Monday, September 15, 2008

Yoga at the Y

Earlier today I was reading some other blogs and came across this recent post about Yoga at the Y and how great it is. And it got me to thinking!

I am a teacher at Rama Lotus and have been for 6 or 7 years. I go in, I teach, I leave. People come, people go, prices go up, stuff happens, and I'm still in there teaching. I used to wonder why people would go to a yoga class at all seeing as how yoga is free and people can do it at home by themselves and before I lived in an ashram I'd signed up for a series of classes and this drop-in model wasn't in my world. So yoga's free and people can do it on their own but studios have to charge because landlords don't donate their space for yoga classes. (I've asked on occasion, but they won't go for it - they charge a lot.) So then yoga costs something. The Y can charge a little because they're a big business and a charity and have lots of cash flow and it's way different than a little yoga place, which even Rama Lotus is by business standards. Buying in bulk reduces the cost and I know classes can cost below 10 bucks if you've put enough on the card.

And then there's the teachers. I've written before about what people think yoga teachers are supposed to be and I guess charitable should definitely be on that list. Which I think most teachers are as most teachers don't make that much for what they do. So most yoga teachers also have other jobs. Some yoga teachers can get by teaching open classes, but most really can't. There are some very big classes at Rama Lotus, and the person teaching that particular class will be well paid for that class, but most of the classes are small and you could make more teaching at the Y than teaching a daytime class to a few people at Rama Lotus. So teachers generally don't do it for the money.

The length of time for a yoga class has always varied. And it varies on various things. I'm not sure why Bikram began doing 90-minute classes, but he did and Rama Lotus got Bikram classes happening thanks to Luc probably 10 years ago, and then other classes would be scheduled in a similar way to suit the space, I suppose. At Kripalu our classes were 1 hour and 15 minutes for some auspicious reason. Some people get an hour for lunch so a lot of classes are that length, which is what the Y does. They're running on an hourly schedule. Most of the classes I teach outside of Rama Lotus are an hour too, it's enough most of the time. At Omega, the staff classes are 2 hours, so it just depends.

What to wear to yoga has changed over the years (I talk about that on my web site, I don't think it matters what you wear to yoga but some people do and it can be like a fashion show in some classes. Those great clothes are also very comfortable usually, which is why Chip started lululemon, at least that's what he told me. Doing Bikram in cotton is totally allowed, but usually uncomfortable. I used to wear my bathing suit with shorts on top. Doing non-hot room yoga in cotton works great and that's what most of us wear. (Ashtanga would be an exception as it gets just as hot as a Bikram class in Ashtanga if you're working and there are people in the room!)

When yoga becomes a fitness class it loses something for me. If I want to work out, I go to the gym. If I want to do yoga, I do yoga. It helps me connect to myself and stretch and have quiet time with myself and it feels good. And then it's worth the money, unless I'm doing it on my own!

One of my teachers wrote about offering yoga for free and what happened to him. In our culture if we don't pay for something we don't value it. That's a generalization, but it fits here. And even if there were free yoga classes, they'd need to be outside because indoor space costs something. I've had really cheap classes at people's works and people don't show up. Charge a little more and people come because it's a bigger investment. It's like marketing anything - you have to find the right price, which may be more rather than less. I'm not saying yoga's over priced, but to be honest, I don't know, because I'm not trying to run a yoga centre.

Doing yoga in a dedicated yoga space is also a nice thing to do. I teach a lot of yoga in gyms and dirty floors and places that aren't dedicated to yoga. It's great to be able to teach yoga in a yoga studio. The lighting, the sound system, the props, the whole space has considered yoga. Doing yoga in a gym works, but it's not the same.

Teaching yoga and holding the space for 1 or 50 students, is a privilege and it takes something to do that. It takes a lot of mental energy to do it and it's also something that can be rewarding to the teacher once they get over being drained by it! But it's not something that you can do 8 hours a day. Not leading big classes up at the front. It's something you do for short periods and then you have to do something else. And if you're working all day and then teach yoga at night or stop and do it at lunch, chances are you're not doing it everyday or it will eat up your free time.

Yoga's great and it's awesome that there are affordable classes and classes in dedicated yoga spaces, and private classes. There's a kind of yoga for everybody. And there are good teachers at all levels. One's not better than the other. Yoga's not a competition! Not even the classes or spaces. There's room for free yoga and $15 yoga and $100 yoga classes. Context is the key.

(I grabbed the pictures from my website. I scanned them from the book, Yoga for Americans.)

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