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09 December 2008

is the yoga studio model dead and how 'bout those "yoga communities"?



(photo credit: bindifry)

[Buddha's teachings that we should surround ourselves with like-minded friends]



“the community was blighted with some unfortunate cattiness, competitiveness and general high-school girl behaviour.”

Hallelujah! I'm not the only one who feels this way!

The above quote was taken from Nadine's blog. Nadine moved from South Africa to Australia and I'm happy that she is so happy in the Australian yoga scene.

My experiences in yoga studios have not been the most positive, but I take everything as a lesson. sometimes the negatives are greater teachers than the positives. I also believe in karma so maybe the Universe is telling me something about teaching in yoga studios. hey, maybe I was a total bee-atch yoga studio owner in a past life so now I'm getting what's coming to me. all I know is that I am going to think long and hard before I teach in a studio again.

One of my loyal readers told me that his teacher said "the studio model is dead" and that comment intrigued me. he said that it's not that she doesn't still teach some group classes, but rather that those are basically seva and a way to attract students to do the workshops, teacher trainings, and especially private lessons where mature practice can happen.

"Private lessons where mature practice can happen" is also an interesting statement, "mature" being the operative word for me. my teachers in India taught that personal transformation can only begin in a group class but is accomplished by working one-on-one with a teacher in the classical way and I truly believe this.

As for those "yoga communities" I'm the first to admit that because of my recent experiences the phrase leaves me colder than sitting on top of an iceberg. Brenda had a blog post about it where readers weighed in.

So what say you? is the "studio model dead" especially in this economy? and what about those "yoga communities" that everyone talks about and wants to develop? is it about talking the talk and walking the walk? or are "yoga communities" no different from your neighborhood coffee klatch where we just get to wear that cool yoga jewelery?

More on this later as thought develop, so talk amongst yourselves. I'd really like some comments especially from newbie yoga teachers and studio owners. I'd also like to know if teacher trainings nowadays are incorporating more yoga business aspects to the trainings, i.e., "yoga in the real world."

with metta always....



13 comments:

Kristin said...

Wow. I just had the opportunity to catch up. I am appalled by what you've gone through, and yet, so moved by how well you handled it.

I consider myself a newbie teacher so I thought I would weigh in.

You asked: is the "studio model dead" especially in this economy?

So far, not in my corner of the world. The studio I teach at is 12years old and we just expanded into the space across the hall. It is my understanding the studio in the adjacent town is still going strong, as are the two studio's in the Twin Cities that I attend. Now, that isn't to say I haven't heard of studio's closing, which they have, but I can't speak as to why those closed.


You asked: and what about those "yoga communities" that everyone talks about and wants to develop?
I realize I have been very fortunate to be a part of my studio. They do truly focus on the community as a whole. Because for them, it IS "...about talking the talk and walking the walk..."

or are "yoga communities" no different from your neighborhood coffee klatch where we just get to wear that cool yoga jewelery?

Yeah, I attend workshops at one of these too. But I decided that I was there to learn from the guest instructor and I just ignore the rest. I show up, learn what I can, and leave the rest.

But, with all that said, noting this quote: "and a way to attract students to do the workshops, teacher training, and especially private lessons where mature practice can happen." I STRONGLY agree with this.

This is where the studio I teach has moved to - workshops, teacher training, and private lessons (for those who can afford it, eep!). We still offer lots of regular classes (which is where I teach), but they are supplemented with workshops on yamas and niyamas, chakras, focus sessions, bhagavad gita class, indepth training, etc.


So I think it really all depends. You've had some horrendous experiences. I've had very positive experience. Different places in the world.

Thank you!

Linda Sama said...

thanks for reading and for sharing, Kristin! I think the bottom line in my area -- which is far west suburban Chicago, but in Chicago, too -- is that there are too many teachers and too few students.

however, my friend in Oakland CA says I should move to No. CA because she said with all that I know, my training, etc., I'd be turning people away.

so I've thought about it....:)

Brenda P. said...

Community happens.

Good, bad, ugly, I think by the fact of doing yoga in a group, there is some sort of community no matter what. Where it goes from there depends on the members (or self-appointed leader). It can have a dopey, expensive yoga pant vibe, or can be a genuine, enjoying-each-others-company vibe.

I wonder if the fact that these groups tend to be mostly women has anything to do with anything. Call me Larry Summers, but it may be part of the insecure-and-threatened response of your ex-boss (no one prettier than me in the studio!)

I don't think the studio model is dead, but I don't think it's very interesting, anymore...

Thanks for da link!

Linda Sama said...

"I wonder if the fact that these groups tend to be mostly women has anything to do with anything."

interesting!

yup, I gotta tell ya, I've never been the type of woman who hangs out with other women. I've always had a few close gal pals, I never was part of a group. maybe that's a reason why I've never felt comfortable in the local "yoga community."

Kristin said...

Brenda noted, "I wonder if the fact that these groups tend to be mostly women has anything to do with anything."

Interesting indeed. I've been noticing more gentlemen in my classes at the Y and the studio, in addition to more fellows attending other sessions (concurrent classes - I get to see who's coming/going). I think it helps to balance the yin/yang energies.

I've asked my studio if I could do a "Yoga for Guys" class or workshop since they've offered "yoga for women", "yoga for kids" and "yoga for girls". Nothing yet, but I'm not going to give up.

Mmm, No. Calif. With all the snow you've been getting, I bet that sounds very tempting indeed. :)

Linda Sama said...

"I think it helps to balance the yin/yang energies."

I think so, too. I wish more guys would take yoga, they need it! the vibe of a class is certainly different when men are in it, and personally, I like it.

don't give up on the Yoga for Men class -- I think that's a good way to introduce men to yoga because many times they just don't want to walk into a class filled with women.

crisitunity said...

I wanted to weigh in from the student's side.

I'm not getting as much out of classes as I used to. As my practice grows, I find that I have a lot of philosophical questions, a lot of very specific questions about poses, and basically a lot of space that I want filled by something more intimate than a group class.

But there is NO WAY that I can afford training individually with a teacher, no way in the world. I really can't afford to take as many classes as I do, anyway; I give up other stuff for my classes as it is.

I'm going to my first individual session on Thursday, but I doubt that I will be able to afford another one for another few months. Being priced out of my yoga journey is sort of frustrating. For now, group classes just have to do.

Amanda said...

I am sure there are some lessons for the Western (not the Eastern) yoga community that could be learned from studying the aerobics/groups fitness craze of the 1980s. This is a long comment! Sorry!!

At its peak, the aerobics craze dictated (somewhere around 1986-1989) that you 'needed' to have all the right brands, the matching leotards, headbands etc etc. And preferably be able to teach or do mindnumbingly complex choreography (grapevine twist, anyone?). Aerobics was everywhere - and it was of a variable and questionable quality. Some instructors had 'it' and others were simply amateurish, and at worse, downright dangerous. Ironically, the average lifespan of an aerobics instructor was 2 1/2 years (this quote from an ACHPER Fitness Leader's Training course, 1989).

In the early 1990s, the bubble burst. Be it the matching headbands, the complex choreography, or the whole 'Barbie Doll/airhead' image that had built up around the fitness industry, or the economic recession we had back then, people began staying away from classes in droves. It began with men, and continued until it was only the hardcore addicts who were left. Centres that were once highly profitable closed overnight. I know. I owned and operated a centre at this time. I was able to close it and sell the plant equipment and barely avoid losing my house.

By the mid-1990s, this situation began to change. The industry, in Australia at least, had totally professionalised (you need a Diploma level qualification to teach at gyms in Aust. You don't need this to teach yoga, I notice) and an amazing New Zealand franschise called Body Pump hit the scene. People began to come back. Especially men.

What did Body Pump do? It totally did away with the complexity and the 'trendy' clothes. You did Pump in daggy shorts. Instructors taught participants that technique was everything and image was nothing. You focussed on the foundations, getting the basics right - with incredible results. As instructors, we were taught how to communicate as experts, were were taught that safety was paramount. Our music and moves were choreographed for us by experts.

Nowdays, if you don't have Pump on your timetable, you're losing money. The same New Zealand company has followed with other programs, including one based on yoga. Worlwide, 10 million people every week do either Pump and Body Balance (Flow) alone!

Ok. So yoga is 3500 years old and there is a complee way of life, rather than just physical exercise. But when I look at the yoga world in the cities and in the US, all I see is uber-flexible barbie dolls in brand name clothes, and a frenzied mega popularity that will surely burst in this economic climate. I see the aerobics craze all over again.

Underneath, however, are some dedicated souls who have depth, who are professional and authentic. If I was going to say what can we learn from the aerobics craze, it is this:

the yoga world in the West is yet to really mature - at the moment, it's an incorrigible teenager. the bubble will burst.

Yet it will mature in order to survive. It will do this and thrive, because it will find the right cultural 'mix' and niche.

Yoga teachers, studios and schools will disappear whilst this is happening. Those that remain will do so because they have the basics -the heart and soul- of teaching yoga to the community- right and are sharing those basics with others. This is a long hard, journey but one that has to be had.

Wow. I blabbed on a lot, sorry!

Linda Sama said...

don't apologize for the long blab, I loved it! and in fact what to turn your comment into my next post!

thanks for reading!

Amanda said...

Linda,

I am overjoyed that this will help you write a blog post! Please feel free to cut & paste whetever you need from the comment. Sorry about the typos in the post, though. I wrote it very quickly before I went off to work.

Much love to you. I know you've had a tough time lately, but I can also see your commitment to yoga is so strong, you're already shining past the incident.

Om Shanti,

crisitunity said...

Wow, Amanda, I had never put that together before. That's AMAZING.

I am sorry for all the people who will lose their livelihoods, and all the students who will lose studios, but I am massively relieved to hear a concrete hypothesis that the yoga fad will die, and $100 yoga pants along with it.

Christine said...

What a great conversation, joining the practical and the philosophical.

I've been reading and empathizing with your recent experiences, as I've had two this fall which bear odd resemblances... frantic phone calls, scrambled communication, strange defensiveness. My stance right now is reverting to original: classes are to inspire and juice my home practice, not the other way around.

I've never been a "good studio girl" in the sense that other teachers and owners regarded "good students" as those who attended frequently and conformed their practice to the group class. I've always had a home practice and have attended group classes sporadically, focusing on the teachers who invariably took me deeper in the philosophy and understanding of my own practice.

When I was asked to teach at "my" studio - the one I attended, close to my home and where I took my traning - my karmic undies wedged and I fell into the "Me?!? Really? Me? Oh, yes!" trap, feeling special, recognized. All those things that are great to realize, as long as you really take in that they're true about everyone.

As the group dynamics worked out, I felt myself slipping into the knot of psychological - as opposed to spiritual - connectedness. I was aware enough that I could examine what I was doing even as I couldn't quite keep out of it. I just accepted that was where I was on the learning curve, and watched the drama play out. There was flaming back and forth about whether music was appropriate for class, if so what kind, much in-talk and shifting alliances. There was drama about political activism. There was drama about drama.

During this, I mused about how the word "Yogic" is thrown around. Is it yogic to practice asana with music? Is it yogic to talk politics? Is it yogic to have a bad day? It all seemed so....um... un-yogic.

But really what is "yogic"? In service of unity? And isn't it true that sometimes we must explore seperateness to find the underlying union? And with all of us on the path at our particular moments, there are bound to be attractions and aversions, and aren't these what we're supposedly examining, reducing, becoming aware of in our movment toward freedom?

I don't know the answers about yoga studio models, communities or the future of yoga - I suspect it will resemble the past, only in a modern way. Which is to say, it will abide, grow and grow us.

I'm not teaching in any studios nor do I intend to any time soon, but I do attend (irregularly and for my own edification) classes and teach in a community room and practice on my floor in my house and in my heart. I'm glad you're all out there finding your ways along the path.

Linda-Sama said...

great comment, thanks for reading!

yup, so sick of the drama...the bottom line is that we have enough in "regular" life, don't we? why create more of it in our yoga life? yoga is about transformation, not more of the same!