Help, I’m a yoga teacher – and so is everyone else!

If there’s one word that makes a yogi feel uneasy, it’s ‘competition’ – and we’re not talking about the annually debated Yoga Asana Championships. We’re talking about the fast-growing amount of competition in the yoga teaching world.

David La Spina for The New York Times

David La Spina for The New York Times

According to the latest 2016 Yoga in America Study, for every yoga teacher in the States, there are currently two people doing a yoga teacher training – and another two who are interested in doing so. Comparative statistics for the rest of the world aren’t readily available, but if other American trends are anything to go by, the rest of the world is following suit shortly.

Maybe it comes as a relief to know that the study also says there’s been a huge increase in the amount of people practising yoga, with over 36 million yoga practitioners in the US now, compared to 20.4 million in 2012. But, survey headlines can be misleading; the definition of a practitioner is: “people who have practiced yoga in the last 6 months in a group or private class setting”. And let’s be honest, bi-annual yoga students aren’t going to earn anyone the $62,400 purported to be the median yoga teacher income by CNN Money/PayScale, in their list of the ‘Top 100 careers with big growth, great pay and satisfying work’!

This town ain’t big enough for us both…  

Gringo…

Being a yogi, there’s a good chance you won’t want to employ any of the aggressive tactics for beating the competition that are often used in the corporate world… ’cause we’re all about what unifies us after all, and being in competition with another person or business inherently involves judgement and comparison. Competition forces us to ask: “who is best”?

The Good News!

There’s a lot you can do to make sure you’re getting enough students in your classes to earn a living (or a part-time living, at least) without breaking your vow to practise ahimsa at all times, and without feeding the ego you’ve been trying to starve all this time.

The following statistics tell us that along with all the other teachers waiting in the wings, there are plenty of potential students too – so ‘taking’ from another teacher or studio isn’t necessary.

  • 208 million people in the US (85% of the population) are currently non-practitioners – that’s to say they’ve never practised or they’re lapsed yogis
  • 61% of them believe yoga will enhance their performance in other activities – so they’re already convinced of the benefits of taking up yoga
  • 23% are almost there, saying they’re “somewhat or very likely to practice yoga in the next 12 months”

So now it’s just a matter of attracting some students.

How to attract new students (and hold onto them!)

  1. Keep tabs on what else is out there. This will help you create, define, or hone your Unique Selling Point (the style / location / timing / cost that will make prospective students choose your class instead of another). One in five lapsed practitioners cite having nowhere local to practise as the reason why they stopped — so maybe there’s a neighbourhood near you crying out for your class! If you’re not sure where the gaps are, consider putting on some free classes (apparently, it’s the reason why nearly 25% of practitioners began their practice).
  1. Make sure you’ve got a good ‘product’. Keep learning; keep on developing yourself and improving what you have to offer. Being knowledgeable about postures, giving adjustments and focusing on the spiritual aspects of yoga are all greatly valued by yoga practitioners. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity for you to sustain your own practice. 
Take an interest!

Get involved! Your students will love you for it.

  1. Take an active interest in your students – observe their practice, help them progress, keep them motivated! Tell them your plan for next week, or even for the whole term (are you working towards shoulderstand, for example? Or maybe you’re preparing them for an improver class). 27% of ‘practitioners’ say they actually only practice once a month or less – imagine if you got them onto their mats weekly, or even twice a week.. 
  1. Promote your magnificent classes! This is obviously a whole blog topic in itself, but in short, there are loads of online marketing techniques and websites you can take advantage of, often for free. YogaTrail itself is a handy example — you can create your free profile and list all the details about your classes (which potential students will see if they search for yoga in your area). You can also post your upcoming events. For a modest fee you can also power up your profile to get more exposure on the YogaTrail site, newsletter features, and lots of other tools for your business.
  1. Remember, no man (or woman) is an island. Other teachers in your area are worrying too… and getting into some kind of battle isn’t going to help either of you. As we all know, together we are stronger. So consider putting into action some of the following:
  • Make friends with your fellow teachers
  • Get together for some self-practice
  • Swap teaching techniques and practice adjustments
  • Cover each other’s classes
  • Send students to other teachers whose classes are more suitable
  • Jointly organise a yoga event for your town, and raise the awareness of yoga in general

Finally, in the spirit of helping each other, please share your own ideas and advice on the matter, by posting a comment below!


 

Katy Wright established her yoga practice at the age of 17, on an unusually warm British summer spent outside, working her way through a manual picked up in a book shop. In 2011, she completed her teacher training with Union Yoga in Edinburgh, and set up her teaching business alongside her job as a journalist with the BBC. Now, as a freelance copywriter, Katy continues to explore the wisdom of yoga (as it applies to business and marketing) in her personal practice and in her blog, The Cat on the Mat.