The World’s Largest Yoga Class Will Only Cost You $675,000.

Via Chelsea Roff
on Jun 11, 2012
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Well they’re at it again.

Flavorpill and Matter Unlimited, two NYC based companies known for “creating projects that have a positive effect on the world” want to turn Central Park’s Great Lawn in to the largest yoga studio ever. Picture this: 15,000 people doing upward facing together, led by well-known yoga instructors Elena Brower, Seane Corn, Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee. A high-vibe soundtrack laid down by Questlove and DJ Drez. And Reggie Watts on site as host and emcee. Sounds like a party!

According to the website, the mission of GLBL YOGA is to build unity and create community by “tapping the collective energy and spirit of the urban environment to create large-scale, crowd-funded yoga events.”

Notice the “tap into the collective energy” and “crowd-funded” bit there at the end. Basically, that’s a hip, yoga-ey way of saying “we need your help to pay for it.” But hey, there’s nothing wrong with asking the people to put their money behind a free event aimed to benefit the general public, right? Somebody has to foot the bill. And if the people want it, why not ask them to put in their two cents?

Well, maybe a bit more than two cents. More like $675,000.

Got me thinking, just what can you do with $675,000? Turns out, you can:

  • – Build 6,750 water wells in Somalia, where a widespread drought and diseases like cholera are killing hundreds of thousands of people every year
  • – Supply 337,500 books to children in low-income neighborhoods in NYC through First Book
  • – Provide eye glasses to 27,000 vision-impaired children in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the United States through Helen Keller International
  • – Protect 135,000 families from malaria, one of the planet’s most deadly diseases. Every penny donated to Against Malaria goes toward purchasing mosquito nets<
  • – Buy 22,500 flocks of chickens to help families in Pakistan feed themselves (eggs are used over the long term for meals).
  • – Empower 9,782 female entrepreneurs to start their own sewing businesses through Mercy Corps
  • – Build 2,700 shower stations in Haiti,  so women and their families can get clean safely and with dignity.

If you’re going to ask people to raise $675,000, is a giant yoga class in Central Park really how you want to spend it?

I suppose one could point to the fact that GLBL YOGA will be donating 50% of proceeds to several charity partners, including Off the Mat Into the WorldLineage ProjectHarlem GrownUrban Zen, and Enterprise Community. But where are those proceeds going to come from? I thought the event was free?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about  having a good time at large-scale community yoga events. But there’s a difference between producing a yoga festival (that charges for tickets) and asking a people to “donate” over half a million dollars for a free event. The difference? Sustainability. A yoga festival is an entrepreneurial venture. There is a clear exchange of resources between the company and the attendee. People want to have a fun yoga vacation with their community, so they pay for it.

Where is the sustainability in this event? It’s $675,000 for a one-time yoga class in Central Park. Let’s be realistic, how much community and unity are you going to create in a 4-hr event that’s probably going to be largely attended by people who already practice yoga? What lasting impact is that $675,000 going to have, besides boosting the brands of the people and companies involved?

This is my personal opinion of course, but I have a hard time buying into the notion that we’re “building community” by getting tens of thousands of people to do downward facing dog. Building community is mentoring a kid at a local school in your neighborhood. Building community is building a house for a family that doesn’t have one. Building community is making dinner for the woman down the street who just lost her husband. Going to a big yoga class in Central Park isn’t building community, it’s throwing a party for a community that already exists.

With all due respect to everyone involved, I also have a hard time believing that a giant yoga class on the great lawn is going to create more “unity” in the world. That sounds nice, but yoga isn’t magic. The peace you feel on the mat doesn’t somehow float overseas to end wars in the Middle East or stop gang violence in inner-city New York. Yoga is a wonderful tool for cultivating personal well being and sustainability, but downward facing dog isn’t going to unify humankind.

That said, I do think these types of events are a ragin’ good time. And for that reason alone I say go for it, have a big ol’ yoga party (I’d come!). But any costs incurred, in my opinion, should be covered by corporate sponsors and ticket sales. Ask people to pay $30 or $40 for a ticket, and let the brands getting publicity out of the event foot some of the bill. That will certainly make for a more sustainable event. And if you really want to build community, send $5, $10, or $15 to help the nonprofits mentioned above build lasting community throughout the world.

I would love to hear your thoughts: 

If the yoga community is going to raise $675,000, do you think a giant class in Central Park is the best way to spend it?




Photo Credit: Screen Shot from GLBL Yoga Video


About Chelsea Roff

Chelsea Roff is a nationally-recognized author and speaker, and the Founder of Yoga for Eating Disorders. In September 2013, Chelsea raised $50,000 on the crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo to kickstart her non-profit, Yoga for Eating Disorders. The program is currently being offered in treatment centers and yoga studios around the country at no charge, and she is working with researchers at UC San Diego to evaluate the program’s effectiveness in treatment. Chelsea is known for her intelligent, inspiring, and tell-it-like-it-is speaking style, and for weaving together profound personal experiences with her scientific background to deliver deeply moving insights. After nearly losing her life to anorexia and a subsequent stroke when she was 15, she has became a national advocate for community-based mental health interventions. Her work was recently showcased by Sanjay Gupta on CNN, and she’s been keynote speaker at 92nd Street Y, The Omega Institute, and at various universities and conferences around the country. Chelsea currently lives in Venice, California, where she can be found cartwheeling across the beach, hiking in the mountains, and practicing yoga poses on her little pink scooter.


11 Responses to “The World’s Largest Yoga Class Will Only Cost You $675,000.”

  1. @Jen_Face says:

    I totally get that these instructors attending this event need to make a living, and teaching yoga to the masses is their profession, but half a mil for this event? This doesn't set a very good tone for what Yoga is becoming in the Western world, and provides a very good example of why other countries (like India or Thailand) don't think very highly of us (yoga-wise) and our ever evolving commercialization of the practice.

    I won't rant on and on, but this is on par with Lulu having instructors practice in their windows, as if yoga is some kind of spectator sport. Yea, your practice is what you make of it and that's cool, but as a whole this event isn't benefiting anyone that really NEEDS the help, as in some of the suggestions listed above.

    It would've been a better look overall, and more beneficial, if everyone paid 20 or 40 bucks, half the proceeds went to the instructors, and the other half went to a community project that could really use it.

    This is kind of shameful, really.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Honestly, since Tadasana, and now Hanuman—two other large fun rather clubby festivals—I've felt tired. Tired in my soul.
    Reading this is perhaps the first time I've heard any kind of conscience and guts, combined with fairness and lacking malice (malice ruins criticism, fairness is essential to good journalism, which we don't often manage but do aspire to) in or around the privileged, beautiful, essential, powerful, rampantly selfish, casually environmental yoga community.

    Like you, I'd be happy to attend this fun day, and elephant is happy to support any such event that is about giving, yoga, fun, community.

    Personally, I'm not sure flying halfway across the country is worth it, financially or environmentally—I am sure it'd be fun, and exhausting—and I'm not sure it'd really benefit anyone except for a few hours of great fun and a few hours of great hype, which I guess is great for the sponsors involved.

    What you say is so beautiful: if we (as Seane Corn of Off the Mat, and Krasno of Wanderlust and others are plotting) got together and leveraged the yoga community for social change…wow. We're already doing a lot, as a community—I come from the Buddhist community (I just had to get that in here) and can say that the yoga community is far larger, more active in the world, and has the ability to lead and gather a great deal of beneficent energy…energy that the world sorely needs.

    For my part, I've been skipping a few festivals that I have free passes too, and instead am spending my summer working on this laptop, trying to build the big-sponsor-starved grassroots community that is elephant (and therefore our capacity to effect internal and external change), and serving as a mentor for the Unreasonable Institute,… , which is doing just that. Social activism can happen, it is essential, and it can be fun and immensely rewarding.

  3. Chelsea Roff says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Jen.

    It's interesting to look at the way the budget is laid out on the IndieGoGo page. It's certainly not all going to the instructors (only 35k out of the total 675k go to "talent" actually). The majority of the budget will be used for production costs, which (not surprisingly) are incredibly expensive for an event of this scope and size. I agree with you — I personally thing the best financial model for an event of this type would be a combination of company sponsorships (because the brands involved are getting a huge PR boost out of this) and tickets. As I said in the article, it's highly unlikely that many people who aren't already practicing yoga are going to come to the event, so there's no reason it shouldn't cost money just like any other yoga class/event would.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    One benefit of an event like this (I commented first, more thoroughly, below): it's news-happy.

    It'll spread the word about yoga big-time. Of course, the yoga it will spread awareness might look rather fun, happy, privileged…a mix of good and bad.

    In any case, if more folks hear about and get into yoga because of a high-profile event such as this, that's great–yoga changes lives, bad backs, closed minds…it works wonders for me, and I'm a hard case.

  5. Sherry says:

    Thanks for this Chelsea. There is so much wrong with this that it would be easier to direct you to the comments at YogaDork, This events has been almost 100% condemned for waste and excess. As only about $8k has been raised so far, it looks like everyone has the same feeling about it.

  6. missbernklau says:

    Thanks for posting this and using actual numbers to illustrate just how insane the financial model for this event is. I just think if they want to have the world's largest yoga class in the name of spreading Yoga to those who may not have practiced yet and to create a sense of community, then why don't they start something like what they did on 11/11/11 when they had World Meditation Day when they got people to meditate at the same time around the world? Why not do something like that with Yoga and have a podcast/Skype/live feed/whatever of teacher(s) teaching the class online (and said class doesn't need to be in some giant park that would cost a lot of money to get a permit for, it could just be a feed of a teacher teaching in a studio, and therefore there would be no worries about getting a sound system or worrying about trash left behind)? That would cost way less money for those organizing it, and it would have even more people directly involved in the event, and not to mention, zero refuse to worry about.

  7. missbernklau says:

    Also it would be cool to have classes held world-wide in smaller groups at the same time (this way it wouldn't cost as much locally to have an event) and maybe there would be a website with feeds from all of those different studios/people doing yoga together wherever? Just brainstorming what it could turn into hehe.

  8. athayoganusasanam says:

    "Going to a big yoga class in Central Park isn’t building community, it’s throwing a party for a community that already exists"

    Amen to that! Thanks for bringing this issue up. When I saw that promo video it made me instantly queasy. It's quite profound to see the huge difference that amount of money could make if used in a different manner.
    Well done, Chelsea.

  9. […] and Rob Holzer of Matter Unlimited, the founders of GLBL YOGA have asked to respond to the concerns raised by’s Chelsea Roff about their event. Neither article is intended to be an official position of elephant journal about […]

  10. […] 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 […]

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