Sunday, February 28, 2010

So long, YogaWorks!

Today my unlimited annual membership at YogaWorks expires. I am not renewing. I've known the end was coming for some time, and have been thinking about my own use-patterns, the money, my values, and I think I've landed on the side of going to a small studio instead, supplementing with workshops and advanced trainings elsewhere. Today the little bar-coded plastic tag will come off my key-chain, sayonara.

It's a little bit sad for me, since I joined what was then Yoga Studio in September of 2005, which feels like much longer-ago than 4 1/2 years. Up until that time, Joe and I had a family membership at the JCC up the street from us, which was $105/month for both. We were using it only to take yoga three times a week. It was a pretty dreamy situation. We'd have breakfast, grab our mats and stroll up the street to class - sweet! In those days (don't know if this is still the case), the JCC would stop offering classes for the entire month of August every year, meaning we had to search elsewhere for our fix. That's what took us to Yoga Studio in Larkspur Landing in the first place. And the first time I walked in, it took my breath away a little. It's a beautiful space, and I loved being in a studio devoted to yoga (where I didn't have to feel rushed getting out of the practice room so that the frantic step aerobics people could set up). The cost certainly gave us momentary pause: $139/month each, which was an incredible escalation from what we had been paying. But we were in love, so we jumped and reveled in the number of available classes and teachers and locations.

Even as my own practice has changed, I have maintained that membership. I met and found I adored the owner of Yoga Studio, a brilliant creative woman with a genius personal style. I loved being in the space that she had made, inside of her beautiful realized vision. I made some great friends. Still, in 2007 I jumped off more into Anusara and started taking classes at Yoga of Sausalito, a one-studio space with lovely retail and sweet owners. At first, because I was doing an immersion there, my classes with my teacher were free, part of the deal. But soon I was hooked, and supplementing classes at Yoga Studio with classes in Sausie and San Francisco. I became a yoga nomad, moving between studios and across bridges, in search of the teaching I wanted.

Suddenly last year, after I'd made my annual unlimited membership payment to Yoga Studio, it was acquired by YogaWorks, a yoga giant with studios on the East Coast and in LA now expanding into the Bay Area market with the purchase of these three studios and the construction of another in Walnut Creek. I was suspicious of all of the anti-corporate chatter I heard about it, even as some popular teachers flew the coop, and hung in there. After all, I'd paid already, right? So I maintained my dual-citizenship, and slowly a gap opened up.

There have been some improvements. Certainly, the prices for memberships are lower: what cost me $139 in 2005 now goes for $119. But Yoga Studio was a place with great style and interesting, curious staff. Now I'm generally annoyed by YogaWorks with its neither fish-nor-fowl, pseudo-corporate but hippie-dippy vibe. The key-card is a great example of this. You'd think it would make signing in for class faster and more efficient, but there are longer lines with it than there ever were when we just signed in with ink on paper because you have to hand the key-card to the desk-staff who tend to be a little bemused. And slowly things have been slipping way. Anti-bacterial liquid hand soap appeared in the bathrooms. Then two weeks ago enormous Purell dispensers appeared both outside and inside the Mill Valley practice rooms. I know I might be more aware than your average bear of toxic, estrogenic chemicals in everyday products thanks to my work, but honestly: how do you put huge ugly sanitary towel dispensers with giant logos on them in a yoga studio? Gross! Yes, there are still some great teachers there, but the place feels to me too gym-ish now, stripped of spirit and style.

So I'm done with them, for now, and am saying good-bye. It was beautiful for a long time, but that part's over and I'm moving on.

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