Teaching Yoga, Yoga Practice
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There’s so much free yoga. Why pay?

Yoga is everywhere, especially in cities like Austin. Everyone is hosting free yoga – Whole Foods, Toms Coffee, Punch Bowl Social Club, Lululemon, etc. Great for those of us who are cheap (and I fully admit to being one of them) and in need of any amount of yoga. HOWEVER, like many things in life, I’ve found that you get what you pay for.

Before this gets taken the wrong way, I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing the teachers AT ALL. These teachers are donating their time and energy AND likely teaching for free as a way to get more visibility. What all of this free yoga really does, though, is water down the experience to the lowest common denominator for both the teacher and the students.

From the teacher’s end, he or she cannot plan for and watch all of the bodies that come to a free event, many of whom are beginners because they are trying free yoga as a first step. The teacher also has no idea what injuries or limitations exist to offer modifications because there’s no one-on-one relationship with a mass group. Unless this is a regularly occurring free class with the same set of students, it’s hard to know where to increase/decrease the intensity. So the sequence becomes generic, and you just hope that the students know their bodies well enough not to hurt themselves.

From the students’ perspective, you don’t get specific instruction because, again, the teacher is giving cues at the lowest common denominator. With a lot of beginners, you have people watching other people, feeling nervous about whether they’re doing something right, and then the teacher’s cues are no longer heard. It becomes a class of follow the leader.

With that said, I’d like to offer…

8 reasons why paying for yoga is worth it

  1. Focused attention (for students & teachers). The teacher isn’t hollering over ambient sounds and random passersby to be heard. He or she is able to watch bodies more carefully to take and offer cues to the group. Likewise, as a student, you’ll benefit from the attention from teachers.
  2. Specific modifications. If you have a bum shoulder, strained wrist, back issues or any other ailments, the teacher can offer modifications to prevent injury or find an alternate pose for one that your body doesn’t allow.
  3. More time for instruction. In a smaller controlled setting, the teacher has the opportunity to stop and offer instruction on a pose, like a mini workshop built into class.
  4. Historical relationship. When you work with a teacher over a course of time on a regular basis, he or she gets to know your practice, your state of health and your state of mind. They can begin to offer new, deeper information when you’re ready for it.
  5. Hands-on assists. Along with a historical relationship, the teacher will also have more opportunities to offer hands-on assists to help you find a deeper variation of a pose or correct alignment in a way that may not be as accessible with verbal cues to a mass group alone.
  6. You’re more committed. If a class is free, I (as a student) don’t feel any obligation or investment in going regularly. When I pay for a pass or membership, I’m putting money where my mouth is and getting my butt to class and really make the most of what I’m paying for.
  7. Clean studio space. It may seem nitty picky to talk about the cleanliness of the environment, but you know that you’ll be coming into a space that is cared for and arranged in such a way to maximize your class experience.
  8. Deeper sharing of yoga beyond exercise. If you’re looking for a richer experience, application of yoga to life or exploration of yoga philosophy, you’ll want to pay and come regularly with a teacher that jives with you. As a teacher, I have short opportunities in class to offer a little more and a little more and a little more at each class. Cumulatively, my students are getting a deeper, richer practice that will greatly impact their well-being and livelihood than a one-off asana-focused free class at the park.

All that said, by all means, take advantage of free classes to get a flavor for a teacher or a style of yoga or to get some sunshine. But when you find teachers and a style that really speaks to you, it’s completely worth the money to practice regularly with them.

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