WARNING: If this post reads like a rant, it’s because it is.
I moved to Vancouver in 2000, joined an ultimate team ( the popular sport at the time ), injured myself ( just like all ultimate players eventually ) and took up yoga. When I first started yoga in 2001, I practiced for healing and restoration. I was not interested in the spiritual aspect at all, didn’t want to recite mantras, chant, etc… At that time, yoga in Vancouver was becoming more and more popular but hadn’t reached the masses yet.
A couple of years later, both myself and Vancouver were different. I no longer practiced just to exercise, but truly understood the benefits of a deeper practice. I also realized there there were all sorts of teachers. Some simply went through the motions while others actually taught! At the same time everyone was sporting Lululemon gear and you couldn’t go two block without seeing a new yoga clothing store.
At the time there were a few established studios with very reputable teachers and if you went to yoga, it was both to practice and hang out with other yogis. I remember being angry when my studio started welcoming all sorts of new teachers. First it was the crazy folks from Hong Kong who introduced chanting, singing bowls and handstand. I got over it pretty quickly, still can’t do my damn handstand, but got over the rest. Then Anusara came to town. More chanting, totally different practice, extremely polite teachers ( this was odd )… but I kept going and slowly learned to love all of this. What I now realize is that what we had was choice and variety. I loved my studio, because all the teachers were different, unique, brought their own styles, opinions and thoughts. We had a teacher (which I lovingly called the yoga Nazi) who would prevent us from leaving to go pee, or drink water, or just leave… You had to remain focused at all times. He was intense. While another used to bring singing bowls and put tuning forks on our heads during shavasana.
At the time I didn’t appreciate what we had and, of course, it was too good to last. If I could just get into that damn time machine, I would go back and do more yoga classes.
Since then, my studio got bought out. This meant better/multiple facilities, showers, saunas, more classes, mat rental, tea lounges.. ooohhh it sounded so good. And it was, for a very long time. The studios are nice. I love the showers, mat rental, tea, lounge etc… but the variety is gone. Now that the studio is a “Brand” and offers all of these additional services it needs to bring the punters in and make them happy.
I no longer see the same strong community of yogis, but instead a community of clients who have paid good money and thus expect results and services. The teachers are still good, but they can’t teach beginners and seasoned practitioners at the same time. They’ve also been warned on many occasions, that clients need to be treated well so that they come back. In essence they need to treat students as customers who have come to the spa instead of yogis. As you can imagine the yoga Nazi was fired a long time ago, very few teachers do any hands-on adjustments, I haven’t seen a singing bowl in 5 years, two hour classes are too long for beginners ( insert whiney voice here ), ugh.
I totally understand that one has an idea and wants to grow and empire, I get it. If you’ve read the Starbucks story, you’ll know what Howard Schultz went through to get to what Starbucks is today. But when things get too big, people feel left out and disappointed. This wouldn’t be so bad if marketing departments didn’t just spew out newsletters requesting feedback and then not even bothering to respond.
I can hear you say it, boo hoo, poor you, just go somewhere else.
And I am, this year was my last year at my studio and I haven’t renewed my membership. I plan on doing my own practice, visiting other studios and we’ll see where it takes me. Already having been to a few other studios, I realize that there’s a world of yoga out there.