Recently, I was asked to teach a large-scale, outdoor yoga class with an estimated attendance of 30,000 people. The yoga class would be part of a larger weekend of other activities including running, social events, and more. How exciting! I was all in. That is, until I asked the organizer what I would be paid.
“No pay. The exposure is the pay.”
I paused. I reflected. It was tempting. That’s potentially 30,000 new subscribers to my website and eyes on my social media platforms. My photo and bio would be printed in the event magazine that sits in the hands of 30,000 new people.
And yet . . . I had to say No.
Thankfully, I already have several income streams from YogaGlo and retreats and workshops. But, generally speaking, yoga teachers are grossly underpaid for the services they provide. The reason I said No is because I couldn’t, in good conscience, contribute to a culture that perpetuates this cycle of undervaluing Yoga Teachers. What’s more, this event was not for charity. There was a budget. It had many sponsors. The money was there. But, apparently, not for the teacher.
Purushartha is a key concept in Hinduism that can be translated as The Goals of Life, of which there are four. One of these goals is Artha or Prosperity–our material welfare and what we need to survive and prosper. Artha is what provides us with food to eat and a safe, warm home in which to live. Artha is essential to fulfilling our Dharma–the work we are destined to perform in this lifetime (Dharma is Purushartha #1). For example, in order for me to continue to teach yoga and ayurveda, I need income to buy books, further my education, eat healthily, and sleep soundly, and even to have the time to plan my classes.
Bottom Line: Artha requires not only knowing your value but materializing your worth in order to transact in the workplace. And as good as it may sound to have it, “exposure” won’t pay the rent.
Reflecting back to my early years as a new yoga teacher, I had many well-educated, accomplished, non-yoga friends (and still do) who knew me and accepted me and valued me as I was. But when I’d meet new people in these circles and tell them I was a yoga teacher, I could feel their energy shift. Perhaps my own insecure mind was imagining it, but the shift was subtly disheartening. At some point in the conversation, I felt the need to casually sneak in the fact that I held an undergrad degree in Finance/Accounting and that I used to be a CPA. My subtext was “Hey, even though I teach Yoga, I’m smart like you.” Ugh. Sometimes knowing your worth also means wrestling the demons of what you fear others believe your worth to be (or not to be).
All this said, there’s a very satisfying ending to this tale (drumroll, please): the event coordinator got back to me one week later to say that he found money in the budget, and he would pay me for the class. He even admitted that he had learned a valuable lesson through our interaction.
I don’t pretend to be some great deal-maker or relentless negotiator. I’m just finally learning to come to terms with my worth.
No matter what your profession is . . . Know your worth.
Believe it. Live it. You’re worth it.