There's a plethora of classes, courses, workshops, festivals, groups...the list is endless - which have now gone online. Those people who were doing things IRL, are now moving much it online. To gain traction, increase viewings, support those struggling financially right now.. people are offering many of these things for free. And then there's the videos on youtube, and facebook & instagram lives. It's understandable to think - why pay when people are offering it for free?
There are a few reasons really. Firstly, many of the free offerings are shorter duration than a full class, for example, or its pre-recorded content. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and there are still full-length classes and workshops being offered for free. But what the shorter durations do is give you a taster of what you might get in a full length, and paid for option. Which is a good way to engage you and get you in to paying. On youtube, many of the videos are shorter than full length classes, which again give you a taster, but what you receive is limited, and you aren't receiving any new content - it's what's there already.
If you want a class that's tailored to that day, to that energy, to what's happening, to how you and others are feeling - a live class is really the only thing that'll do it. You'll miss that there are others doing the class with you by doing it from a pre-record video. On zoom, you can see the other people doing it with you in their little boxes. It gives you energy, support, motivation.
Next, it comes to value. What value are you placing on the class or workshop that you're receiving? And what value is the teacher placing on it? We subconsciously assume that things we've not paid for have less value than things we have paid for. It's because an exchange has taken place. We automatically assume the teacher is better if they are charging, because a value has been placed on their work. Of course, neither of these things are necessarily true, but it goes to our subconscious engagement with the content. This also goes to commitment. You will be more likely to turn up for a class, and commit to doing it, if you have paid for it. Because in paying for it, you've made a financial commitment - even if that is minimal.
Conversely, a teacher who charges is also valuing themselves, their time, their experience, their skills, their knowledge. It takes quite a bit of time to create new content for every class, to tailor it to that situation, to the students, to the vibe of the day and to situate it in what is happening externally. By offering it for free, the teacher is subconsciously sending a message that their time, expertise, skills etc are worth-less. And that's something that you will pick up on. It's fine to offer some things for free to encourage people to participate or try something new, but to a consistent giving without receiving anything will deplete the teacher, and will see their self-worth, self-value diminish over time.
Which comes to my final reason, and it's probably the most important reason. In yoga, and beyond, there is this concept of reciprocity. It's a universal law at work in the world - just observe it around you, next time you have some kind of interaction. For you to receive you must first give. You need to create that space within yourself, you need to create that investment. The amount is not important, its what it does to you inside. When you do that, you open yourself up to receive the teachings, to get the most out of the experience. It'll make you more committed, you are showing up for yourself and demonstrating to yourself that you intend to do whatever you've spent money on.
This is very important in yoga, where you are giving yourself an experience of your highest or divine self. You are creating a union of your mind, body and soul. The teacher is enabling you to have that experience for yourself. But if you become dependent on someone, and need them to ensure that you have that experience, rather than empowering you to experience yourself, you are giving your power away. Because, there is still an energetic exchange, but it's an unhealthy one.
Donations are a good option, and a donation doesn't need to be monetary. But in a world where we're online for the forseeable future, and a world which values money, it is both the simplest and most appropriate option. You can also have reciprocity in non-financial ways - you give your time, skills, experience, knowledge etc to the teacher in exchange for theirs - if this is something which works for both parties. So, next time you want to do a class, think about what you're giving, and what you want to receive.