Witnessing the Yoga Scene Around the Country Makes Me Consider Closing my Studio. ~ Robyn Parets

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Yoga Sutra 1.8: “Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form.”

As Sri Swami Satchidananda explains it, “In the twilight you see a coiled rope and mistake it for a snake. You get frightened. There is no snake there in reality; there is a false understanding. But still it created a terror in your mind. It is not only valid knowledge that creates thought waves, but erroneous impressions also.”

We all have things we think to be real or true—our relationships, our careers, whatever it may be that defines us. But what happens when our truth isn’t quite as we thought it was or should be? What, then, is the truth? What is real?

I’m going out on a limb here and I will probably piss off some yogis and yoga teachers in the process, but I don’t care. Got to speak my truth.

And I know, I’ve probably already lost about half of you already, but stick with me here. It will all make sense in a moment.

I left home in April 2012, and I have been touring the U.S. (soon Canada) ever since. Pretty much the only thing that’s kept me somewhat grounded in this tour de force is my yoga practice. Not the sweating, twist-yourself-in-knots type of practice that many Americans consider yoga, but the breathing and simplicity of the practice. Sometimes I just stand in mountain pose so that I can truly feel my feet on the ground. Other times I roll out my mat and do what feels good. And still other times I go to a yoga class. That’s where the truth starts to become fuzzy.

In every city I go to, I search for a yoga class that isn’t hot or power or rock ‘n roll or in a sling shot. I look for the studio that’s been in town the longest or has a teacher older than 19. I’ve been to studios from Los Angeles to New York City and many places in-between including, in no particular order: Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Vermont, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Some of the studios have been chains, others just small spaces.

I can say this for sure: yoga isn’t what it used to be.

Everyone has a gimmick and everything is fast. Yup, that’s right, fast. In all but a couple instances, the classes have been crammed with as many poses as the teacher can think up in an hour, regardless of whether he or she knows how to safely get students from one posture to the next. Music is usually blaring (not that I have anything against loud music, but sometimes it hinders the ability to quiet the mind). The students look like they are competing in a yoga fashion contest hosted by lululemon (sorry, it’s true). Teachers talk incessantly even when they have nothing to say. Most classes have next to no warm-ups or cool-downs. They usually don’t mention the breath or the mind. One had no savasana at all.

Here’s the thing: this is what people want—or at least think—they want. This is how teachers are learning to practice and instruct.

It’s a sad but honest reflection of our culture. As a society, we don’t know how to slow down, yet we want to do things that are good for us—so we do yoga, even if we don’t know what that is. We also teach yoga even if we don’t know how or even have an inkling of an idea of the centuries old healing practice that we are passing down.

Let me back up here for a moment.

I opened my yoga studio nine years ago. At the time, I was pretty much the only Hatha studio around. Since then, there are now studios within ten minutes of mine in every direction. All but one offer strictly hot, power yoga classes. I’m not even counting the gyms and YMCAs which all also offer yoga. In order for all these studios and classes to serve all those students, there have to be enough teachers. So almost all studios now offer training courses, many of which are franchised or canned (but the students don’t know this).

I am not saying these programs are bad or that all teachers don’t know what they are doing. I am just trying to lay it all out there.

Teachers are being pumped out faster than you can say “Patanjali,” and students are coming to classes in droves regardless of whether the class is good or bad. They hang on the teacher’s every word even if the teacher has no idea what he is doing or saying. Students think that if they do enough chaturangas, they are doing yoga. Heck, they might even think that 20 chaturanga push-ups will quiet the mind. They probably don’t know that stilling the mind and yoga are one and the same.

It’s not just happening in studios. Look at yoga conferences and festivals.

Students flock to these big events where the classes are taught by those I now call “rock star” yoga teachers. These are teachers who have become famous in the yoga world and have large followings of students. Some of these teachers are actually very good at teaching yoga, but most are just overwhelmed with their own egos and the large base of students who seek them out in a convention center packed with 150 other adoring students. Most of these teachers are under 35 years old and many have been teaching this ancient healing art for less than eight years (that’s my unscientific poll but I betcha I’m right on the money here). I’ll admit, there was a time when I aspired to teach at these big conferences where people pay money to come to your classes or workshops even if the money goes to charity. It feeds the ego, no getting around it. But after witnessing what I have over the past year, I want none of this.

It all hit home in Austin, Texas.

Michelle, one of my closest friends, lives there. We did our yoga teacher training together at Maha Yoga Center with a gifted and wise teacher. For the past four years, Michelle has been whining about the yoga scene in Austin. I keep encouraging her to teach because, well, she’s the real deal. She has tried but can’t seem to find a studio to teach at—somewhere she can keep it real. She said all the studios are hot or power or fast or gimmicky. She said all the studio directors and teachers don’t know a thing about anatomy and sure as heck can’t teach a breathing technique.

I didn’t believe her. I mean, really, Austin? It’s a pretty progressive city with lots of yogis. Since I try to take a class in every city I visit, I was determined to hit a studio in Austin with my yogini friend Michelle. We picked a well-known studio. It looked hip and fun. Let’s just stop there.

We walked into a noontime class and had to restrain ourselves from laughing out loud. The skinny teacher in perfect yoga clothes had us rolling on the floor, literally. We rolled and then jumped up. Rolled and jumped up. Rolled and jumped up. We did a few fast poses in-between the rolling and jumping and then she bid us adieu. No rest for the weary. No savasana.

“That wasn’t even on the top five worst classes in Austin,” said Michelle as we walked out. I raced back to my hotel to roll out my yoga mat. My nervous system was completely out of whack.

I know, I know, to each their own. But really, call that what you want, but don’t call it yoga. To me yoga was and is about quieting the mind, breathing, finding stillness, feeling grounded and balanced. It’s about moving in a way that makes sense and is rooted in anatomy and yogic science. It’s about being honest with yourself and your students. It’s about knowing your limitations. It’s about slowing down so that you can listen and hear your own inner voice—the voice of intuition. It’s about finding stillness amid the activity. Try doing 20 poses on both sides in an hour; there’s simply no time for stillness.

Police give fast drivers speeding tickets. Who is going to slow us down in life? Ourselves.

Witnessing the yoga scene around the country has caused me to consider closing my studio on several occasions. I’ve become skeptical of myself. I mean, what is my purpose for being here when I’m losing the battle to hot yoga studios, fast classes, and DVDs/podcasts that promise results in 20 minutes? I have often wondered if perhaps I’ve got it all wrong, but then I come home and realize that what I am doing here is worth it. Regardless of whether I have five students or 500.

This is real.

 

Relephant:

Things Yoga Students are Dying to Tell Their Teachers (But Never Will).

Things Your Yoga Teacher is Dying to Tell You (But Probably Won’t).

What Does a Yoga Teacher Look Like?

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Asst. Editor: Jane Henderling / Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Robyn Parets

Robyn Parets is a certified Hatha yoga teacher and journalist, owns Breathe Joy Yoga studio in Massachusetts and has written for the Los Angeles Times, Inc. Magazine Group, and Investor’s Business Daily. She recently got back from a 15-month-long tour around North America with her son Noah, who was playing the role of Billy Elliot in “Billy Elliot the Musical.” She is spending this year blogging, reconnecting, and trying to figure out her next career!

 

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anonymous Dec 21, 2015 11:09am

Even though it's true that there are all these new yoga styles around it's very unyogalike and highly judgemental to consider them in the way you have. People need yoga, and anyway they come to it is fine. Its a journey remember. It might start like fitness and at some point later along the students may or may not wish to go more profound into the mindfulness of the practise. And when they do spiritual teachers will be there for them. I'm thouroughily enjoying seeing yoga become a mass market product. It means humanity is evolving albeit slowly and adopting yoga within its own way.

anonymous Dec 19, 2015 5:09am

To true brother, at least people are trying to find inner peace whether or not the teacher is good or not this is all part of the yoga journey, well written article made me laugh ☺

anonymous Dec 13, 2014 4:49am

thank you! i just found this article after explaining to a friend that i do not want to teach yoga anymore for exactly the same reasons you are describing here. i am from austria and the yogascene is starting to explode here in the same hectic, lound and gimmicky way. thank you for speaking out! 🙂

    anonymous Feb 11, 2015 7:28am

    Hi Heidi,
    Thanks for reading! Keep teaching even for only one. I practice what I teach 🙂

anonymous Jul 22, 2014 6:16pm

This is a beautiful post. Keep teaching yoga whether it is profitable or not. This storm will pass.

anonymous Jul 4, 2014 1:08pm

Come to New World Wellness in Kissimmee FL. While it's true that many modern yoga studios are as you describe, there are still studios who do yoga with a pureness of intent. Unfortunately we have not done a great job at providing participants with education about yoga and what the practice off yoga is meant to create for the participant. It makes it that much harder when you are trying to make a living and are trying to hold true to this most beautiful practice. Nicole Georgi Costello and her husband Craig Costello are the owners of New World Wellness and if you stop by, I promise you it will be a breath of fresh air. They also offer 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training so there will be many more of us to practice yoga as it was intended.

anonymous Jul 2, 2014 11:20am

We're so grateful for our Hatha Hoga community here in Kissimmee Fl. There's a beautiful, peaceful studio, New World Wellness, where judgement and competition are left with the shoes, where we honor our bodies and pranic intelligence . I am so thankful to be part of the first janasanga of Yoga Teachers trained there. NWW is exactly the studio you missed in those 40 cities. Come breathe with us, Namaste.

anonymous Jun 13, 2014 8:38pm

no need to mention about "the SKINNY yoga teacher had us blah blah blah" I was enjoying your article up until that point. Would you have said "the fat yoga teacher blah blah" doesn't matter her body type if she sucked she sucked leave it at that.

    anonymous Jun 15, 2014 11:03am

    Maybe by "skinny", she actually meant "unrelentingly stern" …
    So easy to pin a bad character trait on one's appearance.
    I do it, too.

    Except I probably would use the words "short, sneering; young and wiry" because I am referring to a man who has a plastic, transparent and dramatic face, in this case–someone so very young they couldn't even yet be called "sinewy". Not a sizeist or sexist thing alone.

    Not saying that it's a good or kind thing to do.

anonymous Jun 13, 2014 1:18pm

My first experience with yoga was with the kind of class that you offer… it was upstairs above an Indian food restaurant in Dallas. I loved it for the physical and spiritual tranquility that I came away with. I have never found another class like that in the various parts of the state I have lived in since then, and have subsequently been annoyed or disappointed with each one I've tried since. Keep doing what you're doing. I don't have much expertise or experience but I know there are people looking for what you have to offer.

anonymous Jun 12, 2014 1:44pm

Dear Robyn,
Thank you very much for your analysis on what ¨yoga¨ practice is becoming. As a teacher, this article reinforce my commitment to keep studying not only anatomy and asanas, but also the philosophy behind the practice.

    anonymous Jun 12, 2014 3:27pm

    HI Eliana,
    Thanks for reading. I think we all need to keep in mind that yoga means something different to all of us. It's just that the lines have become blurred between yoga and fitness classes. I do both and sometimes my yoga is more "fitnessy" in nature but I was reflecting on the scene out there and that there is more of a focus on the fitness (in many studios) and less on the rest of it. So, if we are seeking philosophy, meditation and pranayama, it just takes a lot more looking around as many studios I visited do not offer this anymore (or very little of it). Best of luck to you!

      anonymous Jun 12, 2014 3:46pm

      Your arts talent agency does represent Kirtan artists. Hopefully the yoga raves they now perform/instruct at would someday be replaced by more meaningful (to some of us) venues … some of us who are the far side of 30.

        anonymous Jun 12, 2014 5:11pm

        http://www.itsallyogababy.com/vancouver-reaches-p

        You could discuss this all you want. For my part, I got a little too chronically ill and preoccupied to care about if it is a bubble or not.

        "[…] 'yoga business expert' from Simon Fraser University who has closely studied and taught about Lululemon’s business plan. “There’s only so many people who want to do yoga, and we probably just have too many studios,” said David Hannah.

        "Is it more complicated than this? Has the current business model to thrive in the yoga industry (open a studio / start a teacher training to generate revenue / train more students / saturate the market) created a vicious cycle? Does this rash of closures say something about the excess of supply over demand for yoga in other North American cities? And is it possible that as the economic rewards of studio-based yoga diminish, that this phase in the cycle may actually benefit the passionate, committed teachers and students?"

        The question will then be, when and how does a yoga artist talent agent become a sort of yoga fine arts impresario … because even old school would return and go all Brahmin on ya …

anonymous Jun 12, 2014 7:10am

Ouch. Thank goodness you’ve found what’s “real” & “true.” Perhaps it’s not a universal method for cultivating wellbeing though?

anonymous Jun 11, 2014 7:13pm

I wish teachers would become comfortable with silence. I get told what to do, what to think, how to do it all day. The last thing I want it a teacher putting their own heaviness from their day on me during a class. I stopped going to one studio because she would stop telling us what we should be focusing on and constantly talking about what she thought we needed to focus on. With my days they way they are, I come to my mat to quiet the chatter and find myself within again.

anonymous Jun 10, 2014 2:48pm

Oh yea! I opened a small studio in Altadena not only to reach those who cant to 108 sun salutations, but to reach those who need yoga, slow yoga where the teachers see you. I love that one of my students did 6 classes in 8 days! She could afford the classes and she could do the poses, that were taught slow and with care. I didnt get into yoga for the $$. Sometimes I kick myself becaseu i wish i was more greedy, but yoga is to be shared. I was once told I am "De-valuing yoga" because I offer yoga for $10 and 10pks for $90. 3 months to use it.

    anonymous Jun 10, 2014 5:51pm

    Robyn Parets became a consultant to "the enemy" … from another post on here about Sadie Nardini … you know, a yoga arts type of talent agent …

    When you can't teach, but you want to remain in the field and make bank, you gotta do something I guess…

      anonymous Jun 12, 2014 1:32pm

      Hi there — Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I believe that yogis deserve to earn a living for the good they do in this world and if I can help people achieve that, I will. This article is an opinion piece (my opinion) on the changing face of yoga. When my studio was thriving, I made a good living and I don't feel guilty about this. That video with Sadie was a parody and I also believe yogis need to lighten up a little and have fun. It doesn't mean I feel any differently about the practice I seek. We all seek different practices. But this doesn't mean things haven't changed. Also, amphib1yogini: yogis talk about being "non-judgmental" which I think is pretty impossible. However, if you had any idea what we are doing over at YAMA Talent, you might consider taking back that comment. Only a thought. I wish you the best!

        anonymous Jun 12, 2014 2:38pm

        As yoga teachers age, they do not all turn into Tao Porchon-Lynch. Some become more like J. Brown (who is far from old, having turned 42) …

        What you promote now may some day turn their back on you, and the old-timey schools would find they hardly need representation.

        Reminds me of the dueling bumper stickers:

        "I'm Born Again"

        vs.

        "We Never Lost It"

        So, you will also know that this is a bubble you are riding. This too shall pass.

anonymous Jun 10, 2014 2:40pm

I agree with everything that was said in this piece, except for one small detail. I'm not sure why you felt it was necessary to add that part about "The skinny teacher in perfect yoga clothes" (especially the skinny part…). I understand what kind of image you're trying to paint for us readers, but I see that you're making a judgment based on what she looked like. Yoga moves us beyond judgment, it doesn't matter what anybody's physical body looks like… Maybe I'm just saying this because I'm thin, and I can't gain weight no matter how hard I try.

anonymous Jan 22, 2014 11:01am

I really enjoyed reading this article, thanks for writing. I used to think it was me, when I couldn't find a studio that I enjoyed practicing Yoga at. One of my favorite studios is Yoga Shala in downtown San Jose, CA — and I've also grown fond of Iyegar Yoga and the studio I go to in SF called Bija. I've probably been to about 20 studios, and when the instructor talks about life, plays music, and asks us to do situps I know its not the place for me. I guess the positive is, its all about finding what works for you, so we can't judge or put down those that enjoy that type of "yoga"

anonymous Nov 20, 2013 9:52pm

I don't have the time to read all of the comments, but you might try senior centers where they have adult education classes. Seniors don't put up with doing the hokey-pokey.

At the senior center where I live, there are many drop in classes for $5.00. People of all ages take classes there and at other sites in the community. You might be happily surprised!

Please tell your friend in Texas too!

I take both Hatha Yoga and Ai Chi, which is Tai Chi but done in the heated (almost body temp) pool.

anonymous Nov 17, 2013 11:59pm

I completely agree with you. As a Kundalini pactioner ofc18 years and teacher of 6 years you are spot on. Give KY a go. Lots if it in MA. Sat Nsm Ji

anonymous Nov 16, 2013 8:46pm

Look up Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. Sets get you ready to meditate. Meditations are powerful. Clothes are always graceful.

anonymous Nov 16, 2013 8:39pm

I think you should take a look at Kundalini Yoga. It's nothing like the other classes. It's all about the breathe and meditative exercises. None of that flashy stuff and pretzel poses. As for dress, they play down where sexy revealing outfits. The profered color is white and the clothes tend to be baggy so you can move.

anonymous Nov 15, 2013 9:25am

I hope someday you visit Erie, PA and visit my studio. I opened it on Jan. 1, 1998 and it was the first studio here. Even though I don't look it, I am much older than 19 and I opened my studio after studying and practicing yoga and meditation since 1971! I honor a traditional approach and have not diluted the teachings to be popular. Like you I am surrounded by gym and secular yoga but the good news is I am still popular. I presented at both Yoga Alliance teachers conferences and they were both refreshingly free of the "vibe" you described at the conferences you attended. My web site is http://www.plashayoga.com. Thank you for this article! I hope it will be a wake up for some. Keeping it real in Erie…

    anonymous Nov 15, 2013 3:11pm

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks so much for reading and writing. I went onto your website and your studio looks wonderful. And, you ARE 19 — lol! I didn't make it to Erie but if/when I do, I will definitely come to your studio. I would love to meet you. I hope you'll consider subscribing to my blog at http://www.awayfromom.net — where I try to keep it real in Massachusetts and in cyberspace…

anonymous Nov 14, 2013 10:15am

Absolutely true. Especially in L.A., yoga has become a hipster work out and everyone wants to be a teacher.

anonymous Nov 13, 2013 10:54am

Don't close. People will eventually return to authenticity. They will need a place to practice.

anonymous Nov 13, 2013 1:32am

Honestly what you have said in this article can be said about anything in life. Food culture, family life, education, music etc.
I do agree with this statement though :To me yoga was and is about quieting the mind, breathing, finding stillness, feeling grounded and balanced.

I offer you a nice quote you probably know

"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things, and still be calm in your heart"

We all have styles of practice we prefer and I think the humble route is to not spend energy judging other people for their personal yoga, food, family etc choices.

It is best to lead by example. Love your students, don't teach them what's "right", because right does not exist, its ego masturbation.

anonymous Nov 13, 2013 12:57am

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article and the comments that followed. I teach classical hatha yoga with it's traditional roots including pranayamas, meditation, mudras and mantras in Calgary, Alberta. I have had my own studio for 13 years. When I opened my studio I decided that I didn't want to be a manager. For example, you practice yoga, you love it, you decide to become a yoga teacher, you open you own studio and then you become a manager and lose your passion for teaching and you don't teach any more. So, I teach – my passion is to teach, not manage. I have one teacher that teaches one class for me and I teach all the other classes in my studio. When I travel, I close my studio. When it is the long weekend, there are no classes. Sure I make way less money, but is this why I got into yoga? Noper. I love to teach and help people achieve their optimum health, relieve stress and smile more. Do I feel the competition of other studios – I don't tend to think about it too much. I just figure if someone is into what I teach, they'll show up to my door.

Yes, I have a Guru and am on a path. Many moons ago, I expressed to a well-known kirtan artist, that I was teaching mantra and couldn't get too many people interested in attending the class. And he asked me, "why do I need more people?" and that totally changed my thought pattern. Yeah, why did I need more people? I couldn't answer that question because I didn't have an answer to it. I realized it was not important – what was important that I just keep doing what I have been doing and carrying on with my life. And I have done this ever since.

    anonymous Nov 13, 2013 12:59pm

    Hi Helen,
    Thanks so much for your response and kudos to you. You are so right about losing the passion for teaching when you are too focused on managing. That's what happened to me and it's why I now teach 2 classes a week at my studio and no longer manage a staff of teachers. My focus has changed, my passion for teaching has returned. For some, this isn't an option for financial reasons and I get that too. But now what yoga teachers tell me they love teaching so they want to open their own studio, I advise them not to unless running a 7-day-a-week business is more of a passion than teaching. It's not unlike being a chef. Most chefs become chefs because they love cooking and creating. But many open restaurants and end up losing their passion for cooking. I have other articles in the works about this and other topics. I hope you will follow my blog at http://www.awayfromom.net
    Thanks and all the best to you!

anonymous Nov 12, 2013 3:51pm

I have to agree a bit. I think the 'newer' yoga teachers aren't getting down to what yoga is: connecting with the inside using breath (or whatever, I'm not getting technical). I attend a yoga class now and I was a regular at a Yoga Studio in London Ontario that was FABULOUS. Classes were atleast 1.5 – 2 hours, long savasana at the end, I learned SO much going there. Now that I'm attending these other classes I am completely let down. The only reason I go is because its something. I always think something is better than nothing. There is no speaking of an 'intention' and I almost feel the teacher doesn't honestly care or really know the spiritual side of it.

It's quite sad… Something so real and pure has now become something some people may do to 'be cool', not understanding the deeper aspect to it all.

anonymous Nov 12, 2013 2:21pm

This article was just what I needed! Having recently done yoga teacher training (at a very well established and reputable school, I promise!) I have been very nervous to introduce my style of yoga to my small town. I keep wondering if it will be too slow or too spiritual or not exercise focused enough for the people in the community who like to pretend they are lululemon yuppies.
This has really given me the reality check I need to stay true to myself and the (dying?) art of traditional yoga

anonymous Nov 12, 2013 12:00pm

I fell in love with yoga in 1999 and have been practicing every since then. I have probably attended 500 classes since then from Vancouver to Guatemala and I have noticed this same trend. I fell in love with Hatha yoga, with the way I felt connected to the universe and to my self at the same time when coming out of Sivasana. Since then with the emergence of yogaerobics as I like to call it I have had a hard time finding studios where I can go to just be and am not expected to be an ultra skinny fashion model in $200 yoga pants. I miss the days when I showed up to a class and was welcomed because I was present.

Being an average sized American woman I get sideways looks and sour stares from many of the yoga studios I have entered. Apparently I don't fit their demographic. Since when do I have to look a certain way to come and yoke myself to the universe?! I have literally had teachers tell me that I wasn't going to be able to handle their level 2-3 classes. They based this judgement solely on one look at me, never bothering to ask me how long I had been practicing or what kind of practice I maintain. I usually blow their minds and while I am not a trained teacher many have asked where I teach after a class…

This all has troubled me a lot, and I started practicing mostly from home. I have found though that if you look hard enough there are studios run by yogis and yoginis like you, Robyn, who are tapped into the spirit at Yoga's core and who believe in the power of Yoga to connect with the nature of the universe. I am blessed to have found one in my small town here in Northern California. I found one in Seattle as well after wading through a LOT of snobby hot yoga and yogaerobics vinyasa classes.

Anywho, I wanted to thank you for speaking up about this and I wanted to encourage those who are maintaining their Hatha classes and slow studios to keep it up. There are people out there searching for your long sivasanas and deep breathing instruction, so don't give up hope!

anonymous Nov 12, 2013 11:46am

I am afraid the same thing is happening to Ayurveda. Lets evolve Ayurveda?! There is no such thing. Ayurveda is an ancient healin science. You cannot alter it and still call it Ayurveda. Then there is no truth.

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 9:51pm

Many years ago I was told by a physical therapist to try yoga do to my physcical limitations and that it’s low impact and all about listening to your limits, etc. She gave me a really great DVD that had yoga tailor designed for people like me. It was more like meditation. After a while the DVD became monotonous and I decided to try a class.

I have found most of my attempts at finding a suitable class/studio absolutely terrible.

I have severe flexibility issues (I can’t even touch my toes) due to a combination of genetic disorder and a serious car accident. One of the first studios I went to I tried to explain this, I even signed up for the “gentle” class. There was nothing gentle about it!! My instructor basically belittled me the whole time for being less flexible than the “old people” (I was only 22). She called me lazy. I left in tears.

Another studio I was doing my altered version of downward dog with help of foam blocks. The instructor came over and insisted I do it “correctly” then actually pushed down on my shoulders!!! I passed out from the pain. They had to call an ambulance cause I couldn’t get up afterwards. She had basically inflamed my old spine injury from my car accident.

I swore off yoga for years until I met a yogi through a friend. He taught yoga the way it should be. Sadly we now live far away from each other. I live in Asheville NC now, it’s a big yoga town which at least one studio every corner of town. Yet, I haven’t found one that I like yet. 🙁

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 8:20pm

Hi Robyn! Thank you for your article. I read you were in Michigan. You might not have stopped at my studio http://www.karma-yoga.net We just celebrated 10 years and are not reflecting the type of studios you are describing. I hope you can come take class with us sometime in the future! Stay open. We need more light leaders like you in the yoga business. Sat Nam, Katherine

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 7:30pm

Live and let live. But, don't give up your passion. Your way is not the only way.

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 5:08pm

Thanks for the thought provoking article. Just to offer a different perspective; I have been averaging 3 classes a week in Austin for the past 2 years and have never experienced the kind of shenanigans you speak of. With dozens of studios around town and all the creative people in Austin, of course there's going to be teachers out there on the fringe. There's Acro yoga, paddleboard yoga and anything else you can think of. There are also some truly gifted teachers here with 10, 20, 30+ years of experience leading incredible classes in alignment with the lineage they came from. My point is this: If you're truly seeking evidence of yoga reaching a wider audience while remaining true to it's roots, there's lots of it in Austin. My sense is that you were seeking evidence to the contrary, so that is what you found.

    anonymous Nov 12, 2013 6:53am

    Hi Jeremy,
    Thanks for reading and writing. Interesting thing was that I wasn't looking for anything in particular and it wasn't until I had hit studios in about 30 cities around the US and Canada that I decided to write. You are right in that there are gifted teachers everywhere. If I hadn't had the experience of trying out yoga everywhere, I would not have noticed this trend. Every industry changes and yoga is no different. With a glut of new teachers out there, changes like I saw were bound to happen as the industry becomes more commercial. I love this practice and teaching. And, I also like to have fun (and I don't live in a cave!) I am just a journalist/yogini telling it like it is (or at least as I saw it). Thanks again!

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 10:19am

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have had my studio for ten years and sometimes just want to cry over the shuffle and jive that comes with having to compete with a gimmick on every corner. It gets harder to stand firm and true to what I believe yoga is amidst all the noise and the children out there "teaching" yoga. This needed to be said. So thank you for being braqve enough to speak out.

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 10:02am

My sentiment, exactly! I have been biting my tongue and biding my time hoping if I hang with it I will see it cycle back around to what it once was. I do believe yoga is going to implode, there will be a shift. Whether it's from lawsuits from the numerous inexperienced teachers or supply and demand, it's going to happen. I'm an ashtangi and will be to the very end. there's no gimmicks, no get out of jail free card for skipping over asanas and It's practice, practice, practice. I feel blessed to have found ashtanga years ago with one of the best teachers I know, Tim Miller has been my teacher for 14 years this february. I couldn't imagine studying with anyone else. Thanks for speaking the truth and it is the truth.

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 8:55am

Thank you for this. It needed to be said.

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 8:13am

I so understand this feeling and agree with all of your thoughts here. My hubby and I own two yoga studios and have the discussion daily about the yoga scene out there and how disgusted we are. We often wonder what it would be like if the “rock star” studios disappeared and real yoga emerged and wish that would happen. We lose students to the studios that are gimmicky and it’s frustrating because their practice is not of high quality nor true to Yoga’s nature. It’s unfortunately the world if marketing and the crap companies like Lululemon that pump out the image that most have night into. Yoga is sacred and I wish people would understand that. As veteran teachers and studio owners we need to ban together and stand up. Organizations like the YA aren’t helpful either. We need a good veteran yoga teacher movement; those that know what they are doing and NOT the ones that do it as a fashion statement.

anonymous Nov 11, 2013 7:38am

I was glad to read this. I too have felt like this for a long time. My grandfather talk me yoga when I was a very young girl. Now this was about 40 years ago. He would teach me how to breathe properly. Eventhough my grandfather lived in England these short visits instilled in me the concept of yoga of which you speak. It IS about the stillness, it doesn't have to be done in classes it can be done in the stillness of your room at home. I liken it to meditation (anapana breathing).
Thanks for your words and don't think you are going to annoy people, keep calm and breathe.

anonymous Nov 10, 2013 11:17pm

Wow. Then perhaps she should close her studio. I’ve been practicing for 15 years and have kept my practice my own personal journey and not really worried about how others are practicing. I must say The author comes across as condescending and snobby. At least people are practicing yoga. Who cares if it’s not your type of yoga. Perhaps closing your studio and foregoing the negative comments about others practice is best.

anonymous Nov 10, 2013 9:42pm

It's not yoga without the breath. That has been a though that arises after a class where the teacher never once brings in the breath as focal point….throughout an entire class. Shocking really. Even as well intentioned as the young teachers I've seen it doesn't take away from the fact that you can't teach someone something you yourself have not experienced. So if they have not practiced long enough to delve into the DISCOVERY of yoga (which can't be taught) then they are teaching from an intellectual or physical understanding of the practice without really having walked through to the experience of what yoga is to pass on to others. It's that simple really. That is why there is so much "crazy" yoga out there. It is just people who have been taught how to teach poses but never have walked the long path to discover their own inner stillness so they can lead others to it. Hari Om.

anonymous Nov 10, 2013 6:36pm

I learned my yoga asanas in Austin with some superb Iyengar teachers who founded their studio back in 1990. The two teachers who taught me were among the best that I have ever had. Their studios are still in business, and the claim that Austin lacks good yoga studios is not true, and apparently the writer of this article was recommended the wrong studios in Austin. Texas has a long tradition of old school yoga whether it is Austin, Dallas or Houston.

    anonymous Nov 11, 2013 1:47pm

    Hi there — thanks for your response. I wasn't trying to put down yoga in Austin. My friend has yet to find a studio to call home and we randomly picked a studio to try a class at. There are wonderful teachers and studios everywhere. Feel free to contact me with the name of the studio you practice at. I am sure my friend would love to try out a class there! http://www.awayfromom.net

anonymous Nov 10, 2013 3:14pm

Thank you, Robyn. Thank you. I’ve been. feeling this in Seattle for years. I hace found that the only sense of true yoga I can find is in my home practice. There are very few who I have found here who really understand the source texts and practices that comprise yoga. I think these newer asana-derived styles have their own merits, but I feel that calling them yoga is completely misguided. Thank you, again.

anonymous Nov 10, 2013 11:48am

Slower is stronger.
http://vimeo.com/m/74162557

anonymous Nov 10, 2013 9:53am

I really appreciate this column. You have perfectly described why I don't go to yoga classes much anymore. The exception is the classes at Harbin Hot Springs, in Middletown, California. The beginner's class is heavenly and I keep returning to it, because the focus is on connecting breath and body and mind… feeling the pose, slowly.
The teacher may only do a handful of poses, and variations on them, but you learn the muscle memory of that pose. S/he will take the time to walk around and offer gentle corrections, and ask the group before s/he begins if there are any limitations. It's often a mixed group, with some older, less limber/flexible folks (like myself) who are there in plain old comfy clothes and don't even know where to find the lululemons in the produce department.
I have also grown to appreciate Kate Potter's "Namaste" series… interesting side note to your column – she is Canadian. Yes, there are pretty girls in the videos, but if you really listen to her voice…. it's all about the breath, finding the pose, being still, not criticizing. Better yet – you can find Kate on Facebook and she is very humble and approachable. In the privacy of my home, where there is no judgement, I can learn her various sequences and alter them to my own body.
Like you, when I do attend a yoga class here and there, it's a shock to my system. And… like you… I start each day with mountain pose. 🙂

anonymous Nov 10, 2013 9:02am

I've taught yoga with meditation and savasana for over a decade. It is important to recognize that asana is only a Part of yoga, not its entirety. Asana is considered the "outer" practices that have the capacity to open one up to the deeper "inner" practices of meditation. It's likely true that more people are interested in the outer practices. It's not a necessity to align with the masses, many of whom are using yoga a more of a gymnastics class. The subtle practices were never as popular or as accessible as the deeper sublime practices. Nonetheless we can keep on keeping on- continuing to teach authentically from where we're at is our best suit, allowing for all other interpretations. Keep up the good work, Robyn.

    anonymous Nov 10, 2013 12:35pm

    On a similar tack, as a perennial beginner (not of "beginner's mind", but an actual beginner/advanced beginner/barely intermediate of years' standing) at asana … I knew there were hatha classes that were not afraid to teach in a "beginners"-only class, the more intense/more repetitive pranayama and breath-retention work without the beginners having to pass through asana-"hoops". Even pranayama, (which is actually a limb, separate and apart, from the third limb, asana) could be approached … before the so-called beginners'-class instructor gets all hot-and-heavy about teaching headstand … Now that there are both blowback and backlash, more of them are reserving teaching anything like headstand until further classes … A beginner, sure, can rely on the support of the neck if their arms are not strong enough. But certain anatomical uniquenesses, that a teacher may not know about, may preclude EVER being able to not rely on the neck much more than ideal …

    Ditto for the neck-intensive setthu bandhasana transition from the floor into wheel pose . Although I've learned to use my legs; now that transition becomes a strain on my knees.

    Simply put, some bodies just won't go there (or not easily) … and it's not just a matter of the "mind transcending the body" …

    So, it is a boon to know that there are other, more physically available centering, and even higher-order practices that can and should be encouraged … not everyone is too hyperactive for them … in fact, it would do well for the teacher of yoga to "read" the actual energy level of people in the room, rather than teaching to promote their cross-promotion agendas or to teach to a pre-scripted syllabus or to the most advanced people (or their spouses thereof … I've witnessed that, too) in the beginner's class …

anonymous Nov 10, 2013 3:38am

Behold. There exists such a thing as a Yoga Scene, and humans are revelling mindlessly in it in the spirit of Bacchus.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 11:46pm

Robyn

I can relate to your words. My first introduction was bikram yoga almost 8 years ago. It wasn’t until I landed at Yoga East in Louisville KY that I was able to fully grasp the meaning and scope of what yoga is, does, means. Next time your passing through pay 1 of our 3 studios a visit. I can safely say you will be welcomed by knowledgable, friendly, compassionate instructors. We were taught by the best. Our studio will turn 40 next year. We would love to see you.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 8:53pm

How true! Its sad. Yoga is an age old system for holistic wellbeing of mankind. The fundamental thesis in Yoga is that of the unity of Body-Mind-Spirit. The practice of Ha-tha Yoga by people in today’s world however is primarily done for the physical body. The attention is thereby limited to the outer container rather than the inner content of personality.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 8:52pm

Thanks everyone for your valuable comments. Clearly this is something we are all thinking about or at least we are now. In answer to the commenter that said he/she detects anger and resentment in what I write and to the person who felt my word choice came from a place of fear and not love, I can tell you that neither are the case. I feel that in the yoga community many of us are too afraid to write or discuss the changing industry because it might not make everyone happy. I called it as I saw it and am still seeing it. Yoga is about truth and everyone's truth is different. But if you can't be truthful with yourself, who can you be honest with? I appreciate all of your support. I hope you continue to read more of my writing at http://www.awayfromom.net. This dialogue is invaluable.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 5:10pm

I agree with 98 percent of your comments. Yet I am a yoga teacher in Austin, TX and although the scene is pretty crazy , there still are some quality teachers here. If your friend, Michelle is into Iyengar Yoga, she should look up Peggy Kelley, Yves Oberlin, Anne Bowery and Christina Sell. I hear you loud and clear though and agree that yoga in America is a big mess.

    anonymous Nov 10, 2013 6:45pm

    Peggy Kelly is an amazing practioner and teacher, and Devon Deidrich is also superb. I learned most of my yoga from these two ladies back in the 90s, and they are still the best teachers that I have ever had. I moved to another State, and there is not a single certified Iyengar teacher that I can take from in the whole State that I currently reside in.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 2:39pm

It sounds as if you have hit some tough moments in your life–like we all have–as I detect a lot of anger and resentment in your article. I'm sorry for whatever it is you may have had to endure. That being said, yoga teaches non-judgment and to not be overly-critical (save for a misplaced knee-beyond-an-ankle correction given by the teacher to the student during a class!)–both of which your article are–judgmental and critical. Instead of judging and criticizing new yoga styles and philosophies, it might just be more constructive to accept and embrace the new styles that come along–just like you're asking everyone to embrace your slower, more traditional approach. Pay it forward–it's a beautiful thing. 🙂

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 2:27pm

Is not the beauty of Yoga, the tool of our breath to bridge the gap of our mind and body, the creation and practise of stillness in mind and body, community and union with all, the idea of Yoga regardless if it is hot or not, power or not?

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 2:05pm

I appreciate the message that we need to retain the truth and integrity in yoga (and all things) but we are in the most pivotal, transitional time in the history of humanity and focusing on creating more separation by moving into a space of judgment is not contributing to the change we want to see–and why we do yoga–to create more love on this planet.

The language in the article with words like “battle” and “The skinny teacher in perfect yoga clothes” are coming from a place of fear/ego and not truth/love.

Be the change you want to see. Don’t judge and complain about other people or even the process. Our work is trust that it’s all unfolding perfectly and we allow this by standing in our truth–which is love–not fear.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 1:45pm

I appreciate your values and your perspective, but Personally you are missing the whole idea of yoga. We are all one, fast slow, silent, crazy music, 1 posture or 200 postures in an hour. Life is constantly changing learned by yoga, our practice and body change daily. I find it sad that your ego has taken over and you feel that their is only one way to find our connection. I hope that you continue on your yoga journey it sounds like you have yet to find the true meaning of yoga. I have been teaching over 10 years and I travel and take yoga as often as I can in as many different studios I can. I resonate with some and some I do not, but instead of pointing the finger at them I look inside. What are my struggles, my issues what is that practice telling me? Patience, love, faith? Thank you for your time. Blessings to you and I pray you find your peace.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 11:36am

Yoga means "union with source." What is called "yoga" in the west is actually based on hatha yoga "asanas." That is partly why yoga has been so corrupted in the west. Yoga studios should be called asana or stretching studios. Calling them Yoga studios gives a false impression from the get-go.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 9:35am

What you say resonates on so many levels with what I see as well. I am a new yoga teacher teaching only 4 years….and it is crazy how many "yoga" studios have popped up in the past year….it's like Starbucks…one on every corner. I have visited a few, and they do offer some slower more still classes, however most are all about the "workout" how much can you sweat….who can get into the hardest pose, who can do the most chaturangas. I have decided to teach yoga (following the 8 limbs) outside of any local studio, so that I can adhere to the traditional style, having more stillness and slowing down postures so that the students have a mindful practice. Thanks so much for sharing your view…You have an important job…don't close your studio..the people need you!! Namaste.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 9:33am

Please don't stop teaching now – you're right on and we need more teachers like you!!!!
I also teach from my own tiny private studio and can't compete with the gyms, hot yoga places, etc etc that promise the moon in less than 60 minutes. Pish Posh – I say! I keep plodding along, faithful and true to my own rythm that some people seem to respond to. I always include a warm up, pranayama, some gentle postures, some challenging postures, and always meditation at the end.
I've been teaching for 18 years and am finally feeling like I truly have something to share with my clients. Stay true to yourself and lead the way to a gentler, slower, more loving world – we're right behind you!!

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 9:24am

It took three months for me to find a local yoga class after moving back home to South Africa from being abroad for seven years. The classes are held in a local church hall, Laura doesn't charge extra if you feel you need extra classes, you just drop in. You pay and tick your name off in a book – she works on trust. She also doesn't have a Facebook account or even a mobile phone. No music in the classes, fresh air, people of various ages, shapes and sizes, friendly smiles, gentle start, savusana end. Laura looks after everybody, she seems to intuitively know every time I get stuck or confused. Each pose seems to compliment the next and through every class I am constantly amazed. I told my husband recently it's almost like being high on drugs and the feeling lasts. For the first time in my life I feel great most of the time. I am relieved and really, reallllllly happy that this is a completely different scene to what I encountered in England. Zumba, bootcamp, pilates, piloxing, bodycombat, kung-fu, running group etc. (I have tried them ALL) over there were a dime a dozen, and felt like more of a fashion parade and competition than anything else. I suppose each to their own, some people enjoy a different lifestyle to me. I am just grateful that I found something that is such a great fit for me. 🙂

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 7:43am

I was attacked by a student because what I taught wasn't "real yoga.", it was "just stretching." I try to let it go, but I am so resentful even a year later. I understand that's not living the yogic life, holding onto resentment, but I am ultimately flawed and working on refining myself daily. I am completely immersed in the fitness world, a RYT who is also getting a degree in exercise science. There's a place for me to kill my clients, and there's a place for me to heal them. The healing part of yoga was so important to me that I postponed my degree for a year to become a RYT.
I am ever defending my class of postures with thought put into counter postures, lots of breath focus, and Nidra. My students were all new to yoga, and I have slowly introduced more difficult postures after they mastered the basics. The other yoga classes are taught by people who learned from AFAA and come out of the gate swinging, teaching wheel, headstands and planks right away . AFAA is a wonderful program that helps regulate aerobics and fitness, but it does not teach the only form of yoga out there! I haven't been teaching yoga for 8 years, but I have been doing yoga since I was a toddler. I know what works for me, and it's not always a difficult practice. I understand exactly where you're coming from

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 6:25am

Thank you for writing this article, unfortunately the same is true in Australia. Its such a shame that yoga has been turned into a marketing platform for Lulu Lemon and those who are looking to make a quick buck by promoting a fake adrenaline rush. Its amazing that I can walk into a Bikram class as a beginner and be told that its the perfect exercise for my body, only to leave the class sore from every part of my body! In Melbourne it has taken me 1.5 years of trying different studios every month to find a place that represents somewhat what true yoga is. Its up to the gurus within the yoga communities to take a stand and make a difference. When that happens, the public will realise the benefit of a true practise and yoga will be transformed back to what it should have been all along.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 5:39am

Having been a group exercise teacher at gyms for many years, I've seen exercise fads come and go. The "yoga" that you describe in your article and one that I also encounter is a latest fad. I think that this will pass and the masses will move on to the next one. But some of those will have the curiosity to explore the true yogic path end experience. It will be interesting to see how many will find this way and it will be a gift to know them.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 1:10am

Seek out a Sivananda class while travelling – classical hatha, very tradtional.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 10:46pm

This article sounds like elitist yogi judgement at its finest. As an ashtangi I am in agreement on the importance of breath and also agree that there are teacher that don't follow healthy progression, transitions, and savasana. That said, I love me a good power class. What's wrong with challenging yourself and breaking a good sweat? Rock and roll? Turn it up. Musicians are the poets of my generation and a good soundtrack during practice can inspire powerful introspection. Yep. I live in America. I balance a demanding job with spending time with my joyful and happy family and that means we are busy. I love that hour of power that offers me a meaningful physical experience and time with my own thoughts. I respect the origins of yoga and the people who preserve and teach these traditions. But c'mon…lighten up. I roll my eyes at the purists who find the progression of yoga into the mainstream so offensive. I like Anya's points. I applauded everyone who comes to practice. You inevitable will find a spiritual experience if you commit to a personal practice, regardless of how mainstream or westernized it becomes. I hope that this type of conversation doesn't discourage or intimidate new teachers or students. You love and teach yoga your way…we're enjoying the spiritual with the sweating. Peace.

    anonymous Nov 10, 2013 9:50pm

    However it might be possible that you are enjoying the surface because it truly is grand but have not yet broken
    the ice to go deeper into the waters to know what it is she is talking about.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 9:42pm

Some valid points. I am an advocate of yoga, and I feel like whatever gets people to practice and be a little kinder to themselves and others is worth it perhaps – even if it has morhed into something that isnt traditional or pure. True, current trends prove there is an emphasis on heat, fancy asanas, quick pacing and a whole lot of babbling that isn’t really grounded in the teachings… But I have to say, if there is a chance even 1 or 2 people in a room of 30 experience Yoga then its worth a yoga studio being there and not another McDonalds or Starbucks taking up real estate.

All the craze surrounding yoga is because people who have made it to a mat, have seen some sort of benefit from that, and yes, sometimes its only physical. I’d like to think that the physical benefit is like a gateway and if they keep practicing, inevitably they will end up learning about yoga. There is a natural order to things. Teachers who are living their yoga, and are commited to sharing the teachings will attract the students who want to learn, who want to make change. Teachers with inflated egos, who say their way is the only way, will end up with students with inflated egos who don’t want to change. The natural order will take care of things, there is certainly no lack of studios and more and more people keep coming to the practice. How they get there, doesn’t matter. Intention is everything. Even with the babbling teachers, the newbies, the 19 year olds wearing hot shorts.. If their intention is pure and they are practicing, eventually there will be a shift and they will begin to understand YOGA. We are doing spirtual work and live in a material world, so its easy to understand why there is all this “yoga flare” We succumb to flashy ads, posts on Facebook and a steady stream of internet information to capture our attention and busy our mind. Its damn scary, and its working! We do need yoga more than ever, and even if its taken a strange turn, its important we keep doing the work & showing up. Keep your studio open, keep spreading love, and sharing the teachings.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 7:08pm

It's insane what has happened to yoga. I'd actually needed "old school hatha yoga" to breathe life again into my (mostly home) practice. I'd located the milder of the bunch of Baptiste teachers (in fact one of my first-ever newfangled studio experiences' founder's first teacher training teacher) to keep this alive (though I couldn't actually keep up with the general pace of the class) … Yes, I too had the roll 'em to stand repeatedly, teacher … for a workshop at a world-class studio. It hadn't been a mistake, just her schtick and not for the whole workshop, either. I called her out in front of the 11 other people in attendance that the class was too vinyasa and I'd had trouble orienting myself to it. It had been an inversions workshop I was "too beginner" for. Absolutely no regrets–unlike one other experience or two that I had encountered in New York City area studio yoga, I had not felt pressured/coerced/goaded/prodded/assaulted by a yoga teacher into actually signing up for this workshop.

Cheer up, you are needed by vinyasa practitioners. Most of us do not know it yet.

There will come a time when vinyasa practitioners will wake up out of their trance and know that alignment is very, very important. Or if breath is your bag. Or rhythm is your bag. Or repetition is your bag.

There is that ONE or even more than one thing that you teach amongst the attributes of alignment, breath, rhythm or repetition that is sorely missing from vinyasa. I'm sorry, but that's true.

And of course, kindness to self. That's missing from what yoga is available today ….

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 6:55pm

Such a great post, and definitely something to always keep in the back of your mind. Im still in training to get certified to teach yoga, and one thing I do not like when I visit other studios (not the one I'm studying at) is how pop culture it all seems. If I wanted that, I would have gotten in to personal training for the rich and fake. Its disturbing to see this happening in such a widespread manner. Hopefully it will recede soon.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 5:52pm

Thank you for this article. Couldn't have said it any better. We have as studio in Seattle that subscribes to old school yoga and I cannot tell you how hard it is to maintain a student base, much less be sustainable.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 5:21pm

Robyn, Thanks for keeping it real! I tend to think that the message reaches its recipient when she/ he is ready to receive it. Sometimes that means that my slow-paced (sometimes we don't even leave the floor) classes aren't filled to capacity. But still we show up, we practice, we sit in meditation and feel the spaciousness that is always there. Without attachment to the outcome. And that is all. Love.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 4:11pm

I couldn't have said this any better…..thanks you for saying what needed to be said.
Peace sista.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 3:49pm

I love you for writing this

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 3:43pm

Great article Robyn. While I have only been practicing yoga for about 6 years, I have come to realize that it is pointless and even dangerous to take some of these classes where a huge number of asanas and a quick progression from one to another can leave you feeling more anxious than when you walked into class. I have been injured a few times, once so significantly that it took a year for the pain to completely go away. Now I practice with mindfulness, a decision that has benefitted me not only in my yoga but in many other areas of my life as well.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 3:11pm

thank you so much!!!!!!!!

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 3:01pm

Thank you for writing this. I have been feeling exactly this way for quite awhile now. I cannot find a yoga class that feels like yoga. I struggle with teaching where I teach because of the gimmicks that are being offered as yoga when they are not yoga. A class without breath? without savasana? that is not yoga.

Keep it real and keep writing. Piss off the 'yogis'. Piss off the Lululemmings. And then go practice some yoga.
I am looking forward to 2014 as my year to take sabbatical from yoga.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 2:29pm

Firstly there is somewhat a misperception of the history of yoga. By Mark Singleton adresses this here. http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/2610. In fact many of the exercises we do in yoga are influenced from western gymnastics.
In Astanga the vinyasa (plank, chaturanga, and upward facing dog) was not always practiced between postures – but was introduced. I have quoted some of this information below. I am trained in yoga by two differed teaches with influences iyengar, Kripalu, Anna Forest and Kundalini. I did yoga based on Kundalini and Kripalu for 6 years and now teach this – but I also teach flow. I have to say I really love a hot power yoga and its has really helped my hip pain and my thyroid which can be a little sluggish. I agree with this article – but I believe there is still space for hot yoga and flow. Yoga is continuously evolving – just look at my training – my teaches trained through these other practices but I didn't. I was trained in fusion. I find even the slow yoga can be missing the connection and that the teacher can be so focused on alignment and talk so much in class that I can't let go into the posture. It drives me crazy. As a new yoga teacher. I read all these articles online and I get paralyzed to teach because every teacher his there own VERY STRONG opinion on what yoga should be and how it should be taught. The classes I enjoy the most are the ones where my teacher gives me strong direction – but also understands that I know my own body and may do my posture slightly different because I haven't been coming to their class for 5 years. I feel many more experienced teachers are saying that the new teachers that are coming through don't know anything. But I read and learn about yoga everyday. The more I read, the more I realise how little I know. But I don't teach advanced practice. I teach what I know. I know there is a lot in here – but I have just been reading so much bitching from the yoga community that is puts me off being part of it. I am part of a yoga collective and we are looking to open a studio that offers diversity and good practice – because like you say in this article, we can't actually find this in our city. I have been to many classes that the teaching is far from okay. But try to not discard every new teacher or every hot yoga class – some of us really care.
"The first wave of "export yogis," headed by Swami Vivekananda, largely ignored asana and tended to focus instead on pranayama, meditation, and positive thinking. The English-educated Vivekananda arrived on American shores in 1893 and was an instant success with the high society of the East Coast. While he may have taught some postures, Vivekananda publicly rejected hatha yoga in general and asana in particular. "

"Other teachers, like the nationalist physical culture reformist Manick Rao, blended European gymnastics and weight-resistance exercises with revived Indian techniques for combat and strength. Rao's most famous student was Swami Kuvalayananda (1883-1966), the most influential yoga teacher of his day. During the 1920s, Kuvalayananda, along with his rival and gurubhai ("guru brother") Sri Yogendra (1897-1989), blended asanas and indigenous Indian physical culture systems with the latest European techniques of gymnastics and naturopathy.

With the help of the Indian government, their teachings spread far and wide, and asanas—reformulated as physical culture and therapy—quickly gained a legitimacy they had not previously enjoyed in the post-Vivekanandan yoga revival. Although Kuvalayananda and Yogendra are largely unknown in the West, their work is a large part of the reason we practice yoga the way we do today."

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 2:18pm

To end every class I teach, I have the students acknowledge how amazing it is that they could figure out how to honor their body, mind, and spirit, that they valued themselves enough to show up at class and they were smart enough to make it happen. I have them peek around at everyone and realize they are not alone in that difficult journey, but that they are surrounded by others on the same journey. I acknowledge to myself how amazing it is that any of us made it there in the first place, let alone be gentle with ourselves. I thank them out loud for the chance to watch them be mindful, loving, attentive, intelligent, and healing towards themselves and others all class long. It is a truly beautiful experience. When I allow myself to really acknowledge what we are doing, it is like a little miracle. Taking that time at the end of class is what keeps me going in the face of the pervasive patterns of our culture. We are the shiny diamonds that sparkle full of beauty in the rough of our culture. Robyn, keep sparkling on like that shiny diamond you are. Shine on, standing tall in mountain pose. Shine on sister, shine on!

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 2:16pm

It's the same in Canada – at least in the urban centres I've taught within.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 2:12pm

However, every time I enter a class of students and watch all these students mindfully breathing, moving, massaging themselves, taking charge of their existence in a peaceful, healing, and aware way, I am so grateful to be a teacher and to be surrounded by that caliber of people in my life. I think to myself "good choice Jessi. Well done." I have figured out a way to surround myself with people with attention for themselves, grace for themselves, awareness, discernment, intelligence, and love. Those that have for themselves, have for others. I get to guide loving, amazing, healing, growing people. Being a part of that for even the smallest group of students is more satisfying than being a part perpetuating the patterns of the masses. As I prepare to partner up and take ownership in a studio, it is frustrating to see the financial rewards and mass attendance go to the extreme and intense studios. Then I remind myself, we are small, are overhead is small, our classes are small, are profit may be small, but our impact is life-changing our lives are big….a healing contradiction to the culture…

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 2:09pm

You are correct…these are the types of things people gravitate towards. I get discouraged and astounded when I look at Bikram. He is making a fortune out of psychologically and physically manipulating the masses of sheeple into following his physically and mentally oppressive teachings. It is unfortunate, but this is the American Culture, not just the Yogic Culture.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 2:08pm

Robyn, I understand how you feel. I even teach at a hot yoga studio, but because we use a gentle heat and humidity and practice YogAlign, which is a style designed to be a pain free yoga that honors the body, we are not "hard enough, etc." So even we do not attract that certain population. We include a main focus on the breath and moving from the breath, the core of our core, poses that are natural for the body's alignment and honor our true nature, plenty of savasana, and a good amount of self massage. We finish with a 15 minute relaxation including cooling lavender face towels, a facial massage, and relaxation. At times, I get discouraged in seeing those students who leave our practice and flock to Bikram where they beat their bodies up with compression and intensity or go to Hot Vinyasa Flow, or classes where they play funky music, flow, do inversions, contortionist type poses and other "cool", "hard", or "sexy" poses. It’s prevalent in the fitness community where I live as well. Extreme Fitness, Cross Fit, Warrior Dash Races…

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 2:05pm

I'm with you. I have been teaching for 17 years and have been practicing long enough to watch this shift take place. In a month and a half am going to step down from teaching and let this evolve the way it needs to without me. I live in Boulder Colorado and I tell you that it is the exact same here as you describe it. Breaks my heart really.

    anonymous Jun 25, 2015 11:13am

    I don't understand a teacher who gives up teaching because of the things happening around us. That is actually one reason more to continue teaching, so please do. We need more of you 🙂
    Namaste

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 1:14pm

Thank you everyone for your insightful comments. @apeachmoon, I appreciate your clarifications. I was in no way "attacking" the yoga community because it is hot. I am a business owner so I understand all too well the need to balance making money with sticking to what I feel is the best way for me to teach. The yoga "industry" is not unlike any other business. It is changing and I am just shredding some light on what is happening, in my opinion. I think it's great that there are many out there that are sticking to their truth and offering yoga classes that aren't "trendy" even though it may mean shrinking numbers. Also @Charlotte and @Viva: I didn't make it to either Portland or Salt Lake City (although I did hit 40 other cities!) But when I am there, I will definitely seek out your studios. Thank you all for being part of the dialog!

    anonymous Jun 10, 2014 1:50pm

    I live in MA and hope to get to your studio some day. Although there are times when I am ok with a "power" type of yoga class, overall what I crave is the whole package. This is what I try to teach, despite having to tone down some things when I am not teaching in a yoga studio. I still make breath the number one priority and I just cannot conform to fast-paced yoga. If that is what a place wants me to teach, I have to refuse or tell them I want to change the class style. I understand that there may be times I have to compromise a little as I do need to feed and clothe myself, however I have a very clearly drawn line. I prefer my classes in studio so we can go deeper – not in poses, although that may happen – but in breathing, mindfulness, and stillness.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 12:16pm

I totally agree with the above, one thing puzzles me though: it's the continued success of Sivananda yoga, where every class starts with kapalbathi and anuloma viloma. Students love it!

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 12:15pm

I feel that most teachers teach what has benefitted them in their personal practice. If we offer what has transformed us in a clear, precise, safe and grateful way, then students know what to expect and will be able to find their way to the classes they need. I was fortunate to receive excellent training from a wonderful teacher that changed my life both spiritually and physically. I now own a studio where all the teachers were trained by and continue to study with that teacher, and our classes offer asana, yogic philosophy, mantra, meditation and savasana. We're not for everybody, but those who resonate with what we offer drive by a lot of other places to practice with us. People ask me how we compete with other studios and I tell them the truth–we don't. We just offer what we practice. There is room for a lot of yoga these days, and if some are loving the hot yoga/power yoga/workout yoga, it's nice they can find it. For the rest of us, let's be clear about what we offer, so students can find us, too.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 12:00pm

I completely agree with your article. I teach a restorative style yoga class. People are constantly on the go. The students come to my class to help escape the rush and quiet the mind even if it is only for any hour. Even though I teach, I still cannot do a shoulderstand in the middle of the room without props let alone put my foot behind my head. That is okay though as that is not what I try to get out of yoga, and that is what I try to emphasize to my students.

Thank you for validating my point of view.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 11:59am

Keep going! There are so many of us that need and want the practice you can offer! And I know a few teachers in the Chicago suburbs that are keeping it real!

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 11:52am

The fault lies in our being programmed as westerners to want fast and furious, type A experience. Yoga isn't about that, the exertion, the just do it mentality. It focuses mind, body, spirit to patiently practice asanas and explore the self. As the American landscape shifts, I believe more and more people will eschew the commerce driven, fast paced, consumer lifestyle and seek transformation. We, as teachers and students, will help provide that transformation.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 11:30am

I completely agree too. Yoga has become bastardized in the west, and that is to the detriment of the western population. I do not agree with an earlier commenter that because this is America, we should accept this change. We should be the change we wish to see in the world, remember?

I teach a spiritual practice. I have often thought I didn't want to call it yoga anymore because most people thing of the crazy fitness style when they hear that word. Patanjali spoke of asana just one time in the sutras! So, I teach people to listen, love, and let go. It takes time, and that's why it's a lifetime practice.

    anonymous Nov 8, 2013 11:59am

    I don't think I was saying accept it. I was saying don't let the way of the world stop or discourage. The way things are is all the more reason to keep pushing to be the change you want to see in the world. I am the change, I live it. It is what drove me to want to be a teacher. Even as the world, in many cases remains the same, I aim to be that change. I acknowledge western future is one way and choose a different path. Be well.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 11:10am

Thank you for a wonderful piece. A few years ago, I was interested in trying yoga and I bought a Groupon for a studio that wasn't close to home, but hey, the price was right. I hit the jackpot: A studio with fabulous teachers, a welcoming space, and everything that MA Studio Owner said in his comments. I didn't know how unusual this is until I started looking for studios closer to home, and found none (in a densely populated, thriving area) that met my needs. They were all hot, fast, and geared to the athletic types. I did more chaturangas in one class than I could count; I took this lady's class again to see if it was a fluke. It wasn't. I never returned. (That studio lasted about two years, then closed.)

My friends (non-yogis) can't understand why I drive 30 minutes, one way, to go to class. Robyn, I believe you know why I make the drive. Toned arms and abs are a side benefit; my peaceful mind and newfound groundedness will keep me coming back to my mat. For life.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 10:52am

I applaud all of you studio owners and teachers who are working hard to continue to offer yoga that's dedicated to inner exploration rather than yet another fast-paced distraction. I think it's very difficult to swim against the tide in this way, particularly when your livelihood is at stake. I completely relate to the author's desire to bail out – and, I would not fault her if she chose to do so. We all need to make a living and the market is moving strongly in the direction she describes. In the end, everyone needs to find the combination of personal practices and work commitments that sustain them best. At any rate, thanks for the honest and clear-sighted report on what you see happening and best wishes to all of us in finding the best way to navigate this difficult terrain.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 10:49am

So you attack the community because yoga is a "hot" commodity? Hmm. What's gimmicky about heating a room? It's a conscious part of the practice. It is there for a reason. I am a Bikram teacher. I love yoga, regardless of style. I love the texts and literature tradition that are part of the lineage and spirit of yoga. The hatha tradition is deep, brought to us (westerners) by many wonderful teachers deeply connected to the traditions in India. But we are in America. Everything in this country gets dumbed down or commodified. That's a fact of our western existence. It is our job as teachers and yogis to not succumb to this, to not give up. If we deeply cherish our practice, we don't seek shortcuts. Yeah, I check out great yogis on YouTube to improve my backbend, handstand etc…,to get inspiration or just see another body perform an asana; posture holding stillness, breathing always normal as we say a lot in Bikram's class. If you notice the short cuts, why quit, why despair. No matter what endeavor mankind undertakes, a shortcut is the quickest way to not getting the best out of the experience. I wouldn't teach a short Bikram class because the sequence is 90 minutes, designed with a specific goal. Ninety minute moving meditation, with savannas (we don't skip those ever) then go home, come back, rinse and repeat and enjoy the therapy.

If you are dedicated, keep teaching, don't get caught up in the ego of western life. Yeah, I have many hot shorts, yeah I practice every day, teach four to six times a week, yeah, I am in the hot room sweating, bending and resting (savasana) and yeah, I feel spiritually enlivened by my commitment and discipline as I cultivate mind and body. I hope that as I teach my students recognize this and it inspires them to take more classes and not seek a shortcuts and the pitfalls of express classes. I hope they are inspired to dig deeper in their practice, a spiritual act in my opinion. Remain dedicated, be faithful. I believe that in this fast-paced western existence, those who are really awake will recognize the BS from the real deal and they will not compromise and understand that shortcuts just end up being cheats. When it comes to cultivating personal growth, strength of mind and body, pranayama, postures holding stillness, breathing always normal, there are no shortcuts. Thank you for your article and thoughts. Be well.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 10:26am

I can assure you that Robyn's studio has a sound business model and is in a beautiful location that is a pleasure to visit. What the article refers to is not how to make her studio thrive, it already has, it is about how people have taken yoga and twisted it so far that it is hardly recognizable as a yoga practice. I have seen so many yoga teachers who do not know the first thing about physiology and go about their classes with no thought to the actual well being of their students. Yoga isn't about being able to endure a strenuous stretching routine, it is about connecting body and mind. There are great health benefits that go along with that but the true power of yoga is in the connection to self. The "no pain, no gain" attitude has no place in yoga, that only teaches you to NOT listen to your body. Hot yoga goes against all the physiology in your body, you can actually do more harm than good to yourself doing any exercise that puts your body in "survival mode". There are plenty of medical reports to support that but the current attitude of many young yogis is "well, modern medicine has nothing to do with yoga". I actually had a yoga teacher tell me that I could sweat toxins out of my liver….really?? They just make stuff up out of whole cloth and if it sounds new age enough people buy it. In the search to have the "new thing" people are loosing what makes yoga really work and that is truly a very sad thing.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 10:15am

Great piece, Robyn. Excellent insights.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 9:48am

I agree with your article almost 100%. America is a type A country and more and more even yoga is being drawn into the hectic, busy, fitness orientation of our country. I agree that it runs counter to centering and de-stressing. Only thing I don't agree with is invoking 20 poses on both sides in one hour as automatically bad. If one does a vinyasa like Sun or Moon Salutation, there are many poses packed in there that align with inhales and exhales and flow quickly on principle to heat up (tapasya). There's plenty of time to get other slower/sustained poses in and may even result in over 20 poses in one class. Vinyasa makes this possible and that's not a bad thing, so long as it is balanced (pun not intended) by some held poses with instruction and attention to alignment. In my humble opine.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 9:13am

I'm so glad I found what I believe to be a "traditional" class (Integral Yoga Swindon, UK). There's no music, plenty of gentle help and corrections and lots of time to rest between parts of the class to consider and absorb the effects if what has just gone before. If I'd found a "rock n roll" class I think I would have walked away and not come back. The message? Don't close your studio, there will always be students looking for the real thing.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 9:11am

Thank you for writing this. I have a small studio in Austin (quietaustin) where I try to teach slowly and talk less and meditate and contemplate. somedays I feel drowned out by the DJ yoga and wanderlusters. Somedays I consider closing but then I see a student take a long exhale and soften and I know that we must continue to offer quiet balance to the frenetic yoga scene.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 9:05am

This is so true. I’m also sick of all the crazy nonsense talk in yoga classes. I was trained in and teach in the Iyengar tradition (not strict), in Portland, OR at Portland Yoga Arts. You would probably love a visit to our studio.

    anonymous Jun 25, 2015 11:08am

    Yes, first thing that came to my mind after reading Robyn's article was – "Has she ever been to any Iyengar studios?" Obviously not.
    I stopped giving group classes few years ago, and now teach only one on one. The way it was taught in the very beginning, the only way to teach yoga 🙂

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 8:31am

You've said a mouthful here. I've been practicing since 1982 and teaching since 1986. The 21st-century Western yoga scene just makes me sad. It seems we've squandered yoga's real power—to settle our busy minds and free ourselves of dukkha—in order to make it palatable to the widest audience. So instead the yoga scene is an amplified version of the very things it’s supposed to free us from, greed, agitation, distraction and an almost desperate grasping at youth and our culture’s concept of physical beauty.

For my first 25 years I taught out of a Unitarian Church's public space (remember when that's where you found yoga classes?). When the church underwent an extensive remodel I taught out of a lovely karate dojo for two years. When the dojo was sold, I searched extensively for new digs and the best option was to open a new studio in a newly remodeled space.

In early June, I wrote a blog on why I still teach "old-school" yoga. (Here's the link: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/why-i-teac… So many people commented that they longed for a slower-paced, meditative class but couldn't find them anymore. That is why I made a huge leap of faith and opened a new studio. It is a collective of the area's most experienced teachers. Those of us who teach a slower, meditative practice were scattered around the city and difficult to find. There are some studios who welcome Hatha-type teachers, but many who don't. At the collective we all teach slower-paced Hatha-style yoga (Iyengar, Kripalu, Para, Krishnamacharya, etc.). I know it's a gamble. But I think it's important that people looking for a class have another option besides hot, sweaty, fast-paced, loud, savasana-free practice, and I felt that it was important that there be a place where experienced teachers could be more visible. If you ever travel through Salt Lake City, look up http://www.mindfulyogacollective.com.

Please keep teaching! There is an audience for what we do. We may not attract hordes of people, but that's not what the yoga tradition is about anyway. I do believe that in a small way the yoga world is beginning to wake up to the risks of the type of practice that's become popular. I'm seeing many more blogs about the virtues of traditional practice. I think things are shifting.

    anonymous Nov 10, 2013 6:31am

    My first training was Kripalu and I still teach that way. ( Added Svaroopa Yoga and Meridian Yoga later). I teach in a Health Club and am very proud of the fact that my students see the importance of the breath and being present and yoga as not just a class on the gym schedule but a way of life. We chant, we spend time on poses and we allow ourselves to do what the body needs. It was a hard road to plow but with time I got there. Anyone who shows up looking for something else either comes to like it or finds another class. There is a need for gentle yoga as the population ages. Some of these 'hot ' or 'power' yoga classes scare me. Worse are the pre -choreographed programs that are taught by instructors who have never taken a yoga class!

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 8:07am

There are many successful studios that still do offer spirituality intermixed with asana — often found on the second page of a Google search –, but they must also follow sound business principles in order to remain viable. The most important factors include:
1. Offering multiple classes per day in order to accommodate clients' varying schedules
2. Ensuring consistent excellence among the teaching staff
3. Employing multiple teachers in order to provide variety
4. Providing a large, clean, well-designed space in a highly-accessible location
5. Remaining open even on holidays and when the owner is away
6. Maintaining an attractive web site
Many "non-yogic" studios may not meet your standards, but even they follow these simple business principles. If you do the same, your own "yogic" studio will thrive.

    anonymous Nov 8, 2013 9:32am

    Hi MA Studio Owner,
    I agree with all of your points. My studio was successful for years and this article was just my reflection of how the yoga landscape has changed — a perspective I would not have had without experiencing classes and studios across the USA first-hand. I wish all yoga studios success including yours!

      anonymous Nov 10, 2013 10:55am

      Austin Texas. Isn't that where the International Association of Yoga Therapists is meeting for their conference next year? I've been a member for years, and this new "standards" they are implementing are pretty bold. I see the whole "yoga therapy" thing the next big yoga training for those youngsters trying to make a name for themselves in the yoga world. The other yoga world is getting too crowded. 🙂

    anonymous Jun 12, 2014 1:39pm

    I agree that yoga studios need to be economically viable, but they all should strive to maintain and respect yoga philosophy