Yogis and Designers: Charge What You Are Worth, Damnit!

I paid $80 last week to a yoga association. This would let me put RYT after my name instead of CYT.

RYT stands for Registered Yoga Teacher. CYT stands for Certified Yoga Teacher. The difference? I'm not really sure, but it means I am paying an association to represent me (to some extent) and to provide me with additional support and resources.

Mala beads

Mala beads

Something happened that has really disheartened me, and the {small} handful of others that are like me in that we live at the intersection of yoga and design. We're yogis and designers. Some of us design for yogis (like me) and some of us just work as designers and also practice yoga (also me.)

Let me state the problem: People expect yoga for free.

Let me state another problem: People give yoga away for free.

Here's what I mean. If you are a practitioner and student of yoga, that means you've put a lot of time, money, sacrifice and sweat equity into your study and into your teachers and into your students. You have gained something valuable from all that you've put in. You have something that has changed your life, and can change the lives of others.

There's no question, yoga is valuable.

So why are we giving it away for free?

I'm not saying donation classes shouldn't exist, I'm not saying we shouldn't help people out when they need it. I'm not saying we shouldn't make it available.

I'm saying there's a problem with only giving and giving and giving.

If you are giving someone yoga, and they are taking it, you better be able to identify what they are giving you in return. Maybe it's hours behind the front desk or mopping floors or running flyers around town. Maybe it's something else. Something as positive as what they're receiving from the yoga you are giving.

Let me tell you a story about a really talented yoga teacher and her yoga studio. This really talented yoga teacher had a teacher training program. There were 10 students in the teacher training program. If everyone paid the tuition that was asked, this would have netted that teacher (an extremely gifted teacher) $25,000+. Guess how many students paid full price?


Guess how many paid more than 1/2 the price of tuition?


She was asked, later, what the deal was—why would you do this?!

The response was "I don't need the money."

Major. Disconnect.

I'm going to put this out here bluntly and I hope you'll read it, absorb it and you'll feel this click.

What you charge (or don't charge) for the valuable thing you are offering really has nothing to do with you. It has to do with everyone else.

If you offer your 200 Hour Teacher Training program for less than its value, then you are devaluing yoga as a whole.

The prices you set for your yoga at your studio can vary from everyone elses, but if you are giving it all away or pricing things blindly and with no regard for the value of what you, yourself, put in—you are hurting all of yoga.

Why would I pay $12/class in Cincinnati when I can go down the street and get it for free, also in Cincinnati? I now think yoga is something that is free. Therefore, I show up and take, take, take and have no experience with putting something in to receive those teachings and knowledge. And, I'm being taught to take yoga from wherever it's cheapest instead of focusing on finding a teacher and learning from that individual. Do you see the issue here? We're raising a crop of yoga students focused on dollar signs rather than on teachings; all because we don't value ourselves.

Do you think Tiffany jewelry would be as valuable if it was known you could get it free somewhere?


And Tiffany jewelry does not come with tradition and lineage and all of the good stuff that yoga does.

Back to the yoga teacher that was giving her teachings away for free and therefore devaluing yoga as a whole:

After her (completely packed yoga) class one Monday morning, a conversation between a group of 4 gals was going on in the lobby. They all had really nice Manduka mats and two were wearing Lululemon yoga pants (which retail for ~$100):

Girl 1: "I just asked if I could pay in installments because I'm getting married in July and I was told I could just pay less. So, I'm thinking, great, OK. But I didn't put a number out there. I just was like 'what can you discount to' and get this, she goes 'can you do 1/4th'?" SAID THE GIRL WEARING LULULEMON PANTS AND CARRYING A MANDUKA MAT

Girl 2: "What? I was going to do YTT over at <name of other local studio slightly cheaper> but put it off till next year so I could save up enough cash. But if I can just pay 1/4 of tuition here—you said 1/4th right?"

Girl 1: "Yeah! I know! Crazy."

Here's my other problem. The other thing that frustrates me. The other thing that makes me want to scream into the universe: CHARGE WHAT YOU ARE WORTH AND DON'T TAKE ANYTHING LESS.


It is unacceptable to ask designers to provide design work for free.

You will get what you pay for.

I was asked to work for free this week.

For the very same yoga association I just paid $85 to represent my best interests.

They asked for a logo.

......For them to use all the time, on everything. For a mark that would represent them EVERYWHERE. For a logo that would be their literal 'face.' And, technically, that would be the 'face' of all their members.

Tools of the {design} trade

Tools of the {design} trade

It gets worse. They asked a bunch of people for free logos!

And it was rush. They needed it in less than 3 days.

And, of everything submitted, they'd give you $1,000 if yours was picked.

$1,000? That is less than the cost of my design software. 

I felt a big, heavy blackness in the pit of my stomach when I read this, because I knew that the {kind} folks behind this did not realize what they were doing. They did not recognize the pattern which is the problem in the yoga (and wellness) world.

Our yoga teachers are not valuing themselves enough. And now, they are not valuing the work of designers. 

I declined the 'offer' because it's against the ethics codes for many design associations that I'm a part of (and ones that I'm not a part of) and it's also against my own personal ethics. I would have had no problem with offering suggestions or input (they were, after all, going to represent me) but to spend time quickly, hurriedly developing a logo for the potential of $1,000? And not to be paid for my time if my concept wasn't chosen? 

Bullshit. And I don't have time for bullshit.

So, I thought, I need to boil this down. What is left in the pot after all the 'junk' evaporates? A simple mistranslation.

Yoga students are taught an ancient, valuable system. But, we're not taught how that can fit into our modern day lives. There's no sutra about how humans perceive money or our behavioral ability to assign value to services. There's no mantra that teaches us that it's OK to accept payment for what we're providing. (And payment doesn't always mean currency.) There's no sutra that says it's OK to get paid for your job! But that doesn't mean you should work for free!

Back in the {ancient} day, a yogi could get by just teaching their teachings, right? They didn't get paid. Oh, nope. They did. People fed the yogi, clothed the yogi, gave offerings. Protected the cave. Checked in on them. There was definitely an exchange going on. A mutually beneficial exchange. 

Why are we not teaching this today?



Because we have lost something very important in translation. Money is the equivalent, at least in the USA, for clothing and food and offerings of millennia gone by. Money does not equal greed. Money equals an understanding between teacher and student of what you're worth. That you both understand the value of what you are teaching. The value of what you are providing. The value of what's being received.

And when you charge appropriately for what you are offering, you are teaching others something very valuable. You're teaching them: charge what you are worth and accept nothing less.

And to the yoga association accepting lots of free (rush) work from talented designers who don't recognize their own value—you are teaching the wrong lesson.

And to the designers that are providing this work for free, please accept nothing less than what you are worth. If your design work is valuable, people will pay you for it. And if you think your work and time are valuable, you will ask to be paid.

It's not up to the yoga students or the young designers to know any of this. It's up to the "big dogs" to set the standard and to pass along this lesson by teaching it with integrity. How can we teach the next generation their value if today's leaders don't see it?

The leaders must first value themselves.

We must lead by example. 

I would love to have a conversation about this with you. Please know, this is not written out of an intent to harm or attack anyone. Like I said above, I'm sure the people involved are oblivious. My intent is to shine light on something that I perceive to be an issue across two professions: design and yoga.

I am beyond proud to be a yoga teacher (and more importantly, yoga student) and to be someone tasked with solving problems through design. My goal is to make positive contributions to both areas.

I also wanted to share a link to my interview from June of 2012 with Where is My Guru. I was on the show to discuss how yoga and business really can work together. It relates very much to this post.


A listing of responses from across the web written by designers, yogis, photographers and other folks who have thoughts on what I've discussed. Read their thoughts and experiences.

Brandon Leedy |  Designer, Industrial Designer | Cincinnati, OH, USA | Brandon Leedy's Comments

Mjindert Stuij | Systems Administrator | The Netherlands | Mjindert Stuij's Comments

Lisa Marie Snowden | Business Owner & Yogi | Newport, KY, USA | Lisa's Comments

Kathryn Templeton | International Teacher on Yoga, Ayurveda and Psychology | Branford, CT, USA | Kathryn's Comments

Cole Imperi, CTComment