e-value-ating how we value our values

value (n.) c. 1300, “price equal to the intrinsic worth of a thing;”

late 14c., “degree to which something is useful or estimable,” from Old French value “worth, price, moral worth; standing, reputation” (13c.), noun use of fem. past participle of valoir “be worth,” from Latin valere “be strong, be well; be of value, be worth” (see valiant).

The meaning “social principle” is attested from 1918, supposedly borrowed from the language of painting. Value judgment (1889) is a loan-translation of German Werturteil.

What I’ve come to realize is that there is no intrinsic worth of a thing, as that first definition would have us believe. It’s all, and I do mean all of it, negotiable. Value is relative to who’s valuing it and to the time and place in which it’s being valued. So I have to admit I get particularly pissy when people claim yoga is too expensive. Sure, I’m in the middle of that game of valuing yoga since I teach it. Yet it’s because I have directly experienced the value it’s played in my life, and the lives of thousands of others I’ve worked with in the past 15 years of teaching, that I get a bit miffed by the lack of awareness around it’s value. There’s a certain level of education involved here.

Generally people accept the cost of a thing because that’s what it generally costs. Whether or not a coffee is actually worth $4 or the house is worth $500,000 is sometimes part of the conversation, but rarely. Mostly we accept what is generally accepted without looking too deeply into the chain of values that led to this place. Consider all the people involved in growing the coffee bean, in harvesting it and shipping the bean, in making sure it’s fair trade or organic or single origin, in roasting and packaging the bean, in housing it in a café and paying people (hopefully a living wage) to make it into a $4 cup of warm goodness.

There’s that side of the valuing equation and then there’s your side. How much is the hit of a good coffee worth to you? And, perhaps more vitally, how much is $4 worth to you? There were a number of years the only way I could have a coffee in a café was if someone bought it for me. I simply could not afford $4 extra on anything. I had to trim back so far that I cut out my health insurance. So I fully understand what it’s like to be money-poor. You figure out how to get by with very little. And you find the many things that cost you no dollars but that bring you great benefit — like the library, the outdoors, the free concerts, the things you can make or do yourself, and the kindnesses of friends and strangers alike.

When it comes to yoga I also know the costs from both sides. I’ve taken classes, courses and trainings with some great teachers, yet they have been very few and far between because, for most of my life, I couldn’t afford it. So I studied books before online was invented. And I studied myself on the mat. You can’t be greedy when you’re poor. You learn to make the most of what you have and to stretch it farther than those with money would imagine it could go. This principal underscores MYOGA overall but especially the Basics. People get all greedy about what’s the next pose they can conquer, when there’s a wealth of foundation still to dive into. Or what’s the newest latest style to trial out. Or they can become obsessed with how much farther they can go to up-level by going to the newest studio in town, or having the latest brand of gear.

My opinion? Distraction. Most of what has become an industry in these years I’ve been teaching is distraction from the real and true practice, which is you getting your butt onto the mat and inquiring. Whether you use a book, a handful of poses you recall from class, or an online practice to aid you, the point is that they aid you, not distract you. It’s all-ways a balancing, dancing dynamic between tapping into those aspects that inspire you and that get you to show up for yourSelf and between being so tapped-in to the trend that you’ve lost track of the point.

The point is to wake up to who you already are, to be free.

At least, that’s my point & my guiding principal to myoga–freedom to unfold.

So, yes, I get riled up when people say they can’t afford a class — whether online or in studio — yet they will spend just as much on a cocktail that will be gone in far less time. It’s clearly a matter of priorities and values here. When you get a whiff of something that feels like it’s going to aid you in transforming your life in the best possible ways, yet you balk because it costs $20 (or even $500 or $2000), then you have to question how you’re valuing what you’re valuing. For me, I have always valued my health above all, so I will find ways to eat what’s good for me even if it means foraging. MYOGA emerged out of the necessity of my own self-practice — either not having access to teachers or not having the means to pay them. Yet when I do have money I will pay for the education I feel I need to move me along. Last year I paid $400 for a 16 week online course and while I was on top of the material for the first 8 weeks, I fell behind and once it was over I lost my access to the learning. This disappointing experience is partly why I changed the investment structure for my own online courses.

I switched from a subscriber service to a buy-outright service because it’s easier on the back-end but ultimately because I want you to practice, to know yourself. I don’t want money to stop you, at the same time that I value what I’m offering you by how I’m pricing it. My intention is sustainability — I want MYOGA Freedom online yoga school to sustain itself, to sustain you in your self-practice, and to sustain me in my ability to continue living and teaching. And no denying it, I would absolutely love to recuperate the huge investments that have gone into making this site beautiful and functional. Yet the greatest value I place is, as I said, on unfolding into freedom. Creating this online service has served to further create me.

The experience of making this over the past two years has been like getting an MBA and a PhD all wrapped up together. Just like my friends who have pieces of paper from universities verifying they’ve done the work and are now doctors of something, this is my dissertation defense. What I am standing up to tell you now is that even my most expensive offering of Seasons at nearly $500 USD is worth it. Why? Because I know it works. If you show up and do the work, this entire year of progressive practices that also includes two other modules — Basics & Flows — will work for you. It’s a matter of how you value it. You can amortize it out over a year and it’ll be $12.50 per week, but remember that you have lifetime access to this material so ultimately each week of practice will cost you nothing.

At least not in dollars.

The value you get out of it is the value you put into it.

Can you imagine if you paid yourself $15/week to show up for at least 30 minutes for your own health? What are you worth? But $500 or $15/week is also the biggest investment in MYOGA, and maybe you’re not there yet. Maybe you don’t yet think you have the resources to value yourself that highly. Isn’t it a matter of priorities? Isn’t it a matter of valuing something and then by the valuing of it, finding the resources needed to make it happen in your life, whether that’s time, money, space, or energy? If you value alcohol then you’ll pay minimum $10 for a bottle. If you really value it you might pay $50 or far more for one bottle. And when that bottle has been drunk (and perhaps you’re drunk as well!), it’s gone, gone, gone.

MYOGA Freedom online yoga school is like the modern version of a book — you pay once for it and then you have access to it as long as you wish to.

The second definition of value makes more sense to me: “degree to which something is useful or estimable”. We learn values over the course of our lives and what I’ve seen in the yoga world since being introduced to it at age 6 is that education is needed. I don’t mean the education of how to do it since there’s plenty of options on that, but the education of why to do it. Your conviction about the benefits of yoga might come from your own experience, which is the route I tend to go, or you might require more mental or scientific proof. These days there is plenty of the latter. At its heart yoga is a self-regulating practice. You are the only one in that body (unless you’re pregnant) so you are your own best guide. Until you know this experientially in the realm of yoga, external guides that you can trust are hugely beneficial, whether in person or virtually.

Perhaps the best definition of all for value is the oldest one — from Latin valere “be strong, be well; be of value, be worth” (see valiant).

May you be well in your process of evaluating your values. May what you value bring you strength. May how you value enable you to access inherent worth, intrinsic and extrinsic. May you be valiant.

 

What does this spark for you? Feel free to disagree! I am incredibly curious about values and this is an on-going discussion for me across the board, so I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on the subject.

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