Yoga is often thought of as an activity for privileged white chicks with large engagement rings on their fingers, Coach purses on their arms, and venti Starbucks cups in their hands. However, this could not be further from the truth. Yoga is a practice developed in India, passed down through texts that are thousands of years old. One of the oldest texts is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which was compiled around the year 400 and has been widely used for yoga practice since about 1000. The first phrase of the sutras is Atha Yoga Anushasanam, which translates to “Here and Now is the Time for Yoga.” Yoga is for everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or expendable income. More importantly, everyone can benefit from yoga practice – especially those who have financial stresses and may not be able to afford it.
Now is the Time for Yoga
Atha Yoga Anushasanam
Although there are lots of totally legitimate reasons why yoga is so expensive (which I will cover in my next post), the bottom line is that the cost can prohibit people from practicing. As a recent college grad, small business owner, and driver of a vehicle that recently stopped running, I TOTALLY understand that not everyone can shell out $22 for a yoga class. So here are some top tips for how to get the benefits of yoga on the cheap.
What NOT to do
Please, please, please do not use a book or video. I get tons of questions from my not-local friends about the best books or videos to use – and there are so many awesome resources for a home yoga practice, but if you have never tried yoga before it is so important that you find a good teacher to start you off right.
I remember the first time I was interested in yoga. I was about 12, and I vividly remember choosing a book from Barnes and Noble (because Amazon wasn’t a thing yet), sitting on my bedroom floor, choosing three poses (Janu Sirsasana, paschimottanasana, and savasana), and wondering why I didn’t feel enlightened. Obviously this is an extreme example, but I had no idea where to start. There are so many nuances to body awareness within a yoga practice that you just won’t understand without a teacher – not to mention the extreme risk for injury if you are overly ambitious.
Groupon, LivingSocial, and Amazon Local
Most yoga teachers have a love/hate relationship with “daily deal” websites: we get lots of great students, but we don’t really get paid for them and they don’t always come back. However, it’s one of the best ways to get into yoga – you can get packages of classes that would usually cost $150 for less than half the price, and there’s no commitment. Daily deal sites allow you to try tons of different teachers within different studios until you decide what you like, or until you feel comfortable enough to practice at home with a book or video.
Many studios won’t advertise it, but they often have “karma yogis” who volunteer their time in return for free classes. This can include anything from just signing students in before class and locking up afterwards to working in the office, monitoring the phones, and helping out with cleaning. Ask your local studio if this is an option – most will be happy to work out a deal.
This isn’t really an option for studios, but if you happen to know any yoga teachers (ahem), many will be happy to teach you in return for something you can offer. Perhaps you can trade babysitting, some vegetables from your garden, or professional services for classes every so often. (Are there any accountants out there? Hit me up during tax season!)
Split Classes with Friends
Many teachers will offer in-home semi-private lessons. This can be pricey for one-on-one sessions (although anyone who has done it will agree it is so worth it once every so often), but if you get 3-5 friends together you can probably get a teacher to cut you a deal. When we come to your home (or you come to ours) we don’t have to pay for a space, we don’t have to split our rate with a studio, and we don’t have to wait for a pay cheque. Plus, you get to practice with your friends in a familiar environment and often experience a customized class instead of traveling to a potentially crowded studio. Just make sure your teacher is insured in case anything happens.
Find Community Yoga Classes
Many studios with teacher training programs will offer free classes held by the trainees. But since these are often not yet registered teachers, set your expectations before arriving: prepare for a few mistakes, some awkward sequences, and a teacher who may not exude confidence. That being said, new teachers often have lots of knowledge fresh in their heads, and it’s important to support them. You probably won’t be doing complex poses or sequences that will make you melt, but these classes can be a great option for beginners or when the alternative is nothing at all.
Some seasoned teachers also offer community classes based on their own interests. My friend Jess is a horticulturist, so she hosts yoga hikes where her students learn about plants, hike, and practice yoga. I offer $5 yoga classes twice a week at a space graciously shared with me by another community-minded business owner.
I know that once you start practicing yoga, you’ll understand why it comes at such a premium cost. As a teacher, I still pay $50 for two-hour classes – and I’m happy to do it. But there are lots of ways to start practicing yoga without having to shell out $150 each month for a membership – sometimes, all you have to do is ask.