The pandemic of Yoga being free

Yoga being free

As a society, do we value things that are free?  Think about that for a second.  Are we more likely to sign up for something because it is free?  Or if something says by donation, a small amount of money or high price tag, do you value that more?

Think about your purchasing patterns.  Just think about it for a moment….

 We value things that cost a lot of money.  We expect the price to warrant the experience or quality of the product.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that things that are lower cost are not just as good.  But are expectations for free or lower price items are low.  And for expensive items they are high.

When I first started doing teacher trainings, I priced my first course at €1500.  A student came to the 2nd training we did and said that she thought the price was too low for the experience that we gave and was worried that the course wouldn’t be very good as the price was so low and she said I should raise the price.  Now the courses are €2500, and we have not raised the price for 4 years and during these years we have trained more than 150 new teachers from 50 different countries.  Does that mean that there is a difference to a course that is €1500 or €2500?  Maybe or maybe not – but there is a definite change in your perception.

The Spanish culture concerning yoga is a tricky one. There is a lot of free yoga out there in the parks, beaches and even conferences and free events.  So how does a yoga teacher make any money?  If the teacher trainings are €1500 – €2500 and they give free or (discounted) yoga classes all the time how can they afford these courses.  They can’t!  Most people do their first yoga teacher training when they have another career that pays them a decent wage, or have a parent that will help pay for it.  To pay for future courses when they are a full-time yoga teacher, they will need to start running their own teacher trainings or courses to make any money to pay for the courses they want to take themselves.  A profit can be made from teacher trainings and courses.  It is very difficult to make money while teaching yoga classes – especially if they are free or discounted. It takes a lot of dedication, time and money to become a qualified yoga teacher.

The Spanish perception (at least here in Barcelona) is that yoga is cheap, and you can find classes for less than €5 (good quality) or even at a very affordable €10 a class.  Another way is to go to every studio and try to get all the free classes available they provide initially.  Use class pass, urban sport or any gym to find cheaper or even free classes for a month, then switch to the next one.  There is an accepted idea that yoga in Barcelona should be cheap. Students expect it to be so.

This may be because of supply and demand: there is a huge supply of amazing yoga teachers in Barcelona.  So to get work, they must lower their prices.  In other cities like London or Berlin you will not see the low prices you see in Barcelona.  The cost of living in Barcelona is also very expensive when local salaries are considered. Tourism has pushed rent up to unsustainable levels – while it may be cheap compared to London or New York, it is very difficult to live on a Spanish salary and pay for your food, housing and entertainment for a year. Especially when you are a full-time yoga teacher.

I have had students ask me “Everyone else has free yoga classes online. Why are you charging?” Why? Because there is a value to our teaching, if you are not working for a big studio or gym with a contract, then you are a freelance worker, and like most yoga teachers, you have no steady income.  So let’s say you are a single mom and a freelance yoga teacher living in Barcelona.  You live month to month.  Covid – 19 arrives… and now you are out of work and stuck in your house.  Do you do free yoga classes online or charge for your classes?  If you have a 2nd salary from another job or if you are fortunate enough to have unemployment insurance from the government then yes, feel free to do free yoga classes online.  But if you need the money, charge for it.  You should not be expected to teach yoga for free.  Our society should not expect everything to be free – even if it is for a short period of time.  Yoga teachers, just like every other profession, should get paid. Especially when they need the money.  Does it make sense to get a bank loan for your business just to make students happy?  Maybe, if it is part of your marketing plan.  But if everything is free online, what makes you different?   We need to give to receive right?  Well then do 10 – 20% of your teaching for free and charge for the rest.  Or do not charge people that have no salary.

Charge for your classes if you need the money.  Charge for your yoga classes if you value your own time.  If students and society make you feel under pressure to do everything for free during this crazy time do not feel guilty for charging for your yoga teaching.  If you want to be famous on Instagram, or give classes free as part of your marketing strategy go ahead, but please do not expect all yoga teachers to teach for free.  Do not criticize people that charge for their classes.  You know why they are charging – it is because they have no choice.  They need the money!!! If you want your local studio to be open when all this is over, you should be prepared to pay them for their classes.  If you want your favourite local yoga teachers to survive, please pay them for their yoga classes.  If you want the future to be full of big box gyms, big chain franchises, then go to all the free yoga classes you can.  Independent Yoga studios are the small businesses, the self-employed, the moms and dads that are just trying to make a living while providing a service to you. We value you as customers – please value our time and skills.

By Heather