It took me about a month into my yoga renaissance to look around the room and think, “Wow. There are sure a lot of white girls in here.”
If I asked you to imagine a typical yoga practitioner, you would almost certainly imagine someone in that room that day. Young-ish, female, Caucasian, displaying the Lululemon logo somewhere on her person or her $80 yoga mat towel. Someone who drove to the studio. Someone who can afford a studio membership.
Among my more conservative friends and family, I’ve been accused of “hating my own kind” more times than I can say. “So, what’s wrong with targeting a more affluent clientele? A studio owner’s gotta eat,” (organic produce and grass-fed meat).
It’s true that I tend to fit in with the traditional yoga crowd. I’m young and white and professional and female and I watch what I eat. But when I think about the power yoga has given me, both interior and exterior, I have a deep desire to share it with those who need it most. Why does it seem to be most available to affluent women?
Let’s look at the resources needed to attend a studio class if one has none at all on hand:
Drop-in rate: (one hour class) $15 – $20
Mat rental: $3
Towel rental $2
Total: $22 – $27 for one class
I remember my first hot yoga class in America:
It’s 2010. I just moved back to the US from China, where the yoga teachers encourage meditation, imagination, slow movement. My first hot vinyasa class is at Amazing Yoga in Pittsburgh’s South Side, where I’m crammed in a small studio and the teacher immediately refers to yoga as a “workout.” That’s the first time I’m caught off guard, but not the last. I huff and puff the entire hour, while looking at others to see what the teacher means by all those Sanskrit names, thinking the whole time that everyone was watching me, judging me, and using that suspicion to convince myself that I’m no good at this.
For someone who has much more survival-based uses for that $22 – $27, that experience really doesn’t sound like a good investment.
Of course, now that I’m more dedicated, my practice has totally changed. I understand the Sanskrit names. I don’t mind crowds. I’ve gotten used to the heat. I never look at anyone else and assume no one cares what I’m doing, either. I feel empowered. I feel happy. I’ve found a peace through the mind-body connection I’ve never known before. But to get to this point, I’ve had to spend around $200 on yoga-related expenses.
Isn’t yoga for everybody? If this is such a beneficial practice, why aren’t we sharing it with our most vulnerable brothers and sisters? People in the yoga community – what are your ideas on how to make yoga more accessible? Yoga teachers and studio owners – why is yoga so expensive?
As in most calls for change, I sense a personal challenge here: time to reflect on how I will be part of the solution. Stay tuned.