I have been asked so many times why we choose to offer yoga by donation at PuraVegan. How does it work? Why do we do it? Here is a little background on our offerings in case you haven't visited or don't know the story. Our little cafe has an adjoining small yoga studio that you access from the dining room. The studio is small, simple and modest. I'm not the best at decorating and I cannot afford to put in beautiful flooring (YET!), but I absolutely LOVE my little space. When you take class in our studio you are likely to hear blenders going in the morning buzzing with acai bowl goodness, or live jazz, african drums, or opera singers in the evenings from our next door neighbor, The Tavern of Fine Arts. Our studio holds a maximum of 15 students - and that is tight. Students can donate whatever amount they can choose.
When I first opened the studio in 2011, we charged class fees similar to other studios. At the time there were many other yoga studios in St Louis, however there were far fewer than exist today. We are in a neighborhood that has a very wide range of people with greatly varying economic resources. I'll never forget two experiences that led me to change over our model from a for-profit yoga studio to donation based.
The first month that we opened we offered all classes for free and they were packed! I remember one elderly woman that lived in the neighborhood kept walking back and forth past the studio window one day while I was teaching. I finally looked out to see that she was walking by to observe what poses we were doing, and then walking down out of my view to do the poses on the sidewalk. I stepped outside and invited her in. She told me that she always wanted to try yoga, but couldn't afford class. She had no idea that class was free at that time so I invited her in. She stayed after telling me that she felt intimated due to her age and physical abilities but wanted to learn more if she could save up the money. It pained me to learn that I had put a business in her neighborhood offering classes that could change her life, but she couldn't afford to continue.
The other story is of another neighborhood resident that saw our advertisement for a special one-time donation class we were offering. This particular guest would be considered by many to be very odd, however I felt honored that he chose us to help him begin his yoga practice. I observed some behavior that evening which made my heart sink. When class was over most of us hung around and socialized, including our new student. I witnessed people laughing at him, rolling their eyes at his ideas, and making comments and jokes at his expense. He definitely is a unique individual, and instead of celebrating that he was made to feel like an outsider. From that day on it has been my #1 aim to ensure that our classes are welcome to anyone and everyone.
I now know that I did not want our studio to focus on the ways to maximize profit, get into the most advanced postures, or to get the toughest workout possible. I think those things are great to explore, however I felt a need to provide a space for anyone to be part of a community learn and grow from yoga regardless off their background or financial resources. Our vision is to teach people how to de-stress, love themselves and breathe! We decided that all classes would become 100% donation based meaning that students offer whatever they are able to for the weekly classes. We provide yoga mats, blankets, blocks, straps and bolsters to help support you, and don't worry, your teacher will show you how they are utilized. Due to the structure of our studio model we attract a wide variety of people, which makes my heart smile! Students tend to donate anywhere between $5 and $20 per class. Just this week a student brought the teacher a specialty food item in place of money, because they were experiencing hard economic times. Another student has donated books to our library in place of cash.
Our classes vary greatly from teacher to teacher, as we don't mandate any sort of teaching style. We have been so blessed with kind and patient teachers at our studio. It takes a very special person to offer their teachings, offer their time, and to hold the space each week without any expectations of what they will receive in return.
So if you are still reading you probably wonder how teachers get paid. Our instructors receive 100% of the students' donations for weekly classes, whether the donation is made with cash or credit card. So now you probably wonder - how can we make money off of this? Well, we don't. We do benefit that many students will enjoy a juice or meal before or after class, however we could probably financially benefit more from using that space for a store or expanded cafe seating. Offering yoga to the community is our vision and has been since day one. As long as we have students coming we plan to continue with this model.
We want to change and improve lives at PuraVegan Cafe & Yoga and are determined to continue this path. Stress and poor diet is an epidemic in our culture and we want to help anyone that is interested to find balance and learn to manage their life through breath, food and community. Please join us!
written by Monica Stoutenborough
CLICK HERE for our current donation yoga schedule.