Sunday, October 2, 2011

Yogi Confession: Yoga Class Drop Out

Yesterday, for the first time in over four months, I paid for a yoga class. It was fabulous and lovely and I learned a few new things (although not really regarding any alignment).

I practice yoga asana two to three times a week and I barely spend a penny. Maybe a couple of twonies (reference for all my Canadian peeps!).

About a year ago I began to realize that attending yoga classes more than once a week would involve quite the price tag. I tried "10 class passes" which basically saved me an extra class, so over 100$ would last two to three months at a rate of 2-3 classes per week. In a year that would cost, at three months, over 400$. For yoga.

I considered only attending Karma or by-donation classes in the city. Unfortunately I realized that the Karma classes here are typically: a) PACKED, b) not reliably of good caliber c) typically on a very inconvenient day.

I seriously considered an unlimited yoga membership... typically running for close to 300-400$ per year... and realized wtf- I TOTALLY don't have that kind of money for yoga.

So I just stopped going to classes. I kept up my Yogaglo 18$/month for unlimited yoga classes, practiced in the park for free and went ahead with that. Wouldn't you know, I still practice regularly, I still learn from myself and others and I've saved in 4 months over 100$.

This is not a judgement on those individuals who can afford passes and memberships at yoga studios, nor am I trying to diminish the value of what a IRL yoga instructor can give you. It's just an observation that I've concluded I don't really need to spend a zillion dollars on yoga to get what I need.
(My fall dancer's pose two years ago in Rothesay)

Here's a quick breakdown on Yoga sans classes, cowboy style (although reversed cuz I always think it's a good idea to end on a positive note):

The Ugly:
I don't get any manual assists, real time feedback or guidance from a Yoga instructor. This is the best way I learn since I'm not exactly that great with body spatial awareness. I've decided to pick up "Yoga Anatomy" again and start reading.

The Bad:
I feel even LESS connected to the yoga community here in Halifax. It's kinda weird trying to organize these yoga events when the feeling I'm getting from (some) yoga instructors is that I'm kinda a poser. A "faux yogini" ya know? Not really committed to the "cause". Hah, I know it's all probably in my head, ok for the most part, and I'm happy enough with myself that I can move beyond how I respond to that.

The Good:
I am saving a butt-load of money without actually losing any of my yoga practice. I also have gained a bit of "yoga perspective" while stepping out and back from the yoga vacuum. My yoga practice is WAY more environmentally friendly, since no gas is used to get there and no heat or extra electricity is being used for a whole other space. My yoga carbon footprint is greatly reduced.

Finally, being forced to schedule online "yoga classes" has increased my use of Yogaglo and "Yoga Dates" with friends. This means allowing me the time and space to develop and grow without any external pressures.

October is the beginning of introspection and self-reflection. I may indulge in a yoga class once every few months, but I am now entering a "non-studio yogini" phase in my practice. And I think that's pretty darn okay.

article and photograph copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Right on! I think your home practice makes you anything but a poser. Totally legit, in my book. I can see how it might be hard to connect to the larger community, especially with the approaching winter. But there's always the social network, like your blog.

  2. I'm a home-yogini all the way. I see the value of classes, but I just feel more comfortable and find I do it more regularly when I just stay home! :) I LOVE YogaGlo.

  3. Everything happens for a reason, and the only ones who may disagree in whole or in part, are yoga teachers (or rabid yoga students) who haven't hit the mass media trail YET. [Uh, though I don't use the latest kinds: just books, flash cards, instructional and yoga music CDs; DVD for reference only at this point].

    It is no accident that I took the scores of classes in the exact order in which I took them ... wannabe studio first where I learned how to actually pace a flow (while being ignored or pushed too far by the instructor--never a happy medium), authentic mild studio (in which my home practice literally TOOK OFF from there) where I learned much-needed alignment ...

    Important, also is the time issue. After all the yoga studios have this racket going for them called "karma yoga", or "work exchange", but I am not in that TIME category, either ..

    With my supersized commute to/from work, my having to caretake elderly relatives, and my lack of a bank balance ... works for ME.

  4. I do a combination. I find that I don't work my edge when I am at home. I slack off. There is something about the energy of a group that is uplifting and buoys me up and makes me want to do more.

    As a yoga teacher, I also learn a lot of new tricks.

  5. good post, but as a teacher who no longer teaches group classes in studios, I have some comments:

    don't assume that classes where there are no adjustments are "ugly" classes. I rarely give adjustments but do give feedback. The teacher who certified me (who opened one of the first studios in Chicago and continues to be the real deal of yoga in Chicago) does not teach that way. He rarely cranks on students -- his own advanced training was in India as is mine, maybe that's the difference.

    frankly, IMO, the idea of "yoga community" is highly overrated. I have been teaching 10 years in my area of suburban Chicago and have NEVER felt part of a "community" even though I taught at a studio for about three years. this may not be PC to say, but I find many teachers in my area only interested in promoting their own classes and if they help you a "what's in it for me" attitude, and forming their own yoga cliques.

  6. @Jen: thank you :) Yes, you're right, I've been really moving away with this need to be part of the 'community' IRL. I really like what we have here!

    @Five Seed: yep- exactly!

    @Tina: Very nice observations. I have actually progressed in my seven years of practice- there was a time definitely when I needed to attend real life yoga classes for feedback and alignment. I moved through the type of classes I enjoyed as well.
    Perhaps this is a lull in yoga classes- and that may come to pass too.

    @Shanna: interestingly enough- that was me about two years ago. :)

    @Linda-Sama: Yes, good point. My comment regarding the (lovely!) yoga class I attended Saturday was more that I didn't really learn anything new, even from verbal instruction or feedback. I agree with you, I'm not always a fan of 'cranking'- however, I do truly find that kinesthetic feedback (a slight guidance of the arm/hand here, or a little almost ghost of a pressure. I have no clue where my body is in space.

    What I meant with placing the 'no feedback' in the 'Ugly' section was that by practicing at home I'm not receiving any specific feedback to my own body- physical-verbal or no. Which I miss.

    Thank you for voicing your observations re: community. I feel like a huge cynic saying it, but I have truly yet to see a sincere effort to community in Halifax. Glad to read someone as experienced as you, Linda, has observed something similar.

  7. I love this post. One of my biggest "beefs" with the yoga industry is that it costs so darn much if you want to go to classes. Personally I enjoy going to them and it's worth it for me at this moment in my life but I'm hoping to save some money down the road and start practicing at home more frequently.

  8. "I have no clue where my body is in space."

    proprioception. people have it or they don't, in varying degrees, but it CAN be in yoga via practice, practice, practice.

    actually I DO give the types of adjustments you are talking about: a touch, etc. but I don't crank. when I read "adjustments" or "assists" I usually think of teacher I've had who lie all over a student in down dog. uh, no.

  9. p.s. your post is good fodder for a blog post of my own! thanks! :)

    you might be interested in a recent interview I did...

  10. i only practice at home these days because of my back condition. i know what works for me and what doesn't. lately, though, i've been missing the group energy and challenge of going to yoga class. i also understand what you're saying about the challenges to connecting with the yoga community when you don't practice in a studio - i've been feeling the same thing with my community building efforts in montreal. i feel some how less legit b/c i don't practice in a studio. and because of my back, i can't even drop into random classes and try out teachers.

    but, i'm going to keep doing it (both practicing at home and building community)!

  11. I don't have much proprioceptive ability—not enough to make up for my natural lack of core strength. I know that from my former swimming days, and I know that from my (current) dance days [in addition to yoga]. I find that improving on a nearly subterranean level of core strength using special moves in my home practice has enabled my practice to flourish to levels that would do some justice to infrequent attendance at even some harshly-styled, wannabe studio.

    And I am saying that on the far side of 45 years of age.

  12. @Christine: yep I hear you on finding a balance w money! I will start doing the facebook invite for friend yoga again :)

    @Linda-Sama: Good point, I'm most likely more aware than I was 7 years ago, and it's something to consider. Thanks for the link- will be sure to check it out!

    @roseanne: ahh yes, that would be a challenge! wow- I'm SO glad I'm not the only one who feels that way! I'm sure though, from what I know of the Montreal community yoga scene, my visit and meetup with you and reading your blog, that your fellow yogis respect and appreciate all that you're doing :) I sure hope you keep it up- Montreal benefits so much from your hard work!

    ps- I also agree that practicing in a group really is something special. I can get that from yogaglo with friends and yoga in the park though- which has been nice.

  13. @Tina: thank you for that suggestion. I wonder if working on core also helps focus our perception 'inward'?

  14. I think Linda's comment about yoga community is worth looking at a little closer. One thing I've witnessed when it comes to the studio yoga models out there is that most of them are entirely capitalist in structure. Sure, there's a frosting of yoga placed on top in terms of how owners, teachers, and even students talk, but it's still capitalist.

    Now, perhaps one could figure out ways to subvert capitalist structures and in the process develop authentic community, but from what I've seen, efforts at developing community tend to be subverted by the capitalist structures at this point. It's mostly about individual practice. Individual teachers. With classes structured in ways that really don't foster deeper connections between the people in them. And everything from the way teachers are often paid (by student attendance numbers), to what generally constitutes a class (a sequence delivered by a teacher to a set of students) adds to this issue.

    As far as home practice vs. studio (or other) practice goes - it's a false binary. Too many people, in my view, have become dependent on teachers standing in front of them, constantly directing traffic in the same ways. And too many teachers are dependent on large numbers of students in order to get paid decently. I don't expect this to change anytime soon, but I do think that anyone who really wants to unfold this path must do it on their own constantly, and also find ways to be in group-learning situations. However, I'm starting to think that perhaps what constitutes a "group learning situation" might be something more flexible and changing than what stereotypically is called "a yoga class."

  15. As a studio owner, I never turn anyone away for classes or teacher training. Money should never be an issue, as we can have an exchange of energy in some other way (organize props after class or take out the trash).
    I have found, the more expensive the studio classes, the least I learn in a class. I've not conducted a study as to why that is, though I expect it has something to do with where that teacher is in his/her practice and WHY they are teaching in the first place.
    Home practices are the best, to me, this is the sign of a serious student/teacher. Most people are not that disciplined.

  16. Thank you for this post! Home practice definitely does not make you a poser. In fact, this idea could be turned around: A person who's practicing at home is practicing solely for the love of practice, not to be seen in a yoga class. I realize that not everyone goes to class to be seen, but there is an element of that energy, at least in the studios in my town.

    On the subject of adjustments, home practice gives you the space and quiet to self adjust from a more subtle awareness. While it's great to go to a class or workshop for new ideas, there's no substitute for personal practice. My daily practice allows me to listen to what my body/mind needs and wants at a given time—something that I can't do in a class where someone else is conducting the rhythm, pace and timbre of the practice.

  17. It does not even require that much discipline. Just tell yourself you will do it for ten minutes only.

    If you feel lonely and/or physically/psychologically "unsafe" doing it on your own (which is my problem at this point in time), likewise, the feeling goes away in ten minutes or less.

    The best thing is to distract yourself with something semi-boring, JUST before practice. The same way a healing professional will distract you with a joke or light conversation, just before giving you a treatment.

  18. Let me tell you something - a person who can maintain a yoga practice OUTSIDE of going to yoga classes is no phoney or poser.

    It's true - not everyone can afford yoga classes or workshops. Personally it's my priority, and since I don't have many other financial committments, I can do that.

    But I get that it's a privelige to be able to do so. If you're trying to buy a house, start a family or feed/educate little kids, then yoga classes become less of a priority. Unless of course, you want to shift that around so you still can.

    These are all choices we make, and no one should be judged for going to more or less or no yoga classes.

    But anyone who can independently keep their own practice going AND run a friends yoga group is awesome in my books.

    Re: community. No matter how many nice people I meet doing or teaching yoga, it's very difficult to get people to think of going to yoga classes as being part of a community. It can be done, but it takes extrodinary effort because most people are interested in their own lives, not those of others. To get people to open their minds to more than that, takes time and a little inspiration.

  19. @Nathan: I agree with you, lots of aspects inherently getting in the way. The struggle, of course, is to find the balance of life-career-money and community. I'm fairly confident Halifax has failed so far, but i just keep hoping...

    Interesting perspective on becoming dependent on a yoga instructor in front of them. I do believe I still have so much to learn and would do so in some ways better with someone externally guiding me. That said, I have learned so much more about myself when I had to think and create my own sequences (pre-yogaglo and still relevant for Yoga in the Park).
    Stick Yoga people really is a fun and effective way to plan and illustrate a sequence.

    @It's a Yoga Thang: that's wonderful that you come up with alternatives! I tried energy exchange for yoga, but three hours of intense cleaning for three hours of yoga just was too exhausting. Your perspective sounds much more "real" and balanced.

    @Charlotte: Yes- I agree that there is a whole aspect of "being seen" (which, as yoga is predominantly a female dominated activity, this is an interesting comment to the entire theory in feminism of women being portrayed and used to being the focus of the gaze...). You're also right, I practice outside and at home because I love yoga :)

    @Tina: I find that during my "every day practice for one month" (two years ago?) 20 minutes was my minimum. I wouldn't do it again unless to raise money for a cause (like I did then), but it was telling that I could set aside 20 minutes every day.
    That said, it did take more than 20 minutes, it took the time to change into yoga clothing, roll out my mat, plan my sequence/practice or choose a yogaglo class, roll up, clean my mat, change back to street clothes. I'd say on top of the 20, add another 10-15min. For myself in any case :)

    @svasti: Thank You! I agree, some people make the priority, or have a bit of extra cash flow to put into yoga classes at a studio- maybe because it's what their practice (or they themselves) need at the moment. I was there, and also have done that. It's nice to think of yoga as a life long journey, so perhaps my life will change again and weekly studio classes will become a part of my life again.

    re: community- i agree, it's always so important to have hope and think "glass full". I have to recognize that I'm not really a glass half full kinda gal (as terrible as that sounds), so it's a struggle I have.

    Tomorrow evening is our October Coffee and Yoga evening, and I'm really looking forward to getting together with friends and perhaps a few new faces to chat and share about yoga :) That is enough truly.

  20. I feel like yoga studios keep raising their prices higher and higher. It's getting a little too crazy now. Like you, I have had to cut back, a lot. I practice more at home but I have also found I am able to try more things at home that I wouldnt have been able to at a studio. Pros and cons to both sides :)

  21. i loved this post! i have been out of yoga studios for about a year now and between the internet and just doing my own practice, i've been able to keep up practicing a few times a week. i've only recently started practicing at a studio again since i started yoga teacher training

  22. I do feel some sense of "community" from attending a couple of yoga classes a week. here in Halifax...

    I make an extremely low income
    (poverty level in Canada's consideration) but
    have decided to cut out other things in my life in order to be able to access yoga classes .(still very difficult for me to afford,but have made some big sacrifices in my life to afford it).Why? Because it has improved
    my mental state SO much and been good for me phycially as an aside.

    I have tried to do at home
    yoga, but cannot concentrate and
    do not feel the kind of focus and benefits as I do at a class.Maybe because I am relatively new to yoga?

    So yes, I feel a community in Halifax.Of course I DO wish it were an affordable community that was accessible to all, but I do notice a few more low income people like myself are beginning to show up to.(I have heard there are much cheaper classes in some local church hall type places,so I should investigate that too).

    Anyways,that's my story! :)

  23. Great post!

    I've recently moved back to Halifax, and decided to try out a few different studios (the intro month specials make it a bit more affordable), but I've been disappointed when I think that I probably can't afford $100 a month (or whatever it would end up being) to continue.

    This was a nice reminder that part of what drew me to yoga in the first place is not needing to go to a gym, or needing any particular equipment to practice.

    I also have found the "community" aspect a bit overrated, but maybe that's just me not making as much of an effort as I could be. I just kind of assume it's is one of those get-what-you-put-into-it sort of things.

    Looking forward to future posts!

  24. With me, it isn't about sending the kids to college or buying a home. I have high medical expenses, commute expenses and very high rent. I can't even save for my retirement anymore; I don't belong to a gym (I have no time).

    When push comes to shove, I think it's time to shove greedy yoga studios out of the way.

    That said, I will go on occasion to a yoga studio that teaches a mild style, is a quasi-community center, and has a heart (i.e., is primarily-home-practitioner-friendly and not in the upselling business). I was burned by the trendoid, wannabe yoga studio a little closer to me geographically than this new one.

    So I pretend I will give them (and/or their spinoff) my business, but if you look closely, I do vote with my feet (elsewhere) ...

  25. all that being said, yoga teachers have to eat and put gas in their cars, too.

    I don't have a yoga studio, I teach out of my house, but yoga is a business just like anything else. every dime that I make teaching goes back into my yoga education, yoga insurance, my website, advertising, props for my home yoga shala, etc.

    bottom line, if you don't support yoga teachers, that local studio goes away and YOU are putting someone out of business.

    my friend who runs a small studio takes classes off her schedule if only 2 or 3 people show up. then when the class goes away, people call her saying "that was my favorite class!". She says, "so where were you?"

    a good post on why you should pay for yoga classes:

  26. @Linda-Sama: yes, all that is true- and none of that is why i wrote this post. I don't "not" go to yoga class because I think a) it's OVERPRICED or b) yoga teachers don't deserve the price of the class. I stopped going because I couldn't afford it. the end.

    honestly- energy exchanges are WAY to exhausting (i've done that here for 6 months, working full time, traveling across the province and country, AND backbreaking exhausting cleaning work to get 2 hours of yoga per week- after I've JUST spent three hours cleaning the studio on my weekend).

    I see how many people can make them work- but Lo's post (although maybe a response?) doesn't have anything to do with mine. I agree with her 100%.

  27. I liked your post. Seems like you are doing what is right for you. We have to take care of ourselves first.

    As a teacher and studio owner, I just wanted to share a little on community. This isn't in response to anything you've written, just my experience. I have been open for almost (thisclose) to a year, and have found the blossoming of community to be one of the most fascinating aspects of this little studio. When I first started, students would enter the studio quietly, not talk to each other, and leave without speaking to one another. Now I see students bring friends, and talk with other students, and go to coffee together.

    It has been truly magical to watch!

  28. Above all, I go by the motto:

    "Yoga Freeloader, NO; Home Practitioner, YES!"

    I was never one of those people who could BUY and SELL me several times over, who put only $1 (or NOTHING) in the donation pot.

    I might pay less for a self-sequenced class—YOU, the student, provide the moves with NO assistance from the teacher (who does her own practice ... this is NOT Mysore style ashtanga)... I once heard a fellow student fall out of what I think was headstand ... with nothing more than a nervous giggle from the teacher ...

    If I am not going to pay at least a minimum amount (I could tell by the teacher's grimace as she saw what I put in the pot just what that figure is ...), I DON'T BOTHER SHOWING UP.

    I've a home practice. I am not taking food from anybody, because I can barely survive ... charity begins at home ... and I support yoga teachers, who—as I said before—PUBLISH, RECORD, and FILM; and if I could afford the streaming speed, maybe also charge for their streaming and downloads in the way that you do.

    YOU are supporting a yoga teacher same as if you paid some downtown not-yet-world-class teacher $25 USD for his class ...

  29. "bottom line, if you don't support yoga teachers, that local studio goes away and YOU are putting someone out of business.

    my friend who runs a small studio takes classes off her schedule if only 2 or 3 people show up. then when the class goes away, people call her saying "that was my favorite class!". She says, "so where were you?"

    I agree with the challenges raised in the example you give, and think if people expect to have a class around, they need to have regular attendance. But I don't think it's really fair to suggest that those who can't afford to go to their local yoga studio regularly are "putting the studios" out of business. To me, this is where the stink of capitalism comes in - creating a situation where students are conflated with customers.

    What pisses me off, frankly, is that because of the business models we set up - it's really easy to end up pitting poorly paid teachers against their students, who may also be not well off enough to afford regular classes. We need to get more creative and learn how to support people, however they practice.

  30. @Nathan, SLOW ... CLAP ...

    [APPLAUSE! ...]


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