Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Making Yoga Free for Everyone

YogaForPeople.org founder Santosh Maknikar volunteer-teaches a yoga class at Salt Lake's Krishna temple.
Yoga frees my mind, and makes my body strong. If I have stress in my life, or need an encouraging push, or a boost of energy and self-confidence, yoga satisfies me in every way. But though this peaceful practice is worth its weight in gold, I feel our society has taken advantage of it, turning this enlightening experience into a $6-BILLION, money-making industry. (In fact, the sudden flood of yoga "teacher training" courses sparked several states to impose stricter regulation.)

Santosh Maknikar, founder of YogaForPeople.org, began yoga at the age of five in his native India. A way to prepare the body for surrender into meditation, yoga is seen in India as worship, and is taught in school and at home. So, when Santosh came to America - where the median yoga-doer's income is $88,000 - he was shocked. Thus, YogaForPeople.org was born. Santosh felt compelled to enlist volunteer yogis to provide the practice free of charge, especially to those in difficult situations.

Earlier this year, I had a similar lightbulb moment. After my divorce, when I was grappling for financial equilibrium, I struggled to pay $125/month to the local Bikram Yoga franchise. Though it's true I'd never been in better shape, or felt as happy and full of energy as when I was doing Bikram...no matter how I juggled the budget, my gut kept telling me it didn't make sense financially. Then, one day, as I rode my bike down a dodgy road in South Salt Lake, I saw a sign on the sidwalk that said "Donation-Based Yoga" and pointed down a lane. I followed it, and walked right into the Salt Lake Krishna Temple, where a group of maybe four mismatched folks on borrowed yoga mats sat listening to a long-haired guru tell a fable. I find out, following 90 minutes of power-flow yoga concluded by peaceful meditation, that this is Santosh, teaching his volunteer-run, non-denominational yoga class in the name of YogaForPeople.org.

Inspired by the sheer fact that Santosh engineers software by day, and teaches yoga for free nearly every night of the week, I put a few bucks in the coffer and left with a newfound loyalty to this world of pay-by-choice practice.

Santosh, a few other class members and I occassionally took tea together in the temple kitchen after class, getting to know one another while musing about life. Only recently did Santosh ask me to be a part of YogaForPeople.org as a board member; a volunteer position I gratefully accepted, eager to perpetuate forward the concept of free yoga. Now, I aim to help grow the amount of donation-based classes offered in Utah and beyond, and also aspire to become an instructor myself so I can volunteer-teach.
My bio on the YogaForPeople.org site.
At least 12 local studios have already commited to hosting free yoga classes - if only for one day - during an upcoming YogaFoPeople.org event. On Wednesday, Dec. 12, every hour for 12 hours, you can participate in donation-based yoga classes at the main venue, or visit select classes at one of 12 other studios (details will be updated HERE). Donations and proceeds from a silent auction go towards YogaForPeople's mission of providing yoga to everyone, and furthering our efforts to give people in difficult situations (prison, care centers, rehab, etc.,) access to yoga.

Many of the most influential yoga instructors in Utah are donating time and resources to this event, which makes me respect our good-hearted local studios, even if they do charge for memberships.


  1. I have been greatly inspired by Santosh in the recent months as well and I would love to receive my training certification but as your article mentioned, I have been floored by the cost of getting certified! What do I do? I would love to teach and I would love the opportunity to work with our Armed Forces, especially those who suffer from PTSD, as well as the prison system and probably numerous other groups. But how do I balance that desire to share something I love when the certification is something that I can't afford to get?!

  2. PTSD sufferers - that's such a great idea! What a beautiful way to calm the mind. That's great that you have the passion for this, and you should share it with the world. I also was surprised by the cost of Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), but considering $1500-$3000 for a certificate that will hopefully serve you for a lifetime, it might be worth it. Definitely look for programs with financial aid or arrangements.

    I personally think the out-of-country YTT retreats look like the way to go, i.e. India or Thailand. For the same price as stateside programs, you get a world-traveler experience, the chance to put "studied in India" on your resume, plus you'll likely have a very cultural training.

    I also believe that, if you only want to be certified to teach FREE classes, that you don't have to be certified. As long as you are a regular yoga practice-r, maybe even apprenticed with an instuction, you'll have enough knowledge to teach an hour-long class that's relaxing and fulfilling for the attendees (and if I were in your class, I wouldn't ask for your credentials bc you're doing the class for free).

    Any of you yoga experts want to weigh in?