Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's a miracle! Well maybe not...

I suppose by now it should cease to amaze me every time a student comes to me and says they've been healed by yoga. Yet I still marvel over every success story; back injuries that were once debilitating become manageable, frozen shoulders thawed and sciatic relieved. I've also seen cancer patients' mobility improved by yoga and anxiety eased. One might say it's miraculous but I don't think there's anything supernatural going on here.

Perhaps yoga works because of it's emphasis on body awareness and holistic approach to healing. The focus isn't just on the injured body part but on the whole body and the mind too. Students learn where they carry their tension and about imbalances in their posture. They also learn where they are weak, where they are strong and how to balance the two. They learn how to relax and how to breathe properly. They are taught not to compete and to let go of expectations and results oriented goals.

Or maybe yoga works because it feels good and therefore students are more likely to stick with it. It's simple and easy to do. It's also a lifetime journey rather than a month long prescription.

I'm not trying to suggest that yoga is superior to other modalities or engage in an east versus west debate over medicine. In fact, I think that yoga works very well in conjunction with other treatment options. I also believe that people are so uniquely individual that what works for one person might not work for another and that needs to be taken into consideration. Some people respond well to pills and surgery other people are hesitant to try them without first exhausting other options. I think a person's mindset about their treatment plays a bigger role than we know.

A couple years ago, I attended a therapeutic yoga training and the instructor mentioned that there is a movement afoot to get yoga teachers and physical therapists in the same room to hopefully begin speaking the same language. I hope this happens soon. I am always pleased when I inherit students from physical therapy because their therapist was savvy to yoga's benefits. There are many yoga poses that are very similar to physical therapy exercises.

Ten years ago, before I started teaching yoga, my husband was in a bad car accident and spent several months in physical therapy. It definitely helped him. When I saw him doing his prescribed exercises, I said, "That's yoga!" and convinced him to take classes with me. He found that the poses were very similar and liked whole body approach of yoga. While he eventually stopped physical therapy he continued with yoga (even if he doesn't often come to my classes.)

I'm not promising any miracle cures with yoga, you'll have to speak to God about that. However, yoga might be worth trying if other options have failed or aren't working as well as hoped. Even if yoga doesn't cure you, just learning to accept and work within the boundaries of your body goes a long way toward healing both physically and mentally.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Cost of Yoga

Yoga can be expensive. Lululemon pants run about $85. Eco-friendly mats cost about $35 (I won't even tell you what I paid for mine it was so outrageous, but then for a teacher it was an investment). The average studio charges between $15-$20 per class. Then there are the accessories; mat bags, props, waterbottles, videos etc. All of this expense seems a bit counter-intuitive to the minimalist yogic philosophy of non-attachment.

So why does it seem the cost of yoga keeps going up?

The answer is yoga is popular and therefore profitable. However, there's a new wave afoot in the yoga world. A recent article in the New York Times (4/26) profiled low-cost yoga studios starting to crop up New York and San Francisco, the places where all yoga trends start.

Except in this case, I'm one step ahead of New York and San Francisco. Yes, Everett, Washington beat them to the punch. Sorry, but I have to gloat just a little. I've been trying to hold down the prices at my studio since I opened it in 2006 with only small, gradual price increases to keep up with the cost of living.

Having my studio as part of my house keeps my overhead down and therefore I don't have to charge a lot. I suppose I could but I don't want my students to stress out about the cost of relaxation and good health. I also want everyone to be able to have the experience of yoga in a studio, not just those who can afford it.

Sure, I've thought about moving my studio into a bigger space and offering more classes, but honestly I don't want the stress. Bigger is not necessarily better. In that situation I would have to charge more to make rent and pay other instructors. Besides, I also don't want to go back to teaching large group classes where I only know the students who sit in the front row and not the ones hiding in the back.

I also don't want to look at my students and see dollar signs. This is probably one of the most conflicting issues for a yoga teacher; how to earn a living from yoga without making money the central goal. I've always tried to charge what I need to put food on the table so to speak. Often what seems like an awesome hourly wage, when broken down into the actual hours I can both physically and logistically teach, becomes much less impressive.

I know I'll never get rich teaching yoga, (unless of course some famous person wants to hire me as their personal yoga teacher) and I'm perfectly fine with that. I didn't become a yoga teacher to profit off of yoga's popularity. I became a teacher because I love sharing yoga with others. I'm content in where I'm at as a teacher.

There's freedom in contentment.