Yoga and Money…What Does This Mean For Us?

Yoga and Money: Part Three


There is an inherently complicated nature when working at the intersection of being a spiritual teacher and needing to make a living wage. As yoga teachers we live in this place, and I imagine that almost all of us find some part of this situation challenging.

Every week I have teachers reaching out to me with nuts and bolts questions about how to make a living as a yoga teacher. I began to write a series of blog posts answering these questions and I realized I could not stay silent about the challenges we face when we choose to support ourselves and our families by offering healing and spiritual teachings. {Check out Part One and Part Two if you missed those!}

We live in a capitalist consumer culture. We are borrowing from spiritual traditions and healing modalities that were birthed in a culture that supported the healers in the community. The way yoga and its related sciences are taught in our culture will absolutely be different, but I don’t think it is inherently bad or wrong. It will take our attention and care and skillfulness to honor the teachings, AND take care of each other and ourselves. Growing up in the West, and in America in particular, we know there is an emphasis on individualism, and less on the care of the collective. I believe there are ways we can make a career out of sharing these teachings in a way that benefits all, but it requires a perspective that allows for subtleties.


Many people have written about the strange intersection of yoga and money and their views are as disparate as the many styles of yoga that exist. Some authors write about how unfortunately difficult it is to make a living as a yoga teacher, others will write about how wrong it is to expect to be paid for teaching yoga, and still more discuss how all we need to do is  “manifest abundance” and the cash will start flowing it.

This all sounds like jiggery pokery to me.

The latest article on the topic of yoga and money was in NY Magazine. Michelle Goldberg wrote about the “Brutal Economics” of being a yoga teacher.

This article frames the discussion in a completely black and white way. She explains that you have two options if you are a career yoga teacher. Either you can be exhausted, teaching 20 group classes a week for no money, or you can be an Instagram Model {with questionable teaching skills and ethics} selling online yoga classes and making multiple six figures a year.  As she sees it, career yoga teachers are either wealthy rock stars, or are completely broke and overworked.

Well,  I say, “What about the middle path??”

I have been supporting myself by teaching yoga full time in two very expensive cities for 10 years. I am not exhausted or depleted. I’m not making multiple six figures {or anywhere close} but I do have health insurance, a retirement account and a lifestyle that feels safe and comfortable. I know many people who are full time yoga teachers, and while they are not celebrities, they make enough money to comfortably support themselves and their families.

With a little creativity, clear passion and direction, and a lot of hard work, I know it is possible to make a living as a yoga teacher.

Let me be clear: the “hard work” I am referring to here is not marketing, branding, or even business skills. {Although at some point in your career, those will become helpful.}

My teaching is what has made me a successful teacher. I taught 20+ private clients a week before I even had a website! Brand new teachers will almost certainly need other sources of income while they hone their teaching skills, gain experience, and make community connections, and that seems entirely appropriate to me.

But as I see it, if you are willing to do the work to make yourself a better and better teacher, there are more than enough students who desperately need you and your meaningful, skillful teachings.


There is a wide spectrum of attitudes about money within the yoga world. There is a large subset of would-be teachers who are deeply inspired by the spiritual practices, long to share that with others, and are confused, upset, or off put by the intersection of being a spiritual teacher and needing to make a living wage. I totally understand this strange crossover place. Much of what we see in the bottom-line driven culture that runs through Corporate America is not at all aligned with our values of taking good care of each other and our planet.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who see the potential in a fast growing market and create {often entirely online} businesses to fill a need or take advantage of an opportunity. Sometimes this is done skillfully with the purest of intentions. Often it is not. This can make some people feel that there is no place for quiet, authentic teachers in this new yoga world, and they choose to opt out entirely.

As is so common with me, I fall squarely down the middle between these two extremes….


I have found yoga in all forms {asana, meditation, pranayama, intentional living} to have radically changed the way I experience myself and the world. My spiritual practice has completed shifted the way I am able to show up in all my most important relationships, and has given me a new lens to see and feel the deep interdependence of all beings. My spiritual practice has, of course, totally changed my life. I deeply value these practices, and as an asana teacher for more than 10 years, I feel wildly blessed to have been able to witness and support so much meaningful change in the lives of my students.

I love the work that I do and I am grateful and proud that I get to support myself {and one day, a family} doing this work full time. I do not feel conflicted about this at all.

Are we “selling the sacred”? Or are we teaching, helping professionals? I’d like to take the stance of the latter. I’d like to say that as yoga teachers we are helping professionals with a beautiful, sacred lineage that supports and informs our teachings.

In our culture, yoga teachers function in similar ways to other helping professionals: we study our craft, we practice and live in accordance with our values, we study teaching methodology, and we continue to take continuing education classes to deepen our teaching skills.

We do not have the same rigorous imposed standards as other industries such as psychotherapy, massage therapy, or acupuncture…

however, our work can help and heal in the same way.  Even though there is not a large governing body that has high standards for us, we must hold ourselves to extremely high standards. Part of holding ourselves to high standards means we must carry ourselves and behave as professionals.

This means that we must support ourselves, and support ourselves WELL.

You will be a better teacher if you can afford to participate in high quality trainings. Your students benefit from your continued ability to put healthy food on the table and pay for your own high quality self care and health care. Having time and space for your own spiritual practice and study will mean you have more teachings of depth and insight to offer your students.

Open your ears, and hear me when I say this:: Your students will benefit from your financial stability.  You will be able to help more students, on a deeper level, when you do not have to run yourself ragged just to pay your rent. That means that you must be paid for your teaching, and you must be paid appropriately for your level of experience and training.

Sit with that. Give it time to weave its way into your heart.


Yes, the intersection of yoga and money is inherently complicated. Yes, the yoga world is growing and changing rapidly, and not always in positive ways. Yes, celebrity culture has made it’s way into the yoga world.

And yet.

And yet, I know it is possible to make a life and a living offering teachings that you love. I have been doing it for more than a decade. If you are feeling frustrated or disheartened or disgusted with the state of the yoga world I understand all of that. I really do.

But I love learning and studying and practicing and teaching SO MUCH. I don’t want to take the time to sit around being bummed out. I’ve got a full day of teaching ahead of me!

I had one private client able to balance in high lunge for the first time today!

I had another client use pranayama to have the best night sleep he has had in years last night!

And tonight in my group class I will work with the Buddhist concept of RAIN to deal with strong emotions and teach some challenging/strange transitions between standing poses.

How lucky am I that this is my life? This work is too much fun, it is too fulfilling, and too uplifting to spend too much time being frustrated with what is happening on social media.

{Although I am all for awareness, and for calling out hypocrisy when it shows up, so if that is your gig, don’t let me stop you! Just don’t let it keep you from teaching, if that is what you want to do.}

I would love for you, as a thoughtful, serious teacher, to join me in a movement of yoga teachers whose modus operandi is one of wholeheartedness, serious work ethic and non-crabbiness.

Will you join me? Please, ask me a question or let me know what you think. Sending love to you my dears.

23 Responses to “Yoga and Money…What Does This Mean For Us?”

  1. Gerlinde

    Hello Francesca,
    I really want to say thanks from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful article! It is very uplifting to read your thoughts on the subject.
    Here in Austria it seems there are more courses to “become a yoga teacher” than there are “normal” yoga classes… The yoga teacher courses mostly read like this: “Become a yoga teacher – easy & quick – in 2 weeks!” and the like…
    Somedays I get the impression that literally EVERYBODY is a certified yoga teacher now…!
    I have been successfully supporting myself and my family with teaching yoga and dance classes for the last 17 years. But things really are getting tougher and harder every year.
    Anyway, I still believe that it is possible to make a decent living as a yoga teacher, as you have said!
    In my experience many of the new and so called certified teachers haven’t studied in depth and simply don’t know their profession.
    I still believe that people who come to classes will notice the difference and stick with really dedicated teachers who are willing to expand their knowledge and their own skills all the time and who are living what they are preaching…!
    Warm greetings from Austria,

    • Francesca Cervero

      Thank you so much for your story here Gerlinde! The more teachers who a living a “middle path” lifestyle speak out, the better! I know what you mean about the prevalence of quick and easy yoga teacher trainings. Sometimes it feels like that here in the US also. It is important that experienced teachers like you stay inspired and continue to lead the way in serious, meaningful, high quality teaching. Thank you so much for your good work in the world. sending love…

  2. Judi Hark

    Dear Francesca, we met years ago at OM yoga in NYC. Thank you for saying what needs to be said, in an honest, open, calm way. I went back to school for a degree in physical therapy. My goal is to blend the best of what PT and yoga have to offer to my students/clients/patients. After a three year break, I have my first private client next week! I’ll be reflecting on many things you’ve said/written as I prep for this upcoming session. Please keep up the good work and continue to spread the dharma!

    • Francesca Cervero

      Hi Judi! Of course I remember you! Congratulations on finishing PT school. That is a huge accomplishment. You have some amazing tools that will allow you to do super meaningful work with your students. I can’t wait to hear how it goes. Let us know! <3

  3. Rosangela

    Beautifully said Fracesca!
    We are working on creating value for our practice as yoga teachers and yoga therapists. And I see contradictions on the real life yoga practice, nowadays I see more and more Free yoga classes offerings “for the community” or to “create connection”. We are selling our services cheap. What are your thoughts on Free yoga Meetup groups?

    • Kristi Smith

      In the studios I’m familiar with in the Chicago area, most of the free community yoga classes are hosted by studios to provide newly minted teachers the opportunity to practice teaching. Some of the teacher training programs even require it. Another comment is that yoga classes can be very expensive ($20/drop-in out here), and for many folks in my area (which is very affluent yet has a substantial minority population living below the poverty line), that is not even remotely doable. Free yoga community yoga classes offers this otherwise unreachable population with the opportunity to experience this wonderful practice. What I think is a real issue is the prevalent notion that because we engage in a spiritual discipline, we SHOULD be willing to offer our services for free or barter when asked. Ugh.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Thank you Rosangela! I think free community classes are a wonderful way for new teachers to gain experience, and also to offer our teachings to a community that could not otherwise afford it. They can be good for everyone. That said: the good news about this is, if one is a more experienced teacher and cannot afford to teach for free {most of us can’t} we have the ability to say “no” to free teaching opportunities. We get to decide how the world treats us, by carrying ourselves in a way that assumes respect and seriousness. 🙂

  4. Antonia

    Thank you for this. Period. The media’s current trend is black or white, all or nothing, wrong versus right, us versus them and so on. Little substance and a lot of misinformation. Thank you for generating the conversation and supporting a middle path with so much integrity. I hope one day to meet you/study with you. In the meantime, I am a yoga teacher with no website, slowly building private one on one clientele amidst a lovely set of group classes at the edge of America here in Maine. It’s not a living yet, but it is certainly a strong foundation.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Thank you so much for saying this Antonia! It is not just the yoga world that is being framed in a black and white way. So much of our culture is being framed in that lens, led by our 24 hour news cycle. This is no good for any issue or industry, is it? Meanwhile people like you and I will keep on keeping on, doing quiet and good work. Thanks for all the good work you do. I would love to meet you one day also! <3

  5. Rachel

    yesyesyesyesyes. “But as I see it, if you are willing to do the work to make yourself a better and better teacher, there are more than enough students who desperately need you and your meaningful, skillful teachings.”
    I wish I could reach through the computer and give you a hug! Thank you for this.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Rachel, I wish I could reach through the computer and hug you right back!! Maybe you can take a training with me one of these days? XO

  6. Kristi Smith

    Thanks for the great article, Francesca, and for the comments preceding this one for providing great food for thought! Before I say anything else, I wanted to mention that I sit around the same place on the yoga perspective continuum as you, Francesca.

    My exposure to yogic philosophy first occurred in 1998 or 1999 and asana in 2002, and I became an RYT this year. I’m really not teaching much yoga aside for an occasional private client and free community yoga classes, which I do primarily to gain experience (I do work a full-time corporate job). My niche so far has been in the blogosphere, which means that I have a few corresponding social media accounts (kristismithyoga). You won’t find many yoga selfies on them, though. I wish I could focus solely on growing my yoga business, but it does take time. You clearly have a formula that works, Francesca. You are right that it’s not nearly as black and white as the NY Magazine article implies, despite the fact that there are plenty of yoga teachers who fit her black and white descriptions.

    On another note and related to your post…I think that one of the fundamental “problems” we face as yogis who seek to retain some semblance of yoga’s core teachings is that there is no consensus in the West as to what yoga actually is. I love Pema Chödrön’s comment, “We all have the ability to become fundamentalists because we are addicted to people’s wrongness.” We each have our own preconceived attitude about what yoga is and isn’t, and we identify with the yoga that resonates with us as we (often) judge those who identify with a type of yoga that doesn’t. If that makes sense. Rather than focusing on how others aren’t doing yoga “right”, I think that we will accomplish more if we focus on building a yoga community that is reflective of our values, which you seemed to really emphasize at the end of your post, Francesca. I’m in!

    • Francesca Cervero

      Ah, thanks so much Kristi! This is beautifully said. I know it is a challenging road, but you are totally on a good and clear path. I’ll be sending you love from the east coast. <3

  7. Rachel

    Also- I really love your website. May I ask why you chose not to list your rates publicly? I ask because I’m sure you thought it out and have a wise and specific answer : )

    • Francesca Cervero

      Yes, you may ask 🙂 I want a chance to talk to my clients, make sure we are a good fit for each other, and get a sense of how much I would be able to help them, BEFORE we start talking about money. If people are just shopping for the cheapest price, I will not be the best teacher for them, but if they want a teacher who can really help them, I may be. It is best for us to have that conversation in person, before they make that decision. Does that make sense?

  8. Christina Scalera

    As always, a great read. I’ve been feeling really jaded about the whole yoga-verse lately. It’s why I’m turning my business towards working with people who are outside of the current yoga community, mostly because of all the petty competition I’m encountering. When I approach yoga teachers or studios with collaborative ideas, 9/10 times I am turned down and 5/10 times they actually say something rude or demeaning like “we already have someone teaching [prenatal yoga/ alignment-based yoga/ fill in your topic here.]” (Because having diverse perspectives is awful…?)

    When I approach women from the creative communities I’ve found, like The Rising Tide Society (whose motto is actually #communityovercompetition), I’m met with encouragement and constructive feedback. You are one of the few yoga teachers I still follow because you are such a genuine light and authentic person.

    • Francesca Cervero

      That is so nice of you to say Christina 🙂 You are doing such good work. Just keep on keeping on, petty competition certainly doesn’t help anyone. Sending love to you down in GA. <3

  9. Fernando

    Hi Francesca,
    thank you for voicing my thoughts. However I believe that the article on the magazine is good… maybe not completely true but is good. I agree the market is oversaturated with new yoga ‘teachers’, many who came from dancing of gymnastics and after a few months of attending a group class take the teacher training because “I am so great at this”…. Some people who read the article will feel discouraged, hopefully stopping those who want is an easy way to teach ‘gymnastic with an exotic name’.

    • Francesca Cervero

      You and I are in total agreement about this Fernando. While I was bummed the article was framed in such a black and white way, she certainly wasn’t making any of it up. There was a lot of truth to it. If it discourages people who think they can make an easy buck from trying to teach yoga that would definitely be a good thing!

  10. Holly Gable

    Hi Francesca. First of all, a massive thank you! Your videos and blogs are always a source of great wisdom and inspiration to me! Please keep doing what you’re doing! And extra thanks for this series about money. It is something I am thinking a lot about at the moment…
    I have been teaching mostly private classes, so far all as pay-what-you-like with a donation pot. This is a concept I feel quite strongly about. I am, like many, disheartened by the corruption and inequality of a capitalist economy, and also, like many, am trying to work out alternative ways of living. I often do work-exchange projects, exchanging help for food and accommodation. Before I was a teacher I used to live and practice yoga in London, and so many people were put off yoga by the price, or had to stop coming to classes because they could no longer afford it.
    So, at the moment I’m trying to see if a ‘pay-what-you-like’ concept could work with yoga teaching.
    In order to avoid the awkwardness that people often initially feel about setting the price, I encourage them to pop the money in a pot while I’m packing up after the class.
    But I have to say that it’s not as easy and fluid a payment method as I would wish, so far the majority of clients have been happy with it, but a few have insisted that I set a price myself. And like you mentioned in the blogs, dealing with money in the same space as teaching, is not ideal.

    I’d love to know your opinion on the ‘pay-what-you-like/can afford’ concept, and any tips you have for perhaps making this payment option a little more streamlined?

    Thanks again Francesca!

    • Francesca Cervero

      Hi Holly! Thank you so much for reaching out. It is really nice to virtually meet you. You are so on the right path. I hear you: the inequality that is a symptom of our capitalist economy is terrifying and integrating yoga into that path is so complicated, My friend Gracy of speaks in a beautiful way about how business, and making money in business, can be a spriritual practice. Alternativlty, the model of my friend Ashley at may intrest you. It is a donation-based studio, but they also give recommended ranges for their services. The range they offer is in line with what the market value of the service is. Ashley has been teaching for a very long time, and I think the recommended range for her private sessions is $75-$125. I think at the very least, you MUST at least give a recommended range for the suggested donation. It is asking much too much of your students to leave it so open. It is your job to take care of them, and part of that includes being strong enough to place a value on the teachings you are offering. I know it can feel hard, but it is part of your job! Please let me know if this helps, and any other questions it brings up for you. Sending love. <3

      • Holly

        Thank you SO much Francesca for taking the time to get back to me. <3 I'm really enjoying Gracey's blogs, she writes beautifully. And it is so great to read about skyhouseyoga as a successful donation based studio… It gives me a lot of faith for setting up our donation based creativity & yoga space in the future. Thank you for your advice about suggesting a recommended range for the donations, you're right, it's a tough thing to do; I am a relatively new teacher, but I do feel confident in my ability to care for my students… When I recommence classes in the new year, I will take your advice! I'll let you know how it works out! 🙂 Thank you X

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