The Yoga Business.

Via elephant journal
on May 27, 2013
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Photo: lyn tally
Photo: Lyn Tally

I spent 27 days in a closed spiritual retreat.

It was a place lost in space-time and hidden from eyes that “do not see.” A place not marked on any travel guide map—where life stops, where the external world disappears.

This is a place for meeting one’s teachers and oneself, an opportunity to hear what our inner truth has been telling us all along.

Twenty-seven days without a phone or the internet. (I beg the understanding of those whose calls and emails went unanswered.)

Twenty-seven days of practicing in silence and piercing stillness, a restructuring of the mind’s function and a deconstruction of knowledge accumulated over the years, which upon my return materialized in the form of three new books, a multitude of articles and boundless gratitude for the chance to stop and find myself again.

There comes a time when it becomes impossible to go on as you used to. There comes a time when you must choose whether to support a system aimed at fame and renown—a system that popularizes the teaching of yoga and the instructors themselves, who freely employ mental and social knowledge as a substitute for spiritual knowledge—or to step back and stop wasting time on the insignificant.

There comes a time when you understand that there is no way if there is understanding. A self that starts upon this way will never reach its end.

Whatever we do here on earth—whatever we may consider it to be and whatever we call it—this is nothing but a karmic school whose essence is only in graduating from it. We all have the power necessary to do so.

The issue is in having the will to. The choice is yours. I’ve made mine.

There are no masters left in the earth’s material plane. The masters have left for a different plane and now, after the transition of 2012, we have been left to our own devices.

The freedom of will and self-expression we strove for out of a greedy desire for power and following our ego’s ambitions is now bestowed upon us in all its glory. We have received that which we desired and for which we struggled.

But where has that brought us, and what has it become for us?

We have learned to use the right words, to say things that will touch others and resonate with them. We don’t need to have a Ph.D. in Economics to do it. We all know what is sold and how—even in yoga.

No, we don’t do it on purpose, or even consciously. Quite on the contrary—if only we could see, in a single moment, all of this in its entirety, our place and our role in it, its influence on us and on others, then we wouldn’t do it. We wouldn’t participate and would not be able to go on supporting it.

But we do not see.

We see it in fragments, agreeing with some, disagreeing with others, sometimes feeling something. But we do not see it fully, holistically.

If we could see, then the entire hellish mechanism, this entire wheel of spiritual samsara would stop immediately and never move again. If even one of the famous yoga instructors that supports, cultivates, desires and encourages their own self’s spiritual decay—or all the new-fashioned and tried-and-true gurus—were to truly be enlightened for a single second, this mechanism would crumble.

Vision is itself action. So long as there is no vision, there can be no action.

After all, we only nourish this mechanism and bring it to life in order to playfully struggle with it. We fiddle with it, rolling it back and forth, like children with their toy cars.

All of these yoga systems, yoga organizations, yoga projects, yoga conferences, yoga festivals, yoga federations, yoga platforms, yoga missions and other toys in the hands of spiritual adolescents, are all deeply corrupt, to their very essence.

We must ourselves be corrupt down to our cores, if we can make a game out of spirituality itself.

The relationships of yoga-disciple, disciple-teacher, teacher-studio, disciple-studio and teacher-teacher have been corrupted. These relationships have no purity, no spiritual essence, no love, and thus they are unnecessary.

Unnecessary, no matter how pure and yoga-appropriate the phrases in which we disguise ourselves and by which we deceive others. Unnecessary, no matter how hard we try to silence our conscience and consciousness with phrases from the books of Advaita Vedanta that “all must be as it is,” “all is already perfect,” and, thus, “nothing needs to be changed.”

Yes, all is exactly “as it is” on the outside, but at the same time completely different within us.

In the depths of our souls each of us knows our weaknesses and knows that inside everything is already different. Just that the internal does not match the external and, thus, something needs to be changed. This is the eternal juxtaposition of good and evil inside each of us, choices we make every second. This is the balance and unification of opposites, for each of us the balance is different.

A yoga instructor tells himself and his students:

“This is my mission. I only wish to share and help people.”

And he believes it himself, preferring not to see it any other way. A mission wrapped in a cover of captivating videos, thought-out PR-campaigns, SEO-optimized websites, colorful yoga photo shoots, bestselling texts, flashy announcements that “space is limited,” purchased Facebook likes, and one’s own daily “struggle” to perform a handstand.

That’s a slightly different kind of mission.

It’s convenient to cover up with the mission concept, the spiritual shield of ignorance, so long as you don’t know, despite all your enlightenment, that there is no other mission for every human being other than to move toward oneness.

This mission is within us—and it is the only one. This battle happens on the personal level, within you, within me, within each of us. Only on the individual level.

It is the inner relationship between identity and spirit, which concerns only you—no one else should have any business with it.

Free yourself of the ridiculous idea that you need to do something worthwhile and important in this life, that you need to leave a trace or help as many people as possible. Free yourself of the desire to achieve lofty goals—these are all tricks of the mind.

There is no mission, and there never has been, for anyone and to anyone. It’s merely a spiritually-justified mental trap.

The ego invents a myriad of missions. It’s the new drug for the modern yoga-junkie.

We cannot help anyone in any way as long as we haven’t reached it ourselves. And we cannot teach anyone anything, as long as we haven’t achieved the understanding on our own.

We cannot walk their path for them. Otherwise, it is nothing more than intellectual knowledge passed from one person to another. There is no point in it; in fact, it causes more harm than good.

The way is only inside, and this battle happens only on the personal level.

Spiritual supermarket shelves are full to the brim of intellectual knowledge about yoga and spirituality. In their various packages, we all keep consuming new intellectual product-knowledge—empty, endless knowledge that sucks out our time, strength, hopes, money and energy and only to lead us away from ourselves and our direct connection with our spirit.

Perhaps, for some, it will eventually suck out illusions as well—but not all are so lucky.

Spiritual knowledge cannot be transferred from person to person. It always descends upon us from above, directly into our being.

To listen to it, to hear it and to follow it in every second of our lives—this is our only mission and the only straight and true way for man to reach oneness.

As long as students accept middlemen between themselves and spirituality, as long as teachers rant about their missions, people will keep failing their one mission on Earth. Instead, they will spend years following others, imperfect mortals, who are also losing time stuck in their own illusions.

How long will you go on wasting time and encouraging others to waste it as well? How long will you go on wandering around yoga studios without admitting to yourself that yoga is not a group activity, not a party or group entertainment?

Yoga is an intimate, sacred practice—a quiet and tremulous communication between us and our own spirit that has nothing to do with unknown people sweating around us.

How long will we go on creating and seeking out teachers—finding them, becoming infatuated with them and disappointed in them? How long will we go on choosing them by their mass appeal, appearance, photos, numbers of likes, emoticons, comments, shares and pins on their social media pages?

How long will we go on admiring their “legs behind the head” pose (as though that could ever put anyone’s head back in its proper place)?

How long will we yoga teachers go on killing our soul and each other with competition, throwing each other about with words about our truth? How long will we keep pushing each other away with Bali seminar prices, crushing each other with loads of Instagram handstand photos or all-the-same ridiculous home-made YouTube videos, blinding each other with bright Lululemon leggings, Coolpix effects and Yoga Journal covers?

The choice is ours.

We choose what and whom to follow; how to practice and why; how to teach and for what purpose; what to revere and how to spend your time.

I’m not a teacher. I have no mission, no intent to enlighten. Not anymore.

I have no system, no school, no instructors. All I can do is to show how I practice.

But, even that is no longer necessary, ever since I wrote a book in which anyone who may be curious can find out.

Creators of systems ruin their followers. Followers ruin the creators of the systems they follow. No one does it on purpose. It’s just that no one is aware of it.

The choice is yours—I’ve made mine.


Nina Mel bio picNina Mel is the author of the books The Book of Asanas: Energy Geometry of the Human Body, The Art of Attention, The Unknown Chakras, and The Lessons of Insider. Nina has a Ph.D. in Psychology. She is an intuitive and a specialist in the creation of Individual Asana Codes—personally-tailored yoga programs which are unique, safe and personalized self-practice experiences for those who believe that the sacred process of yoga practice is a spiritual discipline that cannot be effectively practiced at yoga studios and group classes.


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230 Responses to “The Yoga Business.”

  1. Angela says:

    Why does yoga have to be solitary? A home practice is wonderful, but with four teenagers in the house, and a dog who likes to get on the mat with me, I find it difficult to practice at home. I love the studio, the teachers, and amazing friends that I have made there. I enjoy practicing alone as well as with a group. Yoga doesn't always have to be so serious. It can be fun and playful. However and wherever you practice, it should fill you with joy, otherwise why do it?

    • Nina Mel says:

      Hi Angela – it doesn't have to be. It has to be exactly what you want it to be.
      But if you believe that it doesn't have to be serious and should be fun, than I guess we just talking about different subjects here and different "yoga". As I am talking about yoga as a spiritual way, not a yoga fitness fun you can have in a group with unknown people or between the kids and dogs being distracted for what is the whole point of doing this. If you just like to move your body a bit and have some fun, then you probably don't need to call it "I am practicing yoga" – because you don't. No offense, just the fact. But I totally understand where you are at the moment, what's your point, and what is yoga for you – that's also fine as long as you enjoy it and get your benefits, that's perfect and it doesn't have to be different.

      This article was a suggestion for those who desperately seeking something else and struggle to find it here – who search for real serious practice – so I gave the suggestion what it is NOT and where to seek for it with the more chances to find it.

      Thank you for the comment. I wish you a great practice no matter what it is for you and where. Good luck.

      • Juli J says:

        I respectfully disagree with this. I think it is very possible to experience mindfulness and take steps toward connecting with the Self through a practice of joy. As you said yourself the path happens on a very personal level. Please then do not be so quick to dismiss a practice described as "fun and playful" as "yoga fitness fun". Perhaps this IS the case for her, but then again perhaps not. It could be a transformational practice…depends upon what is going on internally. I don't think either of us can discern the answer to that from her casual comment.

  2. ishita sharma says:

    It's ironic that your essay is footnoted by your customized, unique to each individual yoga lessons and invites to like elephant yoga. while you have a point, it's all looking like a heap of sell outs with 20 somethings prancing around in tight clothes, harping spiritual lessons which seem to have been memorized more than imbibed, there is a place for a teacher and a student, a guide to the path of enlightenment.

    when they are ready to seek, they will find.

    • Nina Mel says:

      Ishita, in the first comments I've already answered several times about my old bio. I will just repeat that I do not give this service anymore, that was my specialization before I stopped. I am also not 20 something – another mistake. But I am sorry you didn't like the post and wishing you good luck in your search to find the teacher of enlightenment that you need.

    • ishita sharma says:

      Nina, the 20 somethings comment wasn't aimed at you. Not a personal attack here. I actually enjoyed your essay, just thought it seemed odd for the bio to reflect what you were arguing against.

      • Nina Mel says:

        Agree, I should have remembered what bio I have and write a new one for the articles submission. Working on it! 😉 Namaste.

      • Your bio is your bio and should reflect who you are – not who you are based on each post you write and the message in each post, right?

        • amphibi1yogini says:

          If that's the case, then of course BUSTED.

          But it could have been oversight.

          However, I do know, from the straight, quotidian, for-profit working world, that you change and customize your resume for each separate job you seek.

  3. Trying to be happy says:

    Each to their own! If you like to post hundreds of pictures of yourself, do so! If you like going to a studio and practising, do so! and if you like practising on your own, do so! Whatever makes you happy as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, do what makes you happy. Everything in our society becomes corrupt and shit at some point, we just all need to make the choice, to consider others be loving and do good and push the ugly side of things out. There are really big issues in the world and this is not one of them.
    (Really no need for shitty comments towards her though, you people should be ashamed.)

  4. Lynna says:

    I agree. Yoga has become commercialized and a mere trend for those who are seeking the superficial "yoga look." I recently received my Yoga Teaching Certificate and I was dismayed by the super ego and superficiality of the yoga teachers teaching for the program and even the shallowness of my fellow students. By the time I was done with the program, I was sickened by the whole "yoga industry." Real yogis do not care what the latest yoga clothing styles are, or how they can do more weird poses than the next person, or charging people $30.00 for a one hour "workshop" and trying to cram 30 people into the workshop.

  5. brendanoneworld says:

    I can only say from my perspective that if/when I go to a yoga class (I mostly practice on my own), I do not look at it from the perspective of being taught and nor do I attend for spiritual reasons. I go because I find something really great in closing my eyes and working my breathe. I find something grounding in tuning my senses in to the amazing silence of breathing collectively with my peers, moving my body through postures… some attainable, and some out of reach for a time… some that gently amaze me, and others that ask me to be patient. When I listen to the community around me, each individual with their own unique intention or lack thereof… I feel ground and love myself for showing up.

    When I attend a class… I disregard the tendency to judge the system. That would be too easy. Instead… I close my eyes and set my intentions and listen within and without. I do find that much of what has been thought about and passed on, realized and taught (within the modern culture of yoga,) has been commercialized and branded. However, what good would it be to just step aside… yoga can be fun. Yoga can be experimental. Yoga can be both rewarding and a let-down. Yoga can be a hug. Yoga can be a slap in the face. Yoga can be an awakening. Yoga can be a joke. Yoga can be spiritual, or a fart. It really just all depends on why you are there, and what you are there for.

  6. Mark says:

    What a great article. As the psychiatrist said under his breath at Basil Faulty's bedside, "there's enough material there for an entire conference", and that's just the comments. They kind of illustrate the point Nina is making I guess. The industry of yoga is wall to wall hypocrisy and nonsense, where to start, Kino's jewellery collection maybe. But anyway, it seems that Nina hasn't given up yoga, just being part of the industry. You get into yoga, you think well this is better than working for the man, you start teaching, you realise that it doesn't pay the rent so you have to press on the gas a bit and 5 minutes later you are starting you own jewellery range. Bullshit already, damn. So find a balance, as somebody said earlier, "better health and body function", you need this to sit still. You need to develop concentration and stillness skills to get out of your own way. There is so much you don't need. I love Kino, I love her enthusiasm and her drive, and her shorts, but I don't need to do a workshop, to get what pearl of wisdom that I don't already know from a system that has very explicit guidelines already. Just do it. That is the point, the rest is fluff. But I have done workshops and they were fun at the time. Maybe one hands on adjustment from Kino would heal me.
    As Patrick at the Yogabum.blogspot said a few weeks ago, (words to this effect) 'sometimes you just need to dig in deep and do the uncomfortable stuff', and take responsibility for yourself. Don't be addicted to the search just do it. Unless of course you are starting out and can't see the wood for the trees.

    So good on you Nina for dare I say it, your very European realism. Best Elephant article I've read. Bollocks to teacher training certificates, yoga jewellery, showoff teachers, yoga expo and hooray for strong bodies and strong minds, day in day out enquiry into self.

    Trouble with life enquiry (yoga) is that if you look behind the curtain you might just see the truth about who is pulling the levers. You can never undo that and it makes life harder in many ways. Listen to Terrence McKenna on youtube if you need to know that you are not alone. Read Krishnamurti if you want to start your own enquiry going. Read Ken Wilbur if you can't take tie die and pony tails.

    "There are no masters left in the earth’s material plane". I can understand how that comes a cross as a bit David Icke though.

    • Nina Mel says:

      Thank you for such an interesting feedback, Mark. And thanks for the names you mentioned – I read Krishnamurti but will check the others! Be well.

  7. joseph says:

    What a confused human being. As my wonderful teacher would say: "shut up and do your practice".

    • Nina Mel says:

      I would question either your ability to learn or the wonderfulness of your teacher if he failed to teach you this lesson. 🙂
      In any case you are a perfect live example of my standpoint that the teacher's role is needless.

  8. Is the message of the article a simple call for yoga teachers to abandon materiality? It comes across as a very unhappy ex yoga teacher whose justification for leaving a career in yoga is because the others have sold out materially. But that would make a very poor reason. Why should what others do determine what I do? I would simply look for ways then share these ways of doing the work of yoga that do not compromise my spiritual values (if there are such things).

    I wonder if the author has left her life's work too soon and lessons unexplored. The writing is black and white. "We cannot help anyone in anyway as long as we haven't reached it ourselves." – Do I have to be enlighthen before I can teach yoga? There are many weak points in the article. These make easy targets for the audience. I sincerely hope the author doesn't quit writing as well. No matter what we do there are tremendous lessons to learn from the doing. It's why I teach yoga.

  9. Nadya says:

    Dear Nina, thank you very much for your writing, it is beautifully done, indeed, it evokes good constructive questions and makes me question. I think it is a great gift to be able to have what you had, to be able to leave it behind. But also a gift to experience what you've expirienced on that retreat, to touch something pure. Also to be so strong woman with amazing abilities. Inspired by you! You are purely gifted woman! I want to share one experience what had happened to me 4 years ago. I was on silent retreat in a beautiful place in England for 2 months. My perseption of the world radicaly changed, I felt strong, the feeling like "now I know", purity, clarity, strength and great sensitivity became my good friends. I have not even felt like a human, may be God-like creature, a bit uplifted from the ground. It passed, even I did not wanted it to pass 🙂 I just want to say things are chanable, they are passing by, but I understood for myself that the most important thing is to be real, grounded and recieve everything what comes with the kind heart, and good humor 🙂 I give you a warm hug! And wish you enjoy your wonderful time of a pose! With all respect. Nadya

  10. If I had to be enlighten before I teach yoga that would require me believing in an enlightenment that can be had. I require no such spiritual accomplishment for my life's work to be meaningful and fulfilling.

  11. Amanda says:

    Hi all, just enjoyed reading all the interesting article & viewpoints on this, i think Nina has raised an interesting point about the physical aspects of the Yogic journey, it is very widely known as only the 3rd limb of Yoga, Ghandiji has been quoted saying, "the best people you will ever meet you will never know their names". I think this is exactly the point Nina is trying to draw, to a society that looks for answers externally and recognizes the people who are saying it in the most digestible well packaged way. I feel Nina has experienced and embraced another limb of the Yogic philosophy, such as Dhyana & Dharana. Experiencing these other limbs can be liberating as well as confusing, experiencing clarity and seeing the world through a new set of eyes, can make one dismiss the journey that brought them there, i do feel the longer one is on the Yogic path, the less the need to condemn and rather embrace the many ways each and everyone spirits are unfolding and continue to unfold towards oneness… Seeing each other as one another's Guru's, not more not less. As the wise words have been said… The Divine in me recognizes the divine in you… Namaste

  12. Miriam says:

    I agree with the reader who said you sound burned out. And I could see how NYC yoga could do that for you. It's like the consumerism of health food stores and the piles of Gluten Free products. Pick and choose — but be selective.
    Just because you give up the "professional" practice, doesn't mean you give up the "P"ractice within you, that is always Yoga. I'd like to think you are addressing the masses that practice yoga only once they are in a studio, within the walls of the "please pace your shoes here" — and rolling out mats on the hour. Otherwise, many of us take on the learning as a way of life, a practice and a faith.
    Yoga is the Science of all Religions, it's not a religion, or a cult. Those that do it for physical exercise, well, neither are they pretending to want more spirituality from it. If they get it, good for them.
    Otherwise, it's time to see that Yoga crept its way into the Western culture because the Western culture needs it. Popularity and trend took over the rest and maybe, YES, corrupted some of the intention.
    Yoga Asana isn't practiced in the East nearly at all anymore, save a few ashrams occupied by and for Westerners or retreats and Teacher Trainings traveling there. But that doesn't mean our society can't benefit from it. I feel we are searching for something to save us from the infierno we've created here.
    Yoga is more than Asana. Yoga is meditation, Love, Karma.
    I respect your point of view, but the generalisms definitely concern me.

  13. PhillyD says:

    Ah man, I love the effort to be be an ethical business. It’s a powerful way to be a part of our economy and show people that you can create & sustain a living with what you love being & doing.

    The joy of practice for me is also bringing the practice into my life as it is. The little things we do make the biggest difference. More then this, the little things we CAN DO.

  14. This thread is quite stimulating, and just that, I think, gives it value.

    Your piece reads like an exercise in Neti Neti, "Not this, not that, not that either". Ascending beyond it all. This is well played out in history, and the general conclusion has been that saying no to life is, well… kind of a bummer. Pattabhi Jois was an adherent of Patanjali, whose philosophy is mostly ascending. But the main guru in picture form in his room, right there in front of us as we practiced, was Shankaracharya, who basically signals the move India took into Vedanta and the embrace of the material with the spirit, an affirmation that the two go together, and can't not.

    Those who decide to stop making money in yoga may well discover that almost all other industries are rougher, crasser, meaner. The only ones who don't need to make money, get in the fray, are those who have been gifted by those who did. Pattabhi Jois lived off his begging bowl when he was a young man, but later in life begging bowl becomes a rough career. He died in his nineties, rich from working hard in yoga.

    If we develop social and mental skills in our yoga community, these may well provide a firm and robust foundation for sustained-over-many years spiritual development. The Sangha has proven over millenia to be important. Otherwise, an individual's arc can go in fits and starts, or flame out like a meteor.

    And yes, Yoga is getting dumber all the time, in my town of Santa Barbara anyway, and your article spelled out many of the problems, even taught me a few. The crude vibration is getting louder in yoga, and drowning out much of the deeper stuff, making it harder to compete. But these methods also bring more people in and some of them will rise up, yes, develop through degrees of error or corruption, see what they did yesterday and make it an object to contemplate today. Steadily grow just like a tree. One can make money higher up on the tree.

    I admire your courage for hanging in there and open-heartedly answering the backlash on this thread. You put something naked out there.

    o Steve

  15. James Russell says:

    Nina, thanks for sharing your very heartfelt words, and congratulations for seeing through some of the 'b***sh*t thats out there in the yoga-industry. But you're wrong about somethings : there are always masters on the earth. Great souls that have elected to come back to this ocean of samsara in order to help us drowning folks make it across to the shoreline. They may not have facebook/twitter profiles or be on the front cover of Yoga Journal. They probably aren't that interested in teaching yoga asana's, or even manifesting as yoga teachers at all but they are out there nonetheless. Of this I am sure. Namaste
    James UK

    • Nina Mel says:

      Thank you for your comment, James. I have answered in details for you and others on the "masters" subject in a new comment below. If the admins will decide to make it public after reviewing it – as I just discovered I can't just post a new comment like I did before. 🙂 Namaste

  16. SatyaJen says:

    I"m confused though. If my first yoga teacher didn't want to reach out and share her journey and convince me to start mine, I would be more lost today than I am. Are we never to try? I'm sincerely trying to understand.

    • Nina Mel says:

      Dear SatyaJen, no extremes – I addressed this article more to those who are already "lost in the game" – to the teachers out there and to the students who run around from one teacher/studio/practice to another and never stop to realize why they need and do it, and that if they really need exactly what they claim – they can get it in another place in another way – direct way.

      We all get the first impulses of spirituality from other people, situations, experiences – or so it seems – but no need to get stuck there.
      Best to you on you way.

  17. shannon says:


    Do you really think there aren't ANY yoga teachers worth listening to & learning from? I'm just wondering if you think people should just stop practicing yoga or figure it out themselves. For example, my teacher has showed me how to relieve a spinal injury, guided me toward meditation + helped me feel better in general. Why is that bad? Or is it just the commercialism you have an issue with? It sickens me too. I'm just not ready to say I'm my only teacher.

    • Nina Mel says:

      Hi Shannon – I've answered this below in a new comment – if it gets posted below after admin's moderation, you'll see what I mean talking about teachers and learning from them. I don't even say it's so bad itself – but yes, the commercialism and the way we perceive the teachings – and what it does to our real ability to understand – that's what I am a bit against from, if I can put it like this. Thank you for your thoughts. Best.

  18. Beth says:

    I would just like to know how Nina makes a living now. Folks who have to work for money are blessed to do something they adore and that helps many others. It is a deep blessing in fact. Is there an implication here that we teachers should do something else for money, like work a corporate job? Nina, do you think this is better?

    BTW, a 27 day retreat is such a small window of time in deep contemplation – consider the ones who do this their whole adult life and do not write a big manifesto to help others "see the light".

    How do you earn your living now Nina? For real…

    • Nina Mel says:

      No problem with any work if you don't compromise with your soul doing this (like most yoga teachers do). 🙂 If you do compromise and trade you inner truth this way – better go to work in real business. That's at least understandable and this behavior is normal there – everybody is aware that the only thing you really care about is money and success. But if you come to talk about spirituality – and start to sell your soul on this way – that's the kind of hypocrisy that kills you and keeps others in spiritual illusions on purpose. If you are ok with that – do it and enjoy it, there is no bad or good, and no such bad consequences. But if you know this this inside but pretend you don't know – that's bad for you first of all – and the consequences are much tougher.

      So find a way to do it without harming others under the good intent of helping them. Simply adjust the way you do it – and be honest first to yourself, then to others. The rest is your choice, whatever you decide to do. I don't even suggest to consider changing what you to do – I would suggest change the way you do it and change your perception of what you do and why – for a realistic ones. For the beginning. The rest will follow, you'll be much more connected to the Self and will know and decide what to do next – or what not do.

      ps. Beth, it wasn't just a 27 day "retreat" – but years of contemplation on this subject with me being not so happy with a way I compromise with myself and "encouraging" others to do the same. I tried different approaches, neither one made me feel content enough – and I must say I still didn't find it. I have few months to figure this out not being desperate to earn something. But if you'll see me teaching yoga groups in yoga studios again someday – that means I failed in my attempts and I ask you not to come to my class ever as I have nothing to give you accept feeding your illusions and maybe making your butt a bit more tight from numerous Virabhadrasanas 3 – that's the maximum. If you need it – you are welcome. But I'm telling you that's not what we need, and what you need you can get for free – you don't need me or anyone else for this. Good luck.

      • amphibi1yogini says:

        … because if you still have the same attitude as you claim, the profit-mongering studio owner will figuratively beat it out of you.

        Don't come to your class? Anti-invitation accepted, dear.

        No problem on MY end … I go for years at a time without practicing elsewhere than my home or on my own.

  19. Nina Mel says:

    part 2.
    How long will we strive for being "special" and believe those special ones exist? This is the base of this industry. That's where it all comes from and feeds from. People believe enlightenment is reachable in this human form and those self-claimed masters are an example where to go and how to live.

    I guess 99,9% of practitioners would change their mind and realize they actually don't really need to get enlightened that much if they knew that means leaving this form and place (oops..). No, they don't want it, they don't want to abandon their life and toys and so, they just need to be special or maybe have better relationships to themselves and others. That's totally understandable. So let's just be honest in our needs.

    And lets try to understand where we are and what does it mean to "conquer our mind/material nature" and get "enlightened". It takes thousands of lifetimes and serious conscious non-stop efforts to be able to leave this place – but do people really want this?

    No, they need yoga studios, fun and all those attributes of spirituality market – colored mats, fancy malas, nice yogic clothes – this whole "vibe of esoterism", plus good-looking gurus around them to look at and fall in admiration with, and simply a chance to spend their time with the great feeling they are doing sth. spiritual that is good for them and maybe for others (what can be more pleasant than the feeling of helping someone. It feels nice, doesn't it?).

    Those who are Masters, they are not here and can not exist here – this place we are in itself is a proof that there is no master here. This place is for the students, not for the Masters. And if the student comes close to "mastering" his essence (but he is still a human/under duality until he is in this form), he will never become a "teacher" or the one who reaches out to people and "teaches" them in a way we used to perceive a teacher – "the one who sits down in a circle of students and explains it all to them and answers their questions etc." No matter where he accepts student – in his holy cave or in the fancy yoga studio in Nyc. That's what I mean saying "no masters". There are Masters, but they are in a different realm, and yes they do help – because they can. Humans around here – can not.

    Humans can give each other Information, it may even seem they can make you turn into a different direction where you can experience sth. "spiritual" – but the experience you get, the miracles that happen to you, the healing you experience – it is all happening because you yourself did it with the blessings/help/energy passed down from the real Masters and the One Itself, because you attracted this, you were working at this and you were manifesting this your self. You simply experience/witness their blessings that seems to take form via sth. in material form.
    Even those events where it seems that it was a human that "did this to you" – he was just a tool used in the hands of real Masters – inside him and inside you. So what I suggest is don't waste so much time looking so much at the tools being used around (though you can and will do this always to a certain extent) – but look at the ones who create the tools – look inside to the place where they operate within you – and get the real guidance from there.

    Enjoy the game if you wish and get inspired by others and everything around – but realize what force is at work and how it works. There's an old saying: don't look at the fingers who point to God, thinking that the finger is God. Look at the direction he points to. And don't mistake the finger for sth. it is not and never will be.
    The direction everything, absolutely everything points to in this realm – is inside you, where you can connect with the higher forces/energy and Masters from different realms.

    Once again – no need to quit life and go to the cave and stop talking to people or have fun if you want it. I just say that we need to get rid of an illusion that imprisons us and doesn't let us grow. The institution of Enlightenment, the industry of yoga service and the myths yoga teachers and gurus support in order to stay in their position – intentionally or not – is something that does not do us good even if it seems like this. I know it's hard to believe but it does more harm than good. Especially the way it develops nowadays, with all this yoga boom era. If the half-truth of the "teachers" makes you forget the truth you can receive from the inside – this is not for your awakening then, this just keeps you in a sleeping state.

    I mean.. If it doesn't resonate with you, no issues. Go your way and I totally respect it. That's all fine and should be like this. Just forget about it.

    Don't get mad that I say this – stick to your own truth, as I stick to mine. No one can take it from you.


  20. Mi_Corazon says:

    Thank you for this article. It could be written about any widely disseminated spiritual teaching, path, "movement" and certainly any industry. For example, consider the change from what "organically farmed" meant 25 years ago to what it means today. Everything goes through its microcosmic yugas, and the innate contradictions of the human condition will assert themselves everywhere, repeatedly. Disgust comes when we forget that this is the case. When I can, I prefer to see the leela and continue to find what has integrity for me in the moment, knowing that my ego-drama will eventually use that vehicle as well to express itself. How could it be otherwise? It is wonderful to tear down scaffolding. It is also wonderful to remember that a new scaffolding will be inevitably be built. Virtue ebbs and flows.

    • amphibi1yogini says:

      This Kali Yuga has to die in a flaming exposed corona before its death before the new age begins ..

  21. Todd says:

    Haahahahahaha..That was a breath of fresh air! Nice work, You read my mind.

  22. Ellen Cox says:

    Bravo! I get you…

  23. SatyaJen says:

    Nina, thank you for "part 2". That answered my question above.

    I can see synchronicities working in my life and I had to work hard to find a studio I felt I could learn from. Conversations that have taken place there introduced me to a world I didn't know existed 2 years ago. I appreciate the studio is a place you could show up in sweat pants and no one would notice. I never understood how yoga could be so expensive and so competitive prior to finding this place. Once I found an environment that fostered exploration inward, yoga became more than a fancy grown-up gymnastics class 😉

    I think it took a lot of courage to write an article such as that and put it out there for all. I'm surprised more readers don't honor your decision.

  24. Brad says:

    Well said. Most of it. For anyone that has any awareness growing in them, they know the yoga world is a big farce indeed. Thank you for saying it and putting the big invisible elephant in the room into visibility. Now watch it rain down on you with all the comments from egos that think they know better.

    The one thing I would disagree with, there are masters out there still. The thing is, you are not going to find them trying to sell themselves and saving humanity. The enlightened masters do not teach any seminars or big groups of people. They are out there though. One is lucky if they run into one as they are not in the masses. The distraction of the mundane life is more of a nuisance than anything else. The western culture is just that. Real yoga remains esoteric i.e. not for the masses and not understood by the masses. Therefore, it is not in the masses. Never will be.

    The path is real but the paradigm of the west does not support it in anyway, it is actually just the opposite of it. But let the clowns run the circus, for this is all we have here.
    (except for a few)

  25. YogawithLiz says:

    I appreciate your insights. I think you are very wise and I understand your point of view. It takes a great deal of soul searching and courage to speak as openly as you do. I wish I had the opportunity to delve deeper into this subject as it resonated deeply with me. I think I could learn a lot from you. I also feel that some here on the forum who have responded rather aggressively to you, fail to see the truth in your message. Perhaps they don't understand how the business of Yoga has irreparably altered it as a vehicle for self realization and higher awareness. Yoga has been corrupted from its roots as a spiritual practice. Even those who think they are immune aren't. I think that was the point. We in the Yoga community think we are so pure and well intentioned, but we are still attached to success, popularity, ego, money and status and being and looking "Yogic", even if we delude ourselves that we aren't. As Cyndi Lauper so aptly stated in her song "Money changes everything…"

  26. Auki says:

    Nina Mel,
    You seem like a kind person, but I have a hard time taking your writing seriously. You state opinions, judgments and "your truth" as if you are unveiling hard facts and universal truths. I could respect your article more if you would OWN your judgments & opinions for what they are — judgement and opinions — rather than masquerading your perceptions as universal absolutes & hard facts.

  27. Miguel says:


    Will you come for the yoga congress in Spain in septenber which is advertising on this website ?

  28. jonathan says:

    The Truth will always have pushback. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this article. Where can I find you online? I would like to read more of your work.

    • Nina Mel says:

      Thank you, Jonathan. I might be writing more for Elephant or somewhere else. Not sure where and when yet.

  29. Tim Jordan says:

    Love love love this article. So much food for thought. Thank you for giving voice to feelings I’ve had about yoga, as we’ve come to experience it in the west, for a long time.

  30. Demian says:

    Nina Mel, Thank you much for the article! Really a lot to think about!

  31. JungleCat says:

    "Yoga is an intimate, sacred practice—a quiet and tremulous communication between us and our own spirit that has nothing to do with unknown people sweating around us".

    I disagree with this comment… yoga has everything to do with the unknown people sweating around us. Yoga is about union and about connection. We are all intimately connected to one another and when we share practice together we develop deeper connections to each other, we raise vibration on a larger level when we are part of a group.

    There are many teachers out here who are working together, sharing with one another not competing, there are free community yoga classes and so many positive things that happen as more individuals learn about yoga…and they learn from teachers and while I agree there is a whole lot of lulu lemon, big money retreats and bullshit…there is a whole lot of positivity and beauty…don't let yourself be blinded!

    • Nina Mel says:

      Thank you, JungleCat for your opinion. We have different visions of what yoga is, that's ok. Blessings to you on your yoga path.

  32. Yogacult says:

    Nina, thank you for sharing your truth. Each of us must seek our own truth and find the courage to express it. The venom with which many have responded here is evidence of the state of consiousness that leads to the trap you warn of. I would have liked to learn more of your teachings, but that was not my path.

    Onward, I wish you blessings on your journey.

  33. I have experienced a similar state of mind when I was working in the fashion industry in NY in my 20's. I asked myself "what is the point of all this craziness?". Now I am happily teaching yoga in Northern California. At one point in our life those of us ready for a mental paradigm shift go through a collapse. We let go of our past environment and people but not because they are bad or more ignorant than us. We leave them because we ourselves need to change in order to grow. Believing that the others are ignorant allows us to leave.

    If you have been practicing yoga early in life and remained in it for so long it probably is time you move on. I wish you well on your journey. It is true there is no master, no mission and I would add no higher purpose of enlightenment. If your life is simple and you are content with and love everyone in your life as well as your own then this moment is sweet, inspiring and worth living up to.

  34. Yogini says:

    I think that when we stop living on this planet, we can stop being human. In the meantime, even our time best spent, even our quest for a spiritual life of devotion to a higher power, will be tinged with humanity. There's no way to avoid that but to quit the journey completely, which I guess is what you chose to do. Yes the yoga "biz" sometimes goes to far, but we can each choose to practice in an environment that nudges us along on our own personal journey. Great read though. Lots to think about here!

  35. Swami Anantananda says:

    It's a very trendy and very egoic tendency to assert the non-existence of Masters and the lack of need for one. Very U.G. Krishnamurthi of you. However, this flies in the face of the very tradition (Sanatana Dharma) which created the Masters you implicitly acknowledge must have at least existed on earth once upon a time. Those Masters achieved their realization through utilizing the ancient tradition of Guru Param-para. They shared that realization by making use of the same tradition. There has never been a break in this tradition. For example, Ramana Maharshi was one of the greatest Masters who ever lived. His disciple Sri Punya had a disciple who is now called Mooji. Mooji is still alive and well. He is very much a Master. I have met others personally. To say that they don't exist is to say that they never existed. It sounds like you've let a little bit of knowledge lead you to make some gross over-generalizations.

  36. I fucking LOVE LOVE LOVE this article! thank you so much for sharing! it articulates ~ perfectly ~ the recurring nightmare i have been having in regards to owning a Yoga Studio!
    Super Kudos to you for diving in deep enough to express this sentiment!

  37. Demetra says:

    Hi Nina,

    Thank you for your article, as it made me think. I just am not convinced that yoga is bad all the time. Yoga came to me at a time when I desperately needed it, and it saved me. I went through teacher training just a year later. The training tremendously deepened my own practice. I don't think that everything has to be as absolute as you say. Sometimes yes, I admit, yoga is just plain fun for me. It is also what I turn to when I'm sad. And it has given me something more- to want to look for more than a studio can give. There are days when I don't want to go to a group class, and prefer to spend the time on my own mat, by myself. Sometimes I need more meditation than asana, and vice versa. I'm young, and maybe, someday, I'll want to stop teaching. No one ever knows what will happen. But for now, I love it. I love helping people feel better. I love when people who are not normally spiritually inclined come to my class. And sure, sometimes there is ego there too, as there is for everything. But I am very aware of it. If not for yoga, do you think you would have ever come to this realization? I think it is a wonderful stepping stone for people on their way to their own self-practice and spiritual knowledge. Just because you know something doesn't mean it is right for everyone, or that you are better than them because you think you know more. This is your own journey, and everyone's journey is equally important. I realize why you wrote the article, and I do think that's a good thing. But I think that even commercial yoga is ultimately doing more good than bad.

    Kudos for diving deep enough to uncover your dissatisfaction with the Yoga industry. I shared the article on my Studio page because I agree with the sentiment.
    I think it's important to make a distinction between Faith and the Business of Yoga. It does appear that you are weaving~ almost seamlessly ~ two notions together. The business of Yoga is just that..its a business and to quote Tom Robbins :
    Ideas are definitely unstable, they not only CAN be misused, they invite misuse–and the better the idea the more volatile it is. That's because only the better ideas turn into dogma, and it is this process whereby a fresh, stimulating, humanly helpful idea is changed into robot dogma that is deadly….
    The problem starts at the secondary level, not with the originator or developer of the idea but with the people who are attracted by it, who adopt it, who cling to it until their last nail breaks, and who invariably lack the overview, flexibility, imagination, and most importantly, sense of humor, to maintain it in the spirit in which it was hatched. Ideas are made by masters, dogma by disciples, and the Buddha is always killed on the road.

    I think we have a responsibility as smart, creators invested in liberation to not mump everyone and everything into the same cesspool of distaste but rather continue to remain inspired and most importantly, to stay connected to pursuit of Oneness..We can mind our business and trust the process.
    Believe me, sometimes i feel like Yogis are the nastiest bunch of people I have ever worked with and I dare not proclaim any ownership to a title such as that….but i practice Yoga and I own a Yoga studio because Im in Love with movement, spirituality, and the continuous opportunity to be humbled enough to take a Gods eye perspective to see where my Real work is.
    My Mantra is This: Don'y shoot the Messenger….

  39. Javi says:

    I have read every comments and replies regarding Nina's article and i found it very useful to open this kind of discussions. I feel what Nina is transmitting is not merely a Yoga industry discussion, but a fundamental aspect and process of our existence, that can be experimented by any person, even by people who don't teach or practice Yoga…i found that most of the comments mention the word "enlightenment"…but i ask what enlightenment really is? it sounds like something that we need to reach, something that people is looking for, but nobody understand what it really is! …but why do we care much about this? I feel the challenge in this life is to release ourselves from the idea that we need to get something! In this sense i agree with the most transcendental idea that Nina is transmitting: there is no goal, no path, no search, no end, no subject, no object, no center, no distance, no separation…there is UNITY/CONSCIOUSNESS/EMPTINESS/INFINITE……finally, everyone has their own way and is totally ok if any yoga teacher wants to continue teaching yoga, being part of yoga industry, etc etc, etc…that is secondary for me, but which is important is being connected with our most transcendental meaning of who we really are, which has nothing to be with any mind reasoning. Thanks Nina for opening this conversation. LOVE to everyone and KEEP THE BIG PICTURE BURNING BRIGHTLY!

  40. michael says:

    Nina, it feels like your article is a mirror of your own internal corruption.
    We are all a paradox. Both deeply spiritual & deeply flawed.
    I'm wondering if you need to make peace with that?

  41. Commenting Yogi says:

    I think it's human, understandable, and natural to be saddened when something we love is treated in a way that we feel does not honor it. Worship (at its best) is a form of love. It isn't dogmatism, or extremism, or commercialism. It doesn't require persuasion, force, argument. When we love something we recognize it, and often wish to serve it. We voluntarily choose to give ourselves to it. We may even be willing to make sacrifices to protect it, or nurture it.

    But that experience doesn't exist in a vacuum. What happens in the world around us impacts that delicate thread of connection that we hold to our love. For, if yoga is correct, we are all interconnected. If someone dumps toxic waste in a sacred river that effects those who worship the spirit of the river.

    The tremendous courage and aliveness that flows from being touched deep inside out heart is an experience that can never be packaged, trapped, or held in one particular model, form or practice. Who can know the mind of god? But if grace descends, if god whispers to us in our hearts, then that union (yoga) can move us deeply. Its hallmark is beauty.

    If something is holy to you (and it could be anything, a person, a text, a practice) there is a difference between sharing it, and selling it. And there's a fine line between offering something and manipulating, forcing or persuading others. A good teacher makes themselves unnecessary. Just as a good parent creates independence, not dependence in their children.

    Much of modern yoga creates dependence – not independence. It puts revenue ahead of education and proficiency. Profit ahead of discernment and wisdom. Educating happens to the extent certain business objectives are met. And models and styles and business mechanics often trump the needs, desires and hopes of the people involved. Satya means not leaving out important parts of the truth. This is part of the truth, although not the whole of it.

    Exercise alone (even without asana practice) has many positive benefits in mind and body. And there's nothing, per se, wrong with commercial activity. That's true. But when sensory experience (emotional, physical, etc.) is packaged to create an effect in people, and to generate more business, this becomes a kind of subtle persuasion, and it's reasonable to question how much this is still linked to love, worship, education. It has become a commercial activity.

    Growth, and love, often require difficulty, hard work, discomfort, patience, gradual growth, faith, personal involvement, inquiry. But business can't always afford these. Business needs quick results and repeat business. The rents of yoga studios often demand it.

    Those who teach professionally have probably experienced many instances of being told to put business needs ahead of love, patience, education, human connection, authenticity. They have probably been pressed for quick results, and financial results, over the work of honoring what they believe. They have probably been exposed to popularity, pettiness, politics, strategies, groupons, bad vibes between studios and styles and teachers. They have been confronted with dominant styles that are profit driven. All of these may be understandable, and human. But they are hard to really love and worship. They create a discord that isn't recognizable as union. Perhaps they are the yang to the yin. But it is understandable to be saddened when one feels that what has been heart-stirringly triumphant and loving and empowering has been reduced and diminished.

    A reasonable test might be to ask: is this based on love and faith, or need and fear? Is this service the kind I find at Starbucks or the kind i find in the deepest part of my soul? The answers should be telling. When people hurt each other, sadden each other, disappoint each other, persuade and coerce each other – all philosophical theories aside – it's reasonable to wonder if it is still yoga as Patanjali and other sages and seekers intended. The original goal of yoga was insight through a calm mind and careful observation. Modern yoga is something else, as with everything, a question of balance.

  42. Alana says:

    Wow what a fabulous article and comments. This article has clearly made everyone really think and question their beliefs. Very well articulated and really opened my eyes. I have done a lot of reading on “specialness” and “special relationships” and I never saw my practice this way but now I do. I never felt that “specialness” applied to my yoga practice, teachers, studios or even the type of yoga I pratlctice but this article pushed me to really examine my relationship with these and how I identify with them. Thank you for openining these doors.

  43. formercarpenter says:

    You and I have the same story – I used to build houses for people, then I hit my thumb with a hammer and crushed it. Now I see clearly and I gave up my hammer. I will never use a hammer again. Others may still use a hammer, and I'm not judging, but ask them, they are in it for the wrong reasons. I know because I can read all their minds.

    It is sad to see someone crash and burn. I hope you recover from you pain. You might want to stop judging others since you don't seem to know as much as you think you do. How long will you wait before you start teaching your "new, realized" system that is not a system and write the book that you will use to justify it?

    There are demons in the world and they try to keep people from their spiritual path, and this article is a good example of what they look like.

    I wish you the best in your endeavors.

    • leysinyeti says:

      This article has ramblings that might be attributed to coming out of some seasonal funk into mania. The author may know, she’s a psychologist after all. I assume the author paid, or through talent or reputation which is simply another type of currency, to attend this retreat. Also, it really seems a great waste of our time here on earth, where we can interact with others and our environment, to discount the present in a yearning for solitary vibration on another plane.

  44. Tatiana says:

    Very powerful stuff. I stopped teaching for similar reasons. i was making myself sick trying to be likeable and spread yoga at the same time. The two are just not compatible. 🙂 I think you are a deep soul. I wish you peace and deep insight on your journey.

  45. This is a beautiful realization and it is so important that you have acknowledged it. With that said, many of us who are not on the cover of Yoga Journal and never cared to be, already know this. We honor and acknowledge spirit and the heart every time we teach. Embodiment is "giving a body to spirit" and yoga or movement or Divine Moves which is what I teach is always about that. I am always in service to my students and am honored every moment that they share with me in community the beautiful connection to spirit. And this work is the work of spirit, not me, and I am privileged to be the vessel that brings it forth. Always about spirit NEVER about us. xo

  46. charcoalbrick123 says:

    Stunning words.

  47. Adam Sewell says:

    Great article Nina. It's well written (unusual for many of EJ's contributors) and obviously comes from the heart, which is rarely a popular decision. The comments are also priceless. I love how all these great "yogis" are upset about what you wrote. Their egos make your writings a personal attack on them and their responses are priceless. I hope to run into you some day and maybe share a discussion. Other than your new e-magazine, I am wondering what you are doing now. Whatever it is, I hope you're finding contentment.

    Namaste, ADAM

  48. Ann Yocum says:

    We all have our own path or calling so to speak, whatever it is ,whether it is to teach yoga or skydiving or writing our own story. This is life, no one has just one path, it changes and I liked your description of how your path changed. Life is a mystery but exciting and scary and wonderful! I love the crazy journey myself. I feel like we all have at least 9 lives. It never gets boring, that is for sure. Thanks for sharing your story.

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