I have already written some of my thoughts on donation yoga, which if you haven’t read and you have time and interest, I think you should. It gives a bigger picture of Loving Kindness Yoga School and where we are coming from since it’s so different from every other business model. At that time, there was another local yoga space that called itself donation, but it has recently come to my attention that Loving Kindness Yoga School is now the only donation yoga space in Chapel Hill and Carrboro (closest ones are in Raleigh). For certain most studios offer some donation classes from time to time, but we are the only one with this “business model” here. That’s part of the motivation for this article. And though we do request a donation of $10-20 for classes, it IS NOT a sliding scale and no one is ever turned away for not leaving that amount. In fact, no one would necessarily even KNOW if you left that or not.
This particular article is also partly inspired by last week a newer student stayed after class to tell me how much this space and the teachers here meant to her and how yoga has so positively affected her life even so soon. She mentioned that even a neighbor commented that she looked happier. Part of her appreciation was that she had always thought that the cost of yoga would be out of her reach, but finding this donation studio had made it possible for her to receive the benefits of yoga. It was gratifying to hear her kind and positive words, and it served to confirm my feelings on offering yoga in this way.
There were two other sparks for this writing, one of which was that I recently heard of one local yoga teacher trainer who’s talk on business and yoga is short: “They don’t mix.” I beg to differ and think that yoga is a practice and a world-view that can and should contain business, raising a family, school, politics and all the rest of worldly life. The other spark was I heard of another local yoga teacher trainer whose advice to students is to charge as much as they can with a straight face. I believe these perspectives are not uncommon in the yoga business world. I, of course, have chosen to run this business in a different way and personally prefer to try to approach business as a yogi rather than approaching yoga as a business person. So far it’s worked, by the Grace of God/the Divine Mother!
I started practicing yoga first from a book about 26 years ago. The book came freely to me. For some reason, and apparently for free, I have been given (I feel blessed with) the discipline to practice yoga and meditation daily for all these years. It feels like a gift from the Divine Source, something freely given. It’s in that spirit that I offer yoga as a healing modality as well as a spiritual practice.
Interestingly my first yoga teacher, Lalita Salas, never charged me any money for giving the teaching. She knew I had almost no money but saw my dedication, discipline and previous yoga experience and shared freely what she had. All of the other spiritual teachers that I’ve had also offered their teachings by donation. Certainly there is nothing inherently wrong with charging for offering yoga classes (and Lalita did have classes that people paid for -me,too!- and I also have paid a lot of money over the years to learn with some really amazing teachers, but I feel blessed to be able to offer my yoga teaching in a way that is in harmony with my belief system. I like the vision offered by Gene Roddenberry in Star Trek of a society that has outgrown money, and though I don’t know exactly how to get there, I believe that such a thing is possible if we can hold to the HIGHEST common denominator (LOVE!) and not continually rush to the bottom and the LOWEST common denominator (greed and selfishness). Clearly the capitalist system is proving itself to be threatening to most of life on Earth. Movement in the direction of outgrowing money – money, or love of it, being clearly seen as at least part of what is actually holding us back as a species – is difficult from within that system, but I like to think and I hope that offering yoga by donation is a step in that direction.
I will clarify that I don’t think of what I’m offering as “free yoga,” which would, of course, not be sustainable -yet!- for me or anyone who is not independently wealthy. If someone needs to not donate money, then for that individual it might be “free yoga” at that time, but the beauty of this approach is that everyone gets to look at their own cash-flow and heart to determine what feels right to them to give. Some can and do give on the higher end; some can and do give on the lower end; and someone who can’t give now maybe will get a job next week and be able to give more, or will tell their friends about it or leave a review on Yelp or Google+ (which, of course, anyone can do). Or something else. In the Cosmic scheme of things, it all works out.
So thank you all for your support over the years, whether financial or energetic or prayer or whatever form it takes. With God’s Grace, may you be have a healthy body and yoga practice and self-discipline, and may I and all of the teachers here be able to continue to make our Love Offering to the community in this way for many years to come.