Dollars to Down Dogs: 7 Budget-Friendly Yoga Tips
So you're into yoga, but feeling frustrated. While it is relaxing your muscles, it's putting a strain on your budget. The price of classes may seem minimal at first, but it begins to add up—especially if you're heading to the studio several times a week. Throw in the cost of those expensive yoga pants (and you'll need several pairs if you go to class several times a week) and strappy tops, and you may have to dip into your vacation funds. And oh, don't forget about the mat. If you're serious about this yoga thing, you should probably invest in a rubber rectangle that approaches the cost of the market price of a half pound of silver. But at some point, you may pause mid sun salutation, and say to yourself in down dog, "I just can't afford to keep this up."
The price of classes may seem minimal at first, but it begins to add up—especially if you're heading to the studio several times a week.
But wait, take a breath. Before you toss in the towel (did you know they make special yoga towels?), sink back into the pose and use the creativity you've fostered on the mat to find ways to make your practice not only affordable but also sustainable for a lifetime. Here are seven tips to get you moving in that direction.
1. Think small: It's really important to find a teacher and studio that resonate with you. Let me repeat: that resonate with you. Let go of the idea that you have to follow the crowds and go to a posh, pricey studio with infrared saunas in the locker rooms. With a little research, you can find a small studio that has more affordable classes, where you feel part of a community of like-minded people, and where you can practice in a way that works best not only for your body and breath but your budget as well. Plus, I've found that smaller studios are often more likely to offer donation-based or “pay-what-you-can” options as well as senior citizen and student discounts.
2. Turn it on: It's no news flash that online yoga classes are plentiful. In addition to making it possible for you to practice from the comfort of your own home and in accordance with your schedule, online classes also tend to be less expensive than studio classes. While they may not be a replacement for the in-person class experience—which provides community and the energy the other students bring to it, along with an instructor who can offer personal adjustments—online yoga can provide supplementary instruction to support your practice. When your budget gets tight, turn it on and let go into the pose.
3. Take it off: Those sky-high priced yoga pants might make your glutes appear a bit tighter than they really are, but yoga is about truth. So let's get to it and strip down to what's real. Forgo the expensive tops that make your tummy look toned, and save the cash for the class. Let go of the look and shift your focus to the deeper aspects of the practice. Remember, all you really need for practice is something comfortable and sufficiently fitted to allow your teacher to help with adjustments by seeing where your body is. This might seem obvious, but it isn't always so easy to resist the specialized clothes. Here’s your reminder that it’s not necessary to look like a yoga model in order to gain what you need from the practice. Letting go of the commercial yoga look will not only save you some green but also begin to foster that feeling of appreciation for the beauty of your full Self that comes from within—versus the temporary confidence you may gain from sporting costly threads.
4. Find your soul-mat: Making it to the mat is the key to developing a practice, of course, but first, you have to have a mat! Some studios may provide them, sometimes for an additional fee, but studio mat rentals can add up quickly, and if you choose a studio that doesn’t include the use of its mats in the cost of the class, you may be better off purchasing your own. The choices of brands, colors, materials, and even shapes of mats are abundant, but you don’t have to invest in the most expensive mat to find good quality; just be sure to choose one that will keep you from slipping in a size that works for you. (Little plug for eco-friendly mats, such as bamboo or natural materials.) You may have better luck finding a good deal on a mat online (for instance, around the holidays, mats often go on sale on Amazon.com as well as smaller, yoga-specific online retailers. And don’t forget to search for coupon codes for these sites!), but be sure to double-check online retailers’ return policies before ordering so you won’t be stuck with a mat that isn’t right for you. If you’re purchasing from a brick and mortar store or studio, ask to try before you buy. Remember to do a few down dogs, cat/cows, and standing poses on a mat (to ensure it’s not too slippery, squishy, or thin for you) before you commit to owning it. Once you have your own mat, take good care of it: keep it clean (try this DIY mat spray), keep it in a safe place at home, away from clawing kitties, and store it and transport it in a bag that protects it from damage, and don’t leave it baking in the sun in a hot car. If you take care of it, it will last longer, stretching your dollars as you stretch on your mat.
5. It pays to ask: If you've found a studio that resonates with you and you’ve gotten to know the owner or manager, you might present them with an offer to trade services or with a creative idea for enabling community members who can’t afford the usual class rates to practice at the studio. Present a well-thought-out proposal that honors the needs of the studio (after all, even a yoga studio has to pay the electric bills). Examples: "If I found X number of students to commit to a series of four classes, would it be worth it to you to offer that class at X price per person?" "Do you have an energy exchange program? I have a degree in marketing—would it benefit the studio to have me offer my services in exchange for complimentary classes?" Demonstrating that you are willing to bring something to the table (aka the studio) will prove your heartfelt intention to do well for everyone. A little work off the mat could get you on the mat in a way that doesn't just preserve your income but also supports a positive outcome for everyone involved.
6. Work it at work: Investigate whether your employer would support preventative health measures, specifically yoga classes for employees. Pitch the idea of the company offering yoga classes in the workplace. With a bit of quick research, you can back your proposal with facts about how yoga helps employees become healthier (reducing workdays lost to illness) and more productive (not to mention happier) in the workplace. Suggest that the company pick up the tab (or at least cover much of the cost, minimizing the class fee for employees) to show their support for the health and well-being of their staff. You'll soon find your work paying off for the good of all.
7. Foster an attitude of gratitude: Feeling grateful for all of your blessings—the studio you attend, your teachers, your body that strikes those poses, and each and every breath—can bring your drishti (focus) toward finding ways to maintain and grow your practice. In the process, you may discover the powerful effect of moving from a negative, worried perspective about the affordability of yoga to an appreciation for your path and your intention to honor it. Remember that paying for class is an investment in yourself. Reflecting on the fact you value your yoga classes enough to pay for them can remind you that yoga is important for your highest good—a gift you give to yourself, and ultimately, to those around you as well. And paying for classes is also about the highest good of the studio owners and teachers. “Abundance for everyone” is a healthy mantra to adopt. The studio owners and teachers put much energy into running the studio and teaching classes, so by paying for classes, you honor the energy and effort they put in to provide you with those classes—and everyone’s abundance increases. For me, I’ve found that believing my practice is worth every penny, appreciating the sacrifices it takes, and having faith that the universe (with my cooperation) will continue to provide for me, is a yogic attitude that is worth buying into.
Sheri Mabry Bestor, MA,
Holistic Living & Creativity Consultant, Practitioner, Teacher and Author. Founder/Guide of Life-Artistry. Owner of Balancing Arts Yoga & Well Being Studio, Literary Agent for Willow Words Literary Agency and Private Critiquer for Willow Words Writing Services.