If you look at the participants in most yoga classes, you’ll see they fall into certain categories. They’re mostly young, mostly women, and certainly have enough money to spend on yoga classes, studio memberships, and the yoga clothing and accessories that come with the lifestyle. Yoga is definitely for everyone, but it is definitely not accessible to everyone. This needs to change.
The benefits of yoga, of quality healthcare, of pure, unadulterated food, and decent shelter are all things that should be available to all people. Yet, in the United States anyway, the poor populations who need these things the most are denied access simply because of their income. Not suggesting yoga is up there on the Hierarchy of Needs along with food and shelter, but it contributes so greatly to health and peace of mind that it arguably could be. Who needs the ability to calm down more than those who are constantly vigilant of day-to-day survival? Who better deserves a self-help regimen that will lower their medical needs and healthcare costs than those who can’t afford the simple attentions of a primary care physician? Those who can afford only the cheapest food are often consuming the least nutritious food simply because it’s processed and stabilized for shelf-life, contributing further to poor health and mental function. These are the people who could benefit from yoga the most.
Yet the costs commonly associated with yoga, and the stereotypes, prevent these people from trying and committing to a healthier lifestyle through what was intended to be a practice available to everyone. Yoga pants? $20. Yoga mat? $35-$100. Studio membership? $30-$100 per month. Then there’s transportation to and from, childcare, etc. How is a person with limited income to afford this practice that could bring such healing and peace?
Some communities, though by far too few, have figured this out and have begun offering no-cost classes in community centers funded by non-profits or grants. It’s a start. Let’s get some good souls to decide this is right for their neighborhood, church community, street, or whatever. Let’s take well-dressed, Eastern philosophy-influenced, and fancy studio out of the equation and start with a common desire to be well. Wear nasty sweat pants and a t-shirt that smells like a fast-food joint, throw down a towel, a blanket, or a used yoga mat, and just be. That’s something we can all do together. Offer to watch someone’s kids while they go to yoga. Carpool a bunch who don’t have transportation. These are the truest extensions of a grounded yoga practice that seeks to connect us each to the other.