The Evolving Role of Yoga Studios.

Via Sean Conley
on Feb 16, 2011
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Cappuccinos 3…..Ustrasanas 4

Today, it seems there are more yoga studios than coffee shops. On a block here in Pittsburgh the scoreboard reads:

Coffee shops 3

Yoga studios 4

and 1 (with a lowercase “l”) lululemon.

Is this a good thing, a great thing?

Of course it’s good, great. One style, one teacher, one studio will never connect with every student. Given our beautiful uniqueness, yogis need options. (If only the yoga world would set aside its’ ridiculous my style is better than your style wars. Isn’t yoga suppose to be a unifier?? but I digress and that’s a topic for another day…) The bottom line is this: the more yoga the better.

“Yoga Journal” estimates that 15 million folks in the US practice yoga.  According to YogaFinder, there are some 12,000 yoga studios and that number is still growing. When we opened Amazing Yoga in 2000, we were only the 2nd studio in Pittsburgh—now there are at least thirty. This growth is fantastic: more people are taking care of themselves.

The question is this:  Is all this yoga making an impact in the world? I hope so. I’d like to think it has. All these yoga studios and yoga students seem like a golden opportunity to make a positive change in the world. But to be honest, I think we are under-performing, not yet realizing our potential: Yoga studios, teachers and students alike, need to stretch beyond their studio walls. Stretch more than their hamstrings and groins.  The stretching needs to evolve into reaching, as in community out-reach.

So what is the role of a yoga studio, in the local community, in the global community?

Yoga studios have the potential to become centers for action. They can affiliate with local farmers, women’s shelters, schools and at risk youths. They can be places where information concerning the environment is shared, models of business conducted differently. Yoga studios, in other words, can become forces for change.

As yogis—studio owners, teachers, and students alike–need to remind ourselves that yoga is not about who can lift her leg the highest, who can pick his ears with his toes. Yoga is not about losing weight or looking good.  There are no trophies for doing the most beautiful dancer’s pose.  (Well, then again. . .)

The winner of the most magnificent Natarajasana in town!.......Dorothy

We need to remind ourselves that yoga’s power lay in changing our perspective, changing how we make decisions, little and big.

What can be done?

As studio owners, we want to give back something that evolves, grows, and spreads beyond the walls of our own studio. Here are just a few suggestions of things we’re doing at Amazing Yoga.

1.  Get out the information. This year, we’ve made a commitment to focus our energy on the action we, as yogis, can take after we roll up our mats.  First, we’ve outfitted all four studios with “Community Action Boards” with information on movements like CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and the damage plastic water bottles do to our environment.  We remind people when it’s time to vote.

That's a lot of effing plastic....

2.  Donate to a charity with time and/or money. If there is not a charity near and dear to your heart, find one. Or better yet, create a new one. We are in the process of doing that ourselves.  It may take a little extra time and work, but if the cause is personal and you are passionate about it, it will thrive!  Fund raising yoga classes are also a great way to create awareness, they are easy to set up, and they can galvanize the community.

3.  If you run a Teacher Training Program, require your graduates to teach a minimum of five yoga classes in the community. Encourage them to pick a place that has little or no access to yoga.

These are just the start.  The possibilities are endless!

On an Anglican Bishop’s tomb in the crypt at Westminster Abbey, written nearly a thousand years ago, are these words:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.  As I grew older and wiser I realized the world would not change, and I decided to shorten my sights somewhat and change only my country. But it too seemed immovable. As I entered my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I sought to change only my family, those closest to me, but alas they would have none of it. And now here I lie on my death bed and realize (perhaps for the first time) that if only I’d changed myself first, then by example I may have influenced my family and with their encouragement and support may have bettered my country, and who knows, I may have changed the world.

Next week, a follow up to this article.  “The Question: Donation Yoga or Not Donation Yoga.  The Answer?  The world needs both!”


About Sean Conley

Sean Conley, along with his wife Karen, founded the Amazing Yoga Studios in Pittsburgh, PA. They are co-authors of Amazing Yoga: A Practical Guide to Strength, Wellness, and Spirit. They lead Power Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Trainings in Mexico and Costa Rica. They have 4 kids who sometimes tag along with them to these amazing places. Sean bounced around in the NFL for 4 years. But after injuries and getting cut by a number of teams, he moved on and luckily stumbled into yoga. He believes yoga is an incredible way for all of us to practice healing ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And at the same time, we can help heal the planet. Yoga can change the way we think, eat, talk, and interact with others. Website: Facebook: SeanFacebook Twitter: @Sean_Conley_


11 Responses to “The Evolving Role of Yoga Studios.”

  1. Well done, Sean. I really enjoy your work.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. Sandy Gross says:

    Another great article Sean! Nice to read more from you. …coming in for Cyndi Lee & David Nichtern March 4-6…?

  3. TryAWebFont says:

    I like your article, your font however, please change it. Very hard to read

  4. seanconley says:

    Thanks Bob! much appreciated.

  5. seanconley says:

    Hi Sandy,

    So nice to hear from you! Wish we could. My oldest daughter has a field hockey tourney out of town that weekend. I will certainly be there in the Fall for Bryan and hopefully sooner.

  6. Beth says:

    Great article. I think that no matter the reason people begin going to yoga that evntually with their practice it begins to seep into their life outside the studio and they begin to reach out to the world around them and make a difference. Because a regular yoga practice makes you feel so much better because you are living in the space of who you really are you begin to not accept anything outside that good feeling place and inherently you begin to strive to always be who you really are on and off the mat. It 's a process of waking up for some and waking up is hard to do and takes time.

  7. Nancy A says:

    I think #3 is SUCH a great idea!! We had to teach community yoga classes during my YTT but it was at the studio where we trained. The money went to a scholarship program for future YTT students. I love the idea of reaching out to the community because it not only serves a need there but also reminds people that you don't have to be at a yoga studio to teach yoga.

    great article.. lots to think about!

  8. Hi Sean! Thanks for the post. I couldn't agree more, particularly with the statement that "Yoga studios, teachers and students alike, need to stretch beyond their studio walls. Stretch more than their hamstrings and groins. The stretching needs to evolve into reaching, as in community out-reach." I can safely say from experience that the more I practice the more it becomes about the community. That's what I love most about my studio.

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