Yoga happens all over O’ahu – in beautiful parks, at the beach, in yoga studios and in teachers’ homes. Recently there has been a rise in teachers offering classes by donation, and people are often confused as to how this system works and how much they should pay. Some people wonder what the appropriate amount is to donate and others assume that donation means free, which it does not. Sometimes donation baskets overflow and other times students leave only a dollar or two.
Dorian Wright, owner of Power Yoga Hawaii, recently converted from a pass-based studio to a donation-based one. “The main benefit is it makes it affordable for the community. Yoga is not meant to be just for the upper class,” said Wright. “The turning point for my wife and I, was receiving emails from students saying that they loved our studio but couldn’t afford it anymore.”
Depending on the type of community and type of facility in which classes are held, prices range from $10 to $25. When a teacher or a studio gives a class by donation it holds an element of service. Think of it this way: a teacher offers yoga class as a gesture of good will and desire to serve the greater good in the area, making a beneficial practice available to all. They prepare in advance and many times pay for the space where they are teaching. In exchange, students offer back what that class is worth to them, and what they can rightfully afford. Both are heartfelt gestures with consideration and caring.
The word offering is actually better than donation as it explains the interchange. If a student is economically challenged, they can offer a service in return for the class, such as mopping the floors or helping with student check-ins. Some farmers on the North Shore have brought mangoes or avocados when crops were more prolific than cash. If a student is economically abundant, they might put a little more than their share in the basket out of appreciation for the benefits of class. Some business folks in town, for whom offering a few extra dollars is easy, know that this means a lot to their yoga teachers. What’s most important is to reflect upon the value of the experience, and offer that back to your teacher.
Of course rent must be paid even at yoga studios. So usually there is a suggested amount posted near the donation box, and cash is expected. At Power Yoga Hawaii teachers pay a flat rental fee for their time slots so they suffer if attendance is low or people do not understand the donation system. Although some classes might not pull in enough to break even, Wright feels that in the big picture his experienced teachers do better with this system. And he notes that the donation system is easier for students who don’t have to think about memberships, passes or reservations.
Paumalu Yoga on the North Shore also runs solely by donation. Their website explains it this way, “Please donate in how you value your class and how you see fit to support your financial situation. Most donations are made in monetary form. Between $10-20 is suggested. If you cannot pay what you think you class is worth, consider a trade. Please ask your teacher if this works for them. Trades that have worked in the past: House cleaning, marketing, massage, acupuncture, website assistance. And please recognize that the teachers do this for a living so be honest about what you can afford.”
Additionally, the North Shore Yoga Co-op, also a donation studio reminds us that, “A donation is the sacred act of giving. So that means you let your heart and personal financial situation be your guide as to what you choose to contribute. If you are unable to make a donation in monetary form, please talk to the teacher – there are many other options.”
In religious or spiritual terminology, an offering is a gesture of devotion and appreciation. As you consider what to give, you can practice three key principles found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The first is Aparigraha, which translates as non-greed – or put more positively – generosity. The second practice is Satya or truthfulness, putting in what you can truly afford. The third is Ahimsa, or respect for the unity of all people, meaning that what you offer to another, you actually give to yourself as well. With these in mind, whatever you donate will be just right.
Jennie is a yoga therapist who has shared the healing benefits of classical yoga and meditation with thousands of clients over the past 17 years. By using the formula she writes about in True Yoga, she has helped people conquer paralyzing anxiety, depression, grief, post-traumatic stress, attention deficit issues, eating disorders, and challenging relationship dynamics.