Every yoga teacher I know has a story like this. One friend hid her pregnancy for months, afraid of being kicked out of a studio. Another felt her infected eardrum burst while working but kept teaching, trying to conceal the blood dripping from her head. We’re not radiant Eat Pray Love extras gliding through the world: most of us are precarious gig-economy workers, underpaid, exhausted and exploited. Most yoga teachers don’t even have a contract, let alone sick-pay, paid leave or pension contributions.
Pay at gyms can be as low as £10 for an hour class for yoga teachers. Factoring in the two hours of unpaid preparation time, the real pay is well below the living wage, often even below minimum wage. Add endless hours of commuting, scurrying from venue to venue, barely piecing together an income, and you find a hidden world of burnt-out, isolated teachers, unable to care for ourselves, painting over our anxieties with a peaceful smile to look well, positive and worthy.
The exploitation we face isn’t just economic. Sexual harassment, racism and bullying are rife in the industry, and a lack of workers’ rights helped pave the way for this endemic culture. Yoga spaces need to be genuinely safe for everyone, including teachers.
This is why teachers from 25 counties have come together, breaking our silence and making change.