By Laura Rodriguez Castro


Men and women from all ages, socio-economic backgrounds and levels of fitness join the Fitzroy Bikram Yoga classes every week. Unlike other typical yoga studios you see a variety of people from teenagers to older people sweating the stress off and joining this challenging practice. As a community member, once you have done a 30-day for $30 dollars introductory pass you could practice karma yoga for free if you can’t afford it.

Studio director Michael Houghton and his wife Susan opened the studio in 2007. They committed to do a different kind of experience that would suit everyone in the community around the area. “We noticed there was a younger demographic in the area, a lot of students, semi-employed or under-employed people, who can’t afford to pay for yoga,” Michael says.

This is how The Angel Program was created, “It’s karma yoga, the students come in and help us run the studio and in exchange for that, we give them free yoga.”


Everyone has the opportunity to be an Angel once they have experienced the $30 dollars introductory pass, “a lot of people get hooked and if they can’t afford to keep going we give them the option of the Angel program and they can contact us.”

Beatrice and Steve have been part of the program for two years and, as a couple, they believe giving back to the community is very important. “There’s beyond physical benefits, there’s mental benefits about contributing in general and being part of a bigger community. We keep in touch over a Facebook group and help each other,” Beatrice said.

The studio has another connection with the community with drugs and alcohol addicts. “We give them free classes in exchange of being regular with their classes and they help out with the studio as well,” Michael explains. The program is open for everyone from different socio-economic backgrounds and it gives people the opportunity to share a different experience.

People feel more relaxed and when they come out they could be better able to deal with stress.”

Local unemployment is another focus,“unemployed people are dealing with a lot of financial and emotional stress and in the middle of challenging practice you actually stop thinking about the outside.” During 90 minutes in the class you are not thinking about external problems as the heat and the poses keep your mind focused on that. “People feel more relaxed and they come out they could be better able to deal with stress.”

Project Manager Jess is a regular Angel and student and said that apart from the community benefits, she feels healthier since she started practicing two years ago. “I found it very stabilising for me, The Angel program makes me come regularly and helped me to make a commitment to myself and the studio,” Jess said. Also, she started to make healthy changes in her life outside of the studio, “I’ve made other healthy changes since I started practising, like running and Bikram complements all of these changes.” The Angels are always looking for people to join the program and all the information for the 30-day introductory pass is on their website.



Laura Rodriguez Castro is a Colombian journalist currently living in the North of Melbourne, interested in exploring social issues and lifestyles through photography and writing. Follow her on Twitter and check out her Webpage.

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