As the culture of yoga centers has evolved from a church cellar filled with cigar boxes full of cash to a wellness environment with recurring online memberships, they have been forced to pursue exploitative strategies to survive. The distance between teachers and students has grown steadily, and even during pandemics, there has always been a strong correlation between the number of students and the amount of money in their pockets.
Affected by the lockdown
The lockdown and rush of online courses have turned this long-codified dynamic upside down and unintentionally leveled the playing field. It seems that brick-and-mortar businesses are closing one by one and switching to online platforms for one another.
The new situation
Of course, the pandemic turned everything upside down, and the bulk of the market share was won by large companies based in New York City and other major cities in the US and Europe. The coveted leases that only the big chains could secure became a weight on our necks, drowning us in our own improvisation.
Now all that remains are email lists and social media accounts, as these sites have been silenced. It will probably be a long time, if ever before foot traffic will play a major role in the growth of yoga centers in New York City. When it comes to attracting new students online, the centers no longer have the same advantage, and it has become common practice to hire teachers based on their online presence, rather than their physical presence.
When I owned a center in Brooklyn, N.Y., from 2007 to 2017, we had prime retail space, and I only had to put an “A” sign on the front door, and every month 100 new students would come through the door. The original deal between the center and the teachers was that they brought in students and teachers who held them back. When the restrictions were eased, the teachers of the centers reassessed their roles and hoped to create a better yoga world after their dissolution.
Teachers were given the resources they needed for teaching, they were paid per student, and the list (and eventually the student database) inevitably grew larger each month. The center and teachers flourished, but as gentrification grew, renting market space became out of reach for independent owners. There were always people who took it upon themselves to just drop by, stand around and become regulars, so it was always necessary to take them in.
Yoga center owners and independent teachers who manage the revenue from online courses have realized that sending links and receiving money for them amounts to the same amount as sending the links. The yoga business depends on having enough mats and support, as well as checking email lists and billing.
You don’t need expensive production elements, and that’s okay, as I’ve seen it worked for me. A built-in camera and microphone with a microphone and a good sound system are more than enough for most people. Is this the future of the culture of yoga?