After finishing their teacher training many new yoga teachers start out teaching in various studios first or rent a room on a hourly basis and start creating their own practice groups.
This is great to try out if teaching is really for you and if you feel the desire to make it a bigger part of your life.
On the other hand the limited opportunity to really grow your offerings (such as more classes, weekend workshops etc.), combined with long commutes between classes and the limited income from exchanging classes for money can become discouraging.
The thought of starting your own studio keeps coming up, as that promises more freedom to really teach the way you want, attract the people you really resonate with and ideally get a stabler income from teaching – after all we have to pay our bills.
Your own Yoga studio comes with more opportunities, yet also with much greater responsibility
I know many Yoga teachers who run their own studio. And I have seen them go through the various stages: teaching in many places – opening their own studio – struggling with everything that comes with the new studio – eventually running a thriving Yoga studio.
I know that it takes great ammounts of endurance, resilience, hard work, commitment, trust and hard hard work to make the dream of your own studio work.
Here are the six important questions to ask yourself before starting your own Yoga Studio
1. It starts with Your Intention about sharing yogic practices:
As with everything, being clear on your intention is primary.
Are you thriving on the idea of spreading Yoga and its practices with the world or just avoiding other things in your life, running away from other things in your life, thinking that by being a Yoga teacher you can do fun things, not dealing with the issues of a „regular job“ or being able to just look at the nice things in life?
I hate to disappoint you, but doing something you are passionate about will not only make you 100% responsible with much less options to blame others. You will be even more exposed to criticism as you actually care about what you are doing.
So first think about your intention, write down a mission statement and purpose for your yoga studio that when reading it makes you so excited, it will get you out of bed even on the mornings where you just want to quit. Make sure your intention behind starting a place that is dedicated to the practice of yoga is clear and aligned with your personal purpose. (see also What you can learn from Krishnamacharya’s story about having a purpose as a Yoga teacher)
2. Do you want to really commit to one place and take care of it in every way
Not everyone loves being in the same place all the time. Some yoga teachers are travelers and thrive when living out of a suitcase. Others love building a community growing it over many years. You should be aware of what life you want to live and the priorities in your life. If you for example plan to spend 6 months out of the year in India studying, maybe opening up your own place is not the best as fixed costs are to be paid all year around and your community will likely fall apart when you leave them for long periods of time.
Depending on your targeted audience, you will most certainly need to work when other people are free – weekends, evenings, early mornings.
Apart from your preferred lifestyle, a yoga studio also needs constant care, especially at the beginning. It involves taking care of repairs, cleaning, renovations, and replacing things.
You have to be willing to take responsibility for all these things. Even if you hire people to do the work (which especially at the beginning might not always be affordable), you still have to oversee it and make sure things are working.
3. Do you have a clear direction for your Yoga studio
You surely have a personal practice (read here why you should keep your practice up as a teacher) and have been involved in a certain style (or various styles) of yoga. Likely this is what you want to share with your students.
That is great, because those are the practices where you are likely an expert, able to share them in a thorough way. That is your niche which you should stick to especially at the beginning as its much easier to explain the benefits of a particular approach to your target audience.
I have seen many new teachers starting a school after their teacher training, immediately starting with a schedule full of classes of various styles, with one or two teachers (the owners of the studio) teaching all the classes, and with class descriptions so generic that it’s hard to know why an interested students should come to either of them.
Of course they were just trying to offer anything a yoga enthusiast might be interested in. But in this way the teachers will likely end up being exhausted from teaching too many classes with too few students.
Instead of trying to offer everything, start with one thing (style, practice, method, tradition) that you know well. Present it in a clear way and authentic way and communicate its benefits to your prospective audience in a way that is unique to you.
4. Are you willing to grow your studio into the crucial size that it needs to survive
Size-wise Yoga teachers can thrive on two ends of the spectrum:
1. Being solo-entrepreneurs, teaching in various places, traveling to teach workshops, having a lot of freedom and some higher paying gigs, yet not the stability of a firm base such as a studio.
2. Having a yoga school that has reached a crucial size, ideally a couple of teachers to sub in case of illness, to go on vacation and to add to the program as the need for that arises.
If you are stuck between the two (having your own place but keeping it very small) you are likely running into big problems longterm.
There are fixed costs that you always have to earn, all year around. The more you utilize your space with more classes, weekend workshops, intensives etc., the easier it is to earn the monthly costs and eventually have a profit. If you have to teach all classes and extra events, take care of running and managing the studio and don’t have reliable people to sub for you and therefore no vacation, weekends, sick time, you will eventually burn out.
It’s great to start small, but mid- and longterm you should have an idea how to grow your studio to its crucial size. (What this crucial size is for you can vary depending on various factors such as cost of living, price per class/workshop, fixed costs of studio, costs for hired yoga teachers etc.)
5. Do you have experience with running a business and are willing to learn about various business aspects
There are thousands or even millions of teacher training programs worldwide, but I assume only very few of them teach how to run a business of yoga. And that is ok, after all the teacher training is not an entrepreneur-course.
The unfortunate effect of that is that many new yoga teachers without previous business experience underestimate this part of running a yoga studio. Of course there are experts for everything that you can hire to do the accounting, deal with taxes and billing.
But if you don’t understand the business side of your yoga studio, you cannot steer your yoga studio to success. And success not only means making a profit to pay your personal bills, but also means reaching more students and sharing the practice of yoga with all its benefits which is probably one of your goals for starting the studio in the first place.
Therefore do some sort of business training, educate yourself, ask a knowledgeable friend or let someone coach you in the various aspects of the business of running a yoga studio.
6. Are you able and willing to give work away
In all small businesses it is happening. Excited people start their venture and try to do everything by themselves. It’s called the superhero-syndrome. Maybe you don’t want to afford hiring help or you think you can do it all by yourself.
Sooner or later you will end up collapsing under the workload, you will burn out or start hating being a yoga teacher – not because of the teaching but because of all the other things that come with running a yoga studio.
That’s why after the first couple of weeks or months or running a yoga studio, you should strategically think about the things that you do that are crucial but that you are not good at or really don’t like doing and think of ways to give them away.
photocredit: sandra db