Dear Yoga to the People: What are you thinking?! ~ Ben Crosky

Via elephant journal
on Mar 11, 2012
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Photo: Yoga to the People

An Open Letter to Yoga to The People and their Devotees: Answer me this!

I want to love you because I think there is something amazing happening, and I’m almost there, but I just can’t get past these few questions. Can you explain yourself so that I can come join in the fun and stop being so judgmental?

 1.Why are the announcements made in that wonderful sacred space right before Sivasana?

We spend all practice (normally) trying to create a moving meditation so that when we finally sit we can soak in some peace, quiet and harmony. But you sabotage that by filling my mind with upcoming teacher training dates and specials and fundraising goals! Why?!

2. Why no closing out the practice together honoring ourselves and the teacher? And for that matter why no beginning to class either

I felt like there was no motion to create a safe and sacred space distinguished from the rest of the world. Are we really starting class with a line to the bathroom in between our yoga mats? Yes.

3. Why are we walking around people and talking and changing and comotioning while people are still in Sivasana? 

I left the class feeling rude and watching others actually being rude to those who had the audacity to think that Sivasana is supposed to be more than a 30 second pause in sexual noise. I think I saw a couple of hands even get stepped on.

4. Why did I feel like I was practicing an ancient tradition on a backed-up LA freeway?

What ever happened to moving with grace? Wasn’t yoga first practiced in the solitude of the forest?

Yoga does not only involve “letting go of all your shit with a noise caught between aggressive and sexual and almost always sounding forced.” Noise pollution is real, and Yoga to the People in Berkeley is the only place where there is more noise pollution inside the class than out on the street.

5.  What’s up with the anxiety inducing singing bowl?

I thought there was an earthquake. Others started to move around me in anticipation of an explosion. We are not impressed by your singing bowl ability,  yoga girl. At least explain to us what is going to happen and why, I’m down for anything unless it is a simulated subway crash at the end of Sivasana.

6. Why are classes so close together?

I feel like cattle being herded into a slaughterhouse. Like I’m entering union station during rush hour. Give us 5 minutes to clear out eh?

7. Why on earth to you spell out H A???

I cannot express this any other way but: what on earth are you thinking?!

8.  Again why is everyone making sexual noises?

I’m confused.

9. Why didn’t you explain why we were doing anything?

(Besides that it feels good to let go…) The beauty of yoga is that it is a constant practice, but when you don’t explain a single thing it makes it nearly impossible to implement any of it effectively outside of the studio. Is that the plan? Make ‘em dependent so they keep coming back?

10. Why does everyone like this so much when to me it represents what’s wrong with our society?

(Surface level interaction in small digestible feel good doses no matter how unauthentic, uninteresting or self involved it really is.  Supporting things because they are cheap or free over those that offer honest substance to the world) When I ask people why they love YTP they say it’s free! So is all that stuff on the side of the road that homeless people don’t even want! Be discerning people! (Or explain it to me please).

11.  Where is the undying curiosity and exploration of something deeper that yoga represents?

We can all agree on different reasons for the existence of yoga, but all traditions share a common thread of curiosity, of digging deeper, exploring, practicing, finding the edge and finding balance, experimenting. Where on earth was any of that?

12.  Lastly and again, why are there so many people in your classes?

And if the answer is simply because it is free, or donation based, then I ask you, Yoga to the People people, why are you wasting such an unbelievable opportunity to spread the goodness of yoga to such a fresh young audience, with what is at most a somewhat sweaty workout with uninspiring instructors and bad choices like spelling out the word H A?

I’m very open to loving you, Yoga to the People, and I almost do. Donation-based yoga always has my respect, so I very much look forward to hearing your answers.

Should I even bother closing out this letter?

Be well,



Editor: Kate Bartolotta.



Ben Crosky leads unique yoga adventures around the world.  Ben is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but good luck finding him there! Instead, join him and his team of world renowned teachers on one of their upcoming trips in 2012:


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11 Responses to “Dear Yoga to the People: What are you thinking?! ~ Ben Crosky”

  1. libby b says:

    dear ben
    although i may just be one tiny fish in a pond of millions i will let you know that if it weren't for yoga to the people i would not be alive today. yoga to the people saved my life- the space yes even the matchbox on st marks place, the overtly obnoxious breathing ( to some.. hahem), the sweaty bodies

    #1 announcements are made right before sivassanah because that probably when they have most of your attention to announce the up and coming teacher training or that your mat. For the previous sixty minutes, please correct me if im wrong but there was probably few thoughts between triganasana and a few sequences of power lunge and an eagle or two when you would actually remember to hang your mat on the ballet bar as you quietly left or that all donations go in the tissue box tucked behind the smiling face of the unknown ( SURPRISE!) guide waiting by the door.

    #2 the practice is about you all about you its about your giving yourself the opportunity to become a part of society in a bigger way. not every yoga class is a stereotype save your namastes for another time and place. it sounds selfish but its one of the intentions of yttp get over it. you can always namaste on your way out

    #3 people have to leave at some point. you are bound to find a body in savasanah. walk around them and do it in a way that is quiet and respectful. watch out for hands. is that so hard?

    #4. it's not LA. the only link you should ever make to A is Brian Kest and that even is a bit far off. Think of the locations of studios and consider sthe space. Are you really so offended by being in a room of moving flowing, breathing energies?

    #5. the anxiety induced singing bowl is merely your own impression of the reverberation meant to further your meditation and arouse a deeper sensation in your body. if you don't like it well close your eyes and ears and pretend like nothing ever happened. why even go in the first place?

    #6. you feel like cattle because you are cattle in a cosmic yoga trip that is enjoyed and appreciated by MANY!

    #7 in case you forgot how to laugh mr serious

    #8 those sexual noises happen to be the breath- our guiding force. if it weren't for your breath you wouldn't be able to smash yttp or practice yoga for that matter. you can choose to breathe or not but every breath made by another is one that should empower your own. raaawr

    #9 the only explanation needed is why you are there in the first place.

    #10 not sure what your faults with society is but i will let you know that i think one of them is charging $20 per class to teach able bodied(or not) how to become one with their body in a way that is positive and empowering to everyone!!

    #11 from the time you walk into the studio you make what you want of the practice, the community practicing with you and the guide. the rest is just background music flithering between sweaty sequences and child pose. there is now good, right or wrong. it is all a learned practiced that can be spiritual, physical or emiotional. you make what you want of it- not what you want of others.

    #12 stop begging the question and take time to really, really understand why there are so many people at yoga to the people. don't assume the only reason is because it's free or accessible with all the time slots parading crowds in from one rom to another- maybe, Ben, just maybe if you took the time to indulge you would find out that everyone has their own secret life for living loving and practicing yoga. and maybe, Ben, just maybe YTTP inspires them to become better people for themselves and their greater community in ways that no other place can.

    i hope this gives you a little insight into one YTTP yoginni's insight. it may not be all that you are looking for but its what i have to give.

    may you find love and light in your practice wherever it may be, but mostly within yourself

    all my best
    sf love


  2. Vision_Quest2 says:

    What is wrong with Yoga to the People?

    A three-word reason and another real reason:

    A. It's power yoga.
    B. It's too New York City.

  3. Michelle says:

    as a studio owner, yoga teacher i truly relate to this statement:
    10. Why does everyone like this so much when to me it represents what’s wrong with our society?
    (Surface level interaction in small digestible feel good doses no matter how unauthentic, uninteresting or self involved it really is. Supporting things because they are cheap or free over those that offer honest substance to the world) When I ask people why they love YTP they say it’s free!

    i live in a town that is fairly new to yoga outside a gym membership and the experience being in yoga dedicated space is fairly new. we offer varied levels of passes, a couple of $5 classes. >>Without proper pay there's no way I could be available to teach, there's no way I could go to training's to further my knowledge, because I'd be to worried about feeding my kids, paying my mortgage, not to mention at another job altogether.

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  5. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I did think about going to Yoga to the People (or, rather, someplace similar: YoYoGa, which is one of the new "affordable" yoga places that are not exactly "by donation", but they charge a popular (read: ex-gym goer, non-carriage-trade, price). I really do like the studio experience. Right now, that includes only – very occasionally – a dance studio, not a yoga studio. I will not pay for social interaction I do not get, as I need social learning as much or more than spiritual learning …

    That being said, as a primarily home practitioner; on principle, I support the idea of Yoga to the People–but the paradigm of donation (or even "suggested donation") does not work well because of the profit motive in an environment where the expected benefits have to be weighed against costs (crowdedness, anarchy, confusion, etc.) The teachers will be less experienced, the studio owner will be raking it in.

    Yes, there will be no "guru-worship" (of a regular, named instructor)–that had been the last of the problems that gym yoga presented, and that may be one of the few "saving graces" of Yoga to the People. As someone who was involved in group Buddhist meditation, the leader of the meditation can and will change and be among both peers and mentor/leaders. So, in a way, that unannounced, teaching round-robin is quite spiritual. However, yoga class is not the same as sitting zazen-style. The older, consumer-advocate meditator-turned-more-yogi in me thus thinks it's rather a money saving faux-gimmick of Yoga to the People.

    I think those who can afford lots of regularly-priced yoga will get the most bang for their buck socially because they will attend a studio frequently and will develop even a passing relationship with other students–and of course, with the unchanging regular teacher–as a regular.

    Otherwise, assuming someone is at least a little introverted and wants to go deeper … professional-level instruction of studio quality is available online for about a third or a fourth of the price–say you go 2x or 3x a week to Yoga to the People on St. Marks Place and put in $5 every time (chicken-feed here in New York City) or less–depending on the online yoga site.

    Somehow, yoga from online instruction seems to be a growing market and trend. It does not require quite as much discipline as, say, practicing from a book or from your own head.

  6. Paul says:

    Why does Yoga to the People have the Kony video on their homepage. I was going to take advantage of their free classes, but I don't agree with that and your description makes them sound out of touch.

  7. iheartmyyogi says:

    If it was truely yoga to the people, would the classes not be open to only those that can't afford it or have never been to a class before? Should yoga to the people not be taking yoga to the streets and not focusing their efforts on growing a studio in every town?

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  9. Jack Yorkton says:

    I can see at least 12 "first world problem" memes coming out of this post. Seriously, lighten up.

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  11. Jean says:

    I read this a day before I joined my friend for a yttp class and chuckled to myself since I thought that it must be an over exaggeration.

    While I like the fact that yttp is so affordable compared to so many other studios in New York City, I’m not sure I’d go back anytime soon. I was in awe at how many bodies they crammed into one room and its impossible to get that zen like feeling you get in the average yoga class. The instructor was nice and all but just so unnecessarily chatty. I felt like she was trying to entertain us. Maybe I just prefer a more traditional take to yoga.

    Very amusing post, I think you hit all the points spot on.