Is it a heavy metal playlist? A down-and-dirty ice hockey maneuver for the mat? Nope… I’m coining this term for yoga teachers who juggle multiple careers. Heidi Smith Luedke introduced me to the term in her article ‘Slashing for Profit’ in the Idea Fitness Journal. As a yoga instructor/dancer/personal trainer/writer, I’m constantly investigating the ups and downs of the ‘slashing’ lifestyle.
It is understandable why people slash, according to an article in the New York Times, yoga teachers make around $30 an hour on average. But then, approaching mid-life, I am questioning whether slashing is sustainable over the long haul? How can I stay on top of scheduling challenges, commuting to five or more locations in one day, keeping track of payments made and chasing those ones owed, while maintaining my own peace and sanity as I endeavor to teach it to others? I sought out fellow ‘slashers’ to learn more..
Steven Cheng blends the seemingly oxymoronic endeavors of yoga/fashion business; April Martucci integrates dancing, yoga, real estate, (primarily residential), writing, and acting; and Rebekah Morin identifies mainly as a yoga instructor/dancer with stints as stagehand/actress/ cook/former bartender.
Lauren Tepper: What do you like best about the ‘slashing’ lifestyle and what are the drawbacks?
Steven Cheng: This lifestyle unifies my opposites: my fashion job keeps my brain working in a linear way, and teaching yoga I get to be creative and think outside the box. A drawback that I did not anticipate was scheduling conflicts. My students expect me to teach and I am committed to that, but sometimes deadlines require me to sub out a class.
Rebekah Morin: Freelancing is tenuous and uncertain - but I think the amount of stability offered by the "ladder" model of career building is overestimated. In many ways the wider base of multiple skill sets feels more stable in a global economy like this one.
April Martucci: I do not say ‘slash.’ Everything I do is interconnected, and I do it all to the maximum. Why limit yourself?
LT: How did your combination of jobs evolve?
AM: Real estate surprised me. A client who is in real estate suggested that I would be good at it because I'm trustworthy and business savvy with yoga so he thought I could channel that same fiery energy into closing deals. It provides a challenge that I didn’t know I craved. I love the game of it, it’s not even about the money – BUT it’s always done with integrity and that is where the yoga comes in.
SC: I was burned out from working 60+ hours, 6+ days a week at my corporate fashion job for far too long. Yoga was mental and physical therapy for me, and I finally made a decision to quit my job. I never thought I wanted to be a teacher, but friends pointed out that this was the opportunity. With that advice, I took Dharma Mittra's 200-hour Teacher Certification. After teacher training, I returned to fashion part-time. I started teaching yoga at the office and realized I enjoyed it a lot. I went on auditions and landed some classes.
RM: I did not set out to create this kind of lifestyle. I wanted to make a go of it in the arts and that required flexibility. I knew I liked practicing and that I would feel good about bringing that practice to others. However, I am surprised to find that yoga and teaching have become so important to me. This fall I found a full time dance performance position – and discovered I really did not want to give up my “day job” - so I took a Thai massage course and maintained one class at Reflections. This combination has been incredibly fulfilling.
LT: What are the financial realities of your lifestyle?
AM: I have been teaching yoga in NYC for 11 years --I offer an annual teacher training called FireDragonYoga™, teach privates for some of the most affluent people in the city and group classes. It is lucrative for me at this point.
SC: The fashion job is the bulk of my income. I had to get my own health insurance which is expensive, and there is no paid time off. Getting sick or taking a vacation ends up being very costly. When Hurricane Sandy happened, many yoga colleagues were severely affected because we did not have income for at least a full week.
RM: It is incredibly challenging but I try to live simply. I create a financial cushion when I have a lot of work, and then take advantage of unemployed periods to learn a new skill or travel. It is not comfortable, and yet I have lived this way for fifteen years, so I must need the freedom more than the stability. That's not a philosophy or manifesto - it's just what I'm doing now.
LT: Is it hard to come up with your pricing, or to ask your employers for money? What do you do if employers are slack on paying you?
AM: I would never tolerate that. I know what I am worth and I don’t settle for less.
SC: I have had only one situation where I was not paid in the 7 years I have been a teacher. This was a lesson that cost me close to $1500. The studio is now defunct. My recommendation is if the studio skips payment for two cycles you must demand to be paid to continue teaching.
RM: I don't have to negotiate rates that often. Thank goodness. Most yoga studios and performance contracts have standard wages. One advantage of freelancing is being able to leave. If I have trouble with payment I get what's owed to me and take my skills elsewhere.
LT: Do you have any advice for slasher-wanna-be’s?
AM: Find out what you love and don’t do anything half – do it or don’t.
SC: ‘Slashing’ is an effective way to do what you want and pay the bills. If you’re lucky you’ll enjoy everything you do.
RM: Have a plan A, B, C... and learn to improvise.
Rebekah Moran teaches at Reflections.