I posted this blog post on my Facebook page yesterday: Is Old School Yoga Becoming Extinct?
The blogger — who owns a studio in Lewisville, Texas — makes many excellent points. When I lived down the road from that area, 1989-1992, I think if I would have mentioned the word YOGA to anyone I would have been run out of town on a rail. People did not appreciate this very left of center Yankee gal in that area back then, but that’s another story.
If you’ve read this blog since 2005 (yes, I really was one of the first yoga bloggers to critically question and comment on the status quo of modern American yoga), you’ll know how I feel on the subject. I’m an old school teacher and am not afraid to use the phrase “real yoga” (you can also read about that somewhere in these 400+ posts.)
Another old school teacher and I had a Facebook discussion on this topic:
HER: The yoga boom has not been good for those of us who have been teaching a long time. I’m also “old school,” and have seen a drop in attendance as studios that offer trendier yoga styles have sprung up all over town. While my classes retain students quite well, they don’t attract a mainstream clientele. Like you, my students are dedicated. Many have been coming to class for 20 years or more, partly for the yoga, but also partly for the lovely sangha that has evolved over the years.
ME: exactly. I also find that most people I come in contact with in my area have no idea what yoga therapy is about. when people ask what I do I mention about working privately, one on one, with yoga therapy and they always ask, “what’s that?” so I explain. and the ONLY thing they know about yoga is using it as a work out, sweating, and pretzel poses. I have been blessed for the last 2 months to work with a trauma survivor of sexual assault who truly gets it, her progress has been phenomenal. but she is only one. and she is moving out of state. so I am back to square one. it is depressing for me and I have thought about quitting teaching many times.
HER: I’ve thought about giving up many times. When I hear about packed classes where a fresh-out-of-a-200-hour-training teacher is putting people in harm’s way, it makes me want to throw up my hands. But over the past few years I’ve come to realize that the kind of yoga I teach, and I suspect the kind of yoga you teach, is never going to attract a mainstream audience. The people who come to my classes are an out-of-the-ordinary group of people, and because my classes are not huge, I can get to know them as fellow humans. I count this as a blessing, even though I struggle to survive financially.
I am unapologetically old school which means I don’t make a lot of money (it’s actually becoming less and less every year, so much so that I’ve thought about working for lawyers again, part-time), but my students are very dedicated practitioners (most of whom have been with me since Day 1 of my teaching, going on 11 years now), and it definitely is a sangha in the true sense of the word.
All I can say is thank the Goddess I don’t own a studio because I probably would have had to close the doors years ago. I still believe all this is dependent on geography, on where you live. If you are a teacher/studio in an area with little yoga, you are a big fish in a little pond. If you live where I live, Chicagoland, where the city has a studio on every other block and the suburbs have studios within a stone’s throw from each other, the story will be different. Supply, demand. As I’ve written before, studios make money on their workshops and teacher trainings, not on their group classes. OR, by selling memberships now. The owner gets the money up front, every month, no refunds on that membership charge, so if a student only goes a few times and switches to Zumba, it still ca-ching for the studio.
But I keep sticking it out. I will still go to India to study for as long as I can (every dime I make goes to that), I have partnered with a friend to teach what we believe is a paradigm shifting therapeutic yoga training because the world needs healing, and for the first time I will bring a group to India for old school study at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and retreat next March. And I believe I am being called to amp up my energy healing work (but not necessarily for humans) — I’m learning two new practices at the end of the year
In the meantime, I just keep on keeping on.