or 2 people were scheduled. I understand consolidating due to low attendance, but if it an hour before class I am prepared and ready to go. I had to hold that block of time in my schedule but there was no guarantee I would be compensated for it. Again, unpaid if cancelled on due to low attendance. And no option to have made other plans because I had “reserved” that time in my schedule for it.
In another instance, I volunteered to support a photoshoot at the studio as the owner needed people to take images for the website. I showed up at the studio in my “fancy” yoga clothes with makeup and hair only to wait around for 10min and realize it was cancelled and I was never notified.
I could attend yoga classes at the studio, absolutely, but I have a diverse passions outside of yoga. I have a solid home practice (no shame, I love youtube yoga) and it is hard to get in the car to go to a yoga class when I can have a lovely home practice experience instead. When not practicing yoga, I am doing triathlons, running my dog, playing basketball at the park, swimming, hanging out with my spouse. The added benefit of free classes at the studio was not really a benefit for my lifestyle
So after 11 months of that…. I was at the end of my rope. I love the community of students that attend the studio and the other instructors are delightful, but the pros didn’t outweigh the cons. The gym environment, believe it or not, addresses all of my pain points with the studio setting. It is incredibly stable, a little bureaucratic, and meets my needs to teach yoga without the noise getting in the way of providing a great experience for folks.
Have you taught at a yoga studio or similar boutique studio before? I hope your experience was a little different than mine! Would love to hear how it varies across ownership styles and locations.
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