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Sunday, March 18, 2012

My visit to Pure Yoga (HK)

We just got back from a trip to Hong Kong. Emre went on business, I joined him for pleasure. I had made a list of yoga studios to go to, but there are too many miles to walk, temples to visit and egg tarts to eat. My Manduka mat traveled about 17000 miles with me to and fro but i barely got to use it. Pure Yoga has many locations similar to Yoga Tree in California. I should have known something was wrong when I looked at the website and didn't see any prices for the classes. But its a group yoga class, how expensive can it get? We took 3 trains to get to Emre's conference hotel, I then took 2 trains to get to Pure Yoga. After getting royally lost, I finally found it, its in the middle of the financial district, on the 16th floor of a fancy office building, The Centrium. I walk in, the staff is helpful, the reception area sells lululemon, zobha and another fancy brand i cant remember. There are some clients sitting on the couches overlooking the skyline. They make me fill out a form, and ask me for HKD 300. I'm thinking this cant be right, that's about $42.50. I asked 3 times to make sure I had got it right, yes it's HKD 300. I did not have enough cash, so out came my credit card. My total was $45 after fees + exchange rate + bank fees. I paid it.

 I have to admit, my reaction to the price must have seemed peasant like, but I could not help being shocked. If I had known that was the price, I would have never gone to the studio in the first place. My class went well, I liked the instructor, but there was a cloud hanging over me. I don't get to go to a lot of classes, and when I do go, especially in a foreign country, I am looking to be wowed, I am looking for epiphanies and I am looking to break out of my normal practice, do a pose I have never done before. My instructor seemed extremely knowledgeable, but I was not wowed. There was this one part where she asked us to "get into chair, feel our sit bones, while feeling them, squeeze the thighs, shoot your knees out, tuck the tail bone, open your inner thighs, the lower back stays flat, pull your belly in, keep your thighs rotating inward, squeeze your buttocks, do you feel your pelvis shift? Do you feel that opening?" And everyone goes "mmm-yesss". I am a yoga teacher and I had no idea what she was getting us to feel. There seemed to be way too much information, I forgot what I was trying to do by the time I got to step 3. It frustrated me. But I could have forgiven all that; that $45 though...I could not let it go. It was not the money, but it was everything the money seemed to stand for. Here is why it bothered me so:
  • Yoga was originally taught free, teachers of the arts, dance, music, yoga, were given what is called 'dakshina'. I almost want to call it a donation of sorts, you gave what you could, this was often not a lot for poor families. While times have changed, the essence of yoga is that knowledge is a privilege. You do not own it, and it is your duty to share what you know. When you charge an exorbitant amount like $43 you have taken away the essence of yoga. It is now 'Pure' business. $1 approx equals HKD 6, so an average person in HK would not be able to pay for this class. It seems counter productive to spreading the knowledge of yoga.
  • Building on my first point, when you charge a high price, you have already chosen a specific 'student' or 'clientele'. In HK it is very common for both parents to work. It is even more common to have children stay with their grandparents, because the parents are too busy working to care for them. A lot of people see their own children over weekends. Who needs yoga more in this situation? a banker with a $30 million dollar house, who can have private instruction in his yoga room overlooking Deep Water Bay or the stressed parent pulling 12 hour shifts who has probably forgotten to breathe?
  • Aside from the societal implications, I would have expected a smaller class, or more personal instruction, maybe the teacher would adjust me more, or have assistants who kept an eye on me. Nope, nothing like it. It was a very normal class, she walked around instructing, she had an eye on us but I did not pay a normal fee.
  • Somehow yoga is supposed to change you, but here the business people seem to have changed yoga and that does not sit well with me.
  • I then wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they offer free classes for a certain population, maybe they are affiliated with at risk groups, maybe they offer open sessions for people to come in, ask questions and explore yoga. Nope, nothing, zilch, nada.
  •  On a side note, I had emailed and called this studio well in advance of my visit. I wanted to hold a charity yoga class with all funds going to the Africa Yoga Project. They kept me on hold, did not respond my emails, fb posts or calls. They had the chance to redeem themselves, I was going to teach a free class but not even a response.
But I am no one to preach about class prices given that I make a living teaching yoga. I pay as much for a gallon of milk as a CEO or any other regular consumer does. I have to pay bills, rent, instructor's insurance etc. I work hard, my heart is in it, why should I not make some money? But I also think I am fair. If I were to charge a high price, I would make sure the class was small so that I could give more attention. At the same time, I would have classes that suited everyone's budget. I have taught many classes for free just so that first timers get a taste of what they could have. I know other instructors who would do the same. I encourage people to develop a home practice so that they don't have to depend on me for their yoga fix. I don't hold back any of the knowledge I feel lucky to have.

I did not name the instructor on purpose because I am upset with the studio, not her. My class was fine but I did not like being party to a system that seems to favor the elite. After I left, I was seething the whole day. I still cannot get over it. How can people blatantly do this?? I don't think I am wrong and I am annoyed that I won't let it go. I cannot be the only one who feels this way.

So this why I will never go to Pure Yoga in Hong Kong again. I feel bad that it has come to this, because I think there are good teachers working there from whom I could have learned a few things. My feelings on this issue will not make a difference to Pure Yoga (HK) and that is fine. But maybe someone will see this post, maybe they will want to offer more service, more charity classes and a chance for Hong Kong to experience what yoga should really be about, seva, breath and equality.

"The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises."
- Leo.F. Buscaglia

Namaste.

23 comments:

  1. This was a good suggestion that you put up here...dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

    Hong Kong Tutor

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  2. Thanks for your sharing, I am so lucky to get into this page when I search for yoga classes in HK. You are a yogi with a beautiful heart!

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  3. Unfortunately, that's how it is. Anything that benefits your health is always expensive in HK.

    I mean I don't take yoga, but I did use to work in the IT department for one and the prices were expensive but they had small classes, at most 30 people but that was with the studio owner who's very well renowned.

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  4. Yoga Mala is very cheap. It is 1000 HK$ unlimited for the whole month.
    Pure yoga is just another brand on the market.

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  5. Very nice review. Try Anahata Yoga in Central. They have experienced indian yoga teachers and smaller classes. Their rates are reasonable as well.

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  6. Hi there... I live in Hong Kong and practice yoga here. The biggest problem in hong kong is high rents - it makes running a yoga studio very expensive.

    Having said that, pure is the most commercial operator there is in HK. The drop-in rate is RIDICULOUS. To give you an idea, the drop in rate you paid is in fact a third of the price they charge for UNLIMITED CLASSES for a monthly 12 month rate. They are not geared/set up for drop in rates...they want you to sign up to monthly subscriptions (but obviously for visitors to HK this is not ideal).

    If you're visiting Hong Kong, the classes at Yoga Room in Sheung Wan are more affordable. www.yogaroomhk.com

    Yoga Mala is also a more affordable and yogic option. www.Yogamala.com.hk $200 for drop in. (around US$25)

    Lastly, there are some yoga teachers offering charity classes like Claudia Whitney Yoga and Marcus Wong Yoga.

    Next time!

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    1. Thank you! Will surely look those up next time i come :) namaste!

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  7. Thank you for this article, was about to go to Pure Yoga on a trip next month but changed my mind...I am checking out Anahata Yoga thank you! ~~ Gracie

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  8. I don't think you can blame Pure Yoga that you didn't check the price before you got there. As someone posted earlier, it is not geared for drop-in students. The monthly fee for unlimited classes is quite reasonable for those who can go regularly and make use of it.

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    1. Hey Anonymous, to be fair I just spent 20 minutes looking for the prices on the Pure Yoga HK website and simply couldn't find them. So I would also have been shocked at a drop in rate that is more than $20. It seems pretty steep to go beyond that. But I am pleased to find out that a monthly rate is much more favourable. I would go every day if I was in HK for a week. :)

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  9. i pay hk$790 for unlimited class per month at pure yoga hk, we get a complimentary try-out class for hk residents so i think it is just the drop-in rate that is expensive...

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  10. Thank you for your insightful review. I am new to Hong Kong, having arrived from South Africa only a few months ago. Although not a frequent yoga practitioner, I have dabbled in the odd class back home, always in beautiful facilities with aware and inspiring instructors. South African classes are almost always reasonably priced. I decided to visit Pure Yoga on one of very few free Saturday mornings that I have, only to have to go home again when I discovered the drop-in rate. To confirm, I too had spent a good 15 minutes on the Pure website trying to find their rates. I earn a normal professional Hong Kong salary, but cannot justify spending HK$300 on one hour of yoga! When and why did yoga become an elitist occupation / practice? To me, it seems to go against the very principals it is based on. On a side note, to hire a private music room to practice piano in Hong Kong works out to HK$28 per hour (HK$280 for 10 sessions). These companies pay exorbitant rents too, and yet still are cheaper than any yoga establishment in Hong Kong.

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    1. Looks like you may have to play the piano and practice yoga in the same space. Which sounds idyllic i think :)
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Namaste.

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  11. Yoga in HK cannot be separated from the HK culture, which is about making money, looking good and doing things to perfection. Pure is the worst example of a highly commercial gym masquerading as a yoga centre. but many of the local studios are similar. Its all sales and selling Lululemon gear. I have tried many HK yoga centres but often come out of class feeling anxious and have to go home and calm down with some individual practice. Oh, and if you get injured in a class because the teacher has given a bad adjustment or simply said 'do headstand' when maybe you're 3 months post partum with no core strength, the receptionist at the centre will probably say its your fault for not being advanced enough and try to sell you very expensive private lessons. Its just not a very yogic city. I've found many extremely enjoyable yoga classes in NY, London and Thailand. Nothing so far in HK. I've been here 7 years.

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  12. Thanks for sharing this info. The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lot of great information which can be helpful in some or the other way.
    Private Yoga Classes Hong Kong

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  13. Interesting article but, sorry to say, it's misleading and ill informed. Sure Pure is expensive for drop in visits, but that's not how 99.9% of people use their studios. Property rental prices in HK are exorbitant, hence any business that requires space is costly to run.

    That said, I am more than happy with how much I pay for monthly unlimited classes at the Centrium studio you visited - for me it works out at about $7 US a class with a wide range of different teachers (most of which are excellent) in a smart studio with nice changing facilities, and cosy lounge area to crash out in and an convenient location.

    This is Hong Kong and, unfortunately, your idea of an altruistic yoga studio with free classes for all would survive about a week before it was closed down by the bank. Your comments about Pure being elitist are pretty unfair. Hong Kong property is expensive - you probably noticed that when you paid for your hotel, but you would notice it a lot more if you tried moving here and renting an apartment!

    I guess it's just very different from your studios back home, but then I guess Hong Kong is just very different to 'back home' isn't it? And just to set the records straight, Pure do actually run a range of charity events and many of the teachers offer free community classes. It's unfair to have written such a lengthy article like this without being truly informed.

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  14. I've just moved here. A person recommended Yogamala to me but I looked at their class prices and freaked. Their double what I've been used to paying for in London or San Francisco. Yes, rents are high here but you can find services that are pretty inexpensive. I got a lovely 45 minute massage for the grand total of about $17 US. Honestly, you can't put it on high real estate values. I think yoga is a very trendy thing particularly with for the well heeled expats that are living here. Places like Yogamala and Pure Yoga are simply playing to that cause they can. I also don't get the sense that Pure Yoga is like Yoga Tree. I used to go to Yoga Tree in San Francisco when they opened their first studio in the Upper Haight. I loved Yoga Tree. Great offering of classes pretty much Monday through Sunday. Some good teachers. No over priced lululemon yoga mats. I got spoiled in SF. Its been hard to find decent places since I left. I will be looking at the Yoga Room and Anahata as suggested by others here.

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  15. You may want to try yogabambam located in Sheung Wan. Drop-in rate: HKD 150. The classes are very limited.

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  16. Pure Yoga is the giant yoga studio in HK, they rent all those expensive location. The price is not cheap I can understand! Like you said, I don't like the big group class. I go to The Yoga Room at Sheung Wan. They offer free trial if you have HK ID card. They have 4 small studios, max for 9 or 13 students. I have been practicing at there for 1 year! I love the classes and teachers! If you would come to HK again, I think this one or like Yoga BamBam may fit you more! Others First Walk-in or Trail is around HK$150-$200.... Namaste! :)

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  17. it isn't unfair to say that it's Pure business. I went to a class taught by a founder who said they had classes that make your muscles tight, and then you can go to the more relaxing classes to release the tension. "This is how we keep our business going," she said. I know it's business, but perhaps no Pure survival in a yoga class?

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  18. Totally agree, Pure Yoga Hong Kong is over-priced bull shit. It's more like a money grabbing cult than a yoga organisation. They also preach some bullshit that the only yoga is hot yoga or zero fresh air smothered yoga. It's bad news, really.

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  19. Fantastic. The blog post is really wonderful and I would like to read more. Yoga Retreat Thailand

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