Since my last post about the biggest yoga studio in my town, I’ve attended five more classes there (12 total). I’ve seen four of their five locations so far. They’re all huge: I’d estimate that two have mat capacity for 40 to 50, one could hold 60, and the main studio might squeeze in 80.
Of course, everyday classes don’t fill to the max. But they’re still large. On Sunday night, the Vinyasa Power Flow class attracted about 40 students, while the Yin class was a hit with at about 60. (One class that I took last week numbered seven, perhaps because it was on Friday night.) Unlike university yoga programs, which have a built-in audience and low (or no) fees, this is a private studio in a competitive urban setting. So, what’s the appeal?
Low cost for frequent classgoers
Most studios charge $15 to $20 per class, if purchased as a series. Here, you can pay $26 per week for unlimited classes; if you sign up for 90 days, the rate drops to $21 per week. For those who want daily classes (yoga class = yoga), that’s a sweet deal. For once-a-week practitioners, there’s a 10-class card for $133. At $13 a pop, they still undercut most studios.
Now, for mature practitioners, unlimited classes are probably not a draw. Personally, I’d rather pay $21 for one weekly class with my chosen teacher. But I can see the appeal. If you’re new to yoga, it’s hard to shell out $200 for a whole series with a teacher you’re iffy about. The affordable fees at mega studios are incentives for non-yogis to give it a go.
Prime-time classes galore
Newcomers to yoga generally choose classes that fit into their lives. They’re not going to change their whole routine but simply choose from the available options. So, by saturating their class schedule, especially during “prime-time” mornings and evenings, this studio covers all bases. Miss one class? Catch the next.
Newbies are also attracted to variety and the chance to sample different styles of yoga. You can do a vinyasa class when you’re feeling strong and sporty, a hatha class for more detail on form, and a yin class for deep, intense stretching.
The five studios are located in a trendy, health-conscious, looks-conscious neighborhood (once a hotbed of counterculture, now gentrified and yuppie-fied), where yoga is an easy sell. Moreover, the studios all flank commercial thoroughfares in a pedestrian-friendly city. There’s lots of passersby and drive-by traffic, lively shops and restaurants, convenient bus stops and adjacent homes. With their massive signage, it’s impossible not to notice this studio.
At two locations, you can buy lululemon apparel (which is rarely sold outside actual lululemon boutiques nowadays). The studio hosts frequent “master” workshops by celebrity teachers, often those featured in Yoga Journal, those sought after by yogis of all stripes. Indeed, the studio is somehow connected with Yoga Journal, which gave me the pass, after I did a little piece for them.
By promoting such high-profile connections, the studio gains clout within the mainstream yoga audience. If its affiliated with this or that famous teacher, it’s got to be legit … right?
Is there value to bigness?
I’m not advocating following this mega studio’s approach. I’m just trying to fathom why this type of studio attracts the masses. I know great teachers who deserve at least as much attention, but who remain under the radar.
That said, would I want Iyengar yoga, much less my favorite studio, to go big and trendy? No way. I’ll still drop in on the mega studio for variety, but I favor small classes, less showiness, and teachers who focus on students as individuals.
Any studio seeking to raise its profile, however, should consider price, schedule, location, and connections.