Manifesto for the Reluctant Yoga Professional

I took yoga teacher training because I was in pain. I had back pain and pain radiating down my legs and arms from pinched nerves. It was getting worse and I was beginning to feel down and depressed because of it. I felt I was trapped in a downward moving spiral.

YPA01DeAvilla©Then one day I received a flyer in the mail – yes that was in the days before email. It was for the Ananda Yoga™ Teacher Training. I held onto to that piece of paper and stared at it knowing somehow that this was my ticket out of pain, out of the downward spiral.

Before taking the yoga teacher training course I hadn’t really thought about teaching yoga. However, the day after graduating from the program I was teaching yoga to a couple of work colleagues out of my small San Francisco apartment, and as I often say “The rest is history.”  Flash forward 30 years and here I am still teaching yoga – among other things.

However, becoming a yoga professional didn’t flow so naturally for me. For me and for many of us – perhaps you can relate – the money part of the teaching equation was an after thought. We want to teach because yoga transformed our lives and we want to share it with others. Rarely does anyone choose to be a yoga teacher to make money.

YPA02DeAvilla©Along the way though maybe we find ourselves without a job, or without enough hours of paid work to sustain us financially. Or we are in a job that is sucking the lifeblood out of us and we need to get out. We turn to our yoga teaching to support our selves financially. After all we love teaching yoga.  What better way to support oneself – change the world by transforming lives!

Suddenly we are on the brink of our dreams, Living the Yoga Life We Love™ – teaching adoring students day in and day out, offering retreats in exotic places and these days (just to update the story) having thousands of engaged social media fans.  In the mean time we have made this really cool class plan, we might be a little nervous, we show up to teach the class and there’s only one student, or maybe none. Or its feast or famine – sometimes you have big classes sometimes not. Or you can only get the big classes teaching at a gym and you need to teach more and more classes to make the rent….

YPA03DeAvilla©Our dream starts to fade into the background as we struggle with our time and money. This can start to affect our relationships and health. We put our nose to the grindstone. Maybe we even persevere and open a yoga studio – ah the promised land of making your own decisions, teaching your way, and serving students in a bigger and better way. Then the bills start piling up, a yoga teacher doesn’t show up to teach, you have even less time for your own practice…

What happened?

So many yoga teachers and other heart centered business owners go into their profession almost accidentally as part of their personal growth. As a natural extension then they want to help others transform their lives. They didn’t set out to be in business. They may not have any training or skills or know-how to build a thriving business – even if it’s as an independent contractor.

Back then (again we are talking about practically the dark ages) there were no online courses to turn to and really only a small number of yoga teacher training programs to choose from and no one was teaching the business of yoga (save how to make and post flyers perhaps) or how to be a yoga professional. It just wasn’t in the cards those days.I got a business mentor from the Small Business Administration and found one general marketing workshop to take. It was a decent start.

YPA04DeAvilla©It took me longer though to realize what also had to happen if one wants to be financially supported for their efforts teaching yoga, or for that matter any heart centered business. It is something that yoga teachers and other heart centered business owners tend to not do. I know I am not alone – I see it all of the time.

Simply speaking we don’t have the right mind set and attitudes about money. Especially as we go deeper into our spiritual life we can feel conflicted about the very real need to support ourselves on the material plane and the desire to not desire money and have no attachment to it.

We unintentionally block our own efforts and when we do try to learn and be proactive on the business side we tend to not choose the high impact activities or trainings. Even when we do, we tend to make excuses and don’t really play full out.

YPA05DeAvilla©I have done just about everything a person can do in our field of yoga. I won’t list them all here but these are the broad categories: From independent contractor and volunteer, to owning my own studio to managing someone else’s studio, prenatal yoga teacher to yoga therapist, yoga teacher trainer to yoga therapist teacher trainer, from helping shape Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training standards at Yoga Alliance to helping implement the Educational Standards of Yoga Therapists at the International Association of Yoga Therapists, from author of training manuals and research to a bestselling book, and now adventures with online yoga offerings.

YPA06DeAvilla©What I haven’t done is make tons of money. What I have done is look deeply into my attitudes, beliefs and thoughts around money. Layer by layer I am making big changes deep inside. Early on I learned that when I tithed it seemed that paying the bills was actually easier, not harder. I learned it’s about not working harder but working smarter. And I know that if I want to not work at another type of job, I must treat my work professionally. And as a yogi not have hang-ups about anything including money.

What has helped me the most is a combination of mentoring and coaching and deep personal work. Of course meditation, self-reflection and gyana yoga and prayer have all played a role for me.

Gaining clarity around my issues, my directions and my life purpose has had a major impact in how I live with purpose, and ever-new joy on my path to my highest potential.


With this in mind I invite you to join me in the

Manifesto for the Reluctant Yoga Professional.

First – clarity on the big picture goals:

  • Like the ancient Veda teachings show us, infuse all aspects of our lives with inspiration, health, peace, harmony, energy and purpose.
  • Learn to live a life we love that supports our highest aspirations.
  • Help others also reach their highest potential.

Second – how we get there:

  • Deepen our yoga practices and connection to our highest spiritual support in whatever form it inspires us.
  • Continue to learn and grow.
  • Have a healthy relationship with money seeing it more as a flow of energy that can be used for good.
  • Remember that as the great Yoga Master Paramhansa Yogananda said “The minutes are more important than the years.” And be sure that we use our time wisely.
  • Have mentors in the areas of our lives that need support – such as spiritual mentors and heart centered business mentors.
  • Know that as we take care of ourselves and our own issues we can better serve others.
  • Embrace our path and our manifesto and move forward with courage, love and joy.


I have been honored to be on this adventure with many of you and hope to share the journey with many more of you with support, love and clarity.

Are you in?

Let me know in the comments below.




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