Last month I fielded a question about yoga teacher pay and concluded with a threat to open another Pandora’s box — yoga class fees. Yes, that conversation.

How to begin?

Well first, let’s talk about access. One of the main reasons to keep class prices low is to encourage access to yoga for people across economic levels. When you make minimum wage (or even close to it) or you aren’t able to work, the cost of yoga at the average studio can be a barrier — especially drop-in classes, which are the highest rate one can pay (irony?).

And then there’s the whole argument we hear thrown around casually (and usually passive aggressively), that yoga should really be free — it’s a spiritual practice, right?

I am a big fan of access, and I love the way studios in our area offer creative ways to open their doors to a wider population. Trade, discounts, scholarships, pass-as-you-can, donation classes — all of these options make the yoga class less rarefied. This is great.

And as for free, anyone with a laptop or a neighborhood library now has access to previously unthinkable amounts of yogic wisdom through books, audio and the internet. While a teacher is advisable, the information is out there. Yoga is accessible if you decide to study and pursue the teachings in earnest.

However, there are also reasons to make yoga classes cost more, way more, than they already do. Those reasons are the benefits, and the teachers.

First, let’s hit benefits. Here are a few things one might receive from that single yoga class (these are not promises, just possibilities):

  1. Physical exercise
  2. Relief from anxiety and/or depression
  3. A feeling of contentment, happiness, even elation
  4. Guidance for working with the mind
  5. Alignment instruction
  6. A sense of community with like-minded people

Pretty impressive. Last I checked, therapy cost a lot more than $17 an hour and most people suffering from anxiety and depression would pay just about anything to have the condition removed (along with any attachment they have to being anxious, or depressed). And happy and content? That’s priceless.

Yoga in the US was modeled on an exercise class model. We went from aerobics to yoga studio and borrowed our pricing from the former. Yoga is often seen as a workout, rather than a course of study. To understand its value we have to look at the full picture. And heck, Flywheel classes START at $20 in Seattle, $34 in New York.

And as for the teachers, well that’s really what makes the class, right? So back to last month’s question about how a yoga teacher can make a living or save for retirement. Barely, and it’s doubtful. You yourself might be bitter towards yoga teachers because you wish you could, “do yoga for a living,” but they still deserve to earn a living wage and an opportunity to save money. You can’t om your way into groceries.

And if you think studio owners are getting rich off teachers, think again. Studios are still closing in our region, even with an improving economy. The numbers are tough, and competition and costs are rising. Many are able to make it, but it’s like any small business — rent, payroll and taxes take the lion’s share.

So if you were going to factor all of this in, how would you price a yoga class? What’s the most you’d pay for your favorite yoga teacher? How would you ensure the yoga teacher saw the benefit of any increase?

Agni challenges you to stretch your mind, maybe your pocketbook and answer me in your comments: What’s yoga worth to you?

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