Monday, May 5, 2014

Regarding Our Rates

Update:  Since this blog post was written in December 2012, we have opened our beautiful new studio at Lothlorien House!  However, we also had to move back into the house to reclaim it as our "primary residence" for tax purposes, because the County threatened to revoke our Homestead and tax the heck out of us, if we kept it as a yoga studio/ retreat center.  And our remaining feral cat has become a real "homebody," preferring to stay indoors much of the time since his father was killed by a coyote (RIP Morris, my little lion, my Aslan, my Narasimha!).  I am now doing the psychic/ counseling job full-time as my primary income, Hawk is still working in construction, and we teach yoga on the side by appointment.  Hence the continued need to take time off of work to ensure the studio is suitably clean for students, and our rate is $30/hour or $15 each if you bring a friend.  Sessions are pre-paid, and cancellations with less than 24 hours' notice will forfeit the payment.

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People have sometimes pointed out that Body Soul Bliss is expensive.  Yes, our rates are the highest in town for "yoga classes."

Why should you drive all the way out here to Lothlorien, on the north edge of town in the boondocks, and pay $30 for a class? You could pay $40 for a month at a gym and have daily "yoga" classes. And there are many other yoga studios in town, some of which charge as little as $5 for a class and even offer childcare, which we do not. Well, if finances are a concern and all you are looking for is a good workout, certainly you should go to a gym or one of the other studios.

What you will NOT find at any other studio is private one-on-one instruction in real classical yoga, including the physical training as well as the spiritual and philosophical aspects, tailored to meet your own unique needs and abilities, for $30.

To give you some background on the evolution of fees for yoga classes, when I taught in the mid 1980s in Berkeley, California I was paid $20 per student for a group class.  Nobody thought that was expensive.

When I opened our studio here in Panama City in 2009, I actually called around to all the other studios in town to find out their rates.  I did this because I wanted to be fair; I didn't want to overcharge, nor undercut the other teachers.  I learned that everybody was charging about $15 for drop-ins, $48 for 4 classes, or $100 for 10 classes.  Private lessons were $60.  So I set our fees accordingly.  The students in my group classes at Life Management Center and later City Arts Cooperative, about half a dozen people, were paying $10-12.  In 2011 a new teacher in town offered yoga classes for $7 and people began complaining that $10 was too much.  By late 2012 there were a few more new studios offering classes for $5 or even for free.

Meanwhile, I had begun teaching at our tiny home studio which can accommodate only 3 students per class.  I have had a couple of ongoing serious students who wanted private instruction, but nobody could afford to pay $60.  Since my studio is very small and I do prefer to teach one-on-one, I decided to charge $20.  We also offered group classes for $10, with the idea that students who could not afford private tutoring could share a class.  Unfortunately, what I soon discovered is that it was difficult enough to reliably schedule even one student, let alone arrange to get 2 or 3 together at the same time.  People are very busy and things always come up that are apparently more important than yoga, like working on-call trying to make a living, babysitting or other family or social obligations.

I didn't think it was fair to charge "private" rates for students who had requested a "group" class just because other students failed to show up.  But, what happened was that the casual "group" students ended up getting private lessons for $10, a privilege for which the serious long-term students were paying double, which really did not seem fair, either.

Moreover, since the studio is in our humble home, where I live with my feral husband and 2 feral cats, the process of cleaning the house and getting ready for students takes me about an hour.  So I was actually making $5/hour for those $10 sessions and often, no students at all would show up, after I had wasted time cleaning house.  Yes, it would need to be cleaned anyway, eventually, but not necessarily at that particular moment.  More importantly, I had set aside that block of time for the student/s and therefore was unable to schedule work with my other jobs.

Other jobs?  Yes, I have 2 other jobs - one as as spiritual counselor via telephone, and the other, our new cleaning and design service.

And this brings us to the question, how on earth can the teachers at these new studios survive charging $5 per class?!  Basically the only ways that I can think of are:
1.    The teacher is independently wealthy.
2.    The teacher's spouse has a good job that can support their family.
3.    The teacher has another high-paying job with flexible hours.
4.    The students are packed like sardines into big classes.

None of the above applies to me and Hawk and our studio.  We are both poor and cannot afford to offer classes to which people may or may not show up, for less than $10/hour, especially considering the inconvenience factor of teaching in our home.  So, in fairness to my serious private students as well as to myself and our feral cats (who don't really appreciate strangers in their home), we decided to discontinue the open group classes for now.  Our private students continue to pay $20.  We do offer "semi-private" classes for $12 by appointment IF you bring a friend or two, but it is up to you and your friends to schedule a mutually agreeable time and keep your appointments.

In June of 2013 Hawk and I plan to open our new Body Soul Bliss studio in the beautiful house we built next door.  It is more spacious and can probably accommodate up to five students per class.  Since we and the cats won't be living there it will be easier to maintain and less hassle scheduling.  At that point we will resume the cheaper group classes at $10, or in the unlikely event that we win the lottery, or suddenly become rich from our other jobs, we might even teach for free!  But I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, if you are serious about learning Real Yoga and making the commitment to schedule private sessions, then we are willing to teach you in our home.  But if you are just looking for an inexpensive "workout" on a casual basis, it's not worth my time or yours.  There are plenty of other teachers in town who can give you that.  Either way, all the best to you.

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