How to run a profitable yoga business

By Guy Anderson

profitable yoga business

In the first post of our 'Running a successful yoga business' series, we dive into the ABC of running a profitable business. But first, it all starts with the right mindset...  

At Wildheart we spend a lot of time meeting yoga teachers, yoga studio owners and yoga & meditation retreat centre owners. We create clear brand messaging, design logos, build websites and do SEO for yoga businesses in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and even New Zealand.

We’ve spent over 10 years speaking with and listening to yoga business owners, giving us a unique perspective on the challenges you face. 

Does this sound like you?

Yoga business owners are passionate about sharing yoga with people. You know and have direct experience of the healing power of yoga, a power that with steady practice changes lives for the better.

You started teaching yoga because you’re inspired, called even, to share yoga with more people. You want to help make the world a better place and you know yoga can help. Or maybe your friends saw the changes in you and asked you to teach them, and before you knew it you were teaching yoga.

But there’s one problem: your relationship with money. You just don’t feel comfortable making money from yoga. Even though you’ve invested thousands of dollars, pounds or euros and thousands of hours in your own training. 

So, here’s a question for you: if you can’t support yourself and your family doing something you love, then how sustainable is it? If you’re serious about wanting to help people through yoga, then you have to do it in a way that leads to growth – financial, emotional, physical and spiritual growth. 

Profitable yoga business: Growth equals abundance

Growth = abundance

Capitalism is obsessed with growth and for good reason. But capitalism, and more specifically consumerism, has given growth a bad name. Growth, in the form of increased financial wealth, has actually raised millions of people out of poverty over the last 100 years or so, and it’s going to be even more important in the years ahead, especially as we meet the challenges of climate change. Because, after all, it's always the poorest that will be affected the worst.

Growth is synonymous with abundance. Abundance is good, because if we feel like we have more than we need then we can share it with others. If we’re only just scraping by then it’s very hard indeed to have a generous heart or spirit. While financial wealth is not synonymous with spiritual wealth, imagine how we could change the world with both spiritual AND financial abundance. 

But, having an abundant mindset is not enough to make the changes we need. We also need physical abundance in the form of cash money! 

I meet too many stressed-out yoga teachers who are really good at teaching yoga, but just can’t seem to get enough students to join their workshops, classes and retreats. Or even worse, you’re teaching for free or paying teachers for classes when you can't pay yourself. There’s something important about generosity and sacrifice, and running a profitable yoga business does require dedication and sacrifice. But putting others ahead of you and your family is just not ethical. 

If any of this is resonating with you and you’d like to change it, then read on as I offer some simple steps to get your yoga business back on track.

Profitable yoga business: The entrepreneurs dilemma

The entrepreneur’s dilemma

When you’re working IN your business, i.e. teaching yoga, then you can’t at the same time be working ON your business. Working ON your business regularly is essential, because it ensures that you’re thinking strategically and making sure you’re going in the right direction. 

Here are some examples of working ON your yoga business:

  • Planning: classes, schedule, new workshops, retreats and trainings. 
  • Marketing: updating your website, sending out newsletters, creating content, e.g. blogs, videos, social media posts, etc. 
  • Admin: replying to emails, dealing with venues, paying expenses, bookkeeping.
  • Management: mentoring teachers, training staff, liaising with partners/collaborators. 

As a yoga solopreneur, all of this can feel overwhelming because you need to wear both hats! As a general rule of thumb, you should spend at least 70% of your time working IN your business and 30% of your time working ON your business. So, If you work 6 days a week then you should be spending at least 1.5 days working ON your business. 

Profitable yoga business: A minus B equals C

The ABC of a profitable yoga business

In order to thrive, a profitable yoga business – or any successful business for that matter – needs to generate more than it costs to run. Let’s put this into a simple equation: A - B = C, where: 

A = income
B = costs
C = profit or loss

Let’s say your income is $1,000 in a month and your costs are $600. This means your profit is $400, because $1,000 - $600 = $400. Let’s explore each of these elements in more detail.

A: Income

There are lots of different ways you can create income in a profitable yoga business. Here are the most common:

  1. Weekly group classes
  2. Private 1-to-1 classes
  3. Workshops
  4. Retreats
  5. Teacher trainings
  6. Digital products
  7. Physical products
Profitable yoga business: Weekly group yoga classes

Weekly yoga classes

This is often the bread and butter of many profitable yoga businesses. Classes are either delivered in-person or online.

Pros: Teaching regular students can be a joy, as students feel the benefits of yoga and you see the changes happening right in front of you as your regular students progress. This also brings in regular income each week. Obviously, with more students in a class you can create more income.

Cons: You need to turn up each week and you can’t do anything else in your business while you’re teaching a class. If you’re sick, then you need to cancel the class or find someone else to cover it. If you’re teaching in a physical space then this is often an additional cost (see costs below). Teaching only a handful of students can be draining.

Profitable yoga business tip: Aim to have all your regular classes at minimum 80% capacity in order to create the most income and have the best vibe in class. If you’re teaching 5 classes per week and they’re all 50% full, then cut your classes to 3 per week to encourage more people to attend.

Learn everything you need to know about organising and marketing your group yoga classes in the next post in this series How to successfully grow your group yoga classes.

Profitable yoga business: 1-2-1 classes

Private 1-to-1 yoga classes

Personally, I love this way of teaching. It’s so rewarding working one-on-one with a dedicated student who’s committed to regular private sessions.

Pros: Students can make rapid progress with personalised attention. A few private classes per week can be a lot more profitable than the same number of group classes. 

Cons: You can’t work on your business when you’re teaching a private class. It can also be more admin intensive to arrange lots of individual sessions. With only one student per class, there’s a higher risk of non-attendance or delayed sessions.    

Profitable yoga business tip: Make sure your private classes are worth your time from a business perspective. Also, make sure you have a clear cancellation and refund policy around missed sessions. 

For a more in-depth look at how to set up, organise and manage your private 1-to-1s, check out Mastering the art of hosting private yoga classes

Profitable yoga business: Yoga workshops

Yoga workshops

Workshops are a great way to explore different aspects of yoga practice and an opportunity to share your knowledge and invite guest teachers to inspire your yoga community.

Pros: A great way to inspire your regular practitioners, establish your expertise and encourage students to go deeper into their practice. If you get good numbers and cost up accurately, workshops can become an important backbone of a profitable yoga business.

Cons: Requires a marketing push, good organisation skills and can generally be a lot more work than expected. 

Profitable yoga business tip: Build your email list in advance of organising workshops, so you already have an engaged list to promote them to.

Read our in-depth guide to successfully running workshops in Yoga workshops: A comprehensive guide for teachers.

Profitable yoga business: Yoga retreats

Yoga retreats

Yoga retreats provide a great opportunity to dive deeper into yoga practice and to retreat from everyday life. Attending a weekend or longer retreat can feel so nourishing and revitalising.

Pros: A great way for people to take a deep dive into practice away from the busy-ness of everyday life. Also a good opportunity to grow your relationship with your yoga community.

Cons: Takes lots of organising, especially when travelling abroad to sunny or exotic locations. Costs are often high due to food, accommodation and travel.

Profitable yoga business tip: Be crystal clear about your offering. If you’re going for a luxury spa feel then be clear and proud about it; likewise if you’re hosting something more rustic or basic. If you don't have strong organisational skills yourself, partner with someone who does.   

Teacher trainings

Everyone knows this is where the money is for any profitable yoga business. Teacher trainings are longer, in-depth offerings designed for dedicated students who want to deepen their practice or share yoga with more people. 

Pros: Highly profitable if taught by yourself and your team. Also a great way to establish credibility for your profitable yoga business and set a standard of excellence.

Cons: Can be expensive to deliver specialist areas like anatomy and physiology, or more esoteric yoga philosophy. You may also be training your competition who ends up opening a yoga studio down the street!

Profitable yoga business tip: Use Yoganatomy’s online anatomy course for teacher training (yes, they’re a client of ours and no, we don’t get commission for recommending them!).

Profitable yoga business: Digital yoga products

Digital yoga products

The Covid-19 pandemic had the unexpected benefit of making it acceptable, even desirable, to teach online. There are lots of different ways you can generate income from digital products, from monthly memberships to on-demand courses and workshops. 

Pros: A membership can generate recurring revenue. On-demand products can generate ongoing, passive revenue with a one-off creation cost.

Cons: A monthly membership usually requires ongoing content creation (unless the delivery is live only). Content creation includes learning a whole suite of digital skills: scripting, presentation, editing, sound and lighting. That’s a long list and each of these used to be specialist disciplines before the YouTube age! 

Profitable yoga business tip: Make sure you’ve got an established customer base before starting a membership, otherwise you could put all that work in without having any members signing up.

Profitable yoga business: Physical products

Physical yoga products

If you have a physical space then you could sell yoga mats, clothes, bags, water bottles and other accessories, either from other brands or your own-brand products.

Pros: Another source of income. Creating your own products can increase brand awareness.

Cons: Designing physical products is time consuming and requires space to store stock, plus you’ll likely have to pay upfront for your products. The markup on physical products, i.e. the difference between how much they cost and how much you can charge for them, is usually very small and only makes the effort worthwhile if you can sell enough volume.

Profitable yoga business tip: If you can partner with a designer, manufacturer or existing distributor of similar products, this could help keep your costs down. 

B: Costs

Keeping costs down is one of the most important tasks of running a business. It’s almost as important as ensuring that you have a regular stream of income. It’s important to differentiate between fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are the same month-on-month and variable costs – as the name suggests – go up and down each month. 

The single biggest fixed cost for most yoga businesses is the physical yoga space. This can be a real weight around any yoga business owner's neck. The profitable yoga businesses that we see succeeding either own their own real estate or have negotiated a very good deal on rent.

It’s difficult to control or predict income (especially when starting out), but you do have control over your costs, because you get to decide which costs you’ll accept. Don’t naively accept a high rent, hoping that because it's a lovely venue the students will just turn up. 

C: Profit or loss

In order to know how your business is doing, remember: A - B = C. You need to know what C is: your profit or loss. You need to know this for the month that’s just passed and you also need to know your position for the year. Having this big picture about your business is important, because it enables you to make better business decisions, minimise nasty surprises and manage your stress levels.

This means you need to be regularly updating a spreadsheet that captures all your income (A) and all your costs (B) so that you know what your profit or loss is for each month (C). This needs to match the money in and money out from your business bank account. This is essential because, say you make a loss in June but you know you’ve made a profit between March to May, then you’ll know that June’s losses are not such a big deal. 

Once you’re on top of your bookkeeping, the next step is to start basic forecasting by tracking your regular monthly costs and income. As you track this year-on-year you’ll be able to make sound financial decisions that help you grow your yoga business. 

You’ve got this! 

There’s a lot more to running a profitable yoga business than planning lessons and delivering classes. Most yoga teachers are good at these two things. But managing your fixed costs (low or zero rent) is essential if your business is going to thrive and be self-sustainable. Although they may feel like chores, staying on top of your marketing and doing your bookkeeping will help you make better business decisions based on your analytics and financial data. 

The world needs more yoga, and yoga businesses need better management in order to bring more yoga to the people. Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll feel more confident to run a thriving and profitable yoga business. You’ve got this!

Don't miss the other posts in this series where we dive deeper into each of the 7 revenue streams mentioned above. Discover how you can share yoga with more people, whilst still earning a living yourself. First up: How to successfully grow your group yoga classes

And if you need a helping hand with your marketing, or advice on your yoga business strategy, we’re here to help.  

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