Spiritual practice, success & money DO mix
Many people, especially in the world of Yoga and Spirituality believe that there is something wrong with aiming to be really successful. There is this opinion that if you are striving for success and enjoy the money that comes with it, you are „selling out“ and that you should feel bad about charging for your services at all.
Today I want to share some thoughts on how we can define success as a Yoga teacher, the historic and modern way of teaching and getting paid for Yoga and why we should feel great about receiving money for the services we provide as a Yoga teacher.
Don’t reduce success to financial earnings
Before and after deciding to quit my well-paid job as a management consultant to become a Yoga teacher I thought a lot about the issue of money and teaching Yoga. It is actually quite hilarious how earning well when working for a huge company, where the main reason for showing up for work is money is considered completely normal. Yet, the moment you start sharing your passion of Yoga, let others benefit from your experience and actually can support people to live a more healthy, more conscious life, it’s considered wrong (or at least questionable) to take money. Also the definition of success in the corporate environment is often very much based on how much you earn and how much of a raise you get each year. Left out are aspects to a successful life like time with your family and friends and the happiness and fulfillment you enjoy on a daily basis.
As I started to teach Yoga, I redefined my idea of success and included aspects that support my happiness, fulfillment and freedom, additionally to the financial aspect. In my jobs before, I had unconsciously compensated the lack of other success factors in my life with the wish for a higher pay-check.
Different aspects of success:
1. Living the lifestyle you want: No matter if you are single, married, have a family or not, like to travel or prefer staying in one place all year, love to live in the mountains or by the beach, in the city or countryside, success should include living the way you want.
2. Being financially successful: Success also means having enough so that you can support your desired lifestyle.
3. Being able to engage our strengths for a purpose that is worth filling every day of our lives: Even if we could live the lifestyle we want and having the money we need for that, without a purpose that is higher than ourselves, after a while we would feel empty and unmotivated to keep going and search for something else to find more meaning in our lives.
4. Being part of creating transformation and a strong community: Sharing our passion and experience with as many people as we want to and feeling the great transformational and supporting power of community that develops in between Yoga practitioners and teachers is one of the most fulfilling parts of a Yoga teacher’s life. No money can buy the nourishment that your soul receives from that.
It helps a lot to be aware of the things we value most in life. Money is just a helpful tool for exchanging goods, that can help us live the life we want to live, but shouldn’t be the main factor for our daily decisions. I believe that if we are clear about the value we have to provide to others and open to give and create value, no matter if we are teaching Yoga or doing something else, money will be the last thing we have to worry about.
Teaching Yoga in different stages of life
The Yoga teacher who does not charge for his services goes partly back to the traditional idea of yoga renunciates who live(d) in the woods or a cave in the Himalayans, teaching a small group of dedicated students, living off what nature provided and contributions for the community. Also ashrams oftentimes where living on donations and the community-service of the students living in the ashram.
Nowadays however, most Yoga practitioners and teachers are not renunciates, rather „householders”.
When we look at the stages of life that are described in the yogic texts, there is a time for
1. learning and gaining knowledge (young age – brahmacharya)
2. Work and gaining wealth, taking responsibility for family and society (householder stage – grihasta)
3. Contemplation and gaining wisdom (post-householder stage – vanaprastha)
4. Renunciation and gaining freedom (old age – sanyasa, for monks and such can come directly after first stage)
As the Ashtanga Yoga practice is called „householder yoga”, where Yoga practices like asana and pranayama are used to support the life without filling it out completely, providing also for family and serving society, most Yoga teachers can be considered householders and have to make a living teaching Yoga.
So as long as we are living in society with all responsibilities that come with that, we need to make a living, and that includes making money.
The important question is: What is our primary goal in teaching Yoga? Is it money and fame, or do we want to provide value to others?
If we give whole-heartedly and provide value, we can gladly take money for it
If we are all about sharing our love for Yoga and try to share techniques that make our students feel better, be more aware and make better choices for themselves, if what we are teaching is truly based on the knowledge that we received from our teachers and based on a tradition we value and follow, if we base our teaching on our experience of long-time continuous practice and we are always staying true to our heart, I don’t think we can go astray.
But if we get greedy, doing what we do with the primary goal of „getting“ more money, feeding our ego, showing off in front of our students what we can do and feeling important that a group of students is listening to us, if we change the Yoga styles we teach by what is selling best and sacrifice what we truly believe in to what brings in more money, then we are selling out. And I don’t even want to say it’s bad to sell out. We are all on our individual paths, we all have to learn different lessons and make our experience. But if we don’t do what makes our heart happy, whatever we do will eventually leave us feeling disconnected and unfulfilled. And no amount of money in the bank can help us with that.
Yoga tells us to practice diligently without being attached the result (and teaching is a form of practice).
Non-attachment to the outcome of our actions doesn’t mean that we don’t get an outcome but that we are not attached to it or get our ego blown up by getting more outcome.
As I see it, money is just another form of energy. If we provide value to our students, we should receive something in return, everything else is not balanced.
Ask yourself, what success means to you! How much money do you need to fulfill your needs and how much to fulfill your desires (and find the difference between the 2).
How much success is it to feel happy and fulfilled with a life of teaching Yoga? How much success is it to get great feedback from students who thank you for helping them alleviate their back pain, making them feel more centered, less stressed and seeing them leave your Yoga class with a smile. Those kinds of success I never had in my corporate job. And that’s the kind of success that makes me cherish my life as a Yoga teacher beyond money.
The truth is: we need success to feel engaged, motivated and inspired to keep going and provide even more value to our students. I have a sense that without success you will feel hollow, and without money to live by, we cannot create the value we are meant to provide to the world.
We should enjoy the hunger to realize and share our greatest gifts and live life fully. Yet we often get the feeling that if we are feeling great about what we are doing and getting paid for it, we should feel bad about it. Let’s stop this way of trapping ourselves and start feeling good about being ourselves and saying „Yes“ to life and success. Go ahead, be the most successful Yoga teacher you can be, but stay true to your heart, devoted to serving your students and focus on elevating the lives you touch every day.