Why You Pay for Namaste

Mind Body Green is a website I frequent. Betwixt the sometimes poorly written ramblings of unpaid contributors and photos of beautiful white women holding windblown fabric, there are kernels of useful information about medicinal teas, getting back on the wagon and other pragmatic goodies.

Yesterday I was lured in by “Why is Yoga so Expensive?” It’s a common question, not just about yoga, but about many “healing arts”, wellness products and organic food. Go on, read it. But come back, because I have some answers.  

The author makes some solid points. Yoga is preventative medicine that cuts costs in so many other areas. Prioritizing (and paying for) your health might seem selfish on the surface, but the benefits go beyond you. More people need to do it if we want to reduce health care costs. I wholeheartedly agree that yoga is a sound investment of both time and money.

Here’s my beef. The author spends her two cents defending a personal decision to spend up to $240/month on yoga classes. It’s not expensive, it’s simply a choice. I respect and agree with her choice. But for me, it’s SIMPLY EXPENSIVE and NOT a choice right now. The article and comments cover a lot of abstract discussion about priorities and paying for what you value. But no one really answers the question.

Let’s clarify. Yoga IS expensive, IN STUDIOS. Why?   

Insurance is expensive. Most instructors carry liability insurance.  Running a studio, having employees and hiring independent contractors just add to the bill. Some yogis argue that a wise instructor will do no harm and don’t need insurance. I say in this litigious country, that’s just crazy talkin’. Any instructor working with bodies needs to cover their ass and has to recoup that cost. Besides, if you don’t own a studio, most facilities won’t even rent you a space without insurance.  

Facility costs. Owning a studio space comes with A LOT of overhead. Most studios are in larger cities where costs are higher. Even renting ain’t cheap. I am trying to set up wellness and cooking workshops in my tiny town. Holding a mere discussion will cost me $25-$40 per class. In metropolitan areas, it’s not uncommon to pay $100 per class to rent a yoga studio space.

 Yoga training and certification doesn’t come at a slash rate of $89.99. Looks like it’s over $2-3K for basic training. This does not include travel, lodging, advanced training and continuing education.  

Marketing and promotion cost money. If you don’t make that investment, you don’t get customers.

Most yoga instructors teach because they love yoga. They want to share its benefits. I doubt a lot of them are charging higher rates to show up on the Fortune 500 list. In discussing “donations only” classes, yoga powerhouse Bryan Kest finds that the average donation is $5.50. The suggested donation is $15. It is not uncommon for teachers to actually lose money.

But I do think lots of well-intentioned yoga instructors and other wellness professionals gloss over the issue of cost and inaccessibility just as much as those who complain about cost ignore the abstract but important concept of investing in and prioritizing health over other purchases.

As with most health topics, I suggest a marriage between personal responsibility and industry advocacy.     

  • Understand that yoga is expensive in certain places. Just like haircuts. Seek classes outside of studios and urban areas. Look in small towns, community centers, hospital wellness programs and continuing adult education courses.  
  • Start a home practice. Check out free DVDs from the library or swap with friends. Invest in ones you like.   
  • Spread the word. Invite friends over. Introduce kids to down dogs.
  • Ask for classes for birthday and holiday gifts instead of material goods.
  • Save those pennies you spend on items you don’t really need and splurge on a class. Nothing beats face-to-face instruction to improve poses and build that sense of community.
  • If you join a yoga studio, shop around first. Many offer free first sessions and invite you to check  out the space before buying. Don’t jump at the first beautiful space you see, you may pay more for that beauty.
  • If you ARE making a profit from studio classes, occasionally pay it forward by offering less expensive or “donations-only” classes at locations where yoga is not readily available.  
  • Acknowledge the price, rather than minimizing or defending it. Lose the assumption that people don’t have their priorities straight if they don’t spring for the studio class or the $20 bottle of Chinese herbs to supplement their $75/session acupuncture. Phrases like “it’s not expensive, it’s simply a choice” or “don’t you think you’re worth it?” are messages that actually turn us off. They discount the fact that cost IS a huge factor, the service IS expensive and we might choose to prioritize elsewhere.   
  • Help make the abstract more concrete. Give customers tips on how they can work classes into their budget. Compare your rates to the cost of other products people use to for self-improvement. Educate us. A little bit of teaching on your part can mean a larger, dedicated customer base for you.
  • Offer payment plans or sliding scale fees.

Do you think you pay through the nose for yoga or pilates? How do you cut costs elsewhere?



4 thoughts on “Why You Pay for Namaste

  1. marybrat says:

    Just now saw that you had posted this in response. Just to clarify, mindbodygreen edited my article (and provided the white flowy girl on the beach!) 😉 Which is not to say it addressed the same things your response did. My original article, though, was more to the person who tells me that they can’t afford to go to a yoga class while they are putting their $200 sunglasses into their $50 hard case and tossing it into their luxury car. I just opened a wordpress so I will follow too, maybe blog when I can at marybrat. Happy Thanksgiving to you…
    Mary Beth Harral

    • aejohnson says:

      Thanks for checking out my response Mary Beth! I really did like your article – it brought up some very good points for your intended audience, and triggered an interesting conversation. People from all economic levels don’t prioritize their health over material goods and it’s frustrating to witness, especially when even small degrees of personal responsibility could impact our health care/insurance industry. I believe, however, that a lot of yoga & wellness programs (and MBG or Elephant Journal articles) target a certain crowd that a lot of people don’t belong to. It’s one of my goals to broaden that audience.

      Starting with photos! Seriously, beautiful as those yogis may be…who runs through golden fields of wheat? I think I might start.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you too…keep on writing!

  2. cathy jehn says:

    Hey there. I have been taking yoga and Pilates at work through our office wellness program, “onsite fitness”. I can’t think of a better program – the convenience of going to class at lunch time or after work, and not having to drive anywhere – makes it super simple. Depending on number of participants I pay between $6-$8 per class. I hugely recommend on-site fitness at work sites. Love yoga. I am getting obsessed with bird of paradise pose.

    • aejohnson says:

      Hi Cathy! Thanks for mentioning employee fitness programs – another great outlet and employee wellness programs, on a whole, are something I’m interested in getting involved in. I recently read your company was one of the best to their employees. Keep cranking that bird of paradise and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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