Donation-Only Yoga Studios Let You (And Your Wallet) Find Tranquility

By-donation yoga studios in Lawrence and Allston bring yoga to everyone.

By | Hub Health |
Lawrence Yoga Collective

Photo via Lawrence Yoga Collective Facebook page

Yoga studios are many things, but cheap is not typically one of them. With many Boston yoga studios’ monthly rates climbing well into the triple digits, a broke yogi can be out of luck. Not anymore.

Two Boston-area by-donation yoga studios—Lawrence Yoga Collective and Allston’s Karma Revolution—have opened in the past month in an effort to bring yoga to all community members, regardless of the size of their paycheck. Both locations operate under a “pay what you can” model: Lawrence Yoga posts a suggested donation of $12 per class but accepts any amount, and Karma Revolution has various single-class price points ranging from $1 to $16 or more based on what each student can comfortably afford. Both studios encourage better-off members to pay slightly more to help cover those who cannot afford to.

Bill Peregoy, the owner of Lawrence Yoga, formerly operated a studio in Boston that charged the standard $15 per class, but found himself unsatisfied. “It didn’t have the energy I liked, wasn’t doing as well as I would have liked, there was a lot of competition,” he explains. “So on a whim I said, ‘Let’s go donation-based.’ And it was amazing—the energy of the place shifted, the number of people I was bringing in tripled, and the amount of money I was bringing in doubled.”

Peregoy’s new studio opened in Lawrence last month, and he couldn’t be happier with the results, noting that the studio has been popular in its first few weeks and that many people are paying the suggested amount or more. Plus, Peregoy says, the studio serves an important purpose. “There’s a market for people who would love to do yoga more than once a week, once every two weeks, and can’t afford it,” he says. “And by getting prices down for those people, it just brings a lot more people in, changes the energy, and just builds a really beautiful community.”

Jesse Winder, the owner of Karma Revolution, says going by-donation was a perfect way for his studio to give back to the community, too. Karma Revolution is one of three Karma Yoga studios in the city, which are holistic health centers focused on eco-friendliess and philanthropy (profits from the studio support its non-profit Community Animal Rescue and Education, or C.A.R.E.). “I think as studio owners, as people who are really sort of setting the tone, we have a higher responsibility,” Winder says. “I’m most interested in trying to be the change I want to see in the community.”

Winder, who grew up in a family that relied on food stamps, explains that the donation model cuts out the sometimes-embarassing feeling of having to attend discounted or community classes. “The beauty of the studio is that every class, seven days a week, is by-donation,” he says. “Nobody really knows who’s putting a $20 in that box and who’s putting a dollar.”

Plus, Winder says, offering community-based wellness programs is especially important in today’s world of astronomical insurance costs and high-stress lifestyles because people need ways to cope and stay healthy. “Yoga has all of that,” he says. “You give them tools for life.”

And with fitness communities like the November Project gaining popularity, too, Lawrence Yoga’s Peregoy says the free or donation-based model may just be beginning. “I think it’s the wave of the future,” he says. “People like community, and I think the whole model of going to the gym and being isolated doesn’t satisfy a lot of people in terms of their workout needs.”

Lawrence Yoga Collective, 275 Essex St., Lawrence, 978-566-1322; lawrenceyoga.com.

Karma Revolution, 971 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, 617-547-9642; karmayogastudios.com.

Karma Revolution

A class at Karma Revolution. Photo via Karma Revolution Facebook page