Clarity Drives the Process
As we have all experienced, sometimes goals do not come to fruition even when they are specific.
They can be ridiculously detailed and give a clear way to success, but still fail spectacularly.
And sometimes — as many of us have experienced in the yoga world — these businesses succeed financially, while undermining the very values that we claim to hold and espouse as yoga practitioners!
In my experience, it is often due to lack of clarity.
The goal of “making a living as a yoga teacher” is valid, and there are many forms this can take.
But the only way to really reach these goals and maintain our grounding in the principles of yoga is to understand why you are doing it.
- Why are you teaching yoga?
- Why are you doing it here in this place?
- Why are you seeking to teach these people?
When you do this, a lot of things become very clear. The why behind what you are doing inspires the how and infuses the what with a great sense of cohesion. Every decision that you make about the business comes out of this coherent, clear, and cohesive centerpoint.
In our yoga businesses, we can use yoga principles — and codify them within our business practices — to help create clarity around how our business functions and how we will make business decisions.
Here’s an example:
For everyone the opportunity to earn more money “right now!” is always tempting.
It goes to the very heart of aparigraha (non-stealing) and santosha (contentment). In business, this temptation is always there, the temptation to push the meaning of these words to their limit. Or, essentially to turn into the Greedy Malcontent.
I have several years’ worth of horror stories from working in studios where people — students and teachers alike — were manipulated and abused using yoga-based double-speak. This happened not because the studio owners were “evil.” It happened because they lacked clarity.
These studios all had specificity around the style of yoga, the basic economics of their business. But where they didn’t have clarity is on why they were teaching yoga, on how the principles of yoga applied to their business, and how to codify those principles into their business such that those values could further define their business and thereby increase their success.
I recognize this capacity to become the Greedy Malcontent in myself.
Let me be honest, when my bank account is exhaling, I get nervous. And when I get nervous, well, there you go! The Greedy Malcontent starts to show up.
But, when I focus on why I want to teach in the first place, and also what I want to teach — yoga — it becomes clear that I must run a business built on yoga principles.
I created for myself some “fail-safes.”
I espouse certain values, but I also structured my business so that I couldn’t violate those values, no matter how nervous my Greedy Malcontent was in a given moment.
One fail-safe is doing a percentage for the yoga teachers.
I believe that yoga teachers can and should make a living from teaching their classes. From my time as a free-lance teacher, I remember feeling frustrated that my classes would attract huge numbers or completely fill, and I would get only six percent of the income (at the high end!) with my flat fee. And if I asked for a raise, I’d be fired and a newbie who would take an even lower rate would be hired! Trust me, I understand the constraints of a competitive market!
So, I came up with this idea about income sharing — Fair Trade Yoga is what I call it.
The studio gets a cut, and the teacher gets the majority share. Because — in my opinion — it’s the teacher that the students come for, not the studio itself. Some do come just for the studio, but most prefer certain teachers. So why shouldn’t teachers earn the majority share, since they are doing the hard work? I just took the initial financial risk and carry that risk. This person is building my business!
Some people might consider this a dumb move — after all, it puts a cap on the profit margin. Yes, it does. On purpose. I do not want to feed the Greedy Malcontent.
My value is to practice aparigraha and santosha. My value is that yoga teachers can earn an income teaching yoga and that it’s Fair Trade for them to get the majority share for their hard work.
Make no mistake, I make a profit when a class is successful. After all, I do want to earn a return on the risk and investment I make. But I don’t have to take advantage of teachers or students to achieve this.
It is the clarity I hold around these values and how they have been codified within my business that allow me to consistently follow these values even when I’m under pressure from the Greedy Malcontent. Because I cannot violate the business without undermining its most essential values, I am unable feed the Greedy Malcontent.
This clarity provides guidance whenever I’m confronted with something I’ve never experienced before, and it helps me stay on track and keep the yoga in the business. And that’s what it’s all about!
Next week in this four part series on The Yoga of Business, Jenifer will look at the need for commitment in the business of yoga.
Jenifer M Parker is the owner/director of Healium, a holistic health collective, as well as a yoga teacher, Thai yoga massage practitioner, and avid meditator.
She enjoys the mindfulness practice that parenting her son Hawk brings, as well as sharing yoga and quiet meditation practices with him.