The best-kept secrets were never meant to be kept, they were meant to be spread organically by friends and loved ones. Discovering them is one of life's great joys, and Yoga to the People is no exception. This Manhattan-based studio, with its location in Berkeley, California and Seattle Washington, encourages yogis to go beyond their physical practice by bonding with one another as a community.
Big cities can be isolating places, but the powerful moments we experience in them are what allow us to connect and make our lives there worthwhile. Finding the community center that is Yoga to the People is like finding an old friend, a familiar face in a sea of strangers, and a home away from home. The original New York City studio, nestled in the famously avant-garde Saint Mark's Place, absorbs and defines the forward-thinking, liberal perspective of its East Village surroundings. Given those parameters, Berkeley, was an obvious choice for a sister studio.
Having had the privilege of practicing directly with many of today's yoga pioneers, owner Greg Gumuchio was particularly inspired by the famously humble yoga guru Bryan Kest, whose highly successful model of donation-based yoga puts faith and business in the hands of the people. The hands of the people are powerful.
Having struggled and succeeded with many yoga ventures on the West Coast, Gumuchio understood that “the success of yoga as a business has studio owners everywhere making some tough choices”¦regarding money, yoga and the balance between the two.” Observing the success of Bryan Kest's studio in Santa Monica, he became convinced that donation-based yoga can work. “Not only did [Kest] inspire me as a teacher, but as a studio owner, I had to take a look at what he was doing,” said Gumuchio. After relocating to New York City, Gumuchio sought a yoga space that was ripe for such a community.
Through patience, persistence and what he refers to as “luck,” Yoga to the People was born. By its third month, the studio was fully sustained by the donations of its loyal yogis, providing everyone””regardless of financial situation””the opportunity to practice a yoga program of the highest quality. Whether they realize it or not, the members of this community are part of a larger movement where everyone truly does make a difference.
While traditional, promotional advertising satisfies the average studio's business plan, Yoga to the People's donation-based model was a call to arms for yogis looking for a studio that offered more than just yoga classes. In just two years, word-of-mouth advertising has resulted in an unprecedented, class-after-class, at-capacity turnout and has necessitated the addition of two overflow studios in New York and the West Coast studio. A recent class announcement for a teacher training Q&A session resulted in eighty-eight attendees alone. This level of excitement is a sign that Yoga to the People clearly bridges a gap in the modern yoga program.
Classes are taught at the same level and in the Power Vinyasa Flow method, linking breath and continuous movement and allowing first-time yogis to connect with even the most advanced. Yoga to the People encourages its family members to exercise the most fundamental rule of science: Energy is never lost; it is only transferred. The seamlessness of this free-flowing practice lends itself to the studio's vibrant neighborhood surroundings, inspiring its yogis to be both students and inspirational teachers to themselves and those around them. There is no teacher schedule, no choosing favorites, and no selective experience. For the yogi on the go, sixty-minute classes are available for download at yogatotheople.com.
Given its phenomenal response and positive message, Yoga to the People is poised for rapid expansion. When the Berkeley studio opened this past January, they were welcomed with an overwhelming community response. One of its enthusiasts shares, “I live in San Francisco and commute about an hour each way to get to this class””it's that worth it!”
Along with the basic classes, Sunday evening candle-lit sessions and beginning “shadow yoga,” which focuses on bandhas (regulators of energy) and proper ujjayi breathing, make for exciting options. Gumuchio understands the powerful momentum his community has on the yoga practice as a whole and hopes to share the experience with as many people as possible. He notes, “I would like to see donation-based yoga in every community that can support it and corporately sponsored, subsidized yoga in communities”¦which may have a more difficult time supporting it.”
Yoga to the People is an invitation to everyone, reminding us that the yoga experience is about uniting and uplifting the mind, body and spirit. To quote one of their weekly poems: “It doesn't interest me who you are and how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.”