Are Yoga Teachers Underpaid?

MSNBC's Ned Resnikoff examines it: "In many respects – the low pay, the gig-based nature of the job, and the unpaid overtime – yoga is little different from other freelance professions in the new, service-based American economy. More than one person interviewed by msnbc compared teaching yoga to being a part-time adjunct professor, with all the job insecurity and irregular pay that implies. And like many low-paying service jobs, the field of yoga instruction is dominated by women. According to the Yoga Journal’s 2012 Yoga in America survey, 82% of American yoga practitioners are women. The survey didn’t track the gender breakdown for teachers specifically, but only one of the dozen or so yoga instructors who replied to msnbc’s request for interviews was male."

And answers criticisms that this isn't a real labor issue:

"A few people have asked me why this story matters. For me, the most interesting thing about yoga instructors is precisely the fact that many people don’t seem to consider them “workers” in the traditional sense. That helps to explain the incredulous attitude so many readers had to this article. Nobody asks why a story about, say, school teachers or truck drivers counts as news. But for whatever reason, yoga instructors don’t count.

That seems a little odd to me. It’s a skilled service profession, typically requiring some form of accreditation. People do get paid, albeit not very much, for rendering the services in question. So what makes it not-work? To flip the question around, why are stories about yoga instructors not considered to be labor stories?

I can think of a couple possible reasons. One is the widely held perception that yoga instructors are pursuing a hobby, despite the money involved. Another related reason is the casual, precarious nature of the work, which differentiates it from a full-time, salaried position. And a third, less charitable explanation, has to do with the gender breakdown of yoga instructors. Most of them are women, and feminized labor is often dismissed as not being “real” work."