Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is pay-what-you-can yoga the way forward?

According to this story in the New York Times, the latest and greatest in yoga is pay-what-you-can. I haven’t heard of any donation-based yoga classes here in Australia (feel free to correct me in the comments), but having read this piece I’m not entirely convinced I’d want to try it. I like the idea of each student paying for a class according to what their budget can allow but do we risk devaluing the time, money and dedication that yoga teachers have put into their training?

And what if one yoga studio adopts this payment method, while the studio down the road, which may have fewer teachers or a smaller space and can’t afford to go down this path, is forced out of business as a result?

“There’s a brewing resistance to the expense, the cult of personality, the membership fees,” the NYTimes writes of yoga, and I agree that it’s good to pull back on the showiness and expense associated with some yoga schools. But is this the way?

I must confess, that some of my attitude is coloured by the revelation that these New York classes pack many, many students into the one studio. “Yoga isn’t about a pristine environment — yogis can work downward dog to downward dog, no matter where they are, even if in a crowded, unadorned studio,” Gumucio explains.

His reasoning can’t be faulted but as a very visual person I like to see lovely, calming or inspiring things around me, it’s one of the reasons I go to a class in summer that practices on the beach – you can’t get a more wonderful environment than that! Would I want to swap it for a cramped studio? I’m not so sure. But perhaps I’m just allowing the class/teacher to influence my experience instead of being in charge of it myself.

It seems, then, that I’m sitting on the fence with this idea. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and opinions on the matter. Maybe I could be convinced to pick a side!


  1. I am all for it! This idea is not entirely new and it makes the contract between teacher and student that much clearer - as a student you know this is not just a money making venture but something the teacher is willing to give. In the East yoga is a spriritual practice taught from Ashrams. Although we can't replicate this here, the donation model ensures the premises and teacher are paid for without the moral complication of being charged for spiritual learning.

  2. Very interesting post. :)

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  3. I would love to see this in my own practice, in fact, a few years ago when in the throws of setting up my own practice (Zen Hands) I was very drawn to this as a way of getting away from advertising promotion and competitive advantage and all these items of business I find them not healing they take me away from what I am offering ( Shiatsu & Massage).

    I was very inspired and moved at the time by the founder of Lentil as Anything whom I read about in a local paper. The story detailed how he lived in a tent despite having access to plenty of money but instead seeing through all that and offering something far greater (jobs food nourishment and care).

    It is very clarifying to live and work this way. In a way much like a monk on an alms round. If you give with your heart full and open you will be cared for by those who value what you are offering. If you focus on the money much is lost in distraction and there is always the danger of greed some of which can be quite subtle.

    Enough said, have I put this in practice? Well no ... not yet ... when I look into why not I see that guts are missing and there is elements of self worth that come up (which is just another term for greed). Having said this I haven't turned away anyone with a need and lacking money. I just see this as my way of paying forward. I do attach a condition tho, they must care, feed or in some way help another being in need when they are able to.

    There is much for me to learn and unlearn and trusting is high up there.


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