Ten Reasons Yoga Instructors Should Join a Union

6 min read

Unreasonable hiring practices and expectations are imposed upon yoga instructors in today’s industry: an instructor must have a perfect body, flawlessly transition into an arm balance from a handstand, prove their worth with thousands of IG followers, be vegan, “let everything go that isn’t serving them,” and be spiritual guides.

Yoga instructors and students are suffering because of the pressure to earn a living and perform as an instructor. The industry needs to form a union in order to protect their rights. Here are ten reasons yoga instructors need to create a union.

Yoga instructors are forced to work for free.

Studio owners often host specialty classes and charge students more but require the instructor to teach this class for free. Another method is to force instructors to teach a certain number of courses for free to determine if they are compatible with paying studio students.

The studio may justify these business practices by requiring the teacher to perform seva, a community service penalty for profiting off of yoga. Or they might do it as a favor for the instructor in exchange for exposure to their clientele.

It is illegal to require instructors to give free classes. Still, many instructors do not dare to speak out for fear of being labeled as “giving yogis” or losing their jobs in a market oversaturated by those willing to offer free lessons.

Studios Churn out Bad Instructors for Profit

Soon, the new studio next door will start offering teacher training. It’s hard for studios to stay open with just yoga classes. To make up for the profit gap, studio owners offer Teacher Training.

Teacher training was once a highly selective process that required interviews, safety tests, and competency assessments. Only experienced instructors could teach. Trainings are now available to anyone who wants to pay for them, and they’re often offered by educators with little experience looking to make a profit.

The result is that instructors with years of experience are forced to lower their earnings and lose their jobs. New instructors who lack the knowledge, safety, and skills to guide students through an exercise will take over. Studios may threaten to hire more instructors if the talented instructors refuse to accept low pay.

Teachers are not their Social Media.

Before hiring an instructor, studios research the presence and followership of that instructor on social media. Instructors who do not have thousands of followers will not be interviewed. It forces instructors to invest their time and money in heavily marketing themselves on social media to get a few classes at low pay.

Handstands Instructors are not Handstands.

Social media has led to the belief that a true yogi must be able to handstand, arm-balance, and defy gravitation in order for them to teach a successful class. Only those who have an outstanding personal practice are hired. Most students who have taken yoga classes will tell you that personal experience does not always translate into leadership ability.

It can lead to dangerous classes where beginners are forced into arm balances and headstands, causing them physical injury and discouraging them from returning.

Desk and Custodial Workers Get Illegal Free Work Trades

Instructors must have the opportunity to develop relationships with their studio clients and earn money outside of class profits. A desk job at a studio that pays an hourly wage could give the instructor the time they need to build relationships with their clients and also close the income gap.

Studio owners practice bartering by giving away free classes in exchange for desk and custodial workers’ time. Most barter trades do not get reported properly to the IRS, and they are unfair to everyone involved.

Instructors lose the chance to earn extra money. Many studios also pay an instructor a flat rate and a bonus per student for the classes they teach. Instructors are required to teach courses for work trade staff without getting paid extra.

The pay percentage of yoga instructors is too low.

The lower end of the spectrum is $15. A class will have 20 students. This is a total of $300 for the class. As a standard, the instructor is paid $30 per class. Most instructors who are able to negotiate a higher per-head rate receive only a dollar more. The instructor will receive $50 out of $300, which is only 16%.

Teachers Work More Than Just One Class

For the small amount of money you pay, your instructor will only work a third to a quarter of that time. To make ends meet, instructors often teach in three or more studios, which adds hours to their schedule.

Marketing takes up hours of the day. Instructors arrive early for every class and stay late to answer questions. A good instructor will also spend an hour creating a playlist that is perfect for each class.

Being an instructor is expensive.

A certification can cost anywhere between 3,000 and 15,000 dollars. Maintaining certifications costs thousands of dollars a year. It costs thousands of dollars a year to maintain that certification.

Finally, the majority of instructors are classified as independent contractors. This means that they pay higher taxes and receive fewer benefits compared to if they had been employees.

Yoga instructors get sick and injured.

Many yoga instructors struggle to earn enough money to cover their bills. They also have to teach enough classes in enough studios to make ends meet. When an instructor is sick or injured, they cannot teach classes. They lose their class pay or, if they are incapacitated for a long time, their entire class.

Free Instructors represent yoga Brands.

Instructors want to be a brand ambassador in order to gain credibility and followers. Brand ambassadors are not regulated, and yogis receive free clothes in exchange for their hours spent on social media.

The unions are there to protect the workers against unfair labor practices and to ensure their rights. Studios and the yoga industry take advantage of yoga instructors every day. Yoga is a popular American hobby. If it’s going to remain so, instructors must be protected and regulated to ensure fair labor standards for students as well as their safety.

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