Getting Paid for Teaching Yoga in Tokyo — What to Expect
Learn how much you can get paid for teaching yoga classes in Tokyo. Teaching at an established studio vs. organizing everything yourself.
Your yoga instructor training course likely cost you the equivalent of at least a couple thousand US dollars. And then, there’s all the money you spent learning yoga before and since your formal teacher training. In addition to the money you’ve spent, your yoga education has taken many hundreds of hours training, studying, and practicing. So, when you choose to be a yoga instructor, it’s natural for you to think about what you should charge that is fair to the student and you.
Below I’ll try to explain some basics about the yoga industry in Tokyo from an instructor’s point of view. Prices may be somewhat lower outside of Tokyo.
Standard Class Fees
To get a perspective, it’s useful to know the cost of a standard sixty-minute drop-in yoga class in central Tokyo.
- People attending classes at a municipal community hall or other such humble facility are prepared to pay ¥1,000–¥2,000 per class.
- The same class held at a yoga studio or a fitness club would cost ¥2,500–¥3,500.
Classes at yoga studios or fitness clubs are more expensive because they often offer yoga mats and other accessories for practice such as blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets. They also tend to have a much trendier image and offer a nicer practice environment in general.
In the US and some other countries, it is popular and fashionable to offer classes on a donation basis, whereby people are told a suggested amount, and they pay what they can. I tried this here in Tokyo, and it just didn’t work. I had people with high-paying jobs who would just walk out without paying! Confused, I asked several Japanese friends and instructors; they told me that Japanese people are just not used to such a system. They are used to being given a set price upfront and expect to pay it.
Working at a Yoga Studio or Fitness Club
If somebody else provides a venue and does all the organizing and marketing, then all you have to do is show up and teach. If you’re invited to hold a workshop or given a regular teaching job at a studio, you’ll be paid in either of these two ways:
- A Set Fee: The standard going rate in Tokyo for a qualified yoga instructor is around ¥5,000 per sixty-minute class. This may or may not include the cost of commuting to and from the instructor’s home. This suits a lot of yoga instructors because they know what they’ll get, regardless of how many students show up. The disadvantage is that if your class is a wild success, your earnings will still be limited to the agreed amount. Your employer may be open to renegotiation; however, running a yoga studio in Tokyo is a very low-profit-margin business with high overhead costs, so don’t expect too much.
- Percentage of Takings: Splitting the earnings of your class or workshop gives you an incentive to play a part in marketing your classes or workshops. The market standard is that the yoga instructor gets 40 percent of the takings. Senior instructors may get 50 percent or more, depending on how well known they are. It all depends on the power balance, that is, which partner is bringing more value to the relationship, the instructor or the studio. For a small or newly opened studio, a big name instructor may be good PR for them. If you’re a newbie instructor, then the studio may be doing you a favor by offering you a teaching spot at all, and so you can’t ask for as much.
- Additional Benefits: Depending on the studio, they might offer you additional benefits such as being able to attend classes of other instructors for a discount, or even for free. This is attractive if the studio is in a location that is convenient for you to visit several times per week. They may also offer discounts on workshops, events, and courses.
Renting Space for Your Classes
Until you gain experience and build an impressive track record as a yoga instructor, it may be difficult to land a contract with a yoga studio. You can work around this by renting space for your classes.
The obvious advantage of organizing your classes is the independence. You can teach whatever style you want, offer classes in any format you wish, and change things as often as you like. You also get to sidestep administration procedures and various rules that might be present in a yoga studio or fitness club. The downside, of course, is that everything, from organizing to marketing your classes, is up to you.
Many independent instructors use local community halls which are owned and run by the local municipal government. The cost of room hire here tends to be less than half that of commercial space. They vary widely in appearance, newness, facilities offered, charges, and policies.
Since the payments are in cash, the tax authorities cannot track them.Issuing receipts to the students and completing the appropriate paperwork to submit to the authorities at tax-return time is up to you (but many instructors don’t do this). Some teachers prefer to offer a course whereby the students pay up-front for a specified number of lessons.
Tips and Donations
Tipping is rare in Japan. Donations are associated with charity and are not encountered in yoga classes. The donation system that has been very successful for a lot of teachers in some countries tends not to work in Japan. People expect there to be a pre-set price and to pay it.
Private lessons from a qualified English-speaking yoga instructor in Tokyo range from ¥5,000–¥15,000 per hour, including transportation fee, depending on the instructor and whether the student comes to a venue designated by the instructor or the instructor travels to the student’s place.
The advantage of this type of class is that you can give higher-quality instruction catering to the student’s specific needs. Many people simply don’t have the time or inclination to go to a studio or fitness club and hence prefer private lessons.
If you are teaching at either your or the student’s home, you need to set clear rules. For example, one very attractive young female instructor whom I know avoids awkward situations by stating upfront on her website that a female must accompany all male students.
Teaching yoga in Tokyo is hard work and it’s not easy to make a career out of it until you have a strong student base and are offering teacher training courses. However, whether you teach at studios, fitness clubs, or organize your own classes, it can be a rewarding sideline.