Yoga for the People for a Nominal Donation

West Hastings yoga studio cuts out the high cost and elitism to let you get in touch with your inner Zen.

yoga for the people vancouver

Vancouver’s largest donation-based yoga studio boasts some of the city’s best instructors


Yoga is… many things to many people. But in today’s high fashion yoga superstar-laden world, people new to the practice are often too intimidated or doubtful or broke to find out what it might be for them. Yoga For The People, Vancouver’s largest donation-based studio, is hoping to address that.


The studio sits atop a fabric store on West Hastings, across the street from Woodward’s. Its exposed brick walls and well-worn hardwood floors frame a long and narrow sanctuary where co-founder and teacher Suzanne Slocum-Gori is hoping to create an inclusive space where all feel welcome to practice. The studio relies on an honesty system of donations to keep it afloat.


Buddha statue

Yoga For the People accepts donations (the Buddha accepts cash only) rather than charging a regular rate. (Image: Yoga for the People)


Want yoga? Pay the Buddha

In lieu of a receptionist, a Buddha statue keeps watch over a moneybox with a sign suggesting a $10 per class donation.


It’s not about giving yoga away for free, Slocum-Gori says, “it’s about building a balanced ecosystem” whereby those who can afford to give more do so that those who have to give less are still able to join in.


“We’re all working together and we’re all a part of nature. If we’re all being truthful about that connection then [everyone at] the studio should be flourishing together,” Slocum-Gori says.


In theory, the model creates its own equilibrium and is able to grow naturally.


In order to thrive, the studio has to be accessible to students of all demographics. That’s part of the reason registered massage therapist Cheyne Cameron refers his clients to the studio.


“The more you do yoga, the more you want to do it, and the studio makes it easy for you take it at your own pace,” he says. “It takes out the element of worrying about money, which makes the practice of committing to yoga easier for people,” he says.


The donation-based model was born in the city that gives birth to so many cool things: New York, New York. The goal was to counter the consumerism increasingly found in yoga studios; while the number of yoga practitioners was declining, the cash amount spent on yoga and accessories was rapidly climbing.


So came Yoga To The People, whose manifesto declares, “there will be no correct clothes… no proper payment… no glorified teachers.”


But, at least in the case of the Vancouver studio, “no proper payments” does not mean a lack of proper equipment. The studio stocks (clean) high quality yoga mats, blankets and other accessories that require no rental fee or deposit. Providing such amenities makes the practice accessible not only to first timers without gear but also those with financial difficulties.


As well, the studio’s instructors are often recognised by those in the know as being among the best in the city.


Yoga for the People studio

Yoga For the People’s Downtown Eastside studio is surprisingly warm, despite its exposed brick walls and beautiful wood floors. (Image: Yoga for the People)


This ain’t your standard yoga class

At Yoga For the People, things have taken their own spin. Instructors are encouraged to “connect to their own truth,” Slocum-Gori says.


Some classes are unique like One Love Yoga, where the instructor plays reggae and dub over the flow, or Big Rock yoga, where students practice to rock, rap and Motown.


The studio’s founders are also intent on giving back to the community. Slocum-Gori and the other owners are working on establishing a fund to help creative movements and therapies in the Downtown Eastside. And until then, she does outreach yoga therapy for at-risk and youth for free.


The studio’s vibe is welcoming and it’s easy being there.


“I wanted to make something grassroots so that everyone could walk in and feel at home,” Slocum-Gori says.