Good news, fellow yogis: I think we might have uncovered the best-kept secret in Philly. And anyone who knows me knows that I can’t keep a secret to save my life, so here it goes: Bikram Yoga Philadelphia hosts donation-only yoga classes Every. Single. Day. The classes are run by Philly Yoga Factory, a yoga collective founded last summer by Justine Bacon and Bikram Philadelphia owner Katelynn Ingersoll. And if you’re not into Bikram, no worries: They also hold vinyasa, anusara and hoop dancing (!!) classes, as well. (Note: The first two are heated, but only to around 90 degrees, which is 15 degrees cooler than Bikram; the hoop dance classes are not heated at all.)
I spoke with Justine to get the inside scoop on what PYF is all about, so consider this a little required reading for your first class. Then head over to the studio and join in on the fun.
Philly Yoga Factory is unique in that all of its classes are pay-what-you-can. What inspired you to offer yoga in this way?
Offering donation-based yoga allows yoga to be accessible to everyone, regardless of financial restraints. In my own life, there have been a few things that I've wanted to pursue and haven't because of money, and many people can say that, too. So we wanted to soften that obstacle for those who really have taken the brunt of hard financial times.
The other point is this: How we go about our 'on the mat' practice is both a reflection and a translation of our life practice. When any of us are asked to make a donation for something, it summons us to consider what its value is to us. Our model allows yogis to practice Satya (truthfulness) and Asteya (not-stealing) as part of their 'off the mat' practice.
Yoga can be a pretty pricey practice. Do you think more studios should offer yoga in a more financially accessible way?
I'm glad you asked this because many people do believe it to be a costly expense, when in fact there are so many options. Philly is rich in the arts and sciences, and is one of the top cities in the country for yoga, too. Many, if not most, studios offer community classes that are under $10 as part of their regular schedule. Lululemon, for example, is an amazing asset to the community because they are constantly organizing free classes and events all over the city, all year round. Another option that a lot of studios offer is work-study programs, where you work in the studio in exchange for free or discounted yoga. The options are there—you just need to know where to look for them.
Philly Yoga Factory is not looking to be known for being the cheapest in town; we are looking to inspire a community feel and offer both teachers and students a place to allow their creative energies to thrive.
Where are PYF's classes held?
Philly Yoga Factory is a concept that is hosted by the Bikram Philadelphia studio. As it stands, without the continuous support of the staff, teachers and students of that studio, PYF would not be able to root and thrive.
Who teaches the classes?
Our teachers are from other studios all around the city, which makes this program really wonderful. We have a small schedule that is steadily growing, and it has diversity. Our teachers are not volunteers and all that is donated in class is how our teachers receive pay. It brings us back to what the value of the practice is: When you donate, you are supporting yourself, your teacher and eventually other organizations.
The website emphasizes PYF's desire to donate to local and global projects. Have you been able to do this?
No, we have not yet grown to a point of beginning that process. Ultimately, we are working to not only strengthen the yoga community but also other communities and organizations that we hold dear. We want to take donations from our classes and donate them forward, and we are striving to meet this opportunity with every class that we build.
What is your class schedule like?
The schedule is posted on the website each month and changes slightly as we add new classes. In addition to the monthly schedule, we add special events for the month, which in past months have included "Glow with the Flow" Blacklight Vinyasa and 108 Sun Salutations for the Winter Solstice, with more events to come.
How can folks become involved with Philly Yoga Factory?
The best way to be involved is to take a class. Philly Yoga Factory is not the community; the teachers and the students in classes are the community. We would love to have more teachers subbing for us and we are open to building the schedule with new and exciting classes.
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