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what is yoga really worth?
Photography by jennifer macniven

what is yoga really worth?

by Jon Burras jon burras
Do Business | Personal Story


how much to you value a yoga class?

It was in 1993 that I first discovered and became an ardent and passionate student of the art and discipline of yoga. I committed to a practice at a local studio and the rest is history. I did not think about how much it cost to attend a class as yoga was a very important tool in my expanding tool box. I would find a way to fit the cost of yoga into my budget to make it work for me.

After twenty-two years of practicing and teaching yoga, I remain alarmed when I hear students complaining about the cost of yoga. Having to commit to a monthly membership for some is difficult. Having to pay fifteen to twenty dollars for a single class seems irritating to others. It is almost as if many people today expect yoga to be given away free in a community park or public beach class by donation only or to ride the wave of free gym yoga given away with one's health club membership.

Have we not cheapened yoga to a point where we expect it to be given to us like a store coupon or a fortune cookie with our Chinese take-out meal? Most yoga students do not realize the hardships that many yoga teachers endure who must still pay their bills and manage their finances. Mortgages and rent must still be paid. Car payments, childcare, health insurance and putting food on the table must come from somewhere. Over the last twenty years, yoga has been somewhat cheapened and teachers still need to find ways and means to pay their own bills. After all, while many wish to believe that yoga is a community service, it is indeed a business and a profession for most teachers.

There is a current trend in America to lift the standard of living of many people by substantially increasing the minimum wage for workers. What would happen if we did the same thing for yoga teachers and elevated their wages based on inflation statistics? For instance, twenty-two years ago when I first began my practice I was paying about $15 per yoga class. If we were to compare this rate with how other items in our lives have risen in price you might see a significant increase in the price of a single yoga class and a rise in the salary of yoga teachers.

For instance, a first-class postage stamp in 1993 cost 29 cents. Today a first-class stamp costs 49 cents. This is over sixty percent increase in price. If we were to apply these same inflation rates to yoga classes, one should be paying about twenty-five dollars per class. A gallon of milk is currently about $3.89 where it was $2.77 in 1993, while the average cost of a dozen eggs in 1993 was 89 cents they now costs $1.66. The average cost of a movie ticket in 1993 was $4.14, while the average movie ticket costs nearly double at $8.12. In 1993, a man could still get a haircut for under $10 while the national average for 2015 is around $28, a nearly three-fold increase.

These are just the low ticket items. How about if we applied the cost of attending a yoga class today to the same increases in higher ticket items. For instance, the national average cost of gasoline in 1993 was $1.16 a gallon, while now it is around $2.71 per gallon. If we applied this same inflation jump to yoga classes that would mean you would be paying nearly $35 per class. For a new car, expect to pay on average $33,500 in 2015, while in 1993 the average cost was $12, 500, a nearly 300% increase. In 1993, the medium price for a home in America was $118,000 while in 2015 that same home will sell for $289.000. Finally, the average cost of tuition to attend Harvard University is over $60,000 per year in 2015, while it was about $23,000 in 1993, close to two-hundred and seventy-five percent increase.

Account for all of your bills and you will see that what once was a simple monthly phone bill has skyrocketed. Watching television used to be free, while now it will cost you an arm and a leg to pay your cable provider. From health insurance to car insurance to paying the nanny to babysit your kids, everything has gone up enormously in cost over the last twenty years or so. Everything that is, except the cost of attending a yoga class. The national average for attending a yoga class is somewhere around $14 per class, some as low as $10 and others as high as $22. It actually costs about the same or even less money to attend a yoga class in 2015 as it did in 1993.

While students might complain about paying for a yoga class they have lots to be grateful for. The actual cost of taking a yoga has actually dropped in twenty years. If you followed the national inflation rate trend, you might be expected to pay between $30-$45 per class. If yoga were Harvard University you would not be let in for less than $45 per class in 2015.

We seem to be willing to pay exorbitant cell phone and cable bills an people still eat at over-priced fast food restaurants. If yoga is important to you, then you must be willing to pay for it. As fast food workers and hotel employees begin to receive a substantial increase in their wages, the yoga world will have to follow. The California minimum wage is currently $9.00 per hour but will rise to $15 per hour by 2020, more than a 60% increase. If yoga did the same, a $15 class might now cost nearly $25. For now, the true cost of yoga has not been revealed. When you lay your mat down to practice, remember that you are getting a bargain. Be grateful, for this might not last forever.

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