What would you pay to keep a Mysore program going in your city? Peg Mulqueen looks at the cost of Mysore programs. For the original, go here
Oh my. Let the shit-storm begin. (I love the Confluence Countdown, btw! And the question seemed innocuous enough to me … )
But first, lets check to see if this IS the going rate. After a random google search from across the country, here’s what I discovered to be the average pricing for monthly unlimited Mysore:
- New York: $200-$260
- Pennsylvania: $160-$200
- Virginia: $150
- North Carolina: $120
- California: $160-$180
- Washington DC: $140-$175
- Connecticut: $130-$185
- Kentucky: $100
- Illinois: $160-$200
- Florida: $150-$200
Ok, I have other copy to write (the kind I actually get paid for) – so let me get straight to the point. Without doing the math, it seems the average price is around $175 actually. As expected, the areas with a higher cost of living are on the higher end and those with a lower cost of living are on the lower end.
But I’ve heard from many people since this was posted. Those who teach and/or practice Mysore style felt this question somewhat accusatory, as if there was some intention to gouge students. And those who are not regular Mysore students or have never stepped into a Mysore room were understandably stunned – especially given that many studios offer unlimited led classes for ridiculously low prices.
Now I’m just a writer/yoga teacher. I’m in no way a business expert so you’re going to have to cut me some slack here. This is my explanation in VERY crude terms and based on Washington DC standards as I know them. But since they asked ….
In a 3 hour period, a regular ol’ studio can run two classes and pack 30-40 people into both classes (so 60-80 total) – of at which, at least 10 will be drop-ins paying the maximum amount. The average person in a led class pays about $10 a class and a drop in is about $20. And let’s just say that the two teachers are paid $75 a class.
That’s an ok profit for a studio (you do math) and the teacher is paid fairly for those 75 minutes. The students in an all-levels led class come from a very large pool and typically practice yoga 3-4x a week – so paying 10 bucks a class doesn’t seem unreasonable either.
But Ashtanga studios are different and in particular, those who offer Mysore. Because in that same 3 hours, a Mysore program brings in an average of 25 students. The pool of students is more narrow and with a rolling start time to allow schedule flexibility supporting 5-6 days of weekly practice PLUS afforded more individual attention by spreading out the attendance over the longer course of time. (And if you think the teaching time is restricted to classroom time, think email and phone calls – and think again).
Usually there is one teacher for this entire time and in many cases, that teacher makes almost the same amount for working 3 hours as a teacher working 75 minutes.
I mean, a class is a class, right? Of course not!
Mysore teachers typically have about ten years experience. They must practice themselves either before or after teaching EVERY DAY. Most of them practice before, which means they wake up at 3:30 am to arrive at the studio by 4:30 am (and have incredibly tolerant spouses/significant others) … then run a room for 3 more hours. By 9 am, these teachers have put in about 5 hours of straight up manual labor.
(I filled in for a teacher for little over a month and that was all the time it took to show me I am NOT cut out for that role – and God bless those who choose to dedicate themselves full time)
- Students pay a sometimes significantly higher monthly fee for Mysore – but often less per class because they attend 5-6 days a week.
- Studios offer valuable real estate for longer hours – yet serve far fewer students therefore generate far less income.
- Highly experienced teachers work double (triple?) the hours and rearrange their whole lives (not to mention the physical toll it takes on their bodies) – to make a third the amount they could earn leading led classes.
All in all, this is really an AWFUL business model –
and yet, an absolutely BRILLIANT yoga one!Because Mysore requires students to be truly committed and invest, therefore BE invested, in their daily practice and growth … studios who believe in more than just making money and are dedicated to deepening learning opportunities regardless of cost … and teachers who are devoted and tirelessly want to serve a community (or live off trust funds).
Let me return to the original question: Why does $180-$185 (or $175) seem to be the going rate for a monthly membership to Mysore?
In Greenwich, Connecticut and many other places, Shalas are ceasing to exist because they are almost impossible to make profitable. Some don’t even break even. Trust me, no one is going to get rich by opening an Ashtanga studio or running a Mysore program – so unless they are viable and sustainable, they will go away.
This model and the teachers I’ve learned from have changed my life in ways unquantifiable. It makes me so sad when I see a studio close or hear from students who have no program or teacher close by. And so if $175* is the magic number to help a studio sustain a program and provide for a qualified teacher – then please, just tell me where to write my check.
*Luckily in DC, it’s only $160!
P.S. Important to note, nearly all studios reserve the right to discount membership prices based on need and circumstance. I have never known a studio, Ashtanga or otherwise, to turn away a student in need.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.