Houstonians have long embraced the idea of "paying what you can" for cultural activities, whether it's a play at Catastrophic Theatre or admission to the galleries at CAMH. But what about pay-what-you-can yoga? If you've shied away from yoga in the past, fearing expensive memberships or daunting classes, Black Swan Yoga is here to change your mind about what a yoga studio could (should?) be.
The brand-new Houston location of the Austin-based company opened at 3210 White Oak last week as the first yoga studio in the Bayou City to be entirely donation-based. What does that mean? Just that: Pay what you can.
The suggested donation range is $10 to $20 per class, making it one of the less expensive yoga options in the city—especially if you take the plunge, as I did, and sign up for the $88 monthly membership, which has no complicated contracts and can be cancelled at any time. (Full disclosure: I'm also hoping to catch a glimpse of hometown hero Bun B and his wife, who's said to already be a devoted Black Swan yogi.)
Black Swan Yoga currently offers a daily lineup of classes that range from beginner basics and intermediate flow practices to advanced power yoga that will make you break a sweat within the first five minutes, especially since the sunny, light-filled studio is heated to a pleasant 90 degrees. “We try to honor everybody, instead of trying to have one mold to fit people into,” says Olivia Keller, instructor at Black Swan Houston and co-owner along with Claire Asmann and Roland Keller. “Come as you are, take what you want and leave the rest.”
Sharing space with the studio is another Austin favorite opening its first Houston outpost, JuiceLand, which sells fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and healthy snacks. Tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 16, marks JuiceLand's grand opening, which it's celebrating with half-off drinks all day long. What's more, proceeds from sales of its monthly special "Go –J," a concoction of papaya, mango, peach, orange juice, goji, and lemon, will benefit Houston non-profit, Child Advocates.
While JuiceLand's hours don't run quite as late as Black Swan's, which offers its final classes during the week from 9 to 10 p.m., a case of juices, waters and snacks stays stocked near the entrance, so tired yogis can grab refreshments after class—as long as they remember to pay for them. Like the studio itself, says Keller of the JuiceLand case, "it's on the honor system."
A donation-based structure means that Black Swan is a little more bare bones than your typical studio, but the clean white walls and basic changing rooms (one with a colorful Buddha mural by Houston artist Rob DiTeodoro hidden inside) are inviting in their simplicity. Keller is aiming for the exterior of the studio to eventually be equally welcoming, with plans to provide a water and shade station for those passing by on the Heights Hike & Bike Trail, which adjoins Black Swan's parking lot, and planters filled with vegetation out front on the JuiceLand patio.
Can't make it all the way to the Heights for your morning flow practice? Black Swan plans to eventually open additional studios across the city, to match the three locations throughout Austin. In the meantime, Black Swan also offers online classes for $8 a month so subscribers can practice yoga at home or on-the-go. "We’re really excited to make yoga in Houston more accessible and affordable," says Keller.
Black Swan Yoga, 3210 White Oak Dr., 713-640-5060, bsyhouston.com