Many professionals I know, advertising copywriters, corporate trainers or software engineers, have left their jobs to become yoga teachers in the past decade. I also found during the research for my book, The Indic Quotient: Reclaiming Heritage through Cultural Enterprise, that yoga teachers in India are a very diverse group. Some come from small towns or villages and have lived and learnt yoga at a traditional ashram and some like my friends are from an urban cosmopolitan background have gone to learn from modern yoga gurus. They are, nonetheless, united by a strong passion to preserve, promote and propagate yoga for the health and well-being of society.
Of course, the growing interest in yoga has played a role in their career move. The market is expanding. While there is no study that has exclusively pointed at figures for yoga services, the Indian wellness market which includes yoga is pegged at INR 499 billion. Some analysts have estimated the value of the yoga teaching services in India at Rs. 295 billion. The demand for yoga instructors is increasing. According to Assocham's study in 2017 India needed 5 lakh instructors to meet the growing demand and faced a shortage of about 3 lakh yoga instructors.
The industry is also highly entrepreneurial, with a majority (80%) of the wellness industry being dominated by micro, small and medium enterprises according to a Make in India report.
Yoga teachers, as service professionals form a significant part of this expanding sector. Most of them are independent professionals while a few are employed with fitness clubs and gyms. Some of them have set up their own yoga studios while most offer private one to one lessons. Yoga teachers, especially those who have had previous careers in different fields, find the career satisfying. It provides the independence and flexibility of being an entrepreneur without the need to be a hardnosed businessperson. Still, like other ventures the yoga teaching business needs to be tuned to the changes in the environment.
In 2020, as the world remains indoors due to the Pandemic and health clubs are shut, yoga teachers have pivoted to the online model for their business. Yoga tops the list in popularity of services in several fitness apps.
Yoga teaching lends itself well to a personalised approach. It needs to cater to individual needs and this is why perhaps the number of personal yoga teachers enlisted in service aggregator apps is growing at such a phenomenal pace.
While being counted as a service, this segment remains a little unique. The interaction between a student and yoga professional is often not like that of a typical client and service provider. It is for most of us a student-teacher relationship. In the Indian parlance, yoga teachers are more than skilled workers, they take on the role of a guru and a guide. This teacher’s day let us also include them in the celebration.
(Kaninika Mishra is the author of The Indic Quotient (Bloomsbury India) and her previous bestseller The Indian Millionaire Next Door has been translated into Hindi and Tamil.)