While many yoga practitioners enjoy privileged comfort and a portion of teachers make loads of money, the reality is that many people trying to make it as a yoga teacher fall into the category of the “unconventional worker” – those who choose to not live the 9 to 5 lifestyle and try to forge something else on their own. This includes not only teaching yoga but managing other freelance and part-time jobs. Often, this unconventional livelihood means little access to basic health coverage.
Indie filmmaker Julie Sokolow delved into this in a conversation with artist and yoga teacher, Adam Grossi. Originally interviewed for Healthy Artists, an organization focused on artists and their health care stories, the conversation also turned up on documentary filmmaker and author Michael Moore’s blog.
Grossi is an acclaimed emerging artist based in Chicago who teaches yoga and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Sokolow illuminates his story:
… [Grossi] works a nontraditional six days a week, in which he juggles his independent art practice with freelance web design jobs and his other passion: teaching yoga.
“My day never looks anything remotely like a 9 to 5. Some days, I start teaching yoga between 6 and 7am, and other days, I teach an evening class that starts at 6 or 7pm.”
Balancing three independent jobs not only requires endurance and self-discipline, but a sacrifice: access to quality, affordable health insurance.
“The two groups of people I am most often around, artists and yoga teachers, are chronically uninsured,” says Grossi. “Uninsured populations miss out on preventative care solutions. They get in the habit of avoiding treatment until a condition is unavoidable, and at that point, treatment is more intensive and expensive for both the individual and the system at large.”
Although yoga teachers are required to have liability insurance and a “Yoga Alliance” exists to uphold standards in yoga teacher training, no alliance exists through which teachers can get quality health care coverage. The struggle is the same for most artists, freelancers, and creative entrepreneurs.
“Universal health care would provide such an important safety net for all individuals who are brave enough to stake out their own path and pursue their passions,” says Grossi. “The fact that we collectively pay for highways and other public services is a sign that we collectively believe in infrastructure, and health care is the fundamental infrastructure of human life.”
As a Canadian, I do have access to near universal health care. However, I relate to Grossi’s story and feel he points out something universal that yoga teachers experience, as well as artists, writers, designers and everyone who chooses a life beyond the 9 to 5.
Teaching yoga as a profession is cast in a pastel-tinted image of perfect health and wellness, but the working conditions are often less than ideal and the work can take a physical and mental toll.
If you’re a yoga teacher (or freelancer/creative entrepreneur), what kind of health coverage do you have? How do you take care of your physical and mental health?