So, the question as to whether the practice of yoga is out-pricing its students has been raised more and more often lately. And it’s true. I mean, paying $20/class, buying a $60 mat and $80 pants does seem a bit excessive to the beginning yoga practitioner. But when we begin yoga, we like the feeling of having stuff. Stuff (i.e. mats, props, yoga wear, etc) makes you feel like you’re part of the community; collecting is a way of upping your self-confidence, which can be pretty fragile when you step into your first yoga class (all those bendy people in stretchy clothes…).
But as we move on in our practice, one of the things we (hopefully) realize is that all this accessory/clothing/advertising hype is feeding on the self-consciousness that naturally arises whenever you expose your body (the aforementioned stretchy clothes) in public. Making money off of our insecurities (i.e. Lululemon and the camel toe campaign) is a disgusting, yet time-honored ploy to prise us of our money. But you know what? It’s also a challenge, a learning experience, an obstacle put in our path for us to overcome. When you no longer hitch your ego to the yoga marketing world, which is pervasive and alluring, you free yourself to enjoy your practice (as opposed to worrying about how you look in your practice).
How to escape from the bright and shiny magnetism of yoga marketing? Well, I have a few suggestions.
1. On the mat
Once we realize that we don’t need to spend all that money on the next yoga fad, then the money we do spend becomes well worth it. Let’s start with mats. A yoga mat is really your most essential prop. Most studios will have a cache of mats for students to borrow if they don’t have one of their own. Gaiam and Hugger Mugger have some pretty affordable mats for under $30. Granted, if you want a super eco-friendly mat like Manduka or Jade, then you’re going to pay a bit more, but those particular mats will last you for years. However, there are ways of altering your carbon footprint as to offset the purchase of an environmentally questionable, inexpensive mat (shopping at thrift stores, for example).
And speaking of thrift stores, we come to yoga necessity number two: clothing. For yoga, you need close fitting, stretchy fabrics, preferably in a natural fiber. Loose fitting clothes get in the way, falling over your face in poses like downward-facing dog (it’s hard to get into your practice when you’re constantly pulling at your clothing) and also making it hard for your instructor to see the alignment of your body (which helps to prevent injury). When bought new, these clothes aren’t cheap. However, yoga is so ubiquitous now that it might be a good strategy to visit a thrift store in an upscale part of your town. You never know what you’ll find. Otherwise, Old Navy, Gap, and TJMaxx offer very affordable options. Again, there’s the carbon footprint/ethics argument connected to these mega chains. But that argument alone shouldn’t keep you from entering a yoga practice. Be creative. Find other, less expensive ways to cut your footprint. Ebay has some great deals on yoga wear, yoga mats, and yoga accessories. (If you are looking to spend more on your yoga clothes, may I recommend a few places? If you want spend your dollar locally–and by locally, I mean on a small, independent business–I suggest the following: HerbanDevi, Shining Shakti, or Sprigs).
3. Get some class
Finally, we get to yoga classes. As a yoga instructor and studio owner, I want you to pay for classes. Of course, my classes are relatively inexpensive, $8-$10 per class. But, hey, that’s the Midwest for you. However, most studios, mine included, have a Karma Yoga program where volunteer hours are traded for yoga classes. Not only do you feel good about donating your time, but you get to participate in your local yoga community for free. Further, I’ve trained long and hard in order to come to the place where I can share my expertise with my students; there is a value (monetary or otherwise) in that. I believe yoga is for everyone, but I also believe that in order for it to remain a safe and healthy practice, instructors should be compensated.
Can you become a successful yoga practitioner by using DVD’s or online classes? I’m sure you probably can. I supplement my own practice that way. However, nothing gets you fired up or inspired like a good instructor and a class of like-minded people. (Not to mention the question of safety; as yoga and safety have not been strangers to the media outlets, it’s clearly something that needs attention. Taking at least a few classes with a certified instructor will insure that you’re aligning your body correctly, thereby lessening the chance of injury). What about finding the right teacher for you? Well, most studios offer you a free introductory class. You can studio-hop for free until you find a place you vibe with.
So, on the surface, yes the yoga industry is doing quite well for itself. You don’t need to buy into the hype, though. True yoga practitioners don’t care what brand of mat or pants you’re wearing. That’s all ego and it’s an illusion, just like the illusion that you can’t start a yoga practice until you’re already flexible. Just gather up your courage (that’s free) and your desire to create a more fulfilling life for yourself (also free) and get out there and see what kind of deals you can find. Namasté.
image via stevendepolo