Updated: May 19
When I started 2012 with my yoga journey, my first intention was to do something good for my body and to look good, too. I was less thinking about my overall health than my body and appearance. When you see yoga advertising people always are in good shape and look happy. I thought I want to look similar and I started looking for yoga studios close to my home, comparing prices and yoga schedules. I was not looking for additional offerings like workshops and yoga talks on specific topics, different meditations classes and what are the master’s experiences. Now I have learned the master’s background is the most important aspect choosing a new studio.
Recently I had a thought provoking discussion with my two yoga buddies. We were asking ourselves: “Are we students or customers of our yoga studio?” and “What is the worth of a yoga master and a yoga studio?”
Yoga is a process of inner development. Yoga teaches us to take charge of our entire being. Still many yoga enthusiasts misunderstand yoga as only a physical practice. Such partial knowledge is the responsibility of the master. It is important for the student to seek a good master who is capable of teaching yoga in its totality.
There is a difference between those who pay in shops to get goods and those who pay institutions to get knowledge and education. It is fine to negotiate the price of goods if the material is low in quality or the goods are not produced well. But when you gain knowledge you get something very valuable and this should not be negotiable.
Teaching yoga as a profession is both exhausting and rewarding, though not always lucrative. Finding a master who is teaching yoga in its totality is not easy. The last few years yoga studios and masters appear with the speed of light. It is possible to become a yoga master within four weeks! Masters who teach with partial knowledge can be dangerous. Pain and injuries, harmful or wrong movements and a total misunderstanding of the yoga concept are just a few negative dimensions.
Think about it and decide: Are yoga masters, who take a “four weeks intensive course” or two months teacher training course trustworthy and knowledgeable enough for you? Are two month training enough to understand the vast concept of a 5000 years old science from India?
If a master can make you feel great, improve your overall well-being, show you a new life direction, help to clear your mind, would that not be reason enough for you to pay him the regular price?
Yoga teaches us to stay healthy, take responsibility for our life, to live it mindful with awareness and treating ourselves and others with respect and compassion. Is not spending money on health prevention better than aftercare?
Interestingly people have fewer problems paying a doctor for expensive treatments and medications (where curing the illness is not assured), than spending money on things which prevent them from becoming ill. It is unheard to negotiate the doctor or hospital fee.
“Yoga does not manage symptoms. Yoga manages you. If you are able to lead a balanced life, health problems will leave you naturally. Yoga manages the person, not the disease. Therefore yoga is not a therapy but a lifestyle.”
- Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (Spiritual Head of Bihar School of Yoga, India)
Value your masters work, effort, time and inspiration. Ultimately you come to realize that the master is the catalyst for your achievements and real respect toward your master will begin to build.
Yoga members are customers when it comes to register for classes, get all information which are needed to enjoy classes, have access to drinking water, fresh towels, clean yoga mats, clean and functioning showers and restrooms. But when members enter the classroom, then they become students. The moment a master treats a student like a customer is the moment he loses control of the room and in worst case loses respect.
If yoga studios and masters are maintaining the notion that members are customers then that is what probably will happen earlier or later:
They are going to get students who are less likely to be involved in their learning process and the learning value goes down.
Treating students as customers might have a negative effect on their learning, attitude and behaviour. It can lead students to feel entitled to ask for benefits or to be prone to complain, regardless of their satisfaction with the yoga studio or the masters. But students who are happy with the studio environment and the masters are those who are strongly involved with the student’s traditional role – as a learner.
Students consume knowledge and education. But knowledge and education are not exactly consumer products, they are also a process. If students behave more as consumers, likely they will be more demanding.
When acting as a consumer or customer some members may believe they have a right to behave as they want (e.g. coming late to class habitually or asking for special classes at a special time), because they have paid the regular fee or membership. Others may feel that helping the yoga studio to promote it, legitimate them to ask for discounts or other benefits. It is the student’s responsibility to participate in their learning process and focus on their personal growth. But these are mistaken expectations.
Inconsiderate behaviour towards teachers and other students
Inconsiderate students run the argument that there is less respect to previously unquestionable authorities like masters and teachers. It is worthwhile to remember that your master is not your peer or equal. Your master is at least one, but usually many levels above you, otherwise he cannot and should not be your master.
It may be surprising, for those who think they are doing the master a favour by paying him a fee, that you gain knowledge from your master. This is in your interest and benefit and not in your master’s interest. You are not doing him a favour - he is doing you a favour, he is teaching and sharing his knowledge with you.
Before I started my yoga practice I may easily have brought a mobile phone into the classroom and would not have thought it is a bad thing. But now I know how distractive (even in silent mode) it can be for myself and for the others.
Spending hours on the yoga mat but displaying inconsiderate or hurtful actions to others defeats the entire purpose of yoga. Respect for others begins with respect for oneself. Be punctual to your class, leave your mobile phone outside the classroom (it is not needed) and pay respect to your master. Your master has something invaluable to offer; if you come late you tacitly show that you do not value his teaching.
I see myself as a student and feel thankful and privileged to learn from my masters and from students. Yes, I do not only learn from my masters, I get great life lessons from the students, too. They teach me understanding, compassion, patience, accepting what I cannot change and letting go of expectations.