Yoga Schools get the Regulatory Pinch, maybe its time for a better business plan?

A friend sent me this NY Times story about how Yoga Schools that teach students to teach yoga are getting pressured into paying the same fees that Massage and Hairdressing Schools have paid for a while. While I am not a fan of paying taxes and fees for most things but I do think that this is A) inevitable and B) a good thing. Yoga Journal has a post on it as well.

Regarding the inevitability of Yoga Teacher Training Schools paying regulatory fees it actually came as a shock to me that this wasn’t already the case. I was even more shocked to know that a Yoga teacher doesn’t even have to have a license to teach Yoga. This is an industry with 12 to 20 Million practitioners and Billions of dollars in revenue. The government is going to want a piece of that pie, especially in a downturn.

This is good for the consumer/student to know that the school they are practicing at has gone through the registration process and that its a legit operation. Even with this certification there is still no guarantee that the graduate will be able to teach anywhere. It is also uncertain if this qualifies them for financial aid.

Some of the schools in the article point out that the Teacher Training programs are a substantial revenue generator for their business:

Lisa Rapp, who owns My Yoga Spirit in Norfolk, Va., said she was closing her seven-year-old business this summer. “This caused us to shut down the studio altogether,” Ms. Rapp said. “It’s too bad, because this community really needs yoga.” (NY TImes)

At $2000 to $4000 for a 200 hour certification program I will agree but I also think that this highlights a common issue that I have experienced with most Yoga studios: their business model is bad.

Every Yoga studio that I have attended follows the same business model: buy sessions and use them in a few months. Refill and repeat. Some offer unlimited programs that you buy on a 1, 3, 6, or 12 month plan. The problem with this is that you have no contract and therefore no recurring revenue and no ability to create a budget.

I suggest that they adopt the model that Gyms and Martial Arts Studios have: a 12 month, or longer, contract that charges monthly. Sure its not as free and open as a session model but if it allows you to keep the lights on and maybe even grow a little it cannot be seen as a bad thing.

A concern with this model is the overhead created of handling the contracts, payments, and support issues that always come up. The good news is that there are a number of companies that offer a full service solution for this. I work with Member Solutions and am impressed with their focus on service and allowing Studio owners to stay focused on Yoga and getting new students.

What do you think?