Despite the dramatic growth, yoga teachers as a group struggle to make a living. Classes generally cost about $15, and studios frequently offer reduced rates. At best, most teachers receive half the fees paid by their students.
The real money is in teacher training and intensive workshops, which can cost thousands of dollars. But the pool of students interested and willing to invest the time and money is limited.
Running a successful studio is a constant challenge, says Theresa Conroy, owner of Yoga on the Ridge in Andorra.
"It's really difficult to hold on to good teachers, to pay them enough, to market the studio enough," says Conroy, 51, a former journalist who started teaching in 2005 and opened her studio three years later.
Part of the problem, Conroy says, is that yoga is not meant to be a capitalist venture. Even studio owners sometimes have trouble reconciling the lofty idealism of yogic culture and the practical demands of the bottom line.
"A lot of teachers feel embarrassed charging for what they do," she said, recounting how she once returned from vacation to find a curious drop in income because "my teachers had been letting their students take classes for free."
Many studios are trying to create their own niche.
Nicole McLane's Fishtown studio is family-oriented, she says, offering classes for children, expectant mothers, and new parents who want to bring their infants.
Conroy periodically offers Happy Hour yoga, with post-class beer tastings to further soothe the psyche.
Just as the competition fosters creativity, it can also breed animosity. Ideas for innovative classes are stolen. Teachers, nurtured in one studio, may disappear after secretly recruiting students to defect.
"There's some - 'My hands are in prayer position in front of my chest, but I'll stab you in the back,' " Conroy says.
But the bad karma, she said, is relatively rare.
Justicia DeClue began teaching at Dhyana in 2008. As her popularity grew, classes in the tiny Old City space grew so crowded, students had to line up mats edge-to-edge and dodge one another's limbs.
When Dhyana branched out, opening five studios in the region, DeClue became an owner in Ardmore. Last year, she and her partner bought out that Dhyana studio and have since opened another - Maha Yoga at 1700 Sansom.
"Dhyana helped me get established," DeClue said. "I'll always be grateful. . . . Now I stand on the shoulders of that time."
Contact Melissa Dribben at 215-854-2590
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