Financially Accesible Yoga

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Financially Accesible Yoga

There’s a lot of buzz around “accessible yoga” these days. Which is a very good thing. Because the yoga “industry” has a lot of exclusivity and affordability issues. Yoga is NOT exclusively for young thin white women who can do things like put their legs behind their heads – and who are financially comfortable. Yet that is too often what we see on social media and what may turn people away who are not young / thin / white / born as women / financially comfortable (i.e. most people). Fortunately, a lot of people are doing the work of practicing and teaching yoga that is suitable regardless of age, illness, or ability – of creating inclusive practices that adapt yoga asanas (postures) to each body. The Accessible Yoga Association “believes that all people – regardless of ability or background – deserve equal access to yoga.”

Physically Accessible Yoga

Much of the talk around accessible yoga focuses on physical accessibility. Which is a good thing. It’s important that larger bodies, people living with autism / mobility issues / physical disabilities / chronic illness / injuries have access to yoga. It’s imperative that yoga teachers and practitioners are knowledgeable about adapting for suitability to each body. And, more teachers are becoming more knowledgeable. Chair Yoga, which I teach, is a type of accessible yoga that is inclusive and accessible for people who shouldn’t (or aren’t able to) get up from and down to the floor unassisted. Chair yoga thus provides accessibility to sedentary beginners at any age, older adults, people with joint replacements, people with chronic pain (from injury, aging, emotional grief), and people with chronic health conditions.

Financially Accessible Yoga

Physical accessibility is not the only type of accessibility. Any discussion of accessible yoga must include financial accessibility. Although many yoga studios offer monthly or annual packages that bring the cost down, the average single session class at a yoga studio in the United States ranges from $15 to $25. Where I live & practice & teach (Birmingham, AL), the average seems to be more in the $18 to $20 range. And, those monthly or annual packages DO bring the cost down, but average $135 a month. For many people, including (but not limited to) the 16% of people in Alabama living in poverty, those prices keep yoga out of reach. 

Yoga Teachers Deserve Payment

In our (late-stage?) capitalist economy, teachers (many of whom own & operate studios) deserve to be paid. Teachers receive training and certifications like any other profession. They pay to be certified and for continuing education. They purchase yoga mats and accessories for classes (i.e. chairs!). And, they pay for gas to get back & forth to classes. Teachers also provide safe spaces for people to get reacquainted with their bodies, providing the tools and resources to assist with healing bodies & souls. The studio owners pay rent and utilities. They also (we hope!) pay teachers. And, purchase yoga mats and accessories for classes. So, what to do???

On-line Yoga Classes

On-line yoga classes have proliferated since the Covid pandemic. And, can be a great way to make yoga more financially accessible. Many on-line teachers offer monthly memberships for their live & recorded classes that can be incredibly affordable. The very popular Yoga with Adriene offers many 30-day programs that are priced at “pay what feels good”. Which is great. To a certain extent. These on-line teachers are able to serve so many students that the low costs to students can still allow the teachers to earn the money they deserve. But, yoga is all about connection – about community. And, on-line classes can be missing that key element. We humans need support & safety, a sense of belonging, and acceptance. None of that is easily available when doing a yoga practice in isolation with a computer screen.

Zoom classes come closer to creating some sense of community. But those are rarely as affordable as “pay what feels good.” They are also still not quite like being in the same physical space with other people – making connections and building community.  And, of critical importance, on-line classes don’t offer the teacher the same opportunities to observe and adapt to make their class accessible to all bodies present. In a pre-recorded class, there is zero opportunity to do so; and, in a live class, people may turn their video off or use a phone that isn’t angled in a way so that the teacher can see the whole body. And, of course, there are many people without good internet connections or the technological skills to navigate on-line libraries of classes.

Grant-Funded Yoga Classes

There are often grants available to fund yoga classes. In addition to teaching Chair Yoga, I work with people in recovery from substance abuse. My work with that population is funded by Trini Foundation, a Savannah-based non-profit that works with treatment centers and other recovery programs to bring the healing practice of Ashtanga Yoga to people in recovery from substance abuse. Trini funds three weekly classes I teach: a community class, a class in an area Sober Living community, and a class in an area in-patient treatment center. They also provide students with scholarships to practice yoga at Birmingham Yoga, Birmingham (and Alabama’s) only Ashtanga studio. Thus, teachers (and studio owners) receive financial compensation, while people in recovery are not having to pay for yoga.

This is a fantastic model! Birmingham’s own Sweet Om Alabama also provides funding for yoga in marginalized communities, such as Chair Yoga for older adults & adults with disabilities who live in HUD-funded facilities.

Agency-Based Yoga Classes

Various agencies use grants to fund yoga classes. And, agencies may also often have the discretionary funds to pay for a weekly yoga class. Examples of agency-based yoga classes are those at libraries, community centers, retirement communities, homeless shelters, hospitals, adult daycare programs, schools, after-school programs, churches, etc. YMCA memberships aren’t quite free, but their monthly membership is generally much less than a monthly pass at a yoga studio. And YMCA branches often offer discounted rates for seniors and veterans, both of which are populations which may be in need of financially accessible yoga. 

If financially accessible yoga is a concern of yours, I encourage you to petition your community agencies (including your local YMCA) about offering accessible yoga. Yoga consists of movement, meditation, and breathing exercises that stretch & strengthen bodies, focus minds, and improve well-being. I couldn’t agree more that all people – regardless of ability or background – deserve equal access to the incredibly beneficial practice of yoga. And, that is why the focus of my business –  Frannie James Yoga – is on financially accessible chair yoga. 

My Financially Accessible Yoga Classes

I currently teach six weekly Chair Yoga classes that are agency-based. Two are at HUD-funded facilities for older adults & adults with disabilities. Both of these classes were initially funded by Sweet Om Alabama. When that funding ran out, I personally crowd-source funded one of them for a year. And, the other was able to come up with internal funding to keep the class going. Another of the six is at a church that received a grant to offer a day of activities for members of their community. Another is at a local Adult Day Care Program. And, two are at a local YMCA, which is a SilverSneakers facility and thus free for SilverSneakers members (and other insurance companies’ medicare-supplement gym membership plans).

Please contact me or check out my offerings for more information about my work providing accessible yoga within the Birmingham community.