How to people find their go-to teachers? Sometimes it’s through recommendations from fellow yogis, but most often it’s from just taking a chance with a drop-in. But what if you could try a class without setting foot in the studio?
That’s where Yoga Sampler comes in. The brainchild of Alex Patriquin, currently a teacher trainee at Conquering Lion, the website spotlights NYC teachers doing ten minute sessions in the actual studio they teach in. No brightly lit, fake-looking studio sets like you see on cable fitness channels! And if you like what you see, you can buy the whole class video, and if you’re still on aboard, take the class in person.
“I started doing yoga about a decade ago," says Alex. "I walked into a class completely by accident in India while on a business trip. I was meeting all these tech companies and decided I just had to chill out. I’d never been in a yoga class in my life and I walked into an advanced class. People were upside down on one pinkie finger!"
Despite the intimidating beginning, Alex was immediately hooked. His passion for yoga, coupled with his background in web technology, gave him an idea. "I came to New York and found there were so many great options for studios and teachers. It was more of a selection problem for me: How do I find the 1 or 2 teachers that really connect with me?"
Alex decided that when faced with too many choices, what people really needed was a free sample. Thus YogaSampler was born. In addition to 10-minute tastes of asana, the site includes interviews with teachers, virtual studio tours, and testimonials from students.
"We’re enabling students to try a bunch of different teachers and studios so they can find the one that’s right for them," says Alex. "I think that there are a lot of people out there who are curious about yoga but aren’t quite ready yet for the studio. Especially guys, for who there’s still a little bit of a stigma, or people who may be a little bit out of shape. There’s a troubling trend in the commercialization of yoga to make it very homogenized. The more we can open up the practice to people who are cautious about the studio setting--show them a studio, give them the tour, seeing the people that practice there--it opens up the community to a greater degree, makes us more accessible."
Alex feels that this process is also key for the studios themselves, in terms of getting their presence out there.
"Everyone’s researching online now, so studios need to lay down a drawbridge," says Alex.
Many studios have already done just that, giving students an online taste of what they're all about. The site has included samples from the likes of J. Brown at Abhyasa, Jessica Strickler at Jivamukti, and Alison West at Yoga Union.
"We’ll be making videos with some very well-known teachers," says Alex, "and also with some very original people who are doing interesting work. It’s completely free to create a video. We do go on location to a studio —you don’t usually see yoga videos done that way. So that’s quite involved and lovingly crafted. We have the teachers face the camera and really teach to the at-home viewer, we find that really maximizes the clarity of the teaching. We make sure the teachers are communicating the way they’d like. For us it’s much a labor of love. Well market the video on their behalf, along with class passes for students to use at the studio when they’re ready. The full-leng th class videos will be marketed as a collection.”
Alex feels that this new way of marketing may give up and coming teachers the boost they need to find their footing in the community.
“Another part of this project is experimenting with supplemental revenue models for teachers and studios," says Alex. "We hear about teachers working in bars, as waitresses, and it’s just a huge waste of talent. I think 90 percent of teachers have another job. A lot of them don’t have the resources or background to create content, access an audience beyond their neighborhood studio. They have really compelling material and just have to find ways to unlock it, and we’re here to help them do that. If we can help them with supplemental revenue streams, that’s just a big win for everybody.”
To sample studios and teachers, and find out how to be a part of the action, click here.
--illustration by Sharon Watts, click here to see more.