more questions than answers

The New York Times article A Yoga Manifesto has really made the rounds of the yoga blogs with each blogger approaching the story a bit differently.

As I wrote here there is a new movement in yoga — moving away from the rock star yogi mentality to donation-based classes. Yoga to the People in New York City is riding the crest of this new wave.

On the surface I think it’s a great idea and I give YTTP founder Greg Gumucio mucho credit for what he has accomplished. I’ve always thought that yoga should be accessible for everyone and even more so for people in the lower-income bracket. But Roseanne raises an interesting question in her post about YTTP. Roseanne tried a YTTP class and has this to say about it:

“Their “manifesto” sounds good in theory ~ but my understanding of it changed when I actually experienced one of their classes in NYC last month. As I noted, the final effect was “discount” yoga, complete with fluorescent lighting and classic rock radio, rather than the DIY proletariat experience I had expected. After reading this article, I now know where the problem lies: ‘High volume is the key to [YTTP founder Greg Gumucio’s] business model — he says up to 900 people may go to a Yoga to the People studio in a single day….’

Sure, more people doing yoga is a good thing, but herding hundreds of them through a rotation of anonymous teachers in crowded studio classes… how does that improve the world? Especially when the spirituality, teacher-student relationship and, in my experience, quality are sacrificed in the name of economy.”

As I read her post some thoughts popped into my head: how many of the people going to the inexpensive classes can easily afford to pay the standard prices at a yoga studio, such as $15 or $17 a class? Are these inexpensive classes taking away from a small, independent, non-franchised studio that can not afford to price their classes at $8 or another lower rate? And if that small studio closes because of the cheaper competition and yoga teachers lose their jobs because cheap yoga put the studio out of business, how is that a good thing? Should we just chalk that up to good ol’ American marketplace economics? Cheaper will always bring in more people but is it really better?

I would rather see people doing donation-based yoga who truly can not afford standard yoga studio prices than the ones who only want a deal.

Living in my suburban area where it is difficult for a yoga studio to survive raised these questions for me. People live in $500,000+ houses (which in my area is a “starter home”) and drive Hummers, but many go to health clubs or gyms or park districts for yoga because it’s “free” (i.e., part of the membership) or the price is less than $10 a class. I’ve been teaching a long time and I’ve heard the rationalization of “why go to a studio when the gym yoga is free?” That attitude is one of the reasons that has kept me from opening a yoga studio — because there’s lots of cheap yoga around. A yoga studio is a business just like any other business and that would not be a good business decision.

Just throwin’ the questions out there…talk amongst yourselves.

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