Yoga teachers are afraid of money.
Well, not all of them. Some of them love money, revel in it, take baths in it (perhaps). But many of us abhor the green stuff, and wish it would stay away from us. Yoga teachers want to share their healing and their passion, and gumming up that energy exchange with little papers and coins just seems wrong. Nevertheless, Whole Foods requires something in exchange for $17/lb organic fresh cherries. You can’t show up to teach your class in a burlap sack, either: Lululemon will want something for those Luon pants.
It’s not just yoga teachers who feel this way: many members of our society fear or hoard money, and our relationship to it includes a lot of shame and an unspoken feeling of dirtiness. It’s not polite to talk about money, you know.
I think it’s time we start talking about it. Yoga teachers are independent contractors, and we have to learn to manage our own money, figure out how to pay our taxes and our trips to the dentist. For a lot of us, there is a deep sense of icky even looking at our bank accounts. We don’t want to be paid to share our service with the world. We don’t want to acknowledge that yoga studios are businesses that require profits from selling things in order to continue providing yoga. Ironically, we feel like the exchange of money for these services cheapens us. Sadie Nardini is a yoga teacher who has talked about this issue quite a bit, and identifies this discomfort with money as a fundamental issue of personal self-worth.
The book The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist takes an in-depth look at the way we understand and talk about money in our culture, and ways that we can empower ourselves to do good with our money. She explains that we have this idea that there is never enough—no matter how much money you make, you are always going to wish you had more. As your paycheck gets bigger, usually so do your living expenses, and we often feel as if we are always living on the edge of bankruptcy. This leads us to fear, competition, and hoarding. Twist wants us to see money not as a finite thing in the world, but as water that flows in and out of our lives. “Money is a current, a carrier, a conduit for our intentions. Money carries the imprimatur of our soul,” she writes. Saving money intelligently is a great idea—like diverting a river to a cooling pond we can visit for a rest. Hoarding, though, stagnates our flow.
Looking at that fearful thing, your bank statement, will tell you a lot about what’s important to you. Where is your flow coming from? Is it from a place that nourishes you? Or is it thick with guilt and exhaustion from a job you hate? The money coming in is already flavored with the intention you put into your work.
Take a look at where it goes. Putting money into something makes an intention concrete. As a business owner, I know this firsthand: You can tell me all you want that you intend to come to a workshop or event at my studio. It’s the moment that I see that the deposit has come through that I know you will be there.
We can get into a trap of thinking that we should never spend any money on anything. If only we could get through a day without spending a dime; then our lives would be fuller. It’s true that the best things in life are free, but those things are usually invisibly supported by cash. To have a lovely evening at home with my lover and a bottle of wine, I need to have paid my rent on time. Put this scene in the park on a beautiful day, and tax money is needed to keep the park safe and clean. The wine has to come from somewhere, and when I choose to spend money on a sustainable vineyard (like Fetzer—affordable and ethical), I am supporting a company so they can continue to provide a quality product sustainably.
Money is not something we have to be slave to. It’s a tool we can use to share resources, to communicate value, to support ourselves and each other, and to consciously bolster the practices and companies we want to see more of in the world. If we start looking more honestly at where our flow comes from and where it goes to, we can move beyond the fear-based ideology of scarcity and make better choices, whether we’ve got a trickle or a flood.