Business isn’t spiritual – yoga is. How can I reconcile the two if I want to build my own yoga business?

Reconciling business with spiritual

Recently I was listening to an interview with the well-known yoga teacher, Anna Forrest, from Forrest Yoga. I had heard of her, but never heard her speak before and didn’t know much about her,  but in the interview she raised what I think is a really important issue in the yoga teacher world:

Business is not seen as spiritual: Yoga is.

Yoga teachers find it hard to reconcile the two.

Anna is quite a blunt individual! This is what she said:

"One of the problems so many yoga teachers have is this mind-set that business is spiritual, therefore, I don't really need to pay attention to the business. If I'm being spiritual, the world will take care of me."

My response to that is, “Listen fool! The world will rip you off!

So wake up and apply the yoga of business. Be ethical in your business. Don’t cut down your peers and colleagues. Don’t waste time with gossip. Don’t feel you have to put somebody else down in order to prove your worth, because all you’re proving is your own insecurity.

If you decide to be your very best self and teach your students that – they will be drawn to you. Make sure you provide something wonderful and your yoga business will grow.”

I thought this was wonderful advice! 

In truth, I have sometimes come across some very “un-yogic” behaviour amongst yoga teachers, but for me, generally, this is very rare. I prefer a collaborative approach, and when I first started teaching in my area, within a few months I was reaching out to other yoga teachers in the area, to introduce myself to them, find out a little more about them and their aspirations, and explore the possibilities for supporting each other for cover (always one of the most challenging parts of my business I find!) or whether there might be opportunities to do something together.

That is how I met the wonderful friend and yogini and yoga therapist who has now run 13 retreat days with me! I wouldn’t dream of running these days without her – our approaches are similar yet with different knowledge and perspectives – which I know our students find enriches the experience for them.

I also think Anna is right when she says the world can “rip you off.” 

From yoga studios or gyms who take advantage, expect a pound of flesh and yet pay you a pittance, to students who expect things for free or next to nothing, or who are too demanding or service providers who might try it on in terms of charges…..there are people out there who deserve caution on approach! 

It does pay to be savvy. It does help if you can sharpen your negotiation skills, master your mind-set around money and pricing (always a really tricky subject I find for so many yoga teachers) and just generally demonstrate you know how to act in a business-like and professional way.

For me – that’s what it’s all about – being professional.

I had a new student come to me for a trial session (they still pay for these!) last week. She received, as all my new students do, a warm welcome, 4 pieces of professionally printed information to take away, including a copy of my newsletter, and her words were, “Oh my! This is all very professional!”

That makes me very happy! Because that’s exactly what I hope people feel when they come to me – that I care – but I’m also professional, and business-like.

So here’s my take on business and being spiritual:

  • Business and making a profit are NOT dirty words! Are there some businesses out there which are unethical? Of course. But is it possible to be an ethical business and still earn a crust? Absolutely! My yoga business helps others and sustains me in the process. As I’ve grown it provides work for a small team of support  - so they benefit too. That’s what good businesses do.
  • Too much of a good thing can be a disadvantage…………including spirituality! I come from a psychology background. One of the concepts I learned was something called “Strengths overdone” – which meant that, there are behaviours which are generally seen as being “good behaviour”, but which, if overdone, can actually be detrimental to both the individual and those around them. 

Let me explain. Take caring for example – a trait a lot of yoga teachers have in abundance! Is it possible to overdo caring? What happens if you do? Overdoing caring can become smothering to the person on the receiving end. It can lead to burn out for the person doing the caring because they are not looking after their own health.  It can lead to other people taking advantage, or the “carer” feeling resentful because they are doing so much and not getting back in return….

You get the picture. It’s complex – and a double-edged sword if you’re not careful! 

It’s the same with spirituality. I’ve come across some yogis who have become almost patronisingly arrogant and dismissive of those whom they see as not being on the “higher path” – they can become very blinkered and unrealistic, and to be honest, they irritate me profoundly! Unless you plan to live in a monastery, you have to accept the fact you have bills to pay, possibly other mouths to feed and people you are responsible for – and you need to live!

Spirituality is different for everyone – it’s an almost impossible thing to describe and buttonhole – and everyone’s concept of what it means is different. I like to allow everyone to find their own expression of spirituality – with no labelling of what is “right” or “wrong.” It’s just about what feels right for your own conscience and beliefs and respecting those of others.

So build your yoga business around what feels right for you – but don’t be a doormat and don’t confuse service to others with disrespecting and undervaluing your own needs for survival and growth, and purpose and meaning.  You deserve that as much as your prospective students do!

As Anna says: be yourself. Find your own “path” as a teacher, and then find the students who resonate with you. And those that don’t? You weren’t meant to serve them anyhow – and they’d be a pain if you did! So let them go!

You CAN build a VERY successful business, AND be caring, flexible, supportive and respectful of your own needs! I know – I’ve done it.

  • Focus on 2 things: recognising what you have to offer and providing a service which truly is customer-centric. If you focus on those two things you will build a business that is ethical, which genuinely benefits the students you serve and which supports your own needs.
I’d call that a win-win! 

So if you were worried you might not be “cut out” to be a business yogi, know it is possible to be “spiritual” (whatever that means for you, and accepting it might be different for others) AND business-like. And don’t allow yourself to be hood-winked into being taken advantage of! 

Good luck! 



Actions you can take:

  • You’ll find lots of other articles around the topic of getting the right mind-set to be a yoga teacher on my blog which might be helpful around this topic.
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