March 23, 2013

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

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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