Inside the Yoga Industry: YAMA Talent. ~ Be Leigh

Via elephant journal
on Mar 29, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

I worked the floors of Lululemon.

I have worked alongside Ava Taylor and the team at YAMA Talent. I have lived with Sadie Nardini, managed Kula Yoga and have even acted as the Operations Manager for the Bay’s own Yoga Tree. At 22, I now claim my full-time profession as a yoga instructor and prior to was studying at NYU and dipping my feet in the business of yoga’s hot and sometimes cold waters.

I have seen some of the good, the bad and even the ugly.

The glitz and the glamor is just as real as the scandalous and the treacherous. And let’s be real, the scandals surrounding yoga have been present far before Lulu or YAMA—even before Bikram. The attention, even the negative, that yoga is getting in the media and press serves as real proof that well folks—yoga is mainstream.

The popularization of yoga can be seen by the new studios that pop up on nearly every corner, the increase in festivals, conferences, “yoga” specific clothing and apparel, even viral videos that creep onto Facebook like the catchy “Yoga Girl” and in general the sky rocketing increase in yogis showing up on mats all across the globe.

The exponential growth of yoga can be attributed to its beneficial side effects such as leaner, healthier bodies, stronger minds, resilient spirits and decreased chances of flipping out on your co-workers through increased patience and the ability to just ‘keep it cool.’ But let’s be real—Coca Cola didn’t just blow up over night because it tasted good. The product was marketed well in all of its sugary diabetes cloaked goodness and was a business that took off running. And right now the yoga industry isn’t just running. It’s flying its own kite ocean side with a billion standerbys.

Lululemon gave me my first taste of the yoga business. The buzz about Lulu being a “cult” might be a bit much, but one could certainly attribute it to the similarities of your high school cheerleading team. A team of beautiful, spunky, goal-oriented and often competitive ladies (and a few men) who know their products and can cheer them on.

Working at Lulu kicked off my yoga business buffet and had me stint with Ava Taylor and YAMA Talent.

There has been a lot of foul play against YAMA, how it may be doing more harm to the yoga grid than other Anusar-ic scandals and how Taylor is in it for the green dollar and to make a pretty penny. I find the accusations and spotlight pretty humorous. Anyone who knows the challenges of teaching yoga full-time, or even operating a studio knows that though the business of yoga might be a large one in 2012, it still is not the most profitable, per yoga instructor or per yoga studio.

Yoga is a gold mine in terms of what it can offer to the subtle bodies not because it can rack in a pretty dime, but in terms of the monetary drive, imagine the agent for a big name actor who handles the brunt of the work—making phone calls, booking gigs and appearances, managing schedules, all the nitty gritty stuff—and you’ve got Ava Taylor. She works hard because she loves what she does. Working with “big name” yogis who may not make the Hollywood style paychecks but have some of the best personalities and knowledge to share with the students they teach. Like yes, Sadie Nardini and Raghunath Cappo to name a select few. The next best thing than working for yourself is working with a team of others who simply rock—and Ava has both of those fields covered.

Like a chain of yogic connections, I was able to live with Sadie Nardini for a bit and share her home.

I had never met her before and had only the impression of this before moving in. For all the negative blogging that gets done about Sadie, you would think she were satan in the flesh, yet the chick’s heart of fire is anything but evil. She is passionate about what she does, and also what she does not do as well. You will never catch her selling out for something she doesn’t believe in wholeheartedly, and that is something to be respected and admired.

The yoga “biz” certainly has a spotlight on it in today’s media world, and there are definitely some shadows alongside the praise. But maybe we should step onto our own mats and see the reflections as our own. After all, this yoga world we see isn’t just the one we live in, it is the one we are creating it to be. 

Read more:

Editor’s note: Why I pulled the YAMA op-ed by Babarazzi.

Celebrity Yogis & Anonymity.

How 70′s Porn Got this Yogini 10 Million Views on Facebook.

Spiritually athletic in nature and practice, Be finds gratitude in movement, stillness, and transition. She grew up not far from Amish Country in Pennsylvania and traded in the moo’ing cows for beeping taxis to attend NYU (grad ’11). Be lives in Brooklyn and teaches Yoga throughout New York. Spiritually athletic in nature and practice, Be finds gratitude in movement, stillness, and transition. She grew up not far from Amish Country in Pennsylvania and traded in the moo’ing cows for beeping taxis to attend NYU (grad ’11). Be lives in Brooklyn and teaches Yoga throughout New York. 







Editor: Tanya L. Markul

Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive.


15 Responses to “Inside the Yoga Industry: YAMA Talent. ~ Be Leigh”

  1. __MikeG__ says:

    Whether or not Ms. Nardini is wonderful or evil is beyond the point. And even though she is mentioned by name Ms. Nardini is not the point of the Barbarrazi article. All the breathless defense of Ms. Nardini by the Nardini minions are also examples of missing the point.

    The main reason many people dislike the rock star yogi is that the rock star actively participates in the commodification of yoga. And yoga as a commodity is complete unnecessary. I believe that yoga will be around long after the rock star fad has faded from memory.

    And since yoga has been turned into a commodity then questions such as monetary value are raised. IMO, sixty bucks a head per class for a workshop is poor value for the customers money. Why so much money for so little value? Marketing. Do the rock stars really believe that the services they provide are so much better than the services provided by local teachers? Are the rock star yogis services really worth thousands of dollars an hour?

    Local yoga teachers often are underpaid and the rock star yogi phenomenon exacerbates the problem because, entirely through marketing, many yogis only believe that the rock start is going to give them that "inspirational" experience they are looking for. And in the meantime local instructors, who often are more skilled and educated than the rock star yogis, still are underpaid and undervalued.

  2. ex-lulu says:

    Interesting. I once worked with Ava and I have to say, when I heard about that lululemon employee in Maryland who was murdered by some psycho co-worker I assumed she'd been transferred to that store. Ari Gold is fun to watch on TV, but imagine trying to be friendly with him in real life.

  3. yogaboca says:

    Be, thanks so much for sharing your insider experience. I sense an authenticity and intelligence in your writing style. People in general are making too much of the commercialization of yoga. People seem to love divisiveness and have a need to see everything in black and white – good vs. evil. It's all just a lot of unnecessary drama. LIfe is not black and white.

    I especially enjoyed the link to the Bon Jovi chant. That is clearly just a sweet offering to the Universe.

    Your post illuminates the situation from the inside and I am inspired by your candid disclosure basically saying – these so called "rock stars" are actually hard working people trying to make a buck!

    It sounds a bit like the "American Dream."

    I suppose we can stick daggers in that as well.

  4. Emily says:

    This is a very strange article. I don't really understand the point– was it to show that a 22 year old's experience of interning and just starting out in the yoga industry is somehow indicative of an in-depth knowledge of said industry? Come on, now. At 22, who the hell knows what their full time job will be?

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Way to be critical without being rude! Thanks for this, seriously.

  6. hya says:

    "The main reason many people dislike the rock star yogi is that the rock star actively participates in the commodification of yoga. And yoga as a commodity is complete unnecessary. I believe that yoga will be around long after the rock star fad has faded from memory."

    Precisely. They are selling something they call yoga, which is not even yoga anymore. But because of the power of marketing, this is what people will think yoga is like.

    Ms Nardini is certifying people to teach in her style by means of online videos. For $500, you can purchase the videos and learn how to "Make more money teaching yoga–much more" (first bullet point on her training benefits list). Pranayama? Nope. Meditation? Nope. Patanjali? Who's that? Who cares when you're promised to be a rockstar teacher – "to be one of the most magnetic, knowledgable teachers around, and rise to the top of the crop". It's only 500 bucks after all.

    It's not yoga. It's asana based, marketing driven self-help.

  7. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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

  8. Genna says:

    It's too bad that with all the opportunities to to study with advanced yogis in NYC, the author only exposure to the practice seems to be from a clothing store and a mediocre, commercial teacher selling a watered down yoga practice.

  9. Be Leigh says:

    Hi Genna

    Articles are just a SNAPSHOT. This article had very little to do with my teaching practice and was focusing on the business of yoga in general. It's too bad that with all the "real" yogis out there and practitioners, that one would just assume my knowledge or study has been limited to the few names dropped. Schuyler Grant, Nikki Vilella, Erika Hildebrandt, nd Lauren Imparato are some of NYC's BEST, most experienced, knowledgeable, and INSPIRING teachers. And I am glad to call all of them my teachers. In an 800 word count, I can't fit my whole yogic profile that to most would seem anything but ripe being only 22, but maybe THAT can be for another article.

    Perception can be limiting when we only consider the "seems to be."


  10. Emily says:

    No problemo! I wish the author had told us what she got out of the experience of working at these places, or why she went to live with the yoga teacher, or how, as a young person, she thinks the role of a mind-clarifying practice like yoga fits in with the mile-a-minute pace of today's tech society. All good stuff!

  11. Pro-business says:

    Leigh, this read as an unproofed & unedited self-promotion through praise association to the recently mentioned "Like a chain of yogic connections, I was able to live with Sadie Nardini…" etc. Do you mean "Through a chain of yogic connections, " or do you mean that you are a chain of yogic connections? Like "moo'ing," it' doesn't work as wordplay in the context & just distracts from the (lackof?) facts. As did comparing yoga as a product to Coca Cola which you identify as a diabetes causer. This image and connection you chose, the most vivid in your 800 words, loudly challenges on a gut level your explicit argument that the health benefits of yoga account for it's business success. Was this self-subversion intentional? And what are the cold waters of yoga? When you say "There has been a lot of foul play against YAMA," do you really mean there have been unfair acts against YAMA, or do you mean there has been criticism you think is unfair? If so, could you give examples & refute, or else why bother to bring it up, if you have nothing specific to add that hasn't been said by Sadie in her eloguent comments in past articles?

  12. Cristina says:

    I completely agree with both of you. In fact – due to this commodification of yoga, the marketing and all that fluff – I don't not attend any festivals.
    Let's be honest – the money you spend to become certified and all those Ced needed – for what? What you need to pay to get IN the business doesn't correlate with what it is when you get a job. But if you point that out – then you are greedy and are not understanding the true meaning of yoga. PLEASE

  13. Camille Bendu says:

    This is the best website for anyone who desires to find out about this topic. You notice so much its almost onerous to argue with you (not that I truly would want…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a brand new spin on a subject thats been wrote about for years. Nice stuff, simply nice!

  14. Sadie Nardini says:

    Well, Emily, she was closer to it than you seem to have been. So I'd take her authority over yours any day.

  15. Sadie Nardini says:

    Hi Be: I just found out about your article today–and I'm honored by your perspective. It's the one I also share from being very deeply entwined in the two people's lives you mention here;) You must now see what it's like to write or offer something from your heart, and still the haters love to judge. Luckily, there are also rational, real people willing to give you an open heart and a conscious dialogue, even if they disagree. I'm proud of you for sticking your neck out like this–and even prouder to call you a friend.