My first yoga class was in Lake Tahoe in a studio in Olympic Village.
I remember the brightness of the sun streaming through a wall of windows at the front of the room, sending an immediate calm and warmth through me. The cool hardwood floor stuck beneath my toes with every step, and faint music touched my ears as I placed my mat on the ground.
Everyone in the room was a stranger, but I felt oddly connected to them as we flowed through postures, our breath moving in unison as if we were all partaking in the same spiritual celebration of being alive.
I was hooked.
I knew there would be a lot to learn, but from that point on, yoga became a meaningful part of my life.
After starting college, I decided to check out a studio near the university and bought a three-class new student pass for $30. After the introduction package, class prices would skyrocket. As a yoga newbie, I really valued working on my technique under the guidance of an instructor. Otherwise, I would inevitably go home, twist my body into weird shapes I found online, and hurt myself doing postures incorrectly. However, on a college student budget, I could not afford more classes, so I knew I would have to get creative.
After two years of practice, I can attest it is possible for the busy, overworked penny-pincher to learn and practice yoga without breaking the bank.
1. Give time, get yoga.
After using up my three-class pass for $30, I approached the woman at the desk and lamented about the expense. Little did I know, she happened to be the owner of the studio, and she asked me if I would be interested in a work-trade position. She offered four hours a week in exchange for free yoga classes. I eagerly said yes.
Every Saturday morning for the rest of the year, I cleaned, worked the front desk, greeted yogis, and did my homework for the hour and a half while everyone was in class. It was a win-win and I learned enough about Hatha yoga to feel comfortable taking my practice home. For those of us who have a few weekend hours to spare and want $0 classes, contacting local studios about work-trade positions is an awesome way to get some more mat time.
2. Find a part-time yoga job.
Teacher training is even more expensive than regular classes. So if a teaching commitment is not the right path for you, working sales and inventory at a studio can provide perks. Over the summer, I got a part-time job working the front desk at a Bikram, or hot yoga studio. I got paid hourly and was encouraged to take as many free classes as possible so I could answer customers’ questions.
3. Watch YouTube. (We all know we binge-watch anyway.)
YouTube is a great place to get free yoga lessons and tips! While I recommend doing at least a few sessions with a live teacher as a beginner, there are a host of great channels to turn to for spicing up a practice. My personal favorite is Yoga with Adriene. Most of her videos are around 30 minutes and are great for the time-conscious yogi.
4. Make mornings mindful.
This is one of the hardest tips for me to follow as a grumpy morning person, but arguably the most important.
A yoga practice doesn’t only have to be about long flows and graduating to next level postures. A large part of our practice should be about properly setting our minds up for the day, taking care of our insides, and practicing little rituals to keep in tune with a healthy body and soul. Taking two minutes to incorporate an energizing pose, meditation, or mantra can really make a difference. I like to start my mornings with diaphragmatic breathing and mountain pose to steady myself for the day’s challenges.
5. Create your own mini retreats.
The budding trend of yoga retreats designed to immerse yogis in nature and deepen practices is beautiful, but even the cheaper ones can be a huge sacrifice for us money-conscious individuals. Not to mention a huge time sacrifice if we have commitments to classes, jobs, and families. So what can we do? Gather a group of friends or fly solo and embark on a “mini retreat” to a favorite park, beach, or living room. Grab some journals, snacks, mats, and voilà! Cheap meditation vacation, here we come.
6. Don’t fret about flashiness.
Yoga gear can be expensive.
Advertisers are always recommending the next best leggings, mats, and props. None of these items are necessary for a complete and fulfilling yoga experience. Wear an old tee and shorts or wear nothing at home! The most important thing is being able to move freely, not to fit a certain image. A practice should be positive and free of judgement from ourselves and others.
Now that we know yoga doesn’t have to break the bank or clutter our schedules, it’s time to experience all the mind-body benefits yoga has to offer.