Fresh Yoga wants yoga to be accessible to everyone as no one should feel like yoga is beyond their reach financially. To help make this vision a reality, Fresh Yoga is changing its structure to a donation-based organization. This includes a sliding scale cost structure, $5 community classes, no-minimum donation classes on weekly Seva Saturdays, and need-based scholarships for their yoga programs.
Heidi Sormaz, Ph.D., has been teaching at and running Fresh Yoga in New Haven for 15 years. She is grateful to have seen the upsurge of interest in yoga and its growth throughout New Haven. Although more yoga is available, what she primarily sees across the country is exclusivity. She has ReFreshing Fresh Yoga to make it more accessible and more inclusive. Instead of providing the occasional free class for students who cannot afford typical studio prices, she’s committed to a system where people can pay on a sliding scale according to their ability, and maintain a regular yoga practice within a community. Yoga is and always has been about seva, or being of service and giving to others in order to truly be happy in life.
Part of the change is a simplification; they are going back to Fresh Yoga’s home base at Erector Sq at 319 Peck Street, and closing the downtown location. Erector Sq is where Fresh Yoga began in the heart of East Rock in 2002. As Fresh Yoga faces their largest transformation, they are attempting to reduce overhead in order to give this new model its best chance. Fresh Yoga is striving to maintain a sustainable model of business, not only for the community but also for the teachers and staff.
On key component to the transformation are rates that allow everyone to contribute according to their ability and the resources available to them. In order to do this in a way that ensures they meet their operating costs, Fresh has created a tiered system of rates. They are asking community members to participate at the level that works for them and their budget.
There are three main payment tiers. The Base Rate is the first tier, and it covers 65 percent of what is needed to run the studio. It provides an affordable option for regular study. The Sustaining Rate is the second tier. It reflects the current market value for yoga classes and helps the studio by meeting the actual operating costs of the studio; these include being able to pay the teachers who are teaching free, $5 donation and no-minimum donation classes for their expertise, time and energy. The Benefactor Rate is the third tier. It is 20 percent higher than the sustaining rate. If an individual can afford this level, they are assisting Fresh Yoga’s efforts to offer tiered, scholarship and need-based classes. For example a five-class card at the studio can be bought for $49 (Base), $75 (Sustaining) or $90 (Benefactor). If someone cannot afford the base level, they can apply for a larger scholarship based on need. They can also attend the $5 donation classes and no-minimum donation classes on Saturdays.