I’ve been reflecting upon the year gone by and I find myself particularly drawn to the status of yoga in Palm Beach County. I’m very concerned about the over-saturation of the market in this area. There are other factors that make me wonder if this area is getting further from yoga’s traditional teachings. But as I’ve been ruminating, I keep coming back to one thing: Groupons.
Most yoga studios are small businesses. As with all small businesses yoga studios are always looking for a way to get their name out to the public and draw in more students. When Groupons first started they were looking for businesses with whom to partner and more than one yoga studio put out Groupons. In fact, so many yoga studios have tried Groupons and Living Social and other social marketing deals that a new breed of yoga student has evolved: The Yoga Groupon Groupie.
I understand the economy has been difficult for several years. Its great that students are working hard to find the right deal to fit their budget to get their yoga. I also understand the connection and deeper level of learning that takes place when a student attaches to one type of yoga and one studio. Having a mentor is one of the most fulfilling parts of a practice. But is attaching to a studio, type of yoga and mentor becoming a luxury in these days of Groupon-fueled yoga?
Its hard for studios to compete with, for instance, a gym where for $50 a month you can attend as many yoga classes as they have scheduled. Small studios run many in-studio specials, particularly if there are several studios in a small area and they end up competing with each other. Adding Groupon and Living Social deals to this mix actually changes the way we are practicing yoga.
Some students find a studio, teacher or type of teaching that resonates deeply and they stay at a studio. There are students who buy passes on a whim, or with all good intentions of practicing yoga regularly. Or the happy day when you find a Groupon for your home studio. An increasing number of students use their pass and move on to the next deal at the next studio. Some might argue that this gives a student the opportunity to visit different studios and sample different teachings.
Occasionally you will meet a student who is making their way through Palm Beach County yoga studios to find “the one”. Great use of deals. But for the larger percentage of students who are moving from deal to deal I would suggest this: slow down. If you like a studio, stay for a month beyond your deal. The advantages to practicing one type of yoga cannot be understated. The advantages to having a particular group of teachers learn your practice and your body cannot be understated. Think of it this way: how many seeds take root if they are blown from place to place to place? But if a seed stays in one place, it has the opportunity to take root, grow and flourish.
Most studios offer in-studio deals. If you check around, make a few calls and check websites, you’ll often find a studio with which you are familiar offering specials that are as good as those you’ll find elsewhere. Be an informed consumer, even with yoga.
As you can probably tell I’m pretty torn on this issue. I can’t help but feel that while these deals may attract new students to yoga, I also feel that studio-hopping with no intention of staying put is in the long run diluting the message of yoga. If you have a particular physical ailment, not having regular teachers keep an eye on your physicality can actually be dangerous to you. If you are attracted to yoga because you are living with an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, menopause or are seeking mental peace, unless you are a very special kind of person, it is so much better for you to have a single teacher or studio with whom to work.
There are many, deeper reasons to find the studio that resonates with you and stay there. I guess the bottom line is this: if yoga is your exercise and that’s all you ever want or expect to get out of yoga, then Groupon or similar deals is probably great for you. I would still suggest that you check out a studio before you buy the deal, make sure the teachers are certified and the studio is well-reviewed.
If other aspects of yoga are also attractive to you and you’d like to further your meditation practice, or have some guidance through some of the sacred texts of yoga, or deepen your physical practice by slowing down and taking yin classes, then find your home studio.
I guess as with everything there are good an bad sides to this position. To me though, I do believe that the bad will eventually outweigh the good and these deals may be the final bit of commercialization of yoga. While full classrooms means that more people are coming to yoga, through this warehousing process we are actually losing yoga. Surely, as a yoga community, we can find that happy medium.