Today we’re talking about whether you should teach yoga for free, when teaching yoga for free might be a good idea, and when it’s not such a good idea.
Not a reader? Watch on YouTube instead!
Consider your why
Before you start offering free yoga classes, think about why you’re doing it. Ultimately, the decision to teach yoga for free is a personal one that depends on your own goals and circumstances. Your intention behind offering free classes should be clear to you before you start offering them. In this post we’ll explore some of the things you want to consider before making this decision so that you can draw your own conclusions.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Your experience
- Your financial situation
- The needs of your community
- Seva or selfless service
Gaining experience teaching yoga for free
New yoga teachers
If you are a new yoga teacher who is still building a client base, teaching for free can be a great way to gain experience and exposure.
When I opened my yoga studio in my local town, I invited my friends and neighbours for a free class. I decided to host a second free class to attract even more people and then started charging for my classes. And it worked! My friends and neighbours liked the style of yoga I was teaching, they told their friends, and my classes started filling up.
When you’re new to teaching yoga, new to the area you live in or opening a new yoga studio, you can give people the opportunity to get to know you and your style through a free class.
But it’s important that you are prepared to also let people know how you’ll proceed after the free class. You can tell them at the beginning of the class, the end of the class, hand out flyers or a card with your website address on it, and also ask them to share about you. Tell them about your schedule, and how you’ll charge for your classes going forward.
More experienced yoga teachers
If you already have more experience teaching but your classes aren’t always full yet, you may want to offer an occasional free class, or offer one free class to new students. This way, your free class is part of your marketing strategy.
In my area this wouldn’t work because I live in an area that receives a lot of tourists, so if I’d offer free classes, they might be full, but chances are that you’d see people only once because they moved on after their holidays.
On the other hand, if you teach yoga online, for example, creating free shorter or slightly different yoga class videos on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok might help people find you. And if they love you, they’ll want to join your paid offerings too.
Also, if you are an experienced teacher with a steady stream of clients, your classes are always full, teaching for free may not make as much sense business wise.
Earning a living teaching yoga
Earning a living from yoga
If you need to earn income to support yourself or your family, teaching for free is not sustainable in the long term. When teaching yoga is your job, while you are teaching, doing marketing, setting up your studio or your camera for a class, you’re not able to do anything else with that time to make money.
If that’s the case, you should charge for your classes. Especially if you have overhead costs like rent for the shala or room, recurring payments for software you use to teach online, advertising costs, paying for petrol for your car to get to your class, you need to charge.
The only reason you’re able to teach yoga at all is because you invested time and money on teacher training, years of practice, reading and honing your skill teaching yoga. This is time and money you did not spend on anything else. If you think about a photographer, would you expect them to teach you what they know for free? Or even a personal trainer? Why do people expect yoga at a discount?
Yoga used to be transmitted from master to student. Often the student had to prove themselves worthy to even be accepted as a student. They had to devote themselves to the study and practice of yoga for years.
Nowadays, as a yoga student, you can hop into a drop-in class in your local community centre. You don’t have to travel far and wide and live with your master, forsaking all worldly means. Yoga has become more convenient, and easy to fit into our modern lives. The only way that has been made possible is because becoming a yoga teacher has become easier, because yoga schools exist and because people can do it for a living.
Some people repair cars, some people mend clothes, other people know the law, and other people become yoga teachers. It has become a profession like any other, and yet it is judged against different standards.
If you still have another income to support yourself
If you do have another income to support yourself, like a day job or part-time job, you can offer some free classes to hone your skills or serve your community. But you’ll only have so much time and energy to teach on top of your job, plus you might still have overhead costs. So it’s not very practical to teach only free classes, because your effort is worth the payment.
Also, when you’re teaching too many classes for too little or no money, this can lead to burnout and resentment. If you start feeling resentful about teaching a certain class, it is definitely worth looking into why you feel that way.
And if you’re teaching many classes – free or not free- you might not have the energy to practice yourself anymore either. Most yoga teachers, me included, will tell you that they teach yoga because yoga has changed their life. When teaching too many hours just to make ends meet is impacting your own practice, something is definitely not right. You want to be able to share the gift of yoga but you don’t want to get to the point where you get resentful for teaching or taking away your own practice.
I’ve had that happen to me not long after I started teaching yoga, when I was teaching multiple classes per day 7 days a week during a whole summer and I almost fell out of love with yoga then. I never practiced as little myself as that summer. So I knew this wasn’t sustainable.
However, if you have a stable income from another source and want to give back to your community, teaching for free can be a rewarding experience.
To recap so far: the first factors to take into consideration is whether you are a beginner teacher seeking experience teaching, whether it’s part of your marketing strategy to teach free classes, and your financial situation. Let’s explore two more factors.
The needs of your community and seva
First, let’s talk about the needs of your community. If you live in an area where access to yoga classes is limited or expensive, teaching for free can be a valuable service. And this ties in with the concept of seva.
What is seva
If you have ever visited an ashram or maybe had another community living experience, you might be familiar with the concept of ‘Seva,’ which in Sanskrit means selfless service. Seva means being of service without expecting anything in return.
Offering a free yoga class without expecting anything in return other than the pleasure of giving in itself is seva.
Why a free yoga class in your community might be a good idea
Offering a free class may have a ripple effect on your community, for instance, people who are relaxed after your yoga class will be kinder to their partner/colleagues/children. You’re able to build relationships with people who might be inspired to also share their skills for free.
And also, if access to yoga classes is limited or unavailable to people because of the cost of a class elsewhere in your community, or due to the nature of the community, for instance if you were to teach a free class in a detention centre or prison, this can be a great contribution to your community.
Why teaching a free class in your community might not be a good idea
Selflessness is very honourable, but it’s a concept that can definitely be abused. When you find yourself cleaning the yoga studio for free after your class, that’s not seva. That is a studio owner profiting off of the concept of seva. Unless these tasks bring you pleasure and you’re happily doing this, this is not doing seva, it’s exploitation.
And I just want to remind you that teaching yoga takes energy—before, during, and after class. Building your skills, holding space during the class, setting up the room, and everything else that goes into teaching – it requires effort, and it is time you are not relaxing on the sofa or dedicating to your own practice. So the energy you spend teaching a free class needs to be replenished somehow.
If you choose to give away your time for free because you like doing so, you like being of service, please set boundaries around what you will and won’t do, how often, and in what way you can support, so that you don’t burn yourself out.
And a last thought –
Valuing your teaching – and the teaching of others
Teaching a free class can make the value of your classes seem low. People might assume you’re a beginner, or that they don’t have to commit to the class. You might notice many people signing up, but not showing up for a free class.
When people pay for a class, especially if they pay in advance, they are much more likely to show up and do the work.
Also, because there are so many free classes available, people start expecting that yoga should be free and they don’t want to spend money on it.
Often when people say they don’t have money, they just mean it’s not a priority for them and they could easily find the money for the class if they give up something else, like their netflix subscription or daily expensive coffee. This is not always the case, of course, but if the reason you’re hosting free classes is to be more inclusive, there are other and better ways to include people from disadvantaged backgrounds than by teaching free-for-all classes.
Ultimately, the decision to teach yoga for free is a personal one. Please consider carefully what your own goals and circumstances are, as well as thinking about the needs of your community.
- Consider your experience: if you’re a beginner you can teach a free class just to gain experience and confidence, find your teaching style, and who you prefer teaching. If your classes aren’t full yet, you can also consider adding a free class now and again, or offer a first yoga class free for new students as a marketing strategy.
- Think about your financial situation: if you need to make a living from teaching yoga, you need to make sure you’re covering your costs of teaching, and your costs of living. When you are dependent on your yoga teaching income, it doesn’t make sense to not charge for your classes. If you have another kind of income, like from a day job, you can choose to teach for free considering the other factors we talked about in this post.
- Consider the needs of your community, and doing selfless service or seva. If being of service makes you happy and fulfilled, by all means, teach classes in your community for free. But teaching requires an effort, and you should be clear on your boundaries. If you want to serve underprivileged people with free yoga, there are better ways to do that than a free-for-all yoga class.
- And finally, think about valuing your time, your skills and your teaching, and that of other yoga teachers.
Before you start offering free yoga classes, think about why you’re doing it. Your intention behind offering free classes should be clear to you before you start offering them so you can set your boundaries. Ultimately, the decision to teach yoga for free is a personal one that depends on your own goals and circumstances.
I hope in this blog post I’ve helped you explore some of the things you want to consider before making the decision to offer free yoga classes.
If you liked this post, please share it with your yoga teacher friends. It means the world to me, and will help more yoga teachers succeed.
If you want more information on how to work with me, please visit my website www.yogabusinessgrowth.com