February 18, 2011

Capitalist Yoga.

When one yoga shala isn’t enough!

So, you wouldn’t really expect capitalism and yoga to be in the same sentence, or would you? These days it’s certainly not uncommon. There seems to be many who’ve combined both and are making hundreds of thousands, even millions. From successful brands to known teachers, the toll toward enlightenment seems to have drastically gone up!

I have been practicing yoga for a few years now, but still feel like I don’t know ‘how much’ a yoga class should be. I just sort of take for granted that whatever the teacher or studio is asking me to pay is fair. Yogis, I would think, would be the last people to do one over on me, right? But is this always true? Is it truly necessary to pay a 100 bucks for a yoga mat, 20 bucks for a single class, 350 bucks for a weekend workshop and how about the thousands upon thousands for a retreat or teacher training? Perhaps you get what you pay for, but should it be that way when it comes to yoga?

Yoga has become big business and the numbers prove it. An article from Yoga Journal in 2008 shared that Americans spend close to 6 billion a year on yoga classes and products. Yowza.

Of course this isn’t for everyone, there are still many establishments and teachers that are teaching yoga for the sake of yoga, wanting nothing more than to make enough to live within stable means. They typically accept donations or whatever people can pay, but then there are those that with the accumulation of more students, they want to spend more and make more…another shala, more bathrooms, a second floor, etc.

I can remember a retreat that I attended to which the ‘gift shop’ was mentioned at the end of every lecture. I mean, at first it didn’t bother me so much as I didn’t really need anything, but as the idea of ‘shopping’ and ‘consumerism’ excited a lot of the students, I felt myself jumping on board and wanting to peruse and possibly purchase something I didn’t even need. I nearly convinced myself that I should buy something just to help the studio out. But, is this right? This definitely wasn’t a donation program and I had already spent a couple thousand on the retreat without much more left in my bank account. So, what to do?

Sure, yoga is what you make of it and it can certainly be a road to wealth for some, even fame, but where does the element of humility begin and end?

Am I jumping to conclusions when I think a local studio is making plenty, perhaps a bit more than plenty, when I hear they are opening two or three other locations within the same zip code? What does this do for aspiring teachers and studios? When is enough enough?

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