Aline Wolter had enough at the beginning of July. * The Berlin yoga teacher wrote a long circular mail to her students.
"Dear yogis," she begins her message, "you are receiving this email because you have registered for one of my courses (online or offline) via Urban Sports Club in the past."
And then Wolter explains why she is dissatisfied with the collaboration with the Urban Sports Club, a fitness platform that most students use to find their way into their classes.
One reason: the money.
She has recently only been paid a "measly income" for every student who takes part in her yoga classes via Urban Sports Club, which have taken place as online courses since the Corona lockdown.
It is even less than before, writes Aline Wolter.
"No teacher and no studio can survive under these conditions."
The Urban Sports Club is a digital fitness platform that is now active in over 80 cities in Germany.
The company's customers pay a monthly fee and can book many different sports offers via an app.
With just one membership, it is possible to go to the climbing gym, lift weights in the gym and take yoga classes.
And that without tying yourself to one of the providers or the Urban Sports Club in the long term.
A good deal - at least for the customers
This is an attractive offer for people who do sports a lot and don't always want to train in the same studio.
Mainly because the company offers fitness flat rates: the so-called M, L and XL memberships.
Customers who choose these tariffs can do unlimited sport for a fixed price.
Only the visits to the individual providers are capped: For example, an Urban Sports Club member may only go to a certain yoga studio four times per month.
In a big city there are still many alternatives, in Berlin alone the platform has hundreds of partners who offer yoga: yoga studios with several branches and dozen of courses, independent yoga teachers who teach in rented rooms, and fitness centers that also offer yoga the course schedule is.
With a flat rate, a customer of the Urban Sports Club can save money at the same time: practicing yoga for a month in a studio usually costs between 70 and 90 euros in the capital.
For the cheapest flat rate of the Urban Sports Club you only pay 59 euros.
Anyone willing to go to several studios can also do unlimited yoga on the platform, swim a few laps in the swimming pool, play badminton and sweat in the sauna.
Overall, a member of the Urban Sports Club still pays less for this than for a monthly ticket in a yoga studio.
But is it also worthwhile for the sports studios and independent trainers to enter into a partnership with a fitness platform such as the Urban Sports Club?
In the Berlin yoga scene there are increasing voices that say, like Aline Wolter: No.
The cooperation with such a fitness platform is threatening the very existence.
A yoga teacher writes on her blog that she has seriously considered looking for a part-time job: "Could I go cleaning, do translations or work as a dog sitter?"
The new, lower payouts for yoga online courses that were introduced by the Urban Sports Club in the Corona lockdown were "a joke and a slap in the face," writes another.
Another teacher notes: "The only interest of the Urban Sports Club is to maximize its profits, not the profits of its partners."
Not only the Urban Sports Club, but also other companies, especially ClassPass from the USA and Gympass from Brazil, have a range of options that differ in detail, but are generally similar: with a membership you can flexibly use a wide range of sports.
According to its own statements, the Urban Sports Club in Berlin now has tens of thousands of members.
The company does not communicate how many there are in Germany or internationally.
Competitors ClassPass and Gympass also keep a low profile on how many people do sports through them.
But the Urban Sports Club is by far the most frequently used fitness platform on the Berlin yoga market.
This is confirmed by all studio operators and teachers who were ready for an interview as part of this research.
Aline Wolter, the yoga teacher with Rundmail, has been teaching yoga since 2017.
Since 2018 she has also been offering her lessons through the Urban Sports Club.
Wolter completed training courses in Berlin and India, and attended several workshops and further training courses with renowned teachers.
For 90 minutes of lessons, students actually pay 14 euros.
A common price for a yoga class in Berlin.
In some studios, however, it also costs 20 euros.
If someone comes to class via the Urban Sports Club, then Wolter, like other partners, is not paid directly by the participant, but receives an individually agreed payment per visitor from the fitness platform: between eight euros and 9.50 euros for a studio class, depending on the membership of the Urban Sports Club.
"I don't blame any yoga student who uses the app. But since so many in Berlin are members of Urban Sports Club, dumping prices for yoga are normal."
Aline Wolter *, yoga teacher
"At first I thought that was okay," says Aline Wolter today.
At first she saw the platform as an opportunity.
"There are so many opportunities to do yoga in Berlin in particular that it is not easy to attract attention as a new teacher."
She has since changed her mind and decided to end the collaboration with the platform as soon as her contract expires in spring 2021.
She accepts that significantly fewer people may then come to her courses.
"I don't want to support the fact that the prices are so low that teaching yoga is only possible as a hobby."
Wolter himself only gives yoga classes part-time.
She is therefore not dependent on the income.
"I don't blame any yoga student who uses the app," she says.
"But with so many members of the Urban Sports Club in Berlin, dumping prices for yoga are becoming normal."
Benjamin Roth, one of the two managing directors of the Urban Sports Club, rejects the allegation of dumping prices.
Together with Moritz Kreppel, he founded the fitness platform in Berlin in 2012.
How much the Urban Sports Club pays out to yoga teachers and studios varies within a range.
It is up to twelve euros per participant.
He also defends the prices for the fitness flat rates: "I think that our offer is very attractive, but with almost 60 euros for an M membership, it is not a bargain either," says Roth.
The cooperation with Urban Sports Club also benefits the partners by bringing them new customers, he emphasizes: "Our strength is to bring people to the sports on offer so that they can find exactly the right courses for themselves nearby . Especially a new, small studio without a large marketing budget can quickly gain awareness with us that it would not be able to achieve alone.
5.04 euros for an hour of online yoga
However, the payments for yoga classes can be significantly lower than with Aline Wolter.
Sometimes it is only 6.50 euros per participant, including VAT.
This is what it says in the contracts of another yoga teacher that ZEIT ONLINE has, and who remains anonymous at this point in order to protect her from legal action: she is contractually prohibited from sharing information about her remuneration through the Urban Sports Club.
For livestream lessons, as offered since the corona-related studio closings in March, this yoga teacher received only EUR 5.04 plus VAT per course participant.
In addition, she received a maximum of 30 euros plus VAT per month for each Urban Sports Club member - i.e. six participations in online courses.
At the same time, many Urban Sports Club customers were now allowed to do yoga with them every day: The cap that the members of the platform only have a certain number of visits per sports provider was relaxed for the online courses.
The yoga teacher, whose contracts ZEIT ONLINE has insight into, no longer offers livestream lessons via the Urban Sports Club.
But other partners also confirm that the company has introduced the lower payout of EUR 5.04 per online participant together with the digital lessons.
Aline Wolter, who also only offers studio classes and no longer offers online lessons via the Urban Sports Club, says she received this amount.
A spokeswoman for the company did not respond to the question of whether payments of EUR 5.04 and EUR 6.50 respectively would continue to be made for livestream courses and yoga lessons in the studio, but merely stated that "payouts" would not be made public.