By Kathryn Boland
Over the course of the past few years, I've thoroughly enjoyed taking and occasionally teaching class at a local private yoga and massage studio (The Breathing Room of Cambridge, MA) that costs only $5 per class. As a stereotypically cash-strapped graduate student, the low cost has been incredibly helpful for me personally. More advantageous than that, however, have been the classes' numerous opportunities to engage with diverse fellow yogis - in shared learning and breath, in recuperation or energizing - both as an instructor and student.
More and more yoga studios and related entities are including such low-cost, community-inclusive classes in their regular schedules because they recognize the significant advantages for local community presence, attendance-boosting, fostering of a diverse and talented teaching staff, simple positive energy of their practitioner communities, and more. It’s not uncommon to hear, at least in my experience, “Well, I’d take regular yoga classes if I could afford it!” Opening up a studio’s community to individuals who say that can fill up classes with more diverse types of people. Doing so can raise the energy of studio’s atmospheres, and therein raise client satisfaction.
If the numbers work out (in such factors as varying teacher pay), low-cost but significantly well-attended classes could even offer yoga studios a small profit margin. And, if nothing else, satisfied low-cost class attendees will spread positive views about any given studio in the local community and beyond. That has strong potential to bring in more students for other full-priced classes. All in all, low-cost classes can be a win-win for both studios and their instructors.
If low-cost classes also operate under a rotating schedule, any local (or otherwise associated) instructor able to sign up to teach, studios and other yoga-offering entities can foster diverse teachers. They can also possibly find unknown treasures to effectively complement their instructor staffs. The Breathing Room obtains teachers for the $5 Friday classes this way, instructors signing up to teach on a “GoogleDoc”. That makes it a fair system where classes are equally available to all, on a first-come first-serve basis. The studio typically rents rooms to instructors for their classes, and they are then free to set class prices. Given the pre-set low cost of the Friday community class, however, no rent is required. Instructors can therefore take all proceeds as personal pay.
Newport Power Yoga (Newport, RI) and Coolidge Corner Yoga (Brookline, MA) are two other studios at which I’ve taken $5 classes (though less frequently than at the Breathing Room). In my subjective experience, those classes have been energetic, joyful, and very well attended. Students have always seemed to enjoy learning under a new teacher. Instructors seem excited to guide new students in practice, to learn more about their abilities and challenges – and therein gain valuable growth as instructors.
For me personally, teaching these classes has offered beneficial “sink-or-swim” challenges; I’ve had to adapt to unique students - with unique needs and abilities – in order to present them with the safest, most beneficial, and most enjoyable practices possible. That adaptability an essential skill in yoga instruction, and I truly appreciate the opportunity to develop it through The Breathing Room’s rotating-teacher structure for the low-cost class. As examples, one new student had recently had wrist surgery, and I guided her in Vinyasa flows that settled down into Sphinx posture - rather than used held Plank Postures (as in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence) - before Chataranga.
Another student had significant nausea problems, for which I changed Downward-Facing-Dog to a gentler Anahata (“Puppy” Pose) at some points and a simple Tabletop Position in others. Those positions were far easier for her upset stomach and head to tolerate - yet they still felt like they offered good muscular and breath work, she later affirmed. I do not believe that I would have encountered these instructor-growth experiences without the opportunity to teach those classes.
The classes have also offered me diverse beneficial experiences as a practitioner. New instructors have offered unique insights on my practice, having never before observed me practicing. With those fresh eyes they have then been able to, on multiple occasions, point out a growth area in my practice that I wasn’t aware of. One instructor offered me a cue that helped me to reach a far more expansive Half-Moon Posture, and another helped to achieve much safer and stronger alignment in Three-Legged Dog, as examples.
Other experiences with these low-cost classes have meaningfully connected to heart and soul, of course just as important as physical work in yoga. For instance, one instructor was going through a rough time in life, she somewhat vaguely expressed. She affirmed that us students being present, energetic, and joyful throughout her classes would help her get to through her challenges – at least for the day and maybe tomorrow. We all shared hugs as we headed out to face the day, each of us facing separate difficulties yet united in how practicing could make us feel more able to face them.
Just as with the experiences that contributed to my growth as an instructor, I do not believe that we would have connected in those ways – those healing for all of us – without The Breathing Room’s low-cost, rotating-teacher class option. Such beneficial interactions - along with financial, teacher-roster-building, and community presence benefits for yoga studios and other entities – make including one or more low-cost options on their regular schedules a smart option for them. Doing so has strong potential to offer both greater studio financial stability and those intangibles of positive energy and human connections. “Yoga”, as true “union”, has that amazing power.
© Copyright 2015 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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