In December of 2012, it was estimated via a “new study, conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys USA at the behest of Yoga Journal, found that a whopping 20.4 million people practice Yoga in the United States. That’s 8.7 of total adults in the States” (Matt Caron). The article also went on to say that, “Yoga is actually recession proof to some degree” using corporate businesses such as Core Power Yoga and Lululemon as landmarks of success in the industry.
Two years later (January 2014), the industry is still financially growing in the United States. Yoga is the leading form of exercise over Pilates, Tai Chi, TRX, and Kettlebell, according to Emily Ritter’s article “By The Numbers: The Growth of Yoga”:
Channel Signal collects and measures consumer comments to bring you our monthly category report on yoga:
Statistics on the Growth of Yoga
amount spent annually in the U.S. on yoga products
percent increase on yoga product spending over the last 5 years
percent increase in yoga participation from 2008 to 2012
number of yoga participants in the United States in 2012
anticipated average annual increase in industry revenue through 2017
After working as a yoga instructor in New York City, Northern California, and Southern California- the three meccas of yoga, and learning these statistics, I scratch my head. If yoga is a 27 billion dollar business why are the instructors unable to be compensated in a way where they can make a sustainable living for what they do in the classroom? Now to be fair, in NYC and NorCal, the pay is higher than what it is SoCal, which also brings up the question as to why, when Los Angeles has a large yoga culture. However instead of complaining about why yoga instructors aren’t getting paid fairly, let’s figure out what we can do to change it.
In New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, the average hourly rate is around 40-45 dollars per hour to start in a studio. Gyms start around 60, and Equinox is 75.00 per hour.
Los Angeles studios will start an instructor around 25.oo per hour, and studios that can afford to pay more will begin around 35.00; independently owned gyms somewhere around 35-45. Equinox 75.00.
The other alternative is when a studio offers you a smaller hourly rate and gives you a per head on top of that. This is supposed to give the instructor an incentive to hustle people into their classes. However, I know from experience that trying to get my friends to go to yoga is like pulling teeth, they already are trying to save their money for other things, and I hate pressuring people I have personal relationships with to come to my class.
I’ve noticed that people come to classes, including myself based around times and scheduling, and it is very rare and special when a student follows a teacher, especially when there are so many Groupons and Living Social deals out there now so that yoga studios can create opportunities for more potential long-term clients. Also, there is Class Pass, which allows students to try a variety of yoga and fitness studios in order to fit their schedules.
I think these deals pose hidden problem for studios financially, and also get in the way of paying their instructors what they should be earning. I’ve noticed since living on the west coast that students tend to studio hop. They take advantage of the “New Student Monthly Unlimited” for $40/45 and then move on, trying another studio in their neighborhood. Eventually students make a choice and will pay for the monthly unlimited, but committing to a year or 6 months at a studio can be daunting and a lot of money, especially when you can pay a similar amount to a gym which offers yoga classes.
There was a studio in New York that at some point decided to stop participating in sales and promotions in order to pay their teachers more, hoping that their students would stick by them. I wonder if all studios banded together and stopped trying to get students in the door with discounts and promotions, if we would be able to prove ourselves as the amazing teachers and studios we are and gain sustainability within our clients and in turn allow yoga teachers to make a decent living without exhausting ourselves running all over town to teach 20-30 classes a week on top of hustling for privates. Maybe the students would be able to find a place that felt like “home” to them and struggling to pay teachers within this billion dollar industry wouldn’t be as much of a problem.