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Patricia D. Pittman, M.D., MBA

A Teacher’s Sadness.

Let me preface this with I am not a studio owner and all the following are only MY observations and opinions…..I write of no particular studios as this phenomenon is something that transcends all types of yoga and all types of studios.

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When I decided I wanted to become a yoga instructor I was full of love and light. (Read my journey here!) My early days practicing yoga were filled with some of the most incredible teachers who changed my life for the better. THIS was my dream. To be part of this elite community guiding people who needed a safe place to rebuild, to grow and to become the best them they could be.

What I didn’t know–and certainly couldn’t predict–was the “business” side of the yoga…the constant money battles between owners and students, the constant battle between owners and teachers, the studios NOT paying teachers or paying them very little. And I say “business” because many studio owners are not business people, they have no financial training and really have no business running a business. However, I do believe that may studio owners begin their journey with all the best intentions & for this I give them credit.

I have also learned that many–if not most–studio owners are their own worst enemies…they are stubborn as all hell and they will do it their way–and only their way–regardless of whether it hurts the studio. They want no opinions and no help…and even when their ship is sinking they will be at the helm. They run their businesses out of fear instead of out of compassion.

I have witnessed studio owners and managers haggle an old-timer for $3….THREE BUCKS! I know studios who have sold class packages (large class packages, up to $1200) the day before they knew their studio doors were closing.

This behavior is outlandish and embarrassing.

In this particular time, the market is overly saturated with yoga. You can get any type of yoga at any time in any city and in any state so I can recognize the money crunch of many studio owners. More-so the cost of yoga keeps increasing for students and the payment for teachers keeps decreasing.

At first I thought maybe this was only my experience–after all I am a fairly new teacher….but in talking to teacher friends all over the country and all over the world, in all types of yoga, it seems this is an epidemic far and wide.

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I was appalled in the recent last few months with stories of Bikram teachers having to pay to take class….and not just a couple of bucks, but 20-25 depending on the city.  The karma yoga that was once extended to all teachers at all studios is suddenly becoming less of a commonality and more of a rarity. How sad. Do owners think 20 bucks from a visiting teacher is going to save them from financial hardships? Probably not. But what it might do is turn teachers away from wanting to come and visit.

Karma yoga is not about teachers being cheap….it’s about community. It’s about welcoming visiting teachers into your studio knowing that at some time in their lives they had experienced the wrath of Bikram’s Torture Chamber. It’s sort of like Namaste (“The light in me, honors the light in you”)…only it’s a mutual understanding and compassion for the hell we both experienced for 9 weeks & the expense we paid to do so.

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As a teacher I am saddened by the movement of the yoga community, near & far. What once was a seemingly all-inclusive group of folks is now slowly becoming tainted by the reality of the world….money and greed or perhaps it’s a last ditch effort of preservation of their studio.  It breaks my heart that many of my teaching friends–while they LOVE their students and LOVE being in the room teaching–HATE going to their studios because they have contentious relationships with their studio owners or managers.

My prediction is that in the future many studios will close…and those with the strongest communities will survive and those with the strongest respect for their teachers will flourish.

My hope and plea for studio owners to that they will get back to the roots of why they opened their studios. I beg you to please be kind to your teachers, be generous to your teachers and be open to learning and hearing new things from new people. Your teachers and students are the soul of the studio, for without them you are what?

Much Love & Namaste,

~P~

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