8 Replies for When People Say Yoga Is Too Expensive. ~ Sarah Weaver

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Is Yoga Too Expensive?

I will admit it. Once a month I get an email of my receipt for my monthly membership at the studio of my choice. My frugal side immediately says, “Oh my gosh, I forgot I was spending money on this! That is expensive!” which is what people say to me often when they find out I pay for a monthly yoga studio membership.

But then my realistic side kicks in—there’s a difference between “cannot afford” and “won’t pay for” —this addresses comments to the latter. Which goes like this:

1. Milk and eggs cost the same for everyone.

Yes, that’s right. My teachers go to the same grocery store and are charged the same prices. When people tell me that painting/carpeting/plumbers/yoga teaching/babysitting/etc., shouldn’t cost that much, I remind them politely that there’s no bargain basement in the bottom of Safeway; we all buy the same foods. I want my teachers to be able to eat food that is real, like vegetables, and I am okay with that.

2. Avoid the accessories.

Yoga becomes expensive when I walk into Lululemon and insist on buying myself a new color tank top. These are clothes, not yoga. I love them, they’re great, but they are not necessary for keeping up a practice.

3. Good training is worth it.

I don’t know about you, but I want my teachers to keep training. I want them to go to their teacher and learn new skills. I want them to have time to be contemplative, read up on the latest teachings in asana (or other limbs), and I want them to share all of this with me. I want their assists to be on point so that the risk of getting hurt is minimal.

4. Real estate

Rent is expensive in an American city with great amenities. It’s expensive for everyone. Get over it. It costs money to heat and cool a space to make it comfortable.

5. Just because you’re cheap doesn’t mean that coupons are always the best.

I budget for things that matter to me.

I love having hobbies and I budget that I might like to buy a new hardback every once in a while. I also love eating out at new restaurants and bars. Just as I don’t want my favorite indie bookstores or neighborhood pubs to go under, I don’t want my favorite studios to perish because I am a cheapskate. I love the online deals, but this matters to me, so I find it in my budget. It doesn’t matter to everyone, that’s fine.

Again, the difference between “can’t afford” and “won’t pay for” —what is true and what are my priorities?

6. Compared to what?

I used to be on three anti-depressants and two allergy medications year-round. I spent about $75/month on these, and had the added joy of going to a doctor regularly for my prescriptions (which were always being adjusted) and paying co-pays therein. When I started a regular yoga practice a couple of years ago, I met with my doctor about de-medicating.

After months of taking the pills, I was medication-free. When she asked me how I was doing, I told her, “I am fine if I do yoga five days a week.” She said, “Great, keep it up and keep checking in with me” (that’s abridged, of course).

Many of my friends have gym memberships and spend hundreds of dollars on running marathons. Some have Netflix, Spotify, full cable TV and cheese-of-the-month clubs, hefty bar tabs and drinking habits, you name it. I don’t allocate my membership in the entertainment category.

For me, I budget my yoga membership in the health category. I view it as part of keeping my mental and physical health in line.

7. The people! The community! The laughs!

I think fondly about college every time I pay my student loan payment, “I remember less and less from class, but my friends mean more and more.” I feel similarly about the yoga community.

Studios do an important thing: they create a space. They create a space for me at 7 a.m. when it’s dark and cold out in February and when it’s hot and steamy in August. They create a space where it’s okay for me to admit that I am “twisting out my hangover” and I can fall as many times as possible (and did I mention my stomach is flabby?). They create a space where people can talk about things that matter to them, and stay committed to themselves and their path.

It’s a space where people actually talk about things that matter to them—how many of those landscapes are left in our lives?

And I know for a fact that if I stopped showing up, my classmates would check on me to see if I was okay.

8. I am really lucky

I am very grateful to be able to do this. I wake up to public radio where bad news is their specialty and it keeps things in perspective. I am healthy, and I wake up appreciative that I can live freely and afford this. It would be rude of me not to get my body and brain out of bed and take good care of it in the way I know how.

I’m not saying that everyone should follow my style of budgeting. And I know I am blessed and have both the privilege of great teachers and the lifestyle to afford this. But if you’re questioning why I spend some cash this way, this is my reply and my priorities.



Sarah is a working gal in Washington, DC. She believes in laughter, arts and crafts, generosity, coffee, and a regular regimen of sweatpants and slipper socks. She came to the Mysore style of Ashtanga several months after completing a 200-hour Vinyasa teacher training in search of a consistent morning practice and found it in the Primary Series. She considers herself more of a student than a teacher, loves sun salutations and thinks that writing is more scary than an inversion.

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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Assistant Ed. Rebecca Schwarz

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hoffm.brittany Dec 5, 2018 9:59pm

so the big issue I have with arguments like this is essentially you are saying to low-income people: too bad! you can’t budget this money so I guess you can’t practice yoga! In an industry where the phrase “yoga is for everybody” gets touted more often that I can think, what are we actually saying when we charge a price that limits a massive percent of the population from taking yoga? a population that is in desperate need of healing? In the words of Roopah SIrah- why are we hoarding healing? I think this is a MAJOR ethical issue that the yoga world is refusing to address. Space and employee costs at yoga studios are minimal. There is no need for them to charge 2-3x what a full-service gym does. I have been teaching yoga for 9 years, and I have never once had the ability to afford a studio membership (outside of the one I’m given for free at the place I work). We need to stop making excuses for yoga’s pricey exclusivity and start making changes.

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anonymous Mar 25, 2013 3:19pm

The thing about yoga in the United States is that it is provided on a cost basis. This is not usually the same for something like Buddhist meditation. So, why is this? Yes, yoga per class is expensive. This article is written from the perspective of a teacher trying to make a living from teaching yoga. Ever wonder why yoga teachers in India are traditionally people who have taken a vow of poverty? I am a yoga teacher and I do not do it for the money. I do it because I love it. Every full time teacher is aware that you will not make $100,000/year.

Yoga classes should be available to everyone. Not just people that make more than $40,000/year. There are plenty of other ways to make money in this world.

anonymous Mar 25, 2013 9:34am

Not sure if anyone mentioned yet but one can usually get a discount if you have time but not much money. The way to do it is to do some work exchange-flyers, cleaning and vacuuming etc. Esp. if the studio sees that you have been coming and are truly interested!

    anonymous Mar 25, 2013 9:42am

    Yeah, the studio got rid of most of that and just hired people for pay …
    They'd also got rid of practically all their by-donation classes …
    They found there is diminishing returns in that … even when the yoga teachers don't try to work themselves out of a job – and in fact, try to hang onto and upsell regular students with impunity … online competition can do it for them <smirk>

    Many are diversifying and following the "Wellness Center" model–offering classes people actually would like to take (as opposed to the spiritually/creative-only imperative), and can afford, e.g.., they charge a lot less for their Zumba classes …

anonymous Mar 25, 2013 6:41am

I agree with this article. Yoga is really worth it. You cannot pay for the relaxation and overall health benefits that Yoga can give to you. It is relaxing and a very effective activity if you are stressed out. Most importantly, it helps you stay fit.

anonymous Mar 24, 2013 3:32pm

Yoga is free. It is the accessories that cost money. The accessories might be fun, they might enhance the practice, but the practice itself is free. I believe that the value of the current "yoga industry" is that it can help show a practitioner the heart of the practice as we lead ourselves away from the industry. IMHO — find your practice that you can do anywhere anytime with whatever you have (even if it is nothing), and you will have found the heart of yoga. After that everything else becomes mere decoration.

anonymous Mar 24, 2013 10:27am

At our local Hindu temple, Sivananda-style hatha yoga is free — for everyone, Hindu or not.

If something like that is not available, find a teacher you like, take a session in fundamental asanas and alignment and then develop your own home practice — accompanied by something like B.K.S. Iyengar's 'Light on Yoga' (which can be downloaded for free).

anonymous Mar 23, 2013 8:46am

My membership to the YMCA is paltry compared to the value of what I gain from weekly yoga classes there. The instructors are properly trained and provide a priceless "service" to their students. Yoga practitioners don't need any more than what they get from the actual class unless they are in it for the look and not the gain.

    anonymous Mar 23, 2013 10:06am

    Good to hear. I teach at a Y as well as at private studio, and I have students who come to my classes 5 days a week. It's a great option for people who can't afford multiple classes at private studios, and our teachers are well-trained and well-loved. We're not paid per student, and many classes are packed, so I consider it seva to the community. I love the beauty and tranquil space of the private studio, but it's the teacher's job to hold space for the class, even if there's a weight room downstairs. We handle it with humor and love. Not all Y's are equal, but neither are all private studios. Yoga for everyone.

    anonymous Mar 24, 2013 12:40am

    I too teach at the Y- it's volunteer. As @devacat mentioned, they're not all the same but consider that your instructors at the Y may not be getting anything but warm fuzzies & good karma out of it. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting your comment incorrectly, but if you're suggesting that teachers " don't need any more than what they get from the actual class" financially, you're sorely mistaken…

      anonymous Mar 24, 2013 7:20am

      "misinterpreting your comment incorrectly"

      Is there a correct way to misinterpret the comment?

      anonymous Mar 24, 2013 7:47am

      At a studio, you have carte blanche to market your private yoga instruction services with impunity – even if they do not have rooms for such dedicated purposes onsite … a lot of it is in how the yoga teacher plans their income streams.

      WHICH IS PRECISELY WHY (until I found that the style taught, was not midscale-gym-yoga-like enough for my tastes) I had long-term-near-permanently defected from a conventional yoga studio and started taking yoga at a nonprofit yoga studio and quasi-community center that taught in the Himalayan tradition.

      anonymous Mar 24, 2013 8:58am

      to lankyogi: Not at all. Practitioners (students) should not be doing yoga, in my opinion, for any ego boost gained by "looking cool" in the classroom. What I get from my practice there is wonderful for the minute price I pay for the Y membership. It's a shame if the instructors are being paid practically nothing in comparison to those teaching at private yoga studios. The Y instructors are adequately trained but are probably not compensated for it accordingly.

anonymous Mar 23, 2013 3:47am

Average salary in the UK £26,500
at 35 hours a week
you work around 46 weeks in the year
– 30 days holiday including all the bank holidays e.g. christmas new years.
– remember there is no sick page – no work no pay…

So this is £16.45 / hour to get average salary

1 hour of a yoga teacher £16.45
1 hour of a studio/room £30
– £46.45 for 1 hour of a teacher
– That's £1648.98 a week to break even.
– If you get 150 students a week through your door that's £11 a student 🙁
– If you get 100 students a week through your door that's £16 a student :((
– If you get 50 students a week through your door that's £32 a student :(((

So you stick with £10 a student, but you only get 100 students through the door
£1000 – who pays the £648.98 to make up the difference…the teacher

Monthly salary £1,736.48 (after tax)
Monthly salary £1,087.50 (after making up the difference and tax)

And that's not a lot of money now is it?

They should ban yoga dvd's.

    anonymous Mar 23, 2013 10:46am

    Ban yoga DVDs? That's a terrible thing to say. I have a toddler, and almost no studios in my area offer child care, so unless I also schedule a baby sitter to come over every single day, then it's impossible for me to go to a studio. And I would also be just about doubling my costs if I had to pay for a personal sitter every day. I know several other moms with young children and new babies who can only access yoga right now from home. A lot of them have been turning to me because they know of my love for yoga and want to try it and ask for DVD suggestions. I'm just happy to see others want to experience yoga. To suggest we don't deserve to practice yoga because we have to stay home and rely on DVDs is totally unfair. Maybe more yoga studios should set up an inexpensive child care room if they are so opposed to people practicing by DVD at home. Studios are great, but some people need other options.

    Further, I spent most of my adult years working a swing shift, which means I was sleeping until late morning and working evenings. I often found that classes were mostly offered when I couldn't go. Another example of how the studio world can't always accommodate all people.

    One more thing: It seems like everyone who has ever taken up yoga and loved it has become a yoga teacher and is now either struggling to make ends meet or working two jobs. I totally understand the desire to become a yoga teacher and make a living off of it, but there are so.many.of.them — is it all of our responsibility to help such an abundance of instructors make a comfy living? Maybe the market can't support all of them. Just an idea — not being critical of instructors. I'd probably run off and do the same if I didn't have a husband who would never allow me to drop that kind of money on training that won't likely pay off into any kind of sustainable future income. Which totally makes me mad at him, but I guess he's right.

    Instructors and studios are great, but they aren't able to accommodate everyone. DVDs are a godsend for some people.

      anonymous Mar 23, 2013 10:56am

      Ooops! That should have been a question instead of statement. Yes your point is 100% correct. I was being very facetious in saying we should ban yoga DVDs.

      I also fully agree that studios do seem to have more accessible classes to those of us that don't always work during the day. I would love to see more classes on the weekend – if I was a yoga teacher I'd certainly work the weekend more and take days off during the week. But that's cause I have worked 9-5 for the last, well, let's not saw how long 😀

      "Maybe the market can't support all of them" ~ again 100% right. There will come a time when there is a yoga studio on each corner. At some point all the forms of yoga will need to come together and say enough is enough. And create a proper "school of yoga" that only allows a certain number of people to train. Am not sure. It's a hard thing to call. I face the same problem in my world. Anyone can become a web developer, and the people that are good are getting out priced because little johnny down the road can build his dad a website for his dad's company…not that the website will be any good, look good, or do what his dad is expecting the website to do. But he got one. So my price of £1500+ for a custom well built Google friendly easily managed website with me on hand to deal with server issues is a non-starter for most folks. Actually that sounds exactly like the yoga teacher issue 😀

        anonymous Mar 23, 2013 3:12pm

        Opps. Sorry, Colin, if I misunderstood and totally overreacted! And I know what you mean on your example about the web design. Interesting idea about the teacher training, too!

        anonymous Mar 23, 2013 8:30pm

        It's good to know you are being facetious in the banning of yoga DVDs… particularly since my home yoga and pilates practice has been like this:

        … no technology …
        (maybe music)
        … maybe a little list (compiled on a PC, though)
        all the equipment I need … at ready reach
        or at most a stopwatch
        [yup, I used to stretch using a stopwatch!]

        Hours of yoga at home and am not much into using any real-time guide (such as video or CD)…

        So … banning DVDs are bad for the DVD artist (and their royalties). It may be a blow to their ego, but I use yoga and pilates teachers' DVDs for reference purposes only …. [used to work out to them a long time ago … but then needed to innovate my own system]

        So, the live hatha teacher I take from fairly frequently, won't have a DVD any time soon …
        DVDs are not her competition …
        Just don't have the time, money or exercise-type elasticity (i.e., cannot swap out all the cardio I need to manage my condition (which I also can do on my own, at minimal cost–though not exclusively so) ) to take any form of a yoga class (live or otherwise) more than twice a week …