yoga teachers unite for group health insurance

How can yoga teachers protect their own health and ensure a long, full life of teaching and practice?

Most yoga teachers operate as independent contractors – but are you prepared for the day you chip your tooth? Have to see a chiropractor? Need braces for your child? In Canada, we’re fortunate enough to have a publicly funded health care system, but this coverage doesn’t include many health services. The irony is that while most yoga teachers are promoting active and healthy lifestyles to their students, they’re often at risk of losing their own livelihoods in the event of an illness or injury.

Yumee Chung, an enterprising yoga teacher based in Toronto, decided to do something about this. On her blog, she wrote, “I’ve been in discussions with a number of health insurance providers and I’ve finally negotiated a group health insurance plan I’m happy with. It includes extended health care, dental coverage, life insurance, and short- and long-term disability.”

She’s inviting other yoga teachers in southern Ontario to join her – and encouraging teachers in other cities to band together and create comparable plans.

I love the kind of initiative that benefits not only an individual but the greater community, so I contacted Yumee and asked her a little more about her process. This was her response:

I initially spoke to a financial planner friend who suggested it would be next to impossible to get decent, affordable coverage for yoga teachers despite the fact we are a health conscious group. She said we are too prone to on the job injuries, that we don’t qualify as a tight enough group/association, and that the insurance industry wouldn’t understand us. Luckily she put me in touch with a couple of people and I got the ball rolling.

The broker I ended up going with fielded lots of quotes and most of them were laughable. After exhausting most of our leads, he spoke to a contact at an insurance company and literally begged them to take a chance on us. I sent the company a list of 20 names to prove we’re serious (I have to thank all the yoga teachers who responded to my call for assistance.) The insurance company did an analysis on our group and came back with a proposed plan. We went back and forth a few times but I’m quite happy with the plan as a starting point and I feel like we can build from here. The catch-22 in this area is that you don’t have any bargaining power until you have a robust group but you can’t build the group until you have something worthwhile to offer.

More details about the health insurance plan are available on Yumee’s blog. She’s also offering her plan as a model for yoga teachers in other communities, encouraging people to take the details to their insurance broker and ask them to meet or beat the price.

Even more amazing, Yumee recognizes that this is part of a bigger conversation around yoga teachers and their quality of life.

I think we can all benefit from being more candid about how much we get paid and for what. There’s this strange kind of secrecy around financial matters and it doesn’t serve anyone because people don’t know what they’re worth. It breaks my heart to hear about teachers teaching 20 classes a week for $30 a pop. I don’t know about you but I could do that for maybe a month before having a physical breakdown. People come to yoga class for inspiration and to bring some balance into their lives. The last thing they need is a burnt out teacher who drags themselves from class to class to class to make ends meet.

You know, I’d love to see a brave studio hire its teachers as employees. Imagine paying into the employment insurance plan, getting taxes deducted at source, being protected by minimum standards legislation. How about a pension? It might not work for everyone (some teachers are very entrepreneurial) but it might bring some much needed stability for some.

Let’s start the conversation here. If you teach yoga, what kind of health coverage do you have? Has your teaching practice ever compromised your own health and quality of life?

4 Comments

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  1. I had to take some classes at a local community college to get coverage. I would love a group policy possiblity!

  2. What a great interview! Thanks for raising this issue, Roseanne (and Yumee!).

  3. We will be starting this in Montreal shortly! For all those interested and want to band together as a group to show a broker we’re serious, join our Facebook page: “Because dentists don’t take prana as payment.”

  4. Group life and health plans can be hard to get for small groups but there are carriers that specialise in small businesses. A good alternative to an insured plan is a Health Spending Account, it’s a great way to make health related expenses tax-deductible to your business and a tax-free benefit to you. Watch our Youtube video for more information http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g2U3bjsMyY