Although yoga-business is booming, sadly, a lot of people are still excluded from this beneficial practice. Be it because of lack of funds (an average single yoga class in Amsterdam will cost you about 17 euros), unfamiliarity with the practice (‘you have to be flexible to practice yoga’) or socio-cultural boundaries (‘yoga is a traditional Hindu practice’, or ‘yoga is for women’). Demographic research shows that yoga practitioners are predominantly female, white, from upper socioeconomic status, educated and middle aged. *)
Considering the overall benefits of the practice on physical and mental health, on sense of belonging, awareness and personal leadership, why not try to engage in more diversity amongst yoga practitioners?
A lot of yoga studios educate their students in the path of karma yoga: the yogic path of giving back to society without expecting anything in return. Rooted deeply in the yoga philosophy, this is a beautiful path towards yoga (union). Many yoga teachers and studio owners embed karma yoga in their practice. By hosting freely accessible community classes or developing customized yoga programs for the community without expecting any payment in return. With these initiatives the necessary social inclusion in yoga could be partly resolved.The sad thing however, is that it’s extremely difficult to make these initiatives (financially) sustainable.
Platforms dictate the ‘rules of the game’
Due to the current business models most studios find their business model in a very rough patch. I’m not talking about the recent Covid-19 developments, although they have certainly made painfully obvious how competitive the infrastructure has become. No: platforms like OneFit, Classpass and Gympass are determining the ‘rules of the game’. They offer studios a relatively low payment for each student entering through their platform. ‘Customers’ are happy because they can freely choose between the programs of a lot of different studios and they benefit from lower rates. The platforms are happy because they are earning an ever growing income. At first sight, it seemed an opportunity for studios. By collaborating with the platforms they could reach out to a broader audience. An audience that might eventually take the step to become a member of the studio. This rarely happens though, because the freedom of choice in between studios, teachers and styles, is exactly what a lot of people want.
Who pulls the short straw?
So who pulls the short straw? Yoga studios, their teachers and participants of free community programs. Because ultimately, when a studio has to make a choice between a freely offered community class, or keeping its head above water financially, the choice is painful but obvious. The same goes for individual yoga teachers. A lot of them are heartfelt and inspired to deliver karma yogic services to the community. But what happens when you have to choose between a paid job and your free community project? Keep in mind that an average yoga teacher in Amsterdam earns about 30 euros for a 60-90 minute class. This includes preparation time, travel time and travel expenses and handling time after class. It’s obviously time to question these payment rates, or rather, the underlying business models that allow for such payments.
Thoughts on infrastructure
To include more people in the benefits of the yoga practice we need to create a (financial) infrastructure for yoga teachers delivering their services to the community, in order to make it sustainable (and financially sound). At YOOKE we are all about sharing the benefits of the yoga practice as widely as possible. This is why we support outreaching yoga projects for the community. Not just as a ‘do good at the side’ but as part of the core of our business. This means that our ambition is to redistribute part of the profits towards outreaching programs. At the same time ensuring a decent pay for yoga teachers in their projects.
Would you like to join our platform?
We’re still a start-up though and building a collective of dedicated teachers. So, are you a yoga teacher with (ideas for) an outreaching program and would you like to join YOOKE? All you have to do is contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org