I believe that yoga should be available to everyone and that everyone can discover a mindfulness practice that is suitable for their body and their life.
Here are the top three reasons why I choose to teach by donation.
Everyone deserves yoga.
I spend a fair amount of time and energy persuading people to practice yoga and mindfulness, through my writings and conversations.
As an instructor, I aim to make my class accessible to practitioners with all levels of experience—and all sizes of budget.
Most standard yoga studio prices are expensive—prohibitively expensive for many people. And even though most of it is unnecessary, yoga gear (clothes, mats, props) can also be outrageously pricey.
When I started out teaching in 2002, I had a moral conflict with charging a set fee for yoga. I felt that yoga should be free. I taught and often got zero donations. I quit teaching by donation and had a set rate. Years later, when I had the financial freedom to do so, I went back to teaching by donation only.
I am a lazy accountant.
I’m just not into finances. This got me into a lot of trouble in my 20s when I let my credit card balances get way out of hand, but fortunately I am credit card debt free after learning that lesson the hard way.
I’m lucky to be in a place now where I can accept donations and not worry about exact accounting.
To be clear, donation-based yoga is not free yoga. I post a suggested amount for each class or workshop that I teach; some people pay more, others pay less.
Sometimes people pay me up front for four or five classes at once; other times they don’t have any cash, so they pay me double the following week. I don’t keep track of who pays what. I’ve accepted offerings of food and plants in lieu of cash and have occasionally bartered yoga classes for photography and other services.
Free yoga, too, is a great thing.
The classes I’ve offered to women and teens on a volunteer basis have been some of the most meaningful to me as a teacher and inspirational for the students, like the 40 year old women who looked 70 due to an unimaginably tough life lived in poverty but giggled in cat-cow and snored in savasana. Or the young teenage mothers who had been involved in human trafficking but had found a safe place and learned a way of calming and balancing their emotions through yoga.
It’s not my only job.
I teach yoga because I love it.
I earn income as a part-time school teacher and a writer. Yoga money is a bonus. If I were teaching yoga full-time, I might only offer certain classes by donation in order to make ends meet.
In an ideal world, all yoga would be taught by donation and all teachers would receive plentiful donations that would enable their right livelihood.
Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world. It’s not my intention to judge teachers who do charge a set fee for their services.
The key question is: how can we continue to make these invaluable, practical yoga teachings more accessible to more people who’ve never before had the opportunity?
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Editor: Bryonie Wise