Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yoga as Coummunity, Not Commodity

A few weeks ago, I wrote some rather sharp comments stemming from a post with comments from the blog Eco Yogini. As I stated at that time, I thought the blog owner herself was a pretty dedicated practitioner, and that I was mostly focusing on others' comments to her post. So, what a delight it was to read her latest post about starting a free yoga in the park day as way to develop community around yoga practice. No fees. No pristine yoga studios. Just people practicing together, sharing their lives together.

Now, there have been some challenges. They've wanted to have teachers join them, but none have taken up the offer. And the few teachers that showed some interest felt that there should be payments made if they were going to come and offer anything that could be considered teaching.

Unlike the comments section from that previous post, the comments made on this one are informative and thought provoking. Even one writer, who disagreed with some of the post, makes some excellent points about the often real struggles yoga teachers have in terms of earning a decent living. I made some follow up comments after hers addressing what I see as the strong sense of privatization that is occurring with yoga - one of the main reasons why there is such a dearth of "yoga" community, especially when it comes to studios. People arrive for class five minutes before to five minutes after it starts, the teacher teaches the class, and then everyone runs out the door. Maybe a few people stay around to chat for five or ten minutes afterward, but that's about it. I've seen this at three different studios here in the Twin Cities, and I've read plenty of others writing similar stories, so I know it's not just going on here.

This is nothing like having relationships with people for years, where you've shared the best and worst of yourselves, and practiced diligently together like I have experienced in my Zen community. So, it's wonderful that Eco Yogini shared her story, and not only do I wish their group all the best, but I hope that others in other places will read our posts and start their own groups.

*Cat yoga photo from


A Green Spell said...

Hi Nathan. I read your comments over there and you REALLY hit the nail on the head! I could've copied and pasted your whole comment and signed my name to it and it would've made me sound a lot smarter and more succinct! ;)

Lisa (EcoYogini) has been doing this YITP for a while now - at least a year, maybe more...?? I've always been truly impressed at her willingness to put herself out there in the community and try so hard to get people together - never asking for anything in return.

As someone who struggles mightily with social situations (especially those involving strangers), I admire her deeply for her efforts.

Nathan said...

Well, she has a quality blog, and her community building work inspires me. I've started teaching a little bit of yoga in my English as a Second Language classes, and could see this kind of model as supporting my students in the future.

Anytime I can highlight good work, I will take that opportunity.

Algernon said...

American Zen Centers find themselves with similar questions.

For a while, I was responsible for a Zen Center in Los Angeles that served two communities: westerners interested in Zen, and Korean Buddhist immigrants who liked meditation as well as chanting and bowing. (For services, they would go down the street to a Korean temple.)

The Koreans and the Americans had different habits in the area of financial support. The Koreans were used to donating money in generous amounts for almost any visit to the Zen Center, leaving money in the donation box AND giving envelopes with cash to any monks who were in residence.

The Americans were not used to this style -- as with tipping, they weren't sure how much was appropriate or they would forget or they would procrastinate, with every intention of leaving a donation "later." They were more comfortable to fee structures -- give them a fee, especially if there's an invoice, and they would happily give. For the Koreans, who were unquestionably generous with their money, "fees" were off-putting.

Nathan said...

Interesting points Algernon. It makes sense. I've seen some of this at my own center - although it depends on how it's approached. Annual membership donations are getting more generous, but weekly dana for programming is still pretty weak.

Linda-Sama said...

the dearth of "yoga community" is something that I've written about in my blog as well as the whole making money as a yoga teacher thing...

good post!