Tag Archives: yoga studio owners

Sí se puede y viva la huelga!

medusa

In case you can’t read Spanish or are too young to know what the title means, I wrote “Yes, you can” and basically, “long live the strike!”  A strike is one of the most powerful tools workers can use to fight business owners.  “Viva la huelga” was the rallying cry of Chicano farm workers in California and Texas when they fought for decent living wages, decent housing, and for the right to be represented by a union.

I am certainly NOT comparing the working conditions of yoga teachers to farm workers who perform back breaking labor in the hot sun but…

what if yoga teachers stopped working for shit pay?

I mean, all over the country, in every yoga studio.

After yesterday’s post I was told that in Salt Lake City, Utah the rate for yoga teachers is more like $1-$3 per student instead of the Chicago rate of $6 per student.  Maybe someone who is fresh out of their 200-hour is fine with that, but for those who have been teaching for 10+ years, it’s damn insulting.  Add to that basic 200 hour training, years of study in India (if that was the teacher’s path), any type of specialized training like in trauma or addictions or Yoga Nidra, etc., or becoming a Certified Yoga Therapist via a 300/800/1000 hour training.

Obviously the current yoga studio model is broken and abysmal.

It also doesn’t help that yoga teachers are (and have been for years) a dime a dozen in America thanks to too many yoga teacher trainings.

BLOW UP THE MODEL AND INVENT A NEW ONE.

But people always get what they put up.  Always.

What if yoga teachers banded together and refused to teach for shit pay at studios?  What if they demanded a living wage where they could support themselves and pay bills?

How many teachers do you know — maybe you are one yourself — who are completely burned out and injured from teaching too many classes a week in order to support yourself?  You don’t even have time for your practice, right?

I know that some studio owners ask their established teachers to teach for free in order to introduce or attract people to the studio.  JUST.  STOP.

There IS power in numbers.  What could yoga studio owners do?  NOTHING.  If it meant yoga studios going out of business, so what?  Aren’t there too many studios in some places, a studio on every block in large cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles?

Or would this scenario mean that only the corporate studios stay like CorePower and their ilk?

Think about it and talk amongst yourselves.

Spread the word, forward this post.  Maybe we can start a labor movement.  Dare I say it, a union for yoga teachers?  Oh wait, I just woke up from that dream.

What has the Yoga Alliance done for ya lately? 😉

 

 

ask me again why I don’t teach in yoga studios

all aboard, Madurai
Yoga teacher getting ready to throw herself down the shitter

Chicago area yoga studios still pay their teachers SHIT.

$6 a student?  I was paid $5 a student at a Geneva IL studio 10 YEARS AGO.  The owner also gave out “first class free” passes all over the Fox Valley and guess whose yin class she’d send them to because she thought yin yoga was a “beginner” yoga class for people who’ve never done yoga.  If you had never done any yoga whatsoever and knew nothing about it, imagine coming to a yin yoga class for your first time.   They never came back AND SHE WOULDN’T PAY TEACHERS FOR ALL THOSE FREE STUDENTS.  Some months I’d lose $100+.  Ask me why I don’t teach in studios anymore.

Shared from a teacher friend (who’s been teaching a very long time):

“I know that for many independent yoga center owners keeping the doors open is an ongoing financial struggle. The business model needs reworking, but what to replace it with?  I don’t think that paying instructors $6 per student is part of the answer. I was approached by 2 local studios in the past 3 months, & that’s what they were offering. “It’s an incentive to build your classes. If you get a big enough group you can make some pretty good money.”

She made that comment when she posted this article:

Yoga Center of Minneapolis abruptly closes, withholds teachers’ paychecks

From the article:

“It was no secret that the center was struggling, he says, even though people weren’t aware of just how bad things had gotten. He didn’t know how to tell staff in advance that there was no money left to pay them, and he didn’t want them to work another minute without compensation.”  [emphasis supplied]

WHAT?!  HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO TELL THE STAFF IN ADVANCE HE COULDN’T PAY THEM?!  HOW ABOUT THE TRUTH?

Do you think this would have given him a clue?

“He says he lost $1 million on the business, borrowed money from family and friends, declined a salary for years, and worked up to the last minute to try and make payroll…”

A yoga studio doesn’t lose a million bucks overnight so I think over the years he had a bit of a clue as to how his business was doing.

A friend and I taught at a now defunct yoga studio in Sycamore IL and when my friend’s paycheck bounced, the owner became insulted when my friend told her “I need that check to pay my bills” — as if my friend had no right to get upset about a bounced check.

In 17 years of teaching I have found yoga studio owners to be of two types — one (the most prevalent) is the airy fairy type who has no idea how to run a real business.  The ones who are all peace love dove and about manifesting abundance but never returning the phone calls of people asking for information about a workshop.  Guess who was giving the workshop and had to cancel because “no one was interested.”  Uh huh.

The other is cut throat who doesn’t give a damn about yoga or the teachers who show up every day.  The less you need to ask about anything, the better, because you’re on your own.  For that type of studio owner it could be a Pilates studio or a dance studio or a butcher shop for all they care.  Just make sure you clean the toilets.

99% of the owners I’ve dealt with have no business whatsoever running a shoe shine stand let alone a yoga studio.

Now before anyone tells me what a big meany I am or how judgmental I am or wants to tell me how hard it is to run a business, check yourself.  I run TWO businesses, my yoga biz and my India travel biz.  The latter requires me to deal with people 8000 miles away, most of whom I’ve never met, setting up hotels, drivers, guides, etc., a year in advance of the trip and then hoping and sweating and fingers crossed that everything I’ve set up is OK when I get there.  If you don’t think that causes many sleepless nights, try it.

Plus, I grew up watching my father run his business, a neighborhood grocery store and meat market, that he owned for about 40 years.  I learned about running a biz via osmosis.

So if you’re a studio owner reading this and you are not one of those two types and who knows the difference between a spreadsheet and a mandala drawing, your teachers are very lucky and blessed.  I commend you wholeheartedly and I wish I was teaching at YOUR studio, being valued and compensated appropriately for all my experience and knowledge and emotional labor.

You are a very rare bird indeed.

 

 

 

 

life in these Yoga States (apologies to the Reader’s Digest)

WARNING: GUARANTEED TO PISS OFF SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE

yoga studio owner

There are many things in this world that make me go hmmm……and one of them is the way yoga teachers are treated.

My long-time readers know why I no longer teach weekly classes in studios and you can read my sorry stories here.    But over the years of writing this blog I’ve received emails from both teachers and students venting about things in their own little corners of the yoga world.   I’m a bit overwhelmed that people trust me enough to share their feelings so openly with me, someone they only know via this blog.

Of course there are good, thoughtful, and compassionate studio owners, the majority I’m sure.   Of course I have been treated well and fairly and I respect many studio owners and count them as friends.  It’s tough to be self-employed and run any business and I am sure owners have many complaints about teachers — I’ve heard owners’ stories about teachers not showing up to teach.  After more than a few years I have ventured into teaching a public class again not at a yoga studio but at a belly-dance studio and I love it because it’s a very different vibe.

But unfortunately in my experience and in the experience of those who write or tell me things, the ill treatment of teachers by owners is, let’s just say, something special.  Weird.  Puzzling.  Passive-aggressive.  Even diabolical sometimes.  Should the yoga biz be any different from the real world?  I’ll get to that.

I know a teacher who went to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram for private classes.  She shared what she learned in the asana classes with her students.  She told her students “this is what I learned in India” and she said her students loved the practices.  Well, all except for one student.   In the teacher’s words:

“Students were eager to learn and experience for themselves the KYM style of yoga.

They embraced it even though it had a different rhythm. Many said that it was simpler and they felt more responsible for their practice and found that they were able focus on their breath and breath as they repeated poses on their own.  A student from another teacher dropped into my class one day and didn’t like this different style and thus reported back to other students in her regular classes and ultimately the studio owner that they did not like the way I was teaching my class.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion and free to go to the class of their choosing with a teacher that they resonate with.  However, when this unconstructive, third hand feedback was shared with me by the studio owner there was an implication that what I was doing was wrong or bad or strange or something – just not preferred by her students.  OK, whatever.” **

From a Canadian yoga teacher:

“The studio owners came to me and asked me to change the style of yoga I was teaching as they were moving towards a branded style of yoga.  As a yoga teacher with 10 years experience and a specific training that involves pranayama and therapy in asana, I said I could probably change some things about my class (i.e., create a similar class that was a more challenging level of practice and make the class more of a flow class), but not change the focus on meditation in my class, the seated and focused pranayama at beginning and end, and the attention paid to mantra. 

This conversation was conducted over email and the owner’s  response was that my classes were not at threat, but that she would like me to attend her training sessions in order to teach her new style of yoga.  I told her I could not attend as they were half day workshops on Saturdays, I already taught two back-to-back classes on Saturdays, and that would mean I would be away from my family for 6-8 hours on Saturdays.

After this discussion my pay checks stop coming.  I did not get paid for 2.5 months by this studio.  I vocalized my disapproval in a series of professional emails.  On the cusp of the third month of not being paid for my three classes a week, I was finally paid and with this pay told I was no longer needed to teach at the studio.  They gave me two days notice.  They told me not to come back to the studio.  They told my students I left for personal reasons.  I later found out I was not the only teacher treated so poorly. 

The studio is a hot yoga studio with three locations.   I was told I was being let go because I had created a feeling of resistance in their peaceful studio space.  In fact, I had tried to comply to the studio owner’s wishes without compromising my own unique qualities as a teacher.   In the end, it was for the best that my relationship with this studio ended as my service was not best suited for the space.” **

Yes, we’re all human, we each have our foibles and shadow selves and crazy ass shit we deal with, but somehow, at least in my opinion, the yoga studio should be a little bit different from the usual shit in the corporate world or wherever a yoga teacher comes from.  Dare I say it, a “sacred” space?  A little kinder?  A calming respite from the usual shit we deal with on a daily basis?   Yamas, anyone?  If I wanted to be screamed at and treated like a peon, I’d still work for lawyers.  OK, my 20 years in the legal biz wasn’t THAT bad, but you get the idea.  Probably one of the reasons why the sadhus go live in caves in India.

In the first example, on another occasion the owner told the teacher that some people in her class did not like the 20 minutes of yin yoga she tried in her class.   What is the purpose of telling a teacher that students don’t like what you’re teaching?  Because the owner thinks the teacher should change her teaching style?  Or shouldn’t be teaching what she teaches at the studio?  Or maybe because the owner is fearful that students would like the teacher’s class more than hers so it’s a little passive-aggressive put down?  Is it a control thing?  I mean, unless the teacher is incompetent or injures people, but….seems just damn hurtful (spiteful?) to me and isn’t yoga supposed to be empowering for both students and teachers?  But, hell…what do I know?

As the teacher said, the comment was not constructive criticism, only that “someone doesn’t like what you teach.”  OK, fine, so those that don’t like won’t go to the teacher’s class.  But whatever happened to accepting what is offered to you and being grateful?  I have been in many classes and workshops over 15+ years of yoga-ing that I did not particularly care for but always took away a little something.  Teachings are like a bowl of rice — pick out the dirt and eat the rest.

In the second example, if the studio is switching their focus, that’s fine, a business owner is entitled to run their business as they see fit, but why the drama, the non-payment?  Too much drama is one of the reasons I no longer teach public group classes, too much Dramasana in the studios where I’ve taught.  It’s too exhausting and too much of an energy drain.   Soul sucking, in fact.

“The case of acro yoga: is it yoga or not?  What say you?”

The above question was asked by a Facebook friend (yoga teacher) on her Facebook page.

I asked the same question here and was blacklisted from teaching workshops at the brand new yoga studio in my town.

I know.  Hard to believe in this land of First Amendment rights.  I felt a little McCarthyized.   I’m waiting for the House Committee on Un-Yogic Activities to investigate me.

The thing was, I was scheduled to teach two weekend workshops last December about two weeks after the studio opened.  The owner never advertised my workshops and they were never listed on her website, which was new and which she said she had no control over.   So without adequate advertising, no one signed up (I had students who wanted to attend but the dates did not work for them and they kept asking me when it would be rescheduled.)  I was fine with no one signing up, we had talked about a new date, but I was a bit irked about the lack of advertising (I advertised on my own via my website, Facebook, word of mouth, and emails.)

The owner said she was going to reschedule me but I waited….and waited….and waited…and waited.  Sent her an email asking to set a new date.  No response and then I left for India.  When I was in India in February I emailed the owner once again about rescheduling.

Here’s what she said:  that “the day we had our phone discussion [about canceling my workshops] you took to your blog attacking studios offering acro yoga.”  That’s why she has not asked me back to the studio.

Uh, what?

I re-read the post (where I write about acro yoga in ONE paragraph) and nowhere do I “attack” any studio so much as question acro yoga in general — as any other yoga blogger commenting on the modern yoga scene might do.  I even asked friends to read it and asked for their opinions.  I received comments such as “beautifully stated”, “thought provoking”, and “grounding.”  As someone said, perception is everything in life.  Deepak Chopra says:  “There is no fixed physical reality, no single perception of the world, just numerous ways of interpreting world views as dictated by one’s nervous system and the specific environment of our planetary existence.”  I get it.  Yeah, me too.

I emailed her back and told her that I have been writing about yoga since 2005 and I don’t “attack” anyone (OK, maybe the Tara Stiles thing three years ago got heated.)  I said I was sorry if she felt attacked but it was her perception.  I said there are other yoga bloggers out there who are much more scathing about the modern yoga scene than I am.  I told her that I comment on the modern yoga scene as I see fit and have been doing so for a long time, much longer than she has been teaching.  I said I am infamous known for having a fierce voice in the yoga blogosphere and for “keeping it real.”  I said that if my blog is not everyone’s cup of chai, so be it, but if someone puts something out there about yoga and I have an opinion about it, I will write about it.

But apparently questioning something means that I “don’t think very highly of practices that aren’t in sync” with mine (her words.)  Today I read the excellent article “The Seduction of Spiritual Celebrity” where Derek Beres writes: that “the dismissal of critique in American spiritual communities is reminiscent of the anti-intellectual crusade that Richard Hofstadter warned about a half-century ago.”  It’s not so much anti-intellectualism, but certainly there is a political correctness in the modern American yoga scene that any criticism is seen as bad, negative, hateful, or that ubiquitous word, “un-yogic.”

C’mon now!  I have a friend who does Bikram yoga and I make fun of her all the time!  And I hate Iyengar yogis!  Those crazy astangis?  Fuhgeddaboudem!

Snark alert!  I’m kidding!

Oh well.  I’d rather take the chance on pissing somebody off than not questioning the status quo.  A good friend told me I was put on this Earth to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  😉

Ouch.

A wise writer wrote, “I have lost my polestar if I only spout platitudes.”

You can be the juiciest, ripest apple in the world and there’s gonna be someone who just doesn’t dig apples.

[**the teachers gave their permission to write about their stories here.]

a high level of confusement

The warehouse manager at my husband’s company once told The Hubs that he (the manager) had a high level of confusement. 😉 🙂

I’m throwing the question out there: as a yoga student, do you get confused when you experience a style of yoga you are not familiar with? Or do you just go with flow and if it resonates with you that’s fine, and if not, that’s fine too?

The reason I ask is that a yoga studio owner gave me that reason as to why he did not feel comfortable with me doing a workshop. He thought his students would get “confused.”

HUH?

As a teacher getting my name out there in my area, I send a lot of emails to studios asking if they would like to offer one of my workshops. It’s a simple, standard email introduction of myself, giving them my website link, stating what I can offer, giving them a link to news articles about me, things like that. It’s a standard business introduction. A yoga teacher friend told me that when she took a “business of yoga” workshop, the presenter said that you have to get your name in front of people at least 7 times before they connect with you. Sometimes yoga studio owners tell me “let’s do it!”, but for the most part I never hear from them. Not even a “thanks, but no thanks” response. As my husband the Big Shot Corporate Guy has told me, a lot of small business owners have really crappy personal business skills. They may know what they’re doing in their business, but as for people skills, forget it.

This week I heard from one local studio owner who said that he would feel more comfortable if I spent time at his studio getting to know his style and “methods” so that I could “get an understanding of where the students are coming from.” Then he said, “I don’t mind if students seek out other styles on there own, but if I’m going to offer it to them [workshops], I feel it is my responsibility to offer programing that keeps into alignment [sic] with the other offerings so as to not confuse the students.”

HUH?

Now I have a high level of confusement.

The website states that the studio is an “intimate studio that creates a safe environment for exploration into the yogic arts.” OK, sounds good to me, which is why I emailed the owner. I happen to know that the owner is heavily Iyengar influenced because a long time ago one of my former students also practiced with this teacher. The studio is not specifically an Iyengar yoga studio and the classes are advertised as simply being yoga classes, not Iyengar yoga classes.

I was amused by the owner’s email. I must say that this was the first time anyone ever told me that I should spend time at their studio getting to know their style and methods. From the class descriptions on the website, I don’t understand how the owner would think that what I do is so wildly different from his offerings. Obviously I am not going to send my workshop proposals to name-branded studios that only offer Bikram or Anusara yoga or to strict Iyengar yoga studios!

In my response to him I said (tongue in cheek) that I think I know a little bit about classical yoga and therapeutic yoga since I study at Desikachar’s school every year. I said that I am certainly familiar with Iyengar yoga and while it is not a style I have studied in depth, I’ve attended many Iyengar yoga classes over the years. My own teacher in Chicago studied at an Iyengar Institute and also with Pattabhi Jois. If he had taken the time to read my website (and from his response my gut tells me that he did not — or maybe he did and he was confused!), he would have seen that I’ve been around the yoga block more than a few times.

I told him that to me, yoga is yoga, and it all comes from the same source which in this modern yoga era is Sri Krishnamacharya. I said that this was the first time I had heard a studio owner say that students might get “confused” if they experience a style of yoga that is different from what they are used to doing. Wouldn’t taking my workshop be their choice anyway? If they are curious they will take it, if not, they will pass on it.

I asked him to explain why he thought his students would be confused because I was honestly perplexed by his statement.

In any event, I said that the testimonials from my students speak for themselves on my website, so if he would like to offer his students the gift of another style of yoga that may further them along their path, to contact me in the future.

I will let you know his response.

If it’s not too confusing.

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