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A packed room at Yoga to the People (image: nytimes.com)

A recent  NY Times article profiles a new movement in yoga ~ donation-based classes. They profiled Yoga to the People, which is apparently at the forefront of this movement. Here’s what they had to say:

Yoga is definitely big business these days. A 2008 poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, concluded that the number of people doing yoga had declined from 16.5 million in 2004 to 15.8 million almost four years later. But the poll also estimated that the actual spending on yoga classes and products had almost doubled in that same period, from $2.95 billion to $5.7 billion.

“The irony is that yoga, and spiritual ideals for which it stands, have become the ultimate commodity,” Mark Singleton, the author of “Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice,” wrote in an e-mail message this week. “Spirituality is a style, and the ‘rock star’ yoga teachers are the style gurus.”

Well, maybe it is the recession, but some yogis are now saying “Peace out” to all that. There’s a brewing resistance to the expense, the cult of personality, the membership fees. At the forefront of the movement is Yoga to the People, which opened its first studio in 2006 in the East Village on St. Marks Place, with a contribution-only, pay-what-you-can fee structure. The manifesto is on the opening page of its Web site, yogatothepeople.com: “There will be no correct clothes, There will be no proper payment, There will be no right answers … No ego no script no pedestals.”

One more thing: There are no “glorified” teachers or star yogis. You can’t even find out who is teaching which class when, or reserve a spot with a specific instructor. [Yoga’s New Wave, NY Times]

As most of you know, I am a big fan of donation-based – or “pay-what-you-can,” “contribution-based,” or as I prefer, “pay-what-you-wish” – yoga (read just how subversive and awesome I think it is here). I am all for dismantling the dominant hegemony of rock star teachers, expensive class fees and designer clothes/accessories/products. However, I’m not convinced that YTTP (which, with studios in NYC, Berkeley and San Francisco, is evolving into a bit of a franchise),  offers a better model. Read the rest of this entry »

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