I have already taught a dizzyingly high number of free yoga classes over the past six years. Most of these free classes were not, as you might guess, for people who couldn’t afford yoga. Most of these free classes were for companies and festivals that can definitely afford to pay for yoga. Listen, when Wanderlust emails and asks you to teach for free, you don’t say no. At least, no one that I know has.
I view teaching yoga as art. It’s not just a job. It’s an art that also requires a large practical skill set, including anatomy knowledge, customer service, and improvisational skills. How can we actually assign a price to this?
I don’t want you to feel like you have to buy a t-shirt in order to practice yoga. I self-soothe with shopping, so when I teach in settings where you have to walk through a store to get to your mat, it suggests that I don’t truly believe that you already have everything you need for a yoga practice—even if I say so in class and post it on my social media. I’m tired of feeling like a hypocrite.
I don’t actually give a shit about your class pass or your unlimited membership. I care about you. I care about you as a human, and I don’t want to waste one moment of my time or yours looking up your account or reminding you that you owe the studio money. Let’s get to the mat and do the important work. That’s where I can be of use to you.
The practice is so sincerely healing to me that I am tired of arguing my worth to studio owners and companies. It’s so vital that this practice is shared that I just don’t give a damn anymore. It was start teaching yoga for free or quit teaching yoga at all, and I’m not quitting.
Yoga teachers have very little power over when, where, and how often they teach. Most of my peers make next to no money even though, as a student, you are paying a lot of money per class. There are exceptions. I was an exception. It doesn’t matter. After a while, I felt like my yoga was to give it away.
I am not judging teachers who continue to make money. The teachers I know who make great money deserve it. The hours are strange, and the interaction is extremely personal. If you can teach yoga with integrity and earn a paycheck, I’m your biggest advocate. You are skilled and you clearly know your worth, and I’m willing to bet that just by being in the same room as your students, you empower them.
You are welcome in my free classes even if you can buy and sell me ten times over. This isn’t about just teaching yoga for people who can’t afford it. This is a way to stop dividing our society into different classes of those who can and those who cannot. I’d love to teach a class where no one has any idea how much anyone else has in their bank account.
I don’t like yoga studios. I love them. I have spent the majority of my thirties in yoga studios, and I have met the most inspiring and generous teachers, studio owners, students, and work-trade members. I see my free teaching as a supplement to the typical yoga studio model in that I am not confined by a paycheck or even a schedule. If ten people want a class every Tuesday at 10 am, we can meet at my house for free. If I’m sick, I can let you know, and I don’t have to beg my co-workers to re-arrange their lives to teach my class (where they may earn less money for teaching the same class, by the way).
You’re drinking fair-trade coffee. Are you practicing fair-trade yoga? It seems like a leap, but that yoga event that you’re attending—who is actually making the money? How is the teacher being paid? Are they being paid? Is exposure a paycheck?
I do think the scariest work that we do in this world is learning to be ourselves. It’s taken me a while, and I’ve come full-circle. I hope you’ll join me for a free class in Baltimore soon.