Is yoga too free to be expensive? Or is that the other way around? Author and yoga dude Neal Pollack’s latest article could make an argument for either.
NP comes right out, though, and says yoga is too damn expensive, what with all the memberships, doodads, bootie pants and wonderlands we yogis spend money on each year, when the teachings are essentially free. A loaded word, free. Are we spending too much on yoga?
Via Yoga Journal:
Yoga is too expensive.
Classes at the top studios run $16 or $17 for drop-ins. In big cities, the $20 class is pretty common. I once paid $25 for a “master” class in New York City. Even if you go exclusively to donation-based studios—which generally means crowded, sweaty, impersonal classes, often taught by substitutes or trainees—you could still easily spend $100 a month on yoga. Day-long workshops run anywhere from $60 to $150, and weekend ones cost more than that. There are $800 conferences, $4,000 teacher trainings, and $1,500 retreats, not to mention clothing and mats to buy. Suddenly, you’re looking at a lifestyle that no one but the quite well-off can really sustain.
I know the reasons are many. When practiced consistently, patiently, and well, yoga makes you feel better than anything else does. So, naturally, people want more. In a capitalist society, institutions will arise to profit from that desire. The corporations, moguls, and rock-star teachers who make millions off yoga are just working the system as best they can.
On a lower level, you have your neighborhood studios that are just trying to pay their bills. Yoga studios don’t tend to operate in low-rent areas. So they have to charge more. Some of them profit-share with their grunt yoga teachers better than others. Regardless, many teachers, at least the ones who are actually trying to do it for a living, end up working way too hard, offering too many classes while neglecting their own practices and forgetting the delightful reasons they took up yoga in the first place. I’ve seen it happen many times.
At the bottom of the food chain are the students, hungry for enlightenment or exercise or an end to back pain. Sometimes, they just need an excuse to nap in public. Especially when you’re first starting your practice, the benefits outweigh any costs.
NP adds that eventually, though, paying for yoga is like “filling up your gas tank” because it’s something you get used to doing to get you where you need to go. But maintains that the true teachings of yoga (at least philosophically) have always been free and that we should all be ashamed by our commodification, noting that even he, too, is guilty of the charge (he has his own yoga memoir on sale).
[…]the true teachings of yoga, at least the philosophical ones, always have been and always should be free. Exercise classes are one thing. But we should all be ashamed of abetting a system where so many people get priced out of the core principles. Tranquility of mind, the ability to let go of attachments, a feeling of empathy toward all things: these should be as cheaply absorbed as fresh mountain air.
The slope here is as slippery as the glaze on a factory-fresh yoga mat. As a yoga blog, we know. Perhaps yoga as an industry and as a culture will never be free, but we agree with Mr. Pollack that practicing alone can and will always be free for all.
Do you feel priced out of yoga? How do you stay in your yoga “budget”?