The downside to all those yoga studios popping up everywhere

You may have seen a few weeks ago a survey that included yoga among the fastest growing industries, along with self-tanning products and hot sauce. (I leave it up to you to decide what that means about America.)


Well, according to a story this week at the Washington Post, there’s a downside to all this growth: The competition can choke off established studios, especially ones that have a narrow range of classes or offer a limited choice in yoga styles.

Yes, an Ashtanga studio gets center attention:

Already, Schumacher looks around the yoga landscape and sees many studios scraping by and on the verge of closing. Several seem likely to follow the lead of Ashtanga Yoga Center in Tenleytown, which is shutting down May 31. The studio, founded by David Ingalls in 1997, was once the only place in the city to do Ashtanga, as well as the morning Mysore practices the style is known for.

A few reasons factored into Ingalls’s decision, including the $50,000 a year he has been paying in rent and the increased difficulty of attracting students to a specific form of yoga. “Every time a new studio opened up, there was some attrition. One or two people would say, ‘That’s right in my neighborhood,’ ” Ingalls explains.

The other problem? His landlord let a second studio, Hot Yoga, move into the same building in October.

Adding to the pressure are low-cost coupon options, such as Groupon and Living Social. They encourage students to “studio hop” — a phenomena I’ve absolutely heard about here in Los Angeles. Another problem: all the teacher trainings offered now, which create competition as the number of teachers grows.

I wonder if this sounds counter-intuitive to people, especially that it is hard to maintain enough “customers” if you specialize. I’m no business expert, but if you can do something better than anyone else and get enough people in the door… well, you’d think you’d be OK. You might think that would help you stand out from the yoga crowd. And that there would be enough hardcore Ashtangis (are those words redundant?) to keep a dedicated studio going at this point.

Perhaps not.

So, if you were thinking about opening an Ashtanga studio… maybe think twice.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “The downside to all those yoga studios popping up everywhere”

  1. Having worked in the health and wellness industry for years before I became a yoga studio owner, I have to say that the number one reason students will go to a studio is convenience. This rule does not hold though when it comes to seeking out authentic yoga instruction. Studios in the area that specialize in iyengar yoga and ashtanga yoga are much rarer and therefore, the students wanting to learn these styles will seek them out despite convenience. Both styles require that teachers pass rigorous training and certification in order to be acknowledged in the larger community. Sadly, there are many teachers opening studios who don’t have a connection to a lineage (read the bios of some teachers…where is the ackowledgement of a living tradition?). As a dedicated ashtangi (10 years+) who has never been to Mysore (yet), I teach ashtanga yoga at our studio, but always adhering to the lineage as much as possible. I say this because I have been surprised to hear that some teachers I know (who I know do not have a dedicated ashtanga practice) are teaching ashtanga relatively quickly. It’s the idea that you can start teaching something just because you have memorized a sequence, which really misses the point.

    1. I definitely agree about convenience — and the Post highlights that, too. I still am surprised by the story’s suggestion that students are perhaps less likely to seek out an “authentic yoga instruction” than we’d think. I’m sure it has something to do with the commercialization of yoga, the emphasis on the physical — all those already old arguments. And I would think that the progression from “this is good for my body” to “I want to know more” would bring people to a more traditional studio — but the Post seems to be saying that may not be true.

      If I wanted to be really alarmist I might say that suggests that yoga as purely asana could wash away everything else here in America…

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