Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

The True Cost of Taking Up Yoga?

October 25, 2011

MaryAnn Busso in her Bloomberg piece The Real Cost of Taking Up Yoga http://www.bloomberg.com/money-gallery/2011-10-19/the-real-cost-of-taking-up-yoga.html#slide1 worked out that a start-up year of yoga would cost a 37 year old New Yorker $10,779 (£6,775.)

‘Bloody ridiculous’ I grumbled across the breakfast table. ‘$40 on yoga socks? $152 on Adagio Organic Tea? $860 on yoga conferences? Is Busso mad?’

Intent on proving her mad I got my calculator out and cast my mind back to the year I took up yoga.

It started well – I crossed out several of Busso’s high cost items immediately:

$860 on a yoga conference

$1200 on acupuncture

$1800 on privates

$3590 on a Balinese yoga holiday

Then I crossed out several of her more esoteric calculations:

$40 on yoga socks (what’s wrong with bare feet?)

$70 on YogaToes and YogaHands (what’s wrong with pedicure toe separators from the local pharmacy?)

$126 on yoga bras (M&S is fine with me)

$152 on Adagio Organic Tea

Then I started totting up my own spend:

Classes: three a week with Simon Low £1400 – rather more than Busso’s $1150.

Holidays: After only one class I signed up for Low’s holiday at Huzur Vadisi, Turkey, spending around £600 plus flights to sleep in a yurt with a hole in the roof, ‘built for star gazing.’

Workshops: I’d say Busso’s estimate of $118 was on the low side; I spent £250 in that first year – one weekend with Sarah Powers and the other with Shiva Rea who managed to get me into a handstand – well worth it for that alone, though I’ve never done it since.

Massage: $392? And the rest! I had no idea I had muscles in all those places.

Food and drink: In no time I was mainlining a box of Yogi tea @£3 a week – maybe I should’ve economized with Adagio.

Clothes: OK I may not have gone for the socks and the yoga bra but I was a sucker for the two £40 each après yoga t- shirts with suspect Sanskrit-ish writing down the arms, and let’s not forget the two workout vests from Cyndi Lee’s OM yoga studio that I paid a friend to bring back for me… and what about the two Elvis vests that another friend was wearing in class that I just had to have?

Equipment: The mat, the mat bag, the strap, the bolster, the beautiful wooden Iyengar inspired blocks probably set me back £150. At least my yoga blanket was a multi-tasking pashmina that I’d owned for years.

Music and concerts: Only 2 Krishna Das CDs? Busso has to be kidding! I bought his entire back catalogue, and Deva Premal’s, plus every Buddha Bar CD ever released.

Books: Only three Busso? What’s the matter with you? Light on Yoga, The Heart of Yoga, Awakening the Spine, Autobiography of a Yogi, A Search in Secret India, The Spiritual Tourist etc etc… plus the glossy $75 Yoga Journal tome stuffed full of yoga masters, and still inspiring me today.

Miscell: Add in the home practice DVDs, the £4 a month we Brits have to pay for Yoga Journal, the leggings, the eye pillow, the travel to and from class, and I don’t think I’d have got much change out of £4000, or nearly $6500.

At the time I was working in advertising and could afford to spend such sums but eventually the practice of (as Simon Low put it) ‘peeling back the layers that stood between me and my true self’ led me to leave the ad business and earn half the money.

So you could argue that the total cost of that first year’s yoga was half a lifetime’s earnings, and I’d say it was worth every penny – and far from being mad, it was the only route to sanity.

3 million in UK yoga school!

June 15, 2010

We’ve come a long way baby! I am overjoyed to announce that there are now 3,070,000 yogis in the UK (Kantar Media Research.)
That’s 6.2% of the population, up from 5.3% in 2007.
And it’s not just occasional drop-ins – nearly half of the three million claim to be regulars on the mat. Thats an increase of 10% on 2007.
Perhaps this is an indicator that the yoga mat is a refuge from redundancy, food inflation, dodgy M.P.s, etc etc. It’s official: as the yoga dork t-shirt reads…’yoga is our bailout!’
The figures also reveal that yoga remains an upmarket young chick thing – 77% are women, 68% are under 45 and 71% are ABC1, although the biggest gains were amongst the 35-44 group. I hope this means that we’re taking yoga with us as we age and that one day the classes will be full of 90 year olds standing on their heads!

Yoga and friendship

June 6, 2008

Having made most of my closest friends through yoga I have been thinking about why friendships formed through yoga are so effortless.

Is it because we are all trying to be better people? The best person we can be?

Is it because in the practice of yoga we don’t want anything from each other? Most of our work relationships are based on a trade, and so it is in much of life, but in yoga everyone is equal on their mat. The yoga studio is a ‘matocracy’, a peoples’ republic in which we are all free to express ourselves, to be ourselves, to dig deeper into ourselves.

Is it because we are held together by determination and dedication? Dedication despite the fact that it can be a painful process – we have the freedom to come and go to classes at will but we choose to pitch up regularly, even though it often hurts. When we meet other people with the same dedication we can only respect it, especially when the common thread of dedication can come interwoven with tears. I spent a yoga holiday at Molino del Rey in Andalusia crying for three days solid. I was not alone, there were four of us crying our way through that week – one was a Hollywood star – but we were all on the same path, cracking open long locked emotion laden hips. It was one of the best holidays of my life, not just because we all learnt a Britney Spears dance routine from Miss Hollywood which we performed for Simon, but because it was the holiday that I plucked up the courage to leave my job in advertising, a job in which I’d been doing maternity cover for two women as well as my own job. I’d announced this over dinner one night to cheers from the twenty assembled women, and I wasn’t the only one to have made some progress. Miss Hollywood had kicked smoking and was ready to start a new relationship, which five years later resulted in a baby, Jenifer had decided to leave London and return to the US and Cat had got her groove back post chemo for breast cancer.

Is it because alongside the tears are laughs? As a yoga student you have to be able to handle the embarrassment of not being able to get into a pose that everyone else is seemingly managing effortlessly, to put up with spontaneous farting and being told to use ‘the other left foot’ when our concentration has lapsed.

Is it because yoga reveals the truth of who we really are? By the time yoga has finished bashing our ego into submission, there’s nowhere to hide anymore. Our bodies, much as we might want them to, can’t lie. So we might as well allow them to speak the truth and have a good laugh about it. In this lies real friendship.

 

Is yoga the new religion?

June 3, 2008

In truth David, my man, is much more familiar with Our Lady of Perpetual Succour than I. His ancestors come from Portugese Goa, where Catholicism still thrives. I on the other hand, went to a Quaker School that taught Human Studies in place of Religious Education, and have the religious liberalism of my generation, pluralist and tolerant, believing in the idea of many paths leading to one place, the idea of something bigger than oneself, something better than oneself, but not necessarily one benevolent God looking down on our endeavours. I am definitely not used to there being One Way – but I find myself liking the service enough to get out of bed, one Sunday in three, at 7.30am.

I like the way that our fellow worshippers respond to David – he might be the first Paki in the village but they welcome him with open arms, or at least with friendly nods in his direction. My favourite part of the service is giving each other the sign of peace – ‘peace be with you’ we say as we smile and shake hands with our pew neighbours, ‘and also with you’ comes the reply; it makes me feel as if I’ve been a member of the village in which we live for much longer than a year. The service is reassuringly timeless, and it feels good to take the time to stop and think about what we are doing on this earth; the big and the small, the near and the far – the children’s pilgrimage to Walsingham, the arrival of a parish computer ‘ten years younger than the old one’, prayers for the parishioners in Great Yarmouth’s James Paget hospital and for the starving in Africa, all of this reminds me that life might just be about more than whether our new bath should be finished with burnished copper or Farrow and Ball’s Saxon Green.

On the two Sundays in three that I am not at Church I was generally practicing yoga at home. Dom Anthony Sutch, our priest, pretends (I think) to be horrified. The Reverend Richard Farr, of St Mary’s in Henham, on the Essex-Hertfordshire border, had been highly bothered by what he saw as a New Age teaching and a threat to the Christian establishment, claiming that “…yoga… is a gateway into other spiritualities, including Eastern mysticism.’

I am wondering if yoga has become the new religion? Think about it – yoga centres as churches, teachers as priests ministering to their student congregation, asana as the liturgy. There is fierce loyalty to the different yogic methodologies – Ashtanga with its strict disciplines and emphasis on regular practice seems closest to Catholicism, Iyengar’s evangelical and puritanical approach might be considered Protestant, the individualist yoga of Desikachar might be seen as Quaker liberalism.

I’ve told the Dom that I see yoga as a compliment to religion, not a threat. Although yoga is historically infused with Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, it seeks to put us in touch with who we are, our innermost nature, and as such actually benefits the practice of any religion – helping us to deepen our faith, not lose it. But maybe he should be worried, the point for most regular practitioners of yoga is not just that it puts us in touch with our true selves but that it rewards us with the same sense of community and belonging, and in that sense it had become a rival to the church, especially in urban areas where there are so many young single people and the church has fewer roots.

What do you think? Is yoga the new religion?