The lure of the mega studio

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.

Location, location

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.

Big-name connections
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.

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6 thoughts on “The lure of the mega studio

  1. oh my god. 60 PEOPLE IN A YIN CLASS?!?

    please tell me the name of that studio to see if they’d like me to come teach a yin-yang yoga weekend! 🙂

  2. yep- I definitely do not prefer crowded classes, although I have heard often from seasoned yogi/ni’s that ‘real’ yoga (ugh, how I hate that phrase) in India is practiced inches apart, crowded in a room. which I have done as well. although a lesson in personal space and letting go- it isn’t my ideal, especially if i’m paying BIG money for a class. I’d rather practice on yogaglo at home or my own sequence.

    That being said- some non-newbie yogis can’t modify their schedule all that much for yoga- if you work 9-5 then modifying your asana practice isn’t really an option. Since home practice isn’t ideal for continued yoga growth (i like learning from an instructor while still having my regular home practice)- a studio is key. And since i don’t have 200$ a month to spend on yoga, lower prices are key.

    so- that’s why the mega studios have their appeal for me- I would sacrifice being squished into a class if it meant it was free (like the weekly free lulu classes offered in store…).

    unfortunately in Halifax anyway, most community, karma and free classes are lower quality. I don’t know what it is about a community class, but for some reason the local studios have their new-graduate teachers lead them, or decide to do completely random- strange sequences…

    Which has resulted in… less actual yoga in a studio for Lisa. 😦 I’m considering that 250$ 40 day yoga commitment I mentioned before… I think I might be ready for something a bit more intense… (and I have a new contract in the new year- so more moneys!).

    great analysis Yoga Spy 🙂 (Happy Yule!!)

  3. This is prevalent in my area too, and 50 – 60 people in a “power vinyasa” class seems to me to be a recipe for disaster. High risk of injuries, limited benefits for the students unless they ALL really know what they’re doing, since they can’t possibly be getting much help from the “teacher.” I understand the profit motive, but I’ve always felt this kind of thing should have a different name — “Yoga-Inspired Power Workout” or something — and not sold as an actual yoga practice.

  4. This sounds similar to the studio where I practice: multiple locations around town, the largest studio can accommodate maybe 80 students, the smallest 30, many classes per day particularly at prime times, in several styles, some celebrity teachers, workshops and unlimited class passes.

    I like it for all the reasons that you mention. I tend to frequent the classes of the couple of teachers that I have come to know and trust, but I will go to a different class if it fits into my schedule. I haven’t decided that there is one style of yoga for me, so I enjoy taking what I learn in one class and trying to apply it in a different style.

    I’ll also say that all of the teachers that I have encountered at this studio have been of very high quality, and I have always felt very safe in practicing, even in very crowded and active vinyasa classes. I’ve always felt like I was being acutely observed, and more importantly, being led towards a safe and productive practice.

    It would be interesting for you, Yoga Spy, or any of the other commenters to explicitly spell out what you are contrasting the mega-studio to. In addition to the multi-location mega studios, I know of a few other models.

    1) A single location studio similar to the mega-studio.

    2) Centers based on one style which offer several classes per day along with other activities such as chanting, meditation, and teaching.

    3) Gyms and health clubs, which are similar to the large studio but with fewer styles and a total lack of overt spiritual mention or yoga-themed decorative elements. These offer asana practice only, or perhaps only a small amount of chanting and pranayama, but nothing too out there.

    4) Community centers where there are only a couple of classes per week all led by the same one or two teachers. Content is driven by the interests of the teacher and students.

    5) Private, or very small group, lessons. One to three students and a teacher who meet in a home or other private location, for single or more or less regular classes. This could be asana practice only, but more likely will include some additional teaching and intellectual content.

    6) Workplace yoga similar to community center yoga.

    Just reading between the lines, it seems like Yoga Spy and EcoYogini are contrasting the mega-studio to some other model besides these.

    Thanks for posting.

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