While “yoga and the spiritual ideals for which it stands, have become the ultimate commodity,” costing practitioners increasing sums of money, there is a backlash against the big business aspect of the practice, reports the New York Times (April 25).
While the numbers practicing yoga may actually be decreasing, according to a survey commissioned by Yoga Journal (from 16.5 million practitioners in 2004 to 15.8 million in 2008), the “actual spending on yoga classes and products had almost doubled in the same period (from $2.95 billion to 5.7 billion),” reports Mary Billard. The high cost of cultivating a yoga practice as well as the celebrity status of certain yoga teachers has led to a “brewing resistance to the expense, the cult of personality, the membership fees.”
At the forefront of this movement is Yoga to the People, a New Yorkbased center that started in 2006. The center runs on a contributiononly, pay-what-you-can basis, with its manifesto eschewing correct clothes, “proper payments … [and offering] no right answers.” Without any “glorified yogis” or star teachers, the students at the center do not know before signing up for a class who will be instructing them. There is no overarching spiritual message or chanting at the center.
The center is considering expanding to other parts of the U.S., and other yoga groups are now taking a similar approach, reports Billard.