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How I Earned $6K Last Year with My Side Gig as a Yoga Instructor

Jessica Lawlor in a yoga pose outside
Photo courtesy of Jessica Lawlor.


I recently returned home from a week’s vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. A warm-weather getaway in the middle of a frigid Philadelphia winter? Heavenly.

Traveling is rarely cheap, but on this vacation, I didn’t have to dip into my savings account to cover the trip.

Instead, I paid for my tropical vacation solely using funds I earned in 2017 from my side hustle: Teaching yoga.

On the side of my full-time job running a communications agency, I earned a little more than $6,000 as a yoga instructor last year.

Let’s break down the numbers: Over the course of the year, I taught 158 yoga classes, translating to about three classes per week — definitely doable for those with day jobs. That means I earned an average of $38 per class, bringing my total earnings for the year to just over $6,000, pre-taxes.

If you consider yourself a passionate yogi, becoming an instructor might be a great way to grow your love for the practice — and earn extra cash.

Why Teach Yoga?

Teaching yoga can be a rewarding side hustle for those who love to practice yoga.

That’s exactly how I decided to become a yoga instructor. Three years ago, I noticed I was already spending most of my evenings and weekends at the yoga studio. While I never dreamed of becoming a teacher, my infatuation with the practice led me to yoga teacher training. I officially became a Certified Yoga Teacher (CYT) in June 2015.

It turns out I’m not alone.

“I often witness that serious students of yoga get an insatiable desire to share their passion with others,” says Dr. Lisa Mitchell, author and owner of Dana Hot Yoga, where I completed my yoga teacher training and currently teach. “For an average cost of teacher training ($2,000 to $4,000), it is a certificate that can almost immediately start a return on investment, making it a viable option for supplemental income in an economic time where a second job, aka ‘moonlighting,’ is a necessity for most people.”

The Cost of Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Here’s the honest truth: Yoga teacher training can be pricy.

It’s an investment, and it’s one that does take time to earn back. However, if you’re serious about yoga and want to develop a lasting side hustle teaching, it’s absolutely worth it.

So how much does it actually cost to become a yoga teacher? There are a few variables to consider. For example, are you completing your training at your local studio, or are you traveling to an exotic location for a more immersive — but also more expensive — experience?

Will you be paying in full upfront, or will you take advantage of a payment plan? In addition, some studios offer a work-exchange program, in which you work at the studio during your training in exchange for an additional discount.

For our purposes, let’s consider the teacher-training program I completed. The training costs $2,450, with a $200 discount for those who pay in full, as opposed to opting for the payment plan.

I paid in full, so we’ll bring that figure down to $2,250.

It took me eight months of teaching 64 classes to recoup the cost of my teacher training — not bad, all things considered.

How Yoga Teachers Get Paid

Payment can be somewhat complicated in the yoga world — it’s not as cut and dry as some other fields of work. Depending on the space in which you teach and your geographic region, rates can vary wildly.
Here are some of the most common ways yoga teachers get paid:

Flat rate: This one is quite simple — teachers earn a flat rate per class, whether one student shows up or the room is filled with eager yogis. This can be paid by the studio directly or negotiated with a special event or group organizer. In the Philadelphia region, I’ve seen flat rates range from $25 per class on the low end to $50 per class on the high end.

Flat rate per range of number of students: Many studios reward teachers financially when their classes begin to grow in numbers. For example, you may earn $25 for a class of 1 to 16 people, then get bumped to the $35 level when your class hits 17 to 25 and max out at the $45 rate when your class is packed with 26 or more students. This payment method encourages teachers to nurture and grow their own classes.

Per-student rate: I haven’t come across this payment method in my personal experience, but some studios pay teachers a low base rate (say $10 or $15), then an additional $3 for every student who shows up above a certain number. Again, this incentive-based payment urges teachers to develop a community in their classes.

After teaching at more than seven studios, it appears that at least in the Philadelphia region, $35 per 60 to 75-minute class seems about average.

Here’s another perk to consider: When you teach regularly at a studio, you often can practice there for free, waiving your membership fees. (Prior to becoming a teacher, I spent $1,000+ on my annual studio membership.)

Consider Other Expenses

As with most side hustles, there are additional business expenses to consider. These are some of the most common expenses yoga teachers will incur:

Insurance

For yoga teachers, insurance is a must — most studios and gyms require it, plus, you wouldn’t want to put yourself at risk by teaching without it.

Insurance policy cost varies, but expect to pay between $150 and $400 depending on variables including how often you teach and whether you teach in a studio setting or privately.

Cost: $161

Registration

Some yoga teachers choose to register with the YogaAlliance, which serves as the governing body of the yoga community. Becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) allows teachers access to discounts, online workshops and a listing on the site’s roster of teachers. Registration is optional (and hotly debated in the yoga world).

I registered in 2017, but I won’t be renewing this year. At the time I registered, membership cost $105, but has since increased to $115.

Cost: $105

Continuing education

Practice what you preach! Like in other professions, teaching yoga is a skill, and it’s one you need to continue to hone in order to grow and succeed.

Embarrassingly, I only completed one continuing-education workshop in 2017, so normally this figure would probably range between $100 to $400, depending on the length and intensity of the workshop, class or additional training.

Cost: $20

My 2017 total cost: $286.

Earn More When You Think ‘Outside the Mat’

Here’s a little secret: Teaching in a traditional studio setting or gym is not an instructor’s only option.

In fact, there are far more lucrative and interesting ways to teach yoga than confining yourself to a studio.

I learned this lesson myself when I was approached to teach yoga to a rowing team at a local university. When you teach in a private setting, you often get to set your own rate, giving you the opportunity to earn more.

Fun fact: Teaching an hour-long class to my group of athletes earns me almost three and a half times as much as one class at a studio.

Here are some other creative teaching options to consider:

  • Approach a local winery or brewery for a yoga class and tasting. These types of classes are popping up everywhere, and many times, yoga teachers play a part in setting their rate.
  • Similarly, consider other types of businesses — museums, grocery stores with community spaces like Whole Foods, libraries, outdoor locales, gardens and more.
  • Teach a private lesson. When you teach privately, you have the freedom to choose how much you charge. Keep in mind, if you land a private student through a studio, you will likely have to split your earnings.
  • Advertise your teaching expertise to wedding parties. Many brides choose to start their big day in a healthy way with a pre-ceremony yoga class for their bridesmaids.
  • Go corporate. More and more businesses are recognizing the importance of mindfulness and are offering free yoga to their employees. Teaching in a corporate setting can often be extremely lucrative because these businesses often have more budget to spend on wellness.

When I first stepped onto my yoga mat in 2014, I had no idea the practice would change my life and career path in such a drastic way.

My powerful yoga-teacher-training experience was actually one of the driving forces that led me to quit my full-time PR job to start my own business.

The extra income, ability to pay for vacations and more money to save for my future have certainly been a bonus.

Namaste!

Jessica Lawlor is the president and CEO of Jessica Lawlor & Company (JL&Co), a specialty communications agency. When she’s not in boss-lady mode, she dons yoga pants and teaches yoga in the Philadelphia region. 

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