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Yoga ain’t cheap.
On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a monthly unlimited yoga membership can run $249. In downtown Washington DC, that same month of practice costs $189. In Cincinnati, it’ll set you back $170. Take a single class in Bozeman, Montana, and it’ll cost you $18.
There are legit reasons why yoga studios charge what they do. Although that doesn’t exactly help when you’re struggling to make space among your bills for yoga as an essential expenditure.
As a yoga student, I’ve been there. And as a yoga teacher who’s spent a lot of time at studios, I’ve been privy to a lot of behind-the-scenes conversations around pricing. It’s not easy on either end of the situation.
But I can tell you that what appears to be the least expensive option isn’t always the most cost efficient for you. There are a lot of not-so-obvious factors to consider as you study your studio’s pricing options. Knowing what they are and how they apply to you can save you literally hundreds of dollars on studio classes each year.
How to Find the Most Affordable Deal at Your Yoga Studio
1. Introductory Special
Best If: You’re trying a new-to-you studio
Why: Most yoga studios offer an “introductory special” exclusively for students who haven’t attended class there. You basically get to take unlimited yoga classes for anywhere from one to four weeks at an astonishingly low cost.
When trying a new-to-you studio, the intro special seems like a “no duh” option. And it is. Or rather, it can be. It all depends on whether you actually use it.
Think of the intro special as the talking phase of your relationship with the studio. It’s a chance to get to know the teachers and the studio beyond the initial allure. That means you need to invest enough time to reassure yourself whether the studio is—or isn’t—right for you.
Two weeks can seem like ample time to suss out a studio. But if you have more than your usual commitments in the weeks to come, hold off until your schedule eases. I’ve overheard countless students ask if they could extend the intro special because they didn’t avail themselves of it due to sickness, deadlines, final exams, laziness, forgetfulness, and so on. The answer was almost always “no.”
As incentive to attend classes, chances are you’ll receive texts and emails during your special offering a steeply discounted rate on a membership or class package if you sign up before your intro special ends. Gather your intel before you commit.
Best If: You practice more than once or twice a week
Why: An unlimited membership offers you as many classes as your body and your schedule can handle for a flat fee. If you consistently practice at a studio more than once or twice a week, a membership is usually your most cost-effective option in terms of cost per class. Some studio memberships also include other financial incentives, including waived fees for mat rentals, free guest passes, and discounts for workshops and yoga teacher trainings.
But you also want to consider the less-tangible membership perks. Some students say committing to a membership encourages them to try classes they might otherwise not attend since there’s no added cost. Others find a membership prompts them to practice yoga more consistently because they think of it as an accountability partner in the form of an automatic debit from their banking account.
And when you practice more frequently, you usually find yourself practicing with the same students class after class. If you find yourself nodding hello to the same someone in the row ahead of you each Tuesday or laughing as you walk out of the studio with others, that’s a form of community. And the scientific evidence for the health benefits of social connection is pretty profound.
You’ll typically encounter two membership options:
Most students who opt for membership take the monthly approach. When you compare what you’d pay per year, the cost of paying once for an annual membership is typically much lower than what you’d cumulatively spend with a monthly membership. But with a monthly, you don’t need to commit for the entire year or say goodbye to that much cash all at once.
Watch your attendance. If it starts to lessen or you’re unable to attend for an extended length of time, ask if you can pause your membership. Or, if you simply aren’t taking advantage of unlimited classes, consider cancelling and opting instead for a class package (see below).
Be certain to read the fine print. Membership contracts typically stipulate 30 days (or more) notice prior to cancelling. Also, if you’re currently paying a reduced membership rate, chances are you won’t be able to access that if you re-up your membership after canceling.
If you’re committed to the studio where you practice, an annual membership is the most affordable option in terms of per-class cost. Although of course, there’s the rather large outlay of money all at once.
If you’re tempted to sign up for the annual membership at a new-to-you studio, you might want to pause before committing to an entire year. It’s a little like moving in with someone after the fifth date. That’s why availing yourself of that intro special is essential.
Keep in mind that these contracts are typically non-refundable. If you move before the end of the year or other circumstances lessen your attendance, you’re still locked into that membership. Rare is the yoga studio that will offer an exception. Ask whether your annual membership is set to auto-renew and, if so, keep your start date in mind so you can reevaluate before it re-ups.
3. Class Packs
Best if: You practice once a week or less
Why: Most studios offer an array of class packages, whether you purchase five classes or fifty or somewhere in between. Some studios let you share your package with friends or family, making it even more of a deal. The math is pretty simple: The more classes you purchase, the lower your cost per class.
But your calculations shouldn’t stop there. If you practice intermittently, a class package is almost always your most economical option. But if you practice at least once a week, you might be money ahead with a monthly membership. Consider your average monthly attendance and what you’d spend on a class package. Then compare that to the cost of a membership.
For example, someone once gifted me a class package at the studio where I practiced. After thanking the person profusely, I quietly did a little math. The same dollar amount that would have gotten me through four weeks of yoga classes would finance four months of my practice if spent on the monthly unlimited membership. When I approached the studio manager and asked if they could apply the cost of the package toward a membership, she didn’t hesitate to make the change.
Also, check if there’s an expiration date on your class package. Buying the fifty-class package might be the most efficient price per class. But if you practice once a week and your package expires in six months, you’re effectively donating what you paid for those unused classes to the studio.
4. Drop-In Rate
Best If: You’re traveling or occasionally attend a studio
Why: Paying the drop-in rate for a single class is usually the most mat-droppingly expensive option for a per-class experience. The cost varies dramatically depending on the studio and city—$20 in Raleigh, $22 in Nashville, $27 in Boulder, $30 in San Francisco, and $35 in New York City—but is always discouragingly expensive.
That’s intentional. Drop-ins are designed by studios to encourage you to instead opt for the class package, which makes the per-class experience more affordable for you and more financially advantageous for the studio.
But there are times when that drop-in can be a godsend. Opt for it when you’re practicing in a city or a neighborhood you don’t usually frequent. Maybe you’re sneaking yoga in on a work trip or attending class with a friend across town.
The drop-in can also, counterintuitively, work well if your financial situation is a little precarious. When I took a substantial salary cut that went along with an editing gig I desperately wanted, I needed to juggle bills rather creatively. I literally could not afford a class package. But I could manage to pay the $18 drop-in rate each week for the one class I didn’t want to miss.
5. Occasional Sales
Best If: You have the time and patience to wait for a deal
Why: Many studios slash their prices every once in a while. The studio where I practice tends to regularly offer substantial discounts on the anniversary of the studio’s opening, around the end of the year, even certain astrologically significant dates. These sales are announced on social media and the studio’s email newsletter, making it easy to take advantage of the specials.
When you start to pay attention, you might start to notice a pattern as to when there will be a price break. Knowing that, you can budget accordingly.
6. Sliding Scale Classes
Best If: You’re troubled financially and otherwise could not afford yoga
Why: Some studios allow those who are financially challenged to pay what you can for classes and memberships. It’s a substantial loss of revenue for the studio but some owners decide to do so in support of making yoga accessible to those who otherwise can’t afford to practice.
The sliding scale structure typically applies to studio memberships and yoga teacher trainings. The lesser rate is arranged through a conversation with the studio owner or, increasingly, some studios allow you to opt for a discounted rate online without the potential awkwardness of reaching out in person.
At Yoga Shala West in Los Angeles, founder Pranidhi Varshney applies a sliding scale to all her students. She notes a suggested price for a monthly membership and asks everyone to pay what they can comfortably contribute relative to that. Proceeds from those who are able to pay more supplement those who need to pay less.
“Each student is not paying for his or her own practice. Rather, all students are contributing what they can to the community so that all of us may thrive in practice,” writes Varshney in the website’s explanation of the studio’s pricing policy. “We encourage our students to think not about getting the best deal, but about allocating capital in a way that aligns with their core values.”
About Our Contributor
Renee Marie Schettler is a senior editor at Yoga Journal and has been a writer and editor at The Washington Post, Real Simple, and other online media platforms. She started practicing yoga nearly 20 years ago with teachers who challenged students to feel the strength and space of precise alignment of a pose. Her understanding of yoga changed when she began studying with teachers who emphasized the grace of surrendering into the stillness of a pose. Renee has been teaching yoga since 2017 and finds that writing and practicing yoga are similarly about exploring truth. Follow her at @reneemarieschettler.