Understanding the business of yoga
Key considerations and advice for nurturing a healthy and successful yoga business. By Fenella Lindsell
Teaching is not a goal with a finish line, it is a process. A rewarding yoga profession requires personal growth as the teaching route unfolds. By continually aiming to understand and look after yourself, we see development in many forms such as social (friendships), physical (health), mental (wellbeing) and financial (business stability). A teacher who wants to grow will see their students grow with them and this must be the foundation of any yoga practice.
Yoga as a practice was never intended to make any money, but now exists as a highly valued industry. Over the last three decades, I have seen the number of teachers grow rapidly, but I still see a lack of support for these teachers to transition from practitioner to yoga business owner. The wonderful thing is that talent is abundant, the problem is a lack of available business guidance.
Yoga has proven to help many people lead a happier life by facilitating good sleep, reducing stress and nourishing physical and mental health. For this reason, people want to centre their efforts around it and from this, a business model has arisen.
By looking back over my 30-year teaching journey, I have picked out the most important elements needed to run a successful yoga business and I have offered tips to overcome challenging hurdles. My Yoga Forever Academy Course is centred on these principles and I know that sharing these ideas will be helpful.
Adapting to your environment
Even before our world was re-routed by the pandemic, most teachers were overlooking the precipice of a rapidly changing business landscape. The last decade saw social media rise to prominence and exercise unparalleled opportunities for advertisers, business and even politics. On top of this, we had a global pandemic that put many out of business, forced people out of contact and added major restrictions to our freedom. But we are here and still going strong.
For your business to adapt and survive, you must expect that things will change. A central focus of my course is to help teachers to build an online company with zoom and in-person classes, web-based content and an engaged social media following. I did not change my business model because I like spending time on my computer, I did it because it was what the world demanded. I wanted to keep teaching yoga and through my network and experience, I discovered a way to adapt and continue doing so, during restrictions and when they were lifted.
From yogi to yoga teacher
I still remember how daunting it felt to start my yoga business. Having spent months practicing in India and onwards in London, I had confidence in my ability to begin a teacher training, explain and also guide others. However, the thought of a yoga business model seemed so distant from all this. The leap needed was from studying routines and texts to learning how to actually teach others in a rewarding and safe way.
The Academy I have built is structured around showing teachers that it is okay to ask for help. By offering mentoring sessions, providing detailed and sequenced class plans and offering access to my network and experience, I have helped teachers begin their yoga careers with confidence and a clear direction. After all, the aim of any mentor or teacher is to provide the tools for independence and ultimately, reach the point where students no longer need your help.
It can be initially alarming when you are expected to help people with different injuries and of varied ability because you are placed in a position of trust and held to a professional expectation. I could remember the guidance from my training course but lacked the specific materials to reference when students came to me seeking advice on health and injury issues.
By creating step by step class plans that offer options for injury and rehabilitation, I have helped teachers feel so much more confident.
Offering options within class plans means teachers can focus on teaching rather than the fear of injuring people and encourage students to recognise their limitations or abilities. To ensure absolute confidence and clarity, the Yoga Forever Academy Course provides a comprehensive injury management manual. With this combined approach of tailored class plans and practical guidance from the manual, all abilities will feel welcomed and cared for. There is also clear instruction for rehabilitation both in class and through home practice suggestions.
Building a network
Starting a yoga business requires enough people to fill classes; continuing requires a network of students, teachers and other health practitioners. Knowing which route to take is important for long-lasting success and also, for making friendships with colleagues, therapists and other professionals. This network is what makes your business resilient because it takes the pressure off you as the sole provider.
What has been helpful to teachers under my guidance has been to offer introductions to relevant people and to share my experience of how I built a network. This involves advice on what kind of events to host and to attend and how to collaborate in the long-term for both professional friendships and mutual success. I offer my own experience from having run what was London’s largest complementary health centre, building a significant children’s yoga business, YogaBugs, and 30 years of teaching all age groups and running my own 5-6 yoga holidays each year.
Diverse and coherent class plans
This point seems obvious, but hard to achieve without the right guidance. Solid class plans highlight the importance of sequenced flow between postures, options for injuries and for those who want to be challenged, fun themes for returning students and the capacity to tailor for both groups and in one-to-one sessions. With all of these things comes one major asset: confidence.
I noticed that there are a lot of class plans for teachers already out there, which is a wonderful starting point. The next step is to have plans which you can work through with an experienced teacher so that limitations or uncertainty can be dealt with as they arise. I have created and filtered through thousands of class plans to find out what the core building blocks really are. What I now offer to my new teachers is the culmination of this experience and a continued open-mindedness to adapt and build on what I have.
One thing I stress is to listen to your students. These people have chosen your class and it is important to respect and welcome their feedback.
The difficulty with businesses is that to succeed they must be constantly progressing in size and revenue. Getting dragged into this current can lead people to forget about themselves and their life outside of finance. As with any business, hobby or practice, it will not work if you are not looking after yourself.
The benefit of being a yoga teacher is that you have access to personal growth through your work. So, don’t just read yoga nidras to your students, study them and consider how their principles may guide you. Don’t just talk about the breath, listen to it and connect with it daily. Don’t just present people with insight into the mind-body relationship, but forget about your own.
Every teacher can remember that running a yoga business means making a living from a profoundly powerful practice and we must use this practice as a platform for personal growth.