With a distinguished career teaching Yoga since 1969, Jayadeva Mandelkorn speaks with an authority few other teachers can match. He knows not only the challenges of teaching subtle Yoga practices but as the founder and director of the Princeton Integral Yoga Institute, has experienced the worldly realities of running a Yoga center. In this week’s blog, Jayadeva offers suggestions on marketing practices and how to create a community wherever you may share Yoga.
“It is very challenging to teach Yoga, especially right now. Yoga is not a surprise anymore. It’s everywhere. However, Integral Yoga is quite special. Integral Yoga teachers are doing Yoga for the sake of Yoga. By that, I mean for the union of our individual, ego-centered, finite self with that Self of All, the Absolute. Not all Yoga teachers are doing that.”
What is the easiest way to share Yoga as a new teacher?
“Offer Yoga classes in settings where you don’t have any overhead cost. In other words, you’re not paying for rent or staff. One of the best ways to do that is to offer to teach at another’s space like a renovated basement, patio, or personal studio. Tell people that if they can get ten students or so together that want to practice Yoga and they can offer a space to have the class, you will arrive there to teach, charging a reasonable rate per person. In this way, you can share Yoga quite beautifully, avoiding most of the expenses, administrative tasks and worries of maintaining your own studio.”
What are some tips for opening a studio?
“If you do want to open your own studio, that’s a big venture. First of all, make sure that it feels right for you. If you have the feeling that it is a calling, then things will happen for you, undoubtedly. However, using business tools and sound financial judgment is really important.”
Have another source of income.
“It will be useful to have some other outside source of income as you are building your space because it takes money to advertise, acquire supplies, and develop an attractive space that people will feel comfortable in and enjoy.”
Be like the Heart: Sustain yourself first, to serve others
“Our physical heart is a dedicated servant of the body that never stops working. And it’s primary job is to bring oxygen to the cells to give them that energy and sustain them. But do you know where the heart takes the oxygen to first? Itself! The heart takes care of itself first so that it can serve the rest of the body. And that is the lesson we all have to learn. Don’t be selfish, but serve yourself so that you can serve others.
In the beginning of the Princeton Integral Yoga Institute, we structured our prices as a service dedicated to making Yoga accessible for everyone. We made our prices for membership the lowest in the community but ultimately this didn’t serve anyone. Having the lowest prices lowered our reputation, and it couldn’t support us as we would have needed 400 plus members to sustain ourselves on such low membership fees.
Now, we have much higher rates and ask people who can pay the full price to do so. For those who can’t pay the full rate, we offer a financial assistance form that allows them to decide how much is affordable. We found that often many people who needed lower prices still offered more than what we would have asked for before.”
What are good ways to advertise?
Use Groupon, but don’t be a Groupon Space.
“Groupon, as a means to advertise is useful. It doesn’t cost you anything, and it provides extra students in your class and though at a discounted rate, still more income. Groupon tells people that you are there, and is a form of free advertising. Whereas for a restaurant using Groupon, there is a cost for serving food to more individuals with discounted prices, in a studio space you aren’t losing money. If you already have the teachers, space, and that class scheduled it’s only helping boost your numbers. It works beautifully for us and I often advise people to take advantage of it. I advise that you set up your Groupon so that individuals can only use it once and experience your class as a sample.
However, you don’t want to be a Groupon space. You don’t want someone to come to your space only with Groupon and afterward go on to the next space. Instead, you want people to come and fall in love with Integral Yoga because they have never experienced something like it before because it helps them wake up to who they are.”
How do you recommend growing a community of members?
Prepare newcomers for the Integral Yoga experience.
“You want to ask the individual or the class at the start if they have practiced Yoga before. If they haven’t done Yoga before, it’s fine, because they are going to learn about it from you.
On the other hand, if they have taken Yoga somewhere else, be sure to ask if they have practiced Integral Yoga before. If they haven’t be sure to mention something along the lines of This is probably going to be different for you. Explain the different aspects of an Integral Yoga class to help them keep an open mind to experience something new that they weren’t expecting. And hopefully, those new parts of the Integral Yoga class will be the very reason they want to continue to attend.”
Ask people to become members. Plant the seed.
“It’s essential to tell newcomers what membership options are available to them upfront and encourage them by saying something like: I think you’re going to fall in love with this practice. Tell them that they are important and that you would love for them to become a part of your sangha (community). If you don’t ask them to come back, they will go on to another place. You have to plant the seed.”
In the first three years of the Princeton Integral Yoga Institute, Jayadeva reports that there have been plenty of challenges to overcome. Everything from advertising and promoting, to adjusting membership prices, making rent, and navigating debt. In recent months, the institute hosted a huge fundraiser to keep their center open and functioning. The institute’s dedication to learning and growing despite obstacles is a true testament to the strength of its mission. Sharing the teachings of Yoga is a calling, rooted in the deep desire to help others realize who they really are. If you’re starting out as a new teacher, know that the way has been traveled before, and there are countless resources to support, guide, and encourage you along the way.