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Yoga Outside The Studio System

If New York’s studios are the yoga version of the Hollywood movie system, Bill Loundy’sThe Yoke” is the independent alternative.

Loundy, a lifelong student and 2011 teaching alum of Yoga to the People, recognized a growing compound problem in the asana-verse: rising class costs and a lack of opportunities for budding teachers.

“It was extremely jarring when I got my certificate and it was very difficult to find work,” he said. He cited the September 2015 Wall Street Journal article, “Why Everyone is a Yoga Teacher,” which states that the rate of emerging teachers is actually outpacing the number of new yoga students.

“There’s all this unused capacity on the teacher’s side,” he said. “And what I found on the other side is that classes are still so prohibitively expensive, especially in New York City." He pointed out that it is ironic how there are so many teachers who just want to cover their costs and make a decent living, and are willing to get paid so little, so why do classes cost $20?

Seeing the need for an alternative, Loundy acted on an idea that had been brewing for a while.

"I’ve always had in the back of my mind that there needs to be a better mechanism to make use of all these graduating teachers, who have tons of energy and want to share yoga with the world.”

He drew on his media and tech experience in the startup community, and created the The Yoke platform in the spring of 2015. It is both a website and a community for teachers and students with a simple mission: to create a world where “teachers make more and students pay less.”

“If you’re a teacher and want to bring people together, we can turbo-power that,” said Loundy. “If you put your classes on The Yoke, we can help you find students.”

All instructors are welcomed to sign up, regardless of method and style, and can teach wherever they can find space—art galleries, yoga studios, during off hours, and, in most cases, their own homes. Teachers can specify a minimum and maximum number of students for each class so that they never hit overcapacity or teach to an empty room.

“All of our teachers work closely together,” Loundy said. “We take each other’s classes and give feedback. It’s more of a collective community, versus a yoga studio where there’s more of a hierarchy. And we don’t tell them what to do. Hatha, vinyasa, Ashtanga, Headstand 101—whatever the teacher brings to the table, we’re open to.”

The Yoke teacher Erin Lamberty was introduced to Loundy by one of her mentors, Jill Camera of Sacred Sounds Yoga.

“My professional background is in design, technology, and startups,” explained Lamberty, “so when I heard about the opportunity to connect with someone exploring the intersection of all these worlds, I knew I had to at least get coffee and chat about it.”

Lamberty holds classes out of her Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment, including a Thursday Night Yoga Hour Plus Happy ½ Hour (complimentary after-class refreshments).

“There are people who want to do yoga in non-studio environments,” she said. “I've been publishing my classes on The Yoke for the past month and it's already been incredibly helpful in filling up mat spots. Classes average 50% brand new students from The Yoke network, and 50% of my own students. The people I've met have all been really awesome.”

Raquel Penzo is a student who practices regularly with both Loundy and Lamberty.

“Like many New Yorkers, the bulk of my money goes to just existing here,” she noted. “Having the option to attend quality classes with trained yoga teachers at a lower price really helps out. Even if I end up paying the same per class via donations, it's good to know that on weeks or months when money is tight, I can still take a class.”

Penzo likes the intimate setting and personal attention of The Yoke experience.

“I've found the classes to be better than bigger studio classes,” she said. “You can really get attention when there are only four or five other students in the room.”

Loundy teaches his own all-level classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 pm in his apartment in Bushwick, and has hosted classes at the Christopher Stout Gallery.

“When you do yoga in someone’s home there’s something very uniquely intimate about that,” he said. “And I found that it really lends itself to what yoga is all about. When I was traveling in India, I saw people just gathering, meditating together. It facilitates people being open to moving and breathing together, just seeing what happens.”

The Yoke website is extremely user-friendly. Prospective students can start by entering their zip code, which produces a handy map with Yoke class locations marked with a “Y.” Clicking on a "Y" gives you class information, including location, teacher, style, level, if it’s for a small price or if it's donation-based, and if it’s a confirmed class or needs more students to sign up to proceed. The site also features a blog where members of the community can share their experiences.

“I love the practice,” Loundy said. “Being in a room, setting up the space, lighting the candles and the incense, making people comfortable and creating a yoga and meditative experience for them.”

Teachers who would like to become part of The Yoke are welcome to get in touch. All they need do is to provide a space and pledge to keep costs donation-based, or under $10, or even free (a teacher’s first class is required to be free to the public).

Want to get involved? It couldn’t be easier. Go right to Find out all of the details about how to join the system.

—Jim Catapano

—Illustration by Sharon Watts

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