I began my yoga practice at a small studio in Indianapolis. I needed to learn how to heal and manage my depression and I knew medication was not going to be for me, I'd heard too many horror stories. So I walked in and looked at the prices, to my dismay it was incredibly unaffordable for me, I worked 2 part time jobs and had just enough money to pay my bills and had around $30 extra a month to spend on myself. The yoga classes cost nearly $20 just for one hour, and they were heavily advertising their packages which were over $120. Immediately I felt a sense of shame and disappointment.
Either yoga wasn't for me or yoga didn't want someone like me, was my thought.
I walked out and started looking up other options. I found out that the popular studio in my area offered a groupon that month and I was elated! I signed up for that month, went almost everyday, and met all the teachers and the studio owner who let me know about the work/trade program they had... and the rest is history!
Yoga studios are not fans of people like me, they need people who can pay that $100+ tab a month. There are many reasons for this but mostly because of the structure they use to pay their own studio bills, teachers, and staff- which if you practice at a corporate studio that includes a CEO. The yoga industry in general is facing quite a difficult time when teachers are struggling to pay their bills due to how the studios pay them, forcing them to quit teaching or work other jobs to help support them. When I became a teacher myself I had no idea this was the case, 95% of yoga teachers are afraid to talk about the financial difficulties they face mostly based from fear or criticism or loosing their teaching gigs. Only recently have articles surfaced on this issue and the topic is gaining more momentum as the industry becomes saturated with yoga teachers.
When I began teaching I got a taste of the sourness working for studios who paid very little and yet charged large amounts of money to their students. I always remembered where I started and came from, knowing the big picture of yoga is to make it accessible healing not luxury exercise. I began teaching donation classes and found a studio that worked with a different kind of financial model, a co-op for teachers. In Berkeley, CA, where I live and teach, the Berkeley Yoga Center has been a God send. They allow teachers to charge students whatever they want, allowing you to use the space at a small fee to make this possible. For the majority of my students, this is a blessing. For my heart, this is my motivation.
I teach classes that are accessible to all, prices start at $13 and get lower from there. My packages start at $60 and I charge a discount for students, while some students pay me what they can at the time or nothing at all. I am able to give my students what they need and be able to pay for my food as a bonus. Do I make CEO money? Of course not, and I don't want to. I didn't begin teaching because I wanted to make a killing and look good while doing it. I teach because I know from experience how much of a life line Yoga is for some people. People who work hard and yet have very little money to spare. People who need mental and community support in wellness based practices, tools for health and stability. To this day I practice with a mentor who allows me to take her classes free of charge, she herself knowing how much this practice and her teachings mean to me. Without that support I am certain I would not be teaching or practicing today.
We need more affordable Yoga, why? One major reason is not segregating yoga studios by economic class, those who have can practice and those that don't have are left in the dust. Class divide is the exact opposite of what yoga is about. It paves the road for other issues too, such as racial segregation and even outcasts the disabled who might already be struggling with their medical bills. We need affordable yoga mostly because we all want a peaceful nation.
When we unintentionally, or intentionally, exclude groups of people from a healing practice we reduce the ability for the nation as a whole to heal. We do ourselves the misfortune of creating spaces where there is a lack of hope and progress. We become permissive of violence, hatred, and trauma by telling ourselves theres nothing we can do. In reality, we can do a lot and we can change the current system.
By supporting teachers who offer donation classes or affordable classes you allow a new modality to take place. You not only support that teacher but the possibly hundreds of students who need him or her. You support the progress of those students who need Yoga as a lifeline, a way to balance the tight rope of this world. You support a peace mission that extends not just to those students but everyone who comes into contact with them, for their actions will truly become more noble, more wise, and more compassionate. Its the big picture. Its Yoga.
- To learn more about my classes at the Berkeley Yoga Center go to http://www.berkeleyyoga.com/