The Real Cost of Taking Up Yoga.

Via Lucy Edge
on Oct 25, 2011
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MaryAnn Busso in her Bloomberg piece The Real Cost of Taking Up Yoga worked out that a start-up year of yoga would cost a 37 year old New Yorker $10,779 (£6,775.)

‘Bloody ridiculous’ I grumbled across the breakfast table. ‘$40 on yoga socks? $152 on Adagio Organic Tea? $860 on yoga conferences? Is Busso mad?’

Intent on proving her mad I got my calculator out and cast my mind back to the year I took up yoga.

It started well—I crossed out several of Busso’s high cost items immediately:

$860 on a yoga conference

$1200 on acupuncture

$1800 on privates

$3590 on a Balinese yoga holiday
Then I crossed out several of her more esoteric calculations:

$40 on yoga socks (what’s wrong with bare feet?)

$70 on YogaToes and YogaHands (what’s wrong with pedicure toe separators from the local pharmacy?)

$126 on yoga bras (M&S is fine with me)

$152 on Adagio Organic Tea


Then I started totting up my own spend:

Classes: three a week with Simon Low £1400 – rather more than Busso’s $1150.

Holidays: After only one class I signed up for Low’s holiday at Huzur Vadisi, Turkey, spending around £600 plus flights to sleep in a yurt with a hole in the roof, ‘built for star gazing.’

Workshops: I’d say Busso’s estimate of $118 was on the low side; I spent £250 in that first year – one weekend with Sarah Powers and the other with Shiva Rea who managed to get me into a handstand – well worth it for that alone, though I’ve never done it since.

Massage: $392? And the rest! I had no idea I had muscles in all those places.

Food and drink: In no time I was mainlining a box of Yogi tea @£3 a week – maybe I should’ve economized with Adagio.

Clothes: OK I may not have gone for the socks and the yoga bra but I was a sucker for the two £40 each après yoga t- shirts with suspect Sanskrit-ish writing down the arms, and let’s not forget the two workout vests from Cyndi Lee’s OM yoga studio that I paid a friend to bring back for me… and what about the two Elvis vests that another friend was wearing in class that I just had to have?

Equipment: The mat, the mat bag, the strap, the bolster, the beautiful wooden Iyengar inspired blocks probably set me back £150. At least my yoga blanket was a multi-tasking pashmina from Joseph that I’d owned for years.

Music and concerts: Only 2 Krishna Das CDs? Busso has to be kidding! I bought his entire back catalogue, and Deva Premal’s, plus every Buddha Bar CD ever released.

Books: Only three Busso? What’s the matter with you? Light on Yoga, The Heart of Yoga, Awakening the Spine, Autobiography of a Yogi, A Search in Secret India, The Spiritual Tourist etc etc… plus the glossy $75 Yoga Journal tome stuffed full of yoga masters, and still inspiring me today.

Miscell: Add in the home practice DVDs, the £4 a month we Brits have to pay for Yoga Journal, the leggings, the eye pillow, the travel to and from class, and I don’t think I’d have got much change out of £4000, or nearly $6500.

At the time I was working in advertising and could afford to spend such sums but eventually the practice of (as Simon Low put it) ‘peeling back the layers that stood between me and my true self’ led me to leave the ad business, and now I earn half the money I once did – writing books, conducting qualitative research, helping small to medium sized businesses connect with their customers, building a yoga resource website…

So you could argue that the total cost of that first year’s yoga was half a lifetime’s earnings, and I’d say it was worth every penny – far from being mad, it was the only route to sanity.


About Lucy Edge

I was a burnout corporate, working eighty hour weeks in advertising. Nothing in my life was working, so I decided to straighten myself out with six months in the yoga schools of India. While I scrambled around trying to find my guru, yoga worked quietly behind the scenes; peeling away the layers to reveal new possibilities. I realised, as I packed five volumes of diaries in my suitcase, that my happiness lay in writing. Random House published Yoga School Dropout a year later. Suddenly I was getting emails from all over the world. As I’d shared the story of my transition, from corporate burn out to born again writer, readers shared theirs; how yoga was helping them transform their lives – as small business owners, mothers, yoga teachers, designers. The list went on, and on. I loved the creativity of these stories and wanted to share and celebrate them with everyone – yogis and newbies alike. So I created YogaClicks – a place for us to inspire, inform and equip each other as we transform ourselves through yoga. Please join us - together we can get the world on its mat.


20 Responses to “The Real Cost of Taking Up Yoga.”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Love this.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  2. Petruk says:

    This is so dumb, so Yoga Journal. How 'bout 3 months of daily instruction in Astanga primary series, about $600, until you have it memorized, then practice at home for free for the next 50 years?
    Are you people so inculcated in consumerism that something isn't real unless you can put a price tag on it?

  3. fivefootwo says:

    Everyone is talking about how distorted that article was. People are posting their yoga costs all over their blogs. It does not even come close to what her hypothetical yoga student consumes.

  4. Manuka says:

    Yoga does not have to be expensive, can use as part of warm up and down on visits to the gym and practice at home, even a 10 minute session can make you feel great…

  5. Lucy – as always you crack me up! Looking back at my first year of yoga I guess I was pretty practical – $5 yoga mat, books and CDs from library, bargain sale yoga pants, and unfortunately no training in exotic locations…I had already dropped out of the advertising world, so I took the economical yoga journey.

  6. Vision_Quest2 says:

    This primarily home practitioner of vinyasa LOVES you …

    I refuse to be associated any more with the embarrassing greater metro New York City commercial "yoga scene" … like babies, all these yoga teachers and yoga programs like to make scenes …

    Walk-in prices in the current economic climate point up to the fact that in light of the possibility of being the solution to the problem – or being part of the problem, and most vinyasa studios disingenuously know which side they have been on all along …. see this link: There is an Elephant in the Room and it ain't Ganesh

  7. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Makes sense, [email protected], you'd had an insider's view of the hype …

  8. Thea says:

    This is a fine article by Jessica (she is an excellent teacher as well) and an interesting read.

  9. Prasad Rangnekar says:

    Not expensive really, if we look at the cost of giving up our " False Identity" which we nurture in ignorance for life times….are we really "ready" to pay this cost ??? Thank you for the lovely compilation. Would surely make many a yogis ponder. Looking forward for many more :))

  10. Lindsay Jean says:

    Yoga is whatever you make it to be. Mats: optional. Teacher: optional. Props: optional. If you don't have it, improvise.

    I live in San Francisco. Space is expensive here. Your yoga teacher has to pay rent and buy groceries, just like everyone else.

    I've been teaching yoga for four years. It's been more than three years since I've had health insurance. Don't get me wrong, I do pretty well; I do well because I am living the life I choose to live.

    Yoga is everywhere, you don't have to spend much money at all. If you want a teacher to know your name, to know your injuries, to care about your growth…then maybe you should care about their's.

  11. skink says:

    I'm thinking along the lines of Lindsay. When my wife and I first started Yoga, we happened to find a local, real live Yogini – one whom spent years studying on rock and marble floors in Madhya Pradesh. She speaks and reads Sanskrit. She is not a person who was able to accurately demonstrate a pose on a video and say the right things and then get a certificate in the mail.

    She teaches out of her home. She has a jar set at the entrance to her Shala-space (old master bedroom) where you donate and offer what you can, when you can. Don't write her a check, because it may sit in there for two months before she checks to see what's in it.

    Each of her students over time has donated mats, some she's collected over the years. Don't have one? Use one of hers or one that was donated. Have trouble with a pose? Modify it so it works with you. Me? I've a back that doesn't let me do A LOT of the spinal twists (if I try I'll collapse in a heap of pain with numbness and pain down my legs as well). So I modify. Wear what you find comfortable, but still respectful to others around you.

    Garbing yourself in lululemon and all the nice adornments are just more of the same we face every day. You've wrapped yourselves up in the same layers of bull shit you're trying to dissolve.

  12. Lucy Edge says:

    15 years plus in advertising and I still believed the hype!

  13. Lucy Edge says:

    I am reminded of that phrase ‘yoga meets you wherever you are.’ Surely the important thing is that people start to practice? If, in the beginning, its another form of consumerism, does that matter as long as we keep at it? In time the layers of bullshit will be peeled away, leaving us able to see that happiness doesn’t need to mean another expensive workout top. Its also about perspective – sometimes it feels good to be able to treat yourself to something you don’t need, it’s having the freedom to choose the way you react to temptation that is yoga’s gift, and – as Jessica’s excellent article points out – the privilege of the privileged.

  14. Lucy Edge says:

    Jessica is totally right… I have some amazing figures on the demographic profile of yogis in the UK and US which I will share next week – to say ‘upscale’ would be something of an understatement!

  15. Lindsay jean says:

    Why so harsh? Most everyone has good intentions. Paths are many.

  16. Lindsay Jean says:

    I don't really see it that way, but good luck on the y-axis. Looks a bit myopic from here.

  17. Cali says:

    I’m sorry! That’s silly for all who pay so much.. $40 for mat and towel. $75/month for studio membership.

    How does tea factor in to yoga costs, again? …

    Yay consumerism bleeding from “alternative” folks, “yogis”.. :/

  18. I think the original costs listed are ridiculous. BUT I also think that I'd rather pay for yoga (and bodywork, and organic food) than be paying for excessive Dr. visits, prescriptions, surgeries, etc.

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