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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WHY is Yoga SO expensive?

This question came up when I was asking what questions people had about yoga. I actually laughed and at the same time was stumped! I have asked myself this quite a few times. Although it hasn’t stopped me from joining a studio AND taking the course as I knew it was something I loved and needed, it still left me dumbfounded.
Let’s look at the whole picture. You practice in a big open room with cork flooring (one of the cheapest flooring materials out there) There is little to NO equipment needed other than a mat, some all natural foam blocks and a rope (the blocks and rope are NOT required, but useful) You wear practically nothing other than some spandex shorts and tanks IF that. It’s not like a gym where you use machines, or even Pilates where you use an actual expensive Pilate’s machine…yet after doing my research, BOTH of these are cheaper than Yoga.

So let’s take a look at studio prices. I’m strictly talking from Toronto to Oakville as that’s what I’m most familiar with. Studio prices are pretty standard at $17 per class, $150 per month and $1200 for a year pass. These passes are typically unlimited so you pay one fee and go as many times as you want. All studios do offer a week or 10 day pass for $20 to try yoga at their studio unlimited. I appreciate this as it a great way to find the perfect style for you and your needs.
Even though we’re not wearing a whole lot during yoga, we still buy the most expensive yoga clothing. Lulu Lemon has been fitting yogis since 1998. They started in a yoga studio in Vancouver BC and have now gone worldwide and successfully designing suitable clothing for yoga, running, dancing, cycling and casual everyday life. I won’t lie; I am a BIG fan of Lulu Lemon! NOT just because of its Canadian heritage and HUGE outlook on positive healthy living, but because the clothes are well made and well designed! If you’ve bought Lulu Lemon before…you know what I’m talking about. The little hideaway pockets for keys, ipods, perfect flat double stitching and how they make your butt look is flawless. When it comes to clothing, I pay for quality. Don’t get me wrong, it does urk me a little bit paying $68 for a tank top.

So why do studios and classes have to be so expensive?

Personally I think it has to do with how we’ve categorized yoga and “living a healthy lifestyle” in the community. I think part of the problem is that “living healthy” is intentionally marketed towards people in higher income brackets, and not much effort is made to reach people of lower income brackets. Take Whole Foods for example. Shopping at your neighborhood supermarket is give or take $50…double that when shopping at Whole Foods and buying all natural, organic food.
A certain lifestyle is being marketed to a very specific subgroup of the public. “The 30-40 white woman who is a stay at home housewife/professional who cares about her health, appearance and obviously has lots of disposable income.” You KNOW it’s true! So now everyone who doesn’t fit into this category gets left out. Some studios offer a “Karma Class” which is a minimum of $5 to go and usually taught by training teachers (been there, taught that) So…you’re not getting the well-practiced yoga teacher that you get for $12 more, but at least you’re getting something right? What happens when you get hooked and want MORE though?
(It HAPPENS!) Sign up for more classes, more memberships, empty your wallet and the studio’s win again.

Lifestyle, health and wealth…it’s just business.

Obviously everyone wants to make money this day and age. That’s what life is all about now, and when you own your own business, it’s all about the hustle.
I’m one who teaches a lot of private one on one classes and I charge by the hour. I remember discussing the business side of yoga with my mentor during training and was told that we shouldn’t offer private classes for under $120 as he charged $150+/hr with several years of practice/teaching under his belt.
When you own your own business you want to make money. You need to pay rent, bills and other finances unseen from the consumer’s eyes. I remember when I started my studio I had to find a way to get the people to come to me rather than the yoga studio across the street. WHY was I different? What could I offer them that the other studio couldn’t? My prices were significantly lower and other than that, all I had to offer was ME. I learned that people will keep coming back because they like you, your energy and your classes NOT because of the price. If you can offer them what they desire, they’ll pay, and bring others as well. I feel like referencing “Field of Dreams” here…but I won’t.

Being a registered and certified yoga teacher I am blessed with the ability to throw down a flow where ever and whenever my heart desires and I KNOW what I’m doing. I know how to work my muscles and push myself as well. There is something to be said about going to a studio and being led by someone else though. Sometimes you just don’t know how hard you’re pushing yourself and need to be reminded. Home practices ARE not to be taken lightly. They require a LOT more concentration and a lot more focus. Having said that, because no one is there assisting or watching you, you do need to be careful you’re not hurting yourself and shouldn’t be practiced by beginners.

So, at the end of the day because of how we live we can’t expect Yoga studios to offer FREE classes, how would they ever profit? It’s a downward spiral from there. What I’m confused about is how we’ve reached residence where the alignment of yoga has everything to do with the culture of affluence in the world.


  1. Hi Devon,

    I've often wondered why yoga classes were so expensive, especially when compared to traditional gym fees and aerobic classes. A friend of mine, a certified yoga instructor, told me that the benefits of yoga are not as obvious as weight training or bike riding. Yoga is much more subtle. I would guess most practitioners of yoga don't believe it's too expensive, as I see full yoga classes everywhere. Great post. Thanks for sharing!


  2. This is a very good explanation, and I think it is part of what bothers me about yoga. I am watching a free yoga class happen in my university lunch area and it IS different, although the same thing can be said of affluence. It is open to the community but everyone doing the class is a student. We may not have a massive disposable income but we are middle class in how we live, the free classes and cuts on prices just help us to be what we will later when we have a higher income, but it is the same kind of person.

    I have been struggling with this with dancing rather then yoga, whether I should pay for dance classes. Dancing is important to me. The teachers need to make money and it isn't that I don't want to support dancing in my community. But something like dancing or yoga being sold feels strange.

  3. you're 'failure' with Toronto and Oakville... in my opinion, those are both big and rich cities, so I'd expect them to be more expensive.

    You asked people on Twitter to RT this post. I decided to check it out to see if I'd be willing to do that. I'm concerned with the grammar of this post, so I won't be RT-ing it. This post gave me something to think about though!

  4. Grammar police have come down hard...guess you'll just have to live with their disappointment. They are obviously doing amazing things with their life! Move on the next blog...

  5. What the heck does "you're 'failure' with Toronto and Oakville..." mean??? Obviously this guy doesn't "walk the walk" since his grammar is TERRIBLE. Your article was well written Dev, ignore people who can't even proof-read a grammar-nazi-post.

    PS... In my mind, Yoga's expensive because you can't compare it "apples to apples" against anything else. With yoga, you need a qualified instructor to lead and teach a small group of people. That person needs to make a living, just like the rest of us. In comparison, the gym is cheap because you can go at any time and work out alone. Unless you need a personal trainer, but often that's more expensive than yoga. Yoga studios are often in high density areas, and thus pay a very high rent. They also have to pay fixed overhead costs, and variable costs for repairs, cleaning, staff, training, marketing/advertising, decorations, heat, etc, etc, etc. It's a business that can only deal with a certain amount of people each day... and to make it work, that certain amount of people have to be able to pay for all of those things.

    In the grand scheme of things, it makes you healthy and happy and allows you to live longer with a better quality of life. If more people got into yoga, prices would drop because there would be more classes and teachers, and studios would be able to benefit from economies of scale. But unfortunately, people still don't believe that it's a life-changing practice. I think OHIP should cover yoga... it would save our province a TON of money in the long run.

    To put things into perspective, people go to church every single week and give 10%-30% of their earnings to the church. Nobody says church is expensive... because it means something to them and changes their lives.

    Then again, the Pope himself condemned yoga this year saying that "yoga can degenerate into a cult of the body." Reminds me of the whole "people in glass houses..." quote.

  6. I can see where you’re coming from but I still think it’s overpriced. I’ve been to countless yoga classes where the instructors never actually do anything except show you the routine and tell you that you’re doing well.. I’ve been to 4 different studios and have been going on and off for 4 or so years and have had many different instructors (quite a few instructors I regularly went to as well) and I rarely get corrected on anything I do. The class I went to this past Tuesday, the instructor fixed something about at least a quarter of my poses (including the rest of the class’s). If I’m going to be paying so much for yoga I’d like to at least get better, I don’t just go there to hear “you’re all doing great!”
    All the studios that I’ve been to, the students either put out and put away their own mats or the mats are out all the time but regardless, the students always clean them afterwards. So if an instructor is only there to show a routine then yoga is definitely overhyped and overpriced. If rent is high I KNOW they can move elsewhere if they’ve got a fan base because the people will follow. FYI I learned yoga for free from an instructor on youtube 4 years ago and no instructor said a peep about any flaws in my poses until this one (though she fixed each person in the class at least a half dozen times as well).
    I can’t wait till yoga loses its hipster hype so I as a student can afford it again and the hipsters can move onto rock climbing or something.

  7. Ps. because I’m sure someone will mention this, I go to a studio now (on an introductory offer that expires next week) as opposed to continuing to practice from the youtube videos because I wanted to go with a good friend. Alas when this intro offer expires there will be no more yoga with my friend for me.