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When I finished my first yoga teacher training, in 2004, I dove into teaching yoga full time. I was in my late twenties, teaching in Manhattan for a chain of high-end health clubs. It never really crossed my mind to think of teaching yoga as anything other than leading my classes for groups of affluent students who could afford to be there.
Then, my friend Nick Velkov created a small yoga studio in Astoria, Queens. Nick introduced a radically different community-pricing model: $5 per class, for everyone. He called his studio Yoga Agora—a Greek word for a public, open space used for community gatherings. It was inspiring.
Later, when I moved to Miami, while still teaching yoga full time to pay my bills, I began to offer free outdoor community yoga classes. I truly enjoyed teaching without the expectation of receiving anything in return—just for the sake of connection and community. Eventually, the local business improvement district saw the value of bringing so many people together each week, and they began sponsoring the classes. Not only did it allow me to keep offering classes for free, I was able to share the proceeds with the small team of community members who helped out with music and sound, registration, and photography.
These examples prove that there are creative ways to offer yoga so that it’s available and affordable for more people. That’s an important part of building a strong, broad yoga community.
Yoga instructor Candace Mickens, owner of Sacred Touch Bodywork in Maryland, allows students to take class and donate at the end. They have an opportunity to experience yoga first—sort of like eating your meal first and paying afterwards. This way, she creates trust and connection with the people in her community. And when a student can’t afford classes, she is open to exchange in different ways. For Candace, money is important, but it isn’t everything. It is an outcome of her service, rather than the main objective.
These days, most of my work is for The Warrior Flow Foundation, a nonprofit I created to bring trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness to places where these practices are needed most. We work with first responders, health-care providers, homeless shelters, schools, and more. Some agencies have a budget to pay for their programs; for others, we help find funding. Sometimes we crowd-source small donations from our local weekly community classes to help start a program.
How to establish an inclusive pricing model for your business
Of course, yoga teachers have to take care of themselves even as they’re taking care of others. Here are a few practical considerations when it comes to providing yoga to your community and determining a pricing model that’s both suitable and sustainable:
Understand your community
What services do they need? What do they want? Where can you make a difference? Can your students afford to pay the going market rate for a yoga class? Would a discounted rate help or do classes need to be free? Some people are happy to offer something, but may not be able to afford full price.
Find like minds
Identify people and organizations in your community who can become potential supporters of your cause, including local brands who might sponsor community classes.
Suggest a minimum
Offering classes “by donation” is often interpreted as giving them for free. Define what you think is a fair suggested donation. Help your students understand that what you are offering is valuable. Sometimes I use the word “contribution” instead.
Consider a sliding scale
You might offer different types of drop-in rates or monthly rates, as well as a free week or two for new students. Or designate days on your schedule when classes are free. And you might offer “scholarships” to those who don’t have the means to pay for a full class or membership.
Adapt to the times
Right now, while we are still going through a global pandemic, there has been a massive migration of yoga into online spaces. You may be able to offer online classes for a smaller fee, but you may be able to make up for the loss because you can reach a much broader audience.
The word “community” feels more authentic to me when it incorporates everyone, when it is related to service, when it inspires those in situations of privilege to give back, and when it empowers those who are struggling to get back on their feet. Those are the principles of yoga. By understanding the dynamics of community pricing, we can be more skillful in uplifting others. Then we are truly practicing yoga.
About our contributor
Adrian Molina is recognized as a community organizer and founder of The Warrior Flow Foundation, a 501c3 non profit that brings the benefits of movement, therapeutic and accessible yoga, mindfulness, and stress reduction tools to schools, shelters, hospitals, police, first responders, and hospice care. A yoga teacher since 2004, he leads the Warrior Flow school of yoga and is also a writer, meditation teacher, sound therapist, End-of-Life Doula, Mental Health First Aid facilitator, and an ambassador for Accessible Yoga and Yoga for All.