Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Yoga Machine

Each industry has a "machine" that is it's driving force. Even yoga is not exempt. I know how we all talk about how yoga has become a "business" or a "trend" but nothing truly brought that home until I attended class regularly.

We see our instructors and studios as enlightened spaces, where the yoga teacher greets us as a happy, content person and class is a safe, loving environment (well, except Yoga with R... but then that is a whole DIFFERENT story!). Teacher training is lengthy and expensive (currently almost 3000$ for a full year course at Breathing Space Studio) and we assume that the studio offers this training to share their knowledge. Which of course they do, but let's face it- Yoga can be a business.

I love Breathing Space and it's instructors. Andrew and I continue to "shop" around trying to find another class or style to like, but really we just keep coming back to Breathing Space. Prices for yoga have gone up though, and they only offer one Karma class a week. One day, a few months back I entered the studio and expected the same excited greeting from the instructor... but she was busy. Busy networking with a new group of introductory students. It was an eye opener to watch her and it was at that moment, watching her interact with potential "regulars" that I finally got it. She owns this studio, this is her business. Riiight. check. They've even sent out online surveys to get student feedback on what we like and what we would like changed- and they've implemented the suggestions!

On a completely opposite note, last week H. and I tried to attend a yoga class out in Hubbards, Nova Scotia. I had heard that it was a beautiful setting, in a room overlooking the ocean with the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. It was a beautiful sunny day, good for the hour drive it would take to get there (not very eco of me!). I had printed off a google-map, since I can't even walk down a hallway without getting lost.

Instructions were pretty darn clear though (we still managed to get turned around twice!), turn off the highway, drive onto the "old" highway and you should be there! After about fifteen minutes of driving, no sign and no civic address (there is none on their website either) we started to wonder. H. asked me if the studio was in a building or a house... It's part of a bicycling-yoga business that attracks people from all over so I assumed that there would be a sign at least! I pointed out this cute, cottage-y type house perched on the hill to our left and said, "The pictures of the inside of the room make me think of that type of house". H. pointed out that there was no sign or civic address to the driveway. So, after obviously missing the time for the class, we drove back to the drugstore at the start of the village and asked for directions. The girls there knew exactly where it was: "No, there is no address, or sign. Yes it was that house you pointed out after the old fishplant in Birchy Head" (note, NOT Hubbards). Great. After a quick email to the owner the next day, she replied with: "Oh dear, too bad! Nope there isn't a sign or civic address, but hope you come next week!".

Trying to make the best of our no-yoga trip, H. and I stopped at a tiny, cute beach (didn't bring a camera...) and ran like crazy women through the water, laughing and shouting. She thought I was insane to splash through the frigidly cold Atlantic ocean, but it was wonderful. I picked a couple of stones for Andrew's fishtank and just stood and breathed in the beautiful, fresh salty air. Bliss.(picture at top: the beach we stopped at... taken from here)

Finally, we have the new studio in Halifax, 108Yoga. It's in the old Halifax Brewery, in a very historic and "posh" part of town. I've had a peek inside after being at the farmer's market a few months ago- the floors are dark brown bamboo and the colours are gorgeous. I wanted to see how much for a drop-in... and realized that you were encouraged to "book" a class online. We emailed the owners and asked if drop-ins were possible with the reply of: "we have a wonderful, easy online booking system that allows you to book any class you'd like to attend! We look forward to seeing you there!". Right. So no drop-ins. Well, I'm not really a fan of putting my credit info online, and I'm a pretty spontaneous yogini... so I'd like to have the opportunity to punk out. We haven't gone yet. I'm pretty tempted to just show up and see what they say... lol.

I guess with my three stories I have completely contradicted myself with my whole "yoga is a business" theory! lol. The thing is, the unorganized, casualness of the Ocean-Yoga event did not surprise me half as much as seeing the owner of Breathing Space switch from happy yoga instructor to super duper business woman. Yoga-Machine just seems so much more dissonant than Yoga-Hippie. We expect yogi/ni's to be hippies and carefree... like leftover images superimposed from the 60's. Which is, of course, unrealistic and unfair. It's such a delicate balance, I often wonder how yoga instructors do it- live up to the crazy expectations of their students while staying true to themselves (and their livelihood).

One last tidbit on this 'yoga-business' stuff: getting more into wedding planning resulted in finding this website: "Yoga For Weddings"... WTF? LOL. Seriously, you need to check it out. My favourite part is the bride on a mat (logo from their site). Hmmm. I think I'll stick with our own little yoga session, in yoga gear, outside the morning of. Perhaps test out my dress? Instead of the silly "trash the dress" trend I'll do a "yogafy the dress". hah. Maybe mom will take pictures :)



  1. From your three descriptions, it sounds like the best yoga practice came when you were laughing on the beach :) Maybe the no-yoga trip had some yoga in it after all?

    I find a similar thing, perhaps to a lesser degree with Tai Chi. The instructors do work at increasing the number of 'regulars' in the classes. The difference is that the tai chi society is non-profit, and the instructors volunteers, so there ends up being a whole different 'feel' to things that way.

  2. This is such a weird paradox, isn't it? (Loved your story of the "unmarked yoga studio." I could just picture it!) It is some people's livelihoods, and they have every right to that, but how does that affect their students (when they are networking, and trying to drum up business), and how do they stay true to themselves and their ideals? Etc., etc., etc.!

    I loved the Yoga for Weddings site, but found that same oddness. How great that they offer such services and guidance, but at the same time, is this just another facet to the multi-million dollar wedding industry?

  3. Theresa: you are right! lol. the running in the water was a beautiful moment.
    I had no idea that Thai Chi instructors are volunteer! wow that would completely change the "feel"... so interesting!

    Greenspell/YogaWitch: i know, the wedding website was weiiiiird. I've found that since I've been planning there is this whole Wedding Industry, pushing for insecure brides to spend a lot of money :S


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