Free Baltimore Yoga was launched 2 years ago. The idea was fairly simple. I would teach studio quality yoga in non-studio spaces. The classes would occur weekly and the schedule would run similar to a yoga studio in that I would only cancel class if the locations needed the space for some unforeseen reason or if there was inclement weather.
I took everything that I had learned about marketing myself as a yoga teacher and channeled it into this program. It was designed to be an alternative and a complement to yoga studios. The classes are open to anyone and they are free with an aim to create as few barriers as possible from a regular practice. Some students start with us and move onto studios. Some students practice with us when they need to save money in a week. Some students practice with us because they like the teaching and the vibe of the classes. I cannot stress this enough. I didn’t create the program to replace yoga studios. I created it as a way to offer yoga in the most free way possible for both the students and especially the teachers.
As we grew and more teachers joined our program, I aimed to keep the program as relaxed as possible. I didn’t micro-manage the teachers’ classes. They are free to teach vinyasa yoga as they like. I required the teachers to be a certified yoga instructor and to carry up-to-date liability insurance. I asked that they also share in a genuine belief and love in the practice and the program by practicing with the classes when they could. (This both worked and failed to a large degree, mostly because I rarely practiced the classes myself because I found myself obsessed with the program and wasn’t really free to enjoy my own practice when I attended.)
I think the program is both a success and also it’s far from perfect. I certainly used the popularity and shininess to curate a “cool-looking” yoga program from the outside. It is cool in many ways. I loved being able to share yoga in such a free setting and it was still not as accessible as it could be. We don’t offer yoga classes specifically for seniors. We don’t have yoga specifically for trauma recovery. Our teaching team lacks diversity. We may have taken some money away from studios and in turn out of working teacher’s pockets. I’m not happy about any of that and I take full responsibility for that. (I will always be a stand for teachers negotiating with studio owners for their full worth. Know your value and start a discussion from that space. Don’t cave into the belief that it’s somehow “not yogic” to ask for fair compensation. Some of the most “practiced” yogis I know own studios, volunteer their teaching time, AND fairly compensate their teachers. I’m looking at you, Stacey Vespaziani.)
This Tuesday I’ll teach my last yoga class. Emily Fleming (Baltimore native) will continue to run this program with a team of generous and talented teachers behind her.
I’m grateful to everyone who took the time to roll out a mat with us over the last two years. I may not always remember your name but I know all of your faces.
Thank you to all of my past and present teachers and friends, my family, and my husband for tempering my fire with reason.
Thank you to all of the location sponsors, the door openers and lockers, maintenance workers, and security guards for baring with us through the years.
Thank you to my friend who shared a manic cup of iced coffee with me in the rain a few years ago on the top of Fed Hill for naming the program. It was simple and direct and without his help, I probably would’ve called it Glitter Yoga Express or something and it really would’ve missed the mark.
The light in me sees and acknowledges the light in all of you and I look forward to seeing you around town!