2.7
June 29, 2012

Does my six figure asana-induced income make you say, “Tisk tisk”?

What would you say if I told you that I make over $100k a year from teaching privates to corporate clients?

This is in addition to the income from on-site corporate classes and the hundreds of people who walk through the doors of my studio each week who earn a paycheck from a Fortune 500 mega company.

The list of corporations that offer yoga is extensive, as is the list of employees of corporations that take yoga classes for a variety of reasons. Stress management, of course, being a close second to tight abs and a firm butt.

What would you say if you knew that I am one of thousands of teachers across the country who directly benefit from this arrangement and relationships just like it? Or, that I am not alone in my six figure asana-induced income and am in fact at the bottom of the revenue barrel compared to most of my peers? Would my income be justified as long as I tithe a proper percentage a month to church—and would the church accept my heathen dollars anyway?

What would you say if I admitted that if I can get this blog post picked up and featured on a national website, it might drive enough traffic to sell more product, get a sponsor, book more retreats or get more “likes” and “pluses?” In order to accomplish that goal, I’ve thought for days about an appropriate yet salacious enough title to do just that.*

Once a teacher applies the tools of business to their yoga, do they loose their street cred and get lumped into the “bad for us” category—like the one percent?

Do you agree with those who argue that once we apply the tools of business, it is no longer yoga at all that we are trading in?

Would you still turn up your nose at McDonald’s or Walmart if you knew they funded the opening of a yoga studio in your town? Would you still be snide about the addiction to overpriced Starbucks coffee if you knew there are teachers who work there part-time in order to spread the Eight Limbed Gospel? Or, answer me this: is it only “bad corporations” that are on the enemy combatant list?  What about all those corporations with “legitimate” ties to yoga? Are they safe and honorable and worthy?

If I piss you off, will you call me the enemy, and if so, for what—participating, or whistle blowing?

Yoga is Not Black and White

According to Vegasshot.com, the list of corporate clients that offer on-site and retreat yoga include: MTV Networks, IBM, AT&T, Nike, HBO, Forbes, Apple, PepsiCo, General Electric and Chase Manhattan Bank. This list is certainly not exhaustive, as it’s well-know that Google and Random House both offer opportunities for employees to enjoy the benefits of the practice. It’s s also true, though, that the worldwide recession has pinched the fat off of some of these so called “luxury” offerings.

With the global trend of yoga having grown far from its traditional roots, morphing into a western phenomenon, it is hard to escape the onslaught of criticism about the practice, its participants and its superstars. It’s almost expected to read something on Huffington Post each week on how yoga in the West is either ruining the practice or being taken over by corporate greed as its tools are exploited in order to turn a greater profit by increasing worker satisfaction and productivity. “Tisk tisk,” we say in Lotus Pose; “tisk, tisk.”

Written by individuals both within and outside the industry who stand to gain from such criticism, there is a tide of fundamentalism or worse, censorship, within our community.

Even event writer and goddess Chelsea Roff is guilty of lambasting students for getting together to pray with their bodies; or, at minimum, for being hoodwinked (God Bless their souls). Instead of giving all their money to charity, they decided to do some downward dog together and this just wasn’t good enough for this talented blogger. Was it really just a point of semantics that Roff takes note with? Party vs Fundraiser. Charity vs Corporate Greed. Is there something deeper that rubs such purists the wrong way?

I am far from the only one questioning the motives of others.

It has become trendy to fling negativity to those who are not upholding some “Yoga Standard Rules for Engagement.” Is there a list of approved ways to teach yoga and make money that I am unaware of? Perhaps I didn’t get the correct Yoga Alliance 200-hour certification. Perhaps it’s making money at all in the vicinity of an “Om,” that has not been guru pre-approved, that grabs the attention of such naysayers.

Does anyone else take issue with those who participate in, or at the fringe of, our industry and make part of their living by using emotions like scarcity and moralism to demonize those who somehow don’t fill the “proper” mold?

Tell me why we even care about the opinions of those who are not even participating as teachers or students? Some take it upon themselves to write about us as if they’re critics who go to theatre and look for anything to trash because they flunked out of techniques class or sucked at classical delivery.

With all due respect, I will agree with Ms. Roff that many events, like the recent one in Central Park, are in fact for the direct benefit of an already established community rather than creating space for newbies. This, along with her list of worthy charities are the few points in her most recent article that I can admire. However, I don’t agree with the idea that by choosing to spend money on an event as yoga practitioners, we are somehow not living up to a moral code of ethics or practicing what we preach properly. Trust me, thousands of yogis every day move and breath and meditate and by doing so we are in fact changing the world one sun salutation at a time.

I wonder why otherwise intelligent commentators and participants alike are more interested in the Art of War over The Middle Path.

To the critics: when did yoga become yours and not mine?

When did you decide that the way I practice, or the way they practice, is not okay since it does not conform with the way you practice? When did your ego take over and convince you that my Vinyasa Blend is not as good as your Ashtanga or Kundalini or Anusara or that yoga in a gym is less “yoga” than the yoga on an ashram or in India. Oh sh*t, don’t say Anusara, Shelley. Hush, don’t rock that sex cult boat!

Get a Grip!

Where are our spokespersons? Where are the teachers and bloggers—who instead of tearing the community apart, are working diligently day in and day out to share and create sacred space for students who are in deep need and searching for a place to reflect, ground, change and grow?

Where?

I will tell you where.

They are in every studio across this country and many across the world. They have families, pay their bills, raise children and sometimes raise hell. Some are crunchy granola vegans and some drink beer on Thursdays and do street yoga after. Call up any studio in America or talk with any teacher and tell them you want to bring yoga to your office—see how many of them tell you to keep your money. I dare you.

They won’t and they shouldn’t.

Yoga belongs to each and every person who chooses to spend time in the practice and damn it, somebody might just have a revelation on their mat that could have an outstanding and world-wide impact. I mean, just the other day I had to decide yoga vs. stab my neighbor’s forever barking dog. If I had the chance to fly to Wanderlust to prevent the murder instead of practicing in my apartment, I would have done so and felt justified.

Yoga is splendid and malleable and the definition is evolving (unlike the definition for mullet which we can all agree only applies to those with an Ache Breaky Heart).

Yoga is many things to many people and the second we all:

>>stop beating each other down and get back to the mat,

>>stop vilifying those pesky corporations for all our problems and see how they generate great interest in the practice (among other noble endeavors) and fund some of the most sensational national gatherings,

>>admit that even our most beloved teachers are themselves owners of corporate entities that do incredibly positive work,

>>admit that there is nothing honorable about poverty and that it’s a good thing to be able to make a living while creating positive change and

>>stop and take a deep breath…

we will be rewarded with a long exhale that will purify the toxins of our collective shame and contempt.

We’ll be reminded, in the ecstasy of the out breath, that we are in a relationship. Let us forgive those who’ve trespassed against us. Let us not be led into temptation. Let us no longer be murderers of the spirit of others or adulterers of our own. Let us step back to the top of the mat in Tadasana, close our eyes, inhale and remember, “there is no I or you.”

We are too close to be blinded to our symbiosis.  We must refuse to be sidetracked from the great work at hand. We must strive to be more, to be better, to be ourselves with compassion and focus. With our drishti, our gaze or focus, set, we can once again walk towards liberation.

Yoga means union, people.

Let’s get together anywhere you can think of to move and breath and get in touch with that mysterious power that connects us to one another. Let us not be ashamed of ourselves and of those who are successful and have abundance. Let us stop focusing on all we think is twisted or wrong in the way others choose to live. Let us preach instead a message of reformation just as my homeboy, Jesus, did. Let us be reminded of the great access we have to the divine light within.

The enemy is not on K Street, the Hill, in a boardroom or at The White House. The enemy is not in the Middle East or in some field in Africa.  True there are many dark forces that walk in these places, but so called “Corporate Kumbaya” is not the problem.

Conquer the enemy of your heart first.

Be non-violent and compassionate and see where that leads—even if it is to a place on a mat next to thousands of others sponsored by Kashi and clothed in threads made by Lululemon.

Party On Garth!

With love,

Shelley

P.S…In order to keep out of “noble poverty,” I would be happy to read you this post over the phone for $29.95 tax included.

 

*This post was originally published as “Corporate Kumbaya: The Destruction Of Yoga.”

 

 

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Editor: Jessica DeLoy

 

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