The Value of Yoga and What We Are Willing to Pay For

The week before last week, something came through my inbox that made me cringe for about 10 seconds. It was a deal from LivingSocial, the wildly popular site where you can get one wickedly awesome deal daily. The deal was for 20 sessions of Bikram yoga for $20 at a Bikram Yoga studio in Shoreline, a couple blocks away from where I live.

The Value of (Almost) Free Yoga

Something about this made me feel uncomfortable. Though I don’t know all the reasons that the feelings and sensations came up that way, I do know that I’ve been struggling with the issue of the value, or the perception of value, of yoga for a while. In my 500-hour teacher training, we had a session on the Business of Yoga where we talked extensively about the pros and cons of offering free yoga classes. One thing I walked away with was, there are different types of “free” yoga, and before jumping in and offering any kind of discount, we as yoga teachers need to be clear on what we are giving and receiving.

I know that we all value things differently, and how people spend their money is none of my business. I admit, though, that I’ve always find it funny that someone would say they can’t afford to pay for yoga, and yet would be happy to spend money on a frappuccino in the morning, another in the afternoon, and then a cocktail or two after work. And then you’d hear about them spending loads of money on diet pills and detox powder. It’s funny how our minds work in relation to things we deem as worthy of our hard-earned money.

In any case, I let that uncomfortable feeling go. You just cannot investigate every single feeling of unease in the world indiscriminately, and I felt like this was one battle I didn’t need to pick and get worked up over.

The Value of Public Transportation

A few days later, I misplaced my Orca card, which is a public transportation pass for buses and trains around the Puget Sound. I was really bummed that I didn’t get to use it when I needed it, and even more bummed that I had to now pay extra for the bus. For the first few times, I would try to plead with the bus driver to let me ride for free, since technically I already paid with my card, I just didn’t have it with me.

Then, it occurred to me that I was a hypocrite.

If you live in this area, you *know* that the traffic we have is atrocious. I myself take the bus partly out of what I call the Green Guilt, and party to preserve my stress and blood pressure level. It is an understatement to say that we *all* hate traffic and would love to do away with it all. And yet, we are not always willing to walk the talk and help make it better.

As a region, we debate about money to death and some of us get very upset about paying more taxes to fund better public transportation options. As a proponent of public transportation I will readily admit that I choose to drive to certain places because our bus system simply does not meet my needs. You would think that I would be willing to pay more to change that. But no, I was haggling with bus drivers over the fact that I didn’t want to pay an extra two dollars and fifty cents, and then I would get off the bus and pay the same amount for a tea bag that’s been marked up a gazillion percent.

I thought about how silly I was, that on the one hand, I want people to see that value of yoga classes, that what you pay is what you get, and on the other hand, I was being so petty about putting more money in a system that I use everyday. This thought made me laugh at myself while sitting on the bus one afternoon.

The Value of Accessibility

This whole analogy may not be the best one out there. I may have drawn some parallels that may be more like crooked lines at best. I know there’s a whole complicated issue of government subsidy and taxes, etc. It doesn’t matter. My point here is, I’m starting to see that yoga, like everything else, has a perceived value in people’s mind, and I would not do myself, my students, and my colleagues, any service by doing things that would devalue it.

My friend David Tolmie (hi Dave!) said that public transportation should be accessible to all, as should yoga, and I tend to agree. So the question is, how do we make it so that something is accessible, and yet still valuable? There has to be an equal exchange of energy. I am willing to pay a lot of money, over and over again, for yoga training, and I know many other teachers do too. How do we turn around and charge $12, $15, $18 for a class of yoga when someone else is willing to charge $1? What do you think?

I should also mention that as soon as I came to my mini epiphany mentioned above, I was happy to pay for the bus, and even extra when I didn’t have exact change. This past weekend, I found my Orca card. 🙂

Cat money