Why is wellness so expensive?
Updated: Apr 1
Natural therapies aren't always accessible to people because they're not covered by insurance. While natural therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic, are being covered by some premium health insurance plans, most are not. That creates the problem of exclusivity in the wellness community; only those people who can afford to pay out of pocket can access natural therapies. If wellness professionals really want to help people, like they say, why do they charge so much?
I've been in the wellness industry for about a decade now, and I'm going to be really transparent with you in this article about my experiences and what goes on behind the scenes of the yoga industry.
When you go to a yoga class, knowing you've paid $15 to be there, you might glance around you and notice there are nine other students in the class. You might think to yourself, "wow, this teacher is making $150 for an hour of their time." What you don't see is the overhead a yoga teacher covers with every single class they teach.
Yoga teachers pay rent
Some studios take a percentage of each class, typically between 30% - 40% of the total profit to pay rent and cover their operating expenses. Some studios will instead pay their teachers a flat hourly rate. These rates can vary wildly depending on how established the studio is and how in demand the teacher is. In my early career, I might make $12 per class regardless of how many students came. Many yoga teachers are expected to market their own classes as well, which requires a lot.
Yoga teachers do more than teach yoga
In order to teach yoga professionally in this day and age, you have to do a lot more than spend an hour with students in the studio. You have to become a promotor, a graphic designer, a videographer, a website designer.
There are many annual costs that go into being a yoga teacher, at least in the United States.
We are required to carry liability insurance.
As independent contractors, we are technically self-employed which means we pay self-employment tax on top of our regular income tax.
We have to purchase our own health insurance.
Sometimes, you have to provide annual background checks to the studios or center you teach at.
If you're registered with an organization like the Yoga Alliance, you have to pay annual membership dues.
You have to invest in any equipment you need to facilitate your teaching (cameras, lights, microphones, editing apps, premium subscriptions, and that's in addition to any things you might need that are actually yoga related like mats, bolsters, blocks, straps, blankets, etc.).
If you have business cards or a website, that's an additional cost.
If you create any printed marketing materials, like flyers or gift cards, there's additional cost.
If you need to defeat algorithms just to get the word out about your class, you gotta pay for ads.
If you bring anything to your classes for your students, that comes out of your own pocket.
Yoga teachers have to hustle
If you're making a living teaching yoga, and you're not like a famous yogi, then you're probably hustling to get in enough classes to pay the bills. For every class that you teach, you have to spend time driving to the studio, arrive early to greet and check-in students, set the space up, teach the actual class, stay after to clean the space up, and drive to your next class. If you work an eight hour day, you might only be getting paid for four of those hours. Yoga teachers are not compensated for travel time or mileage. That also doesn't take into consideration the time you spent preparing and marketing the class: writing the perfect class description, doing a photo shoot to get an event photo, planning the perfect playlist and synchronizing it with your sequence, finding the inspiring quote you read at the beginning of class, and harassing your friends on facebook to get more people to come.
Any yoga teacher you ask will tell you, a lot of work goes into just having the opportunity to show up and teach. It's really a labor of love; something we do because we enjoy it. If this were just a job, it wouldn't be worth it.
And yes, it is a lot. It's overwhelming at times. From the outside, I know how it looks. It's easy to fall into some romantic ideas about the life of a yoga teacher. And it's true that there are some that make way more than they need and still don't give anything back. Some people hoard yoga in this way, but that doesn't mean everyone who charges is misusing yoga.
Commercialism complicates the transmission of yoga. We introduce things like overhead costs, liability, educational requirements, regulation boards, etc. The way we teach now is very different from the traditional methods of transmitting the teachings of yoga. The social system of traditional yoga was very different. For example, if you went to hear a teacher give a lecture, it was just understood you leave some kind of donation. Our social system is structured on commercialism. We feel uncomfortable if there isn't a price tag on something; either not realizing we should offer a donation even when it's not requested, not knowing how much to donate, or perhaps thinking it must not be worth much if it's being offered for free. But that's a whole other article :)
I think transparency helps. It's not always comfortable, but it allows us to meet on the same page when coming together to discuss financially accessible options. It never feels good to feel undervalued AND it never feels good to believe we're being overcharged. The best way to avoid that is to give everyone all the details. I include itemized breakdowns of my larger ticket events to let people know why it costs what it costs. It helps prospective clients better determine if working with me is going to be worth their investment, and it helps them visualize how their energetic contribution will touch the lives of many small business owners, not just my own.
When you pay a yoga teacher, you also pay a studio owner, and an insurance agent, and a photographer, and the list goes on. You are supporting your community, not just your teacher. Maybe... just maybe... this way of seeing is yoga too.
About the Author
Nancy Cooke is a certified Trauma Informed Yoga Therapist and Professional TIYT Clinical Facilitator with the Overcome Anxiety Project, a non-profit organization committed to teaching body-based therapeutic approaches to mental health.
At FBW, not being able to afford our advertised rates does NOT mean you are unworthy of our services. Contact Nancy to ask about our scholarship program.