The Yoga of Money: Take Wisdom from the Mat to Your Finances

When you approach money with the same consciousness you bring to your yoga practice, your financial life can offer profound personal insight and wisdom.

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Six years ago, Sadie Nardini was trekking around New York City teaching more than a dozen group yoga classes a week, many of which were donation based. When students started asking her about her rate for private classes, she wanted to say “$125”—but instead, “$50” came out of her mouth. “I avoided finances like I avoided Bound Triangle [Pose],” says Nardini.
 Then, about a year later, she had a realization. “Asana is powerful—though not always comfortable,” she says. “Letting the tough stuff emerge is where you get your chance to realign with who you really are.” Nardini knew it was time to apply the same principle to her angst around money. So, she curled up in her favorite café with a large chai and a journal and started writing her “story” around finances—noting, for example, that even as a child she had never felt capable of handling money because her father always had control over the family’s accounts. As she wrote, she also recalled how, as she began her yoga career, she didn’t feel truly worthy of making a good living doing what she loved. “I couldn’t charge as much as others told me I was worth because, deep down, I struggled with self-esteem,” she says.

“That day, I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend my life stuck in my old story,” says Nardini. She started getting more mindful about how she thought about money and how she was expending her energy. She became much more strategic about when and where she taught. She also started charging $125 for privates.

It worked. In addition to charging a more realistic price for those private classes, Nardini wrote a book. Nardini made $275,000 last year and says she still offers plenty of donation-based classes online.

“So many people blame money for most of the ills of the world, and avoid looking at their own relationship with their finances, kind of like we avoid the asanas we find most challenging,” says Brent Kessel, a dedicated yogi and meditator who co-founded Abacus Wealth Partners. “Yet money has the power to be a profound spiritual teacher—if we are willing to engage it with the same consciousness and intention as we do our traditional spiritual practices.”

Yogis are in a unique position to do this kind of internal digging around money issues. “Those of us who practice yoga are continuously increasing our capacity to endure uncomfortable physical feeling-states, and the same can be applied to emotional states,” explains Kessel. Remember that time you sat on your heels with your toes tucked under for several minutes? Your body did something your brain probably told you you couldn’t endure. “You can apply this same sort of fierceness when your old stories and patterns come up,” he says.

5 Smart Ways to Make a Yoga Living + Stay Financially Secure

If you’re a yoga teacher or studio owner trying to reconcile your love of yoga with good business practices, here’s inspiration from the pros to help you take your brand to the next level. (PS: These tips work for most any business.)

1. Connect to your personal “why.”

Identify the reason you became a yoga teacher in the first place, says Justin Michael Williams, a marketing expert and co-founder of the Business of Yoga workshops, who has advised Sianna Sherman, Ashley Turner, and many more successful teachers. The “why” is the soil from which your business model and all of your offerings should grow. “It can be tempting to do a million things that have monetary potential,” he says. But reflecting on the reason you became a yoga teacher can help you know which opportunities to say yes to, so you can work smarter, not harder.

2. Find your funnel.

You could teach 20 public classes a week and still not be able to pay your rent. Or, you could “funnel” your students into signature programs—things like workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings—that are higher priced, says Karen Mozes, Williams’ Business of Yoga co-founder. “This is the secret weapon for a teacher’s financial freedom.”

3. Make a list of comparable services.

Erika Veley, a former marketing executive and founder of Daily Bliss Yoga in Laguna Beach, California, understands how tough it can be to charge top dollar for your services. Her advice: Research the going rates for anyone offering similar services in your area, such as therapists and bodyworkers, then adjust your prices accordingly. This can ease some of the fear around asking for what you’re worth.

4. Set business goals.

Every successful business sets benchmarks, which are oftentimes financial, says Williams. How much do you need to make to break even or to see a profit? Then, do periodic check-ins and make adjustments if you’re not well on your way to meeting those goals.

5. Get paid up front.

It may sound trivial, but asking for payment before you provide your services—whether it’s a group class, private lesson, or retreat—is just a good practice, says Veley. “Odds are, people are going to walk out of class feeling seriously blissed out, and that’s when they’ll forget to pay,” she says.