The Business of Yoga: Tips for Entrepreneurial Teachers


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra: check. Light on Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar: check. The Model Business Corporation Act: Huh? "I’m taking a 200-hour yoga teacher training, not trying to earn a Masters in Business Administration!" you might think to yourself. So what's a yogi with an entrepreneurial spirit and a great vision to start a yoga studio to do?

Simple. Plan ahead and align yourself with others who not only follow the yamas and niyamas, but the law as well. With patience, tapas (self-discipline), and the right sangha, you will be well on your way to business-owner enlightenment.

Plan ahead and align yourself with others who not only follow the yamas and niyamas, but the law as well.

Sangha means "community" in Sanskrit. As an entrepreneur and yogi, it is important that you create your own sangha by working with the right business professionals. Two professionals essential to your success will be an attorney and an accountant. Without the help of these two, it can be challenging to follow asteya (non-stealing), as you will likely end up stealing your own time and energy. Do you honestly want to spend your time figuring out which state is best to incorporate your business in or analyzing the tax benefits of an S corporation? Probably not.

Without the help of these two, it can be challenging to follow asteya (non-stealing), as you will likely end up stealing your own time and energy.

An attorney will help you determine which business entity (such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation) is best for you and will help you to create that business entity. He or she will guide and advise you on other important business matters as well, like contracts and intellectual property, and will make sure your business meets important deadlines and goals. It makes both cents and sense to have an attorney assist you from the onset of your yoga business journey because they can help you to avoid legal issues before they arise. For example, it’s much more cost-effective to hire an attorney to draft a release form for your yoga studio than it is to hire an attorney to defend your studio from a lawsuit brought against you by a student who sustained an injury during a class.

An accountant is also a vital member of your sangha. He or she will work closely with the attorney to analyze which entity is best suited for your business from a tax perspective. As with an attorney, hiring an accountant to help you from the beginning of your business adventure will save time and money. An accountant who simply assists you in structuring your business entity will charge you much less than one who has to go through years of receipts, papers, records, and books trying to piece together your current accounting records.

So how do you pick the right attorney or accountant? How do you know if they will be a good fit for your sangha? Let’s face it—there are as many advertisements and television commercials for attorneys out there as there are Starbucks in Seattle. Where do you begin?

Start your search for a skilled attorney by looking for someone with diverse contacts and relationships in the business community. This helps to ensure that they can help you create a sangha with equally qualified accountants, investors, and others who will help your business to succeed.

Next, you should evaluate an attorney and/or accountant based on their personal skills during interactions with you, as well as their negotiation skills and legal/accounting skills. Important skills to consider when selecting an attorney and an accountant are: area of expertise (a criminal law attorney versus an attorney with experience working with start-up businesses), attention to detail, communication, trustworthiness, and use of technology. Actual experience working with businesses similar to yours is equally important. For example, if you plan on opening a clothing store that sells yoga clothes, it might be best to work with an attorney who was former legal counsel for Lululemon rather than an attorney who focuses on family law. Similarly, it would be better to work with a CPA (certified public accountant) who can also offer business advisory services versus an auditor from the conglomerate auditing firm KPMG.

So choose your support team with care and be sure to surround yourself with the right business sangha to help you navigate the bumps, twists, and turns of the business world. Practicing asteya with yourself, as well as everyone else, will provide for the health and longevity of your company. And for that, your students will thank you!

A good place to start researching information for entrepreneurs and start-up business owners can be found online at:

About the Teacher

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Kristin Vivo
Kristin Vivo, owner of The Law Offices of Kristin Vivo is a bilingual attorney with training and education... Read more