Will GLBL YOGA Happen Whether You Want it To or Not? /// Wealth-Based Democracy, Rigged Capitalism, and How Local Studios Will Foot the Bill

As of today, and with only five days left, GLBL YOGA has raised a whopping 2% of the total costs needed to secure this year’s event on August 16th in Central Park. So far, out of the total $675,000 pitch only about $14,500 has been generously donated by the public. Despite rally cries from yoga celebrities such as Elena Brower who believe, despite the public’s lack of interest, that the event should still take place, a number of people are asking whether or not the event will happen if the necessary funds are not raised.

We The Babarazzi believe that the GLBL YOGA event taking place, despite an overwhelming disinterest by the public shown through their lack of financial support, would be, to say the least, curious.

We also believe that the GLBL YOGA model is, by its design, determined primarily by self-interest, is antithetical to community building, and dangerous to local yoga studios. Here are a few reasons why:

1. GLBL YOGA’s Future Will Be Determined By People With More Money Than Others

The GLBL YOGA donation system is set up to favor the interests of those people who have more money to spare, making it, by definition, undemocratic and entirely against the “For the people. By the people” ethos it attempts to co-opt.

It’s sometimes hard to tell where GLBL YOGA founders Rob Holzer and Sascha Lewis get their inspiration for throwing large-scale yoga entertainment events. From the looks of it, it appears they take a few cues from celebrity yoga instructors who really do not understand the democratic process and how basing a project on the desires of the people works. As Elena Brower states in her Yoganonymous interview with Jennifer Cusano regarding the supposed reasons for doing the GLBL YOGA project:

“The reason why we’re doing this, and the people with whom we’re doing this, this is for a damn good reason. We are raising money, we are getting people together to celebrate, to be grateful, and there is absolutely nothing that will stop that.” [emphasis mine]

Brower’s unchecked determination is disturbing when placed against a supposedly community-funded project, which, by definition, is to be funded by the community. Traditionally, this means that No funds = No project. One need only consider the community funding website, Kickstarter, which employs an all-or-nothing system with regards to funding projects, a model often invoked in the language of Holzer and Lewis, for an example of how this works. In the Kickstarter model, projects in need of funding must appeal to the masses in order to get the finances needed to succeed. On-deck corporate sponsorship, in place as a safety net in the event that donations come up short, makes for a very disingenuous appeal, and goes against the “make it, or break it” democratic determination required by wanting artists.

In a number of areas, both Holzer and Lewis seem to appreciate this approach in their attempt to appropriate populist language to sell their vision:

“We began our vision for GLBL YOGA from a place of a true movement ‘for the people and by the people’.” (Holzer)

“We wanted to make it for the people, by the people. That’s really the greater message.” (Lewis)

Despite its being made famous in the Gettysburg Address, “For the people. By the people” is the hallmark of what we might call “direct democracy.” One person. One vote. However, when a financial campaign attempts to employ the language of direct democracy, things tend to get ugly. And, this is exactly what is happening with GLBL YOGA.

The GLBL YOGA campaign is set up so that a person votes with his/her dollars. The more dollars given, the better concession you receive, and the more likely the event will take place. Thus, people with more dollars have a more direct say on the outcome of events. By this equation, fewer people who can vote with more money end up determining whether or not the event takes place, setting up a paradigm where people with more money have more say.

This “money matters” approach to public support acts in direct opposition to the ideals of “For the people. By the people” where a person’s income is to have no baring on that person’s influence over decisions made in, for example, government or elsewhere. This is why voting in America is free for all (ideally speaking). The amount of money you have in your pocket has no baring on whether or not you are allowed to pull a lever in a voting booth. At its most pristine, your vote is the same as my vote.

With GLBL YOGA, however, the weight of your vote is determined by the amount of money you bring to the voting booth. While $3.00 will get you registered for the event, $5,000 will make it that much easier for the event to actually happen. If you bring no money to the table, but still want to enjoy some free yoga in Central Park with 15,000 other people, than your future is in the hands of the rich (or corporate sponsors), because the monetary-centric structure of the GLBL YOGA event requires that money, and a great deal of it, be the determining factor.

2. GLBL YOGA is a Form of “Rigged Capitalism”

By holding the GLBL YOGA event despite an overwhelming lack of public support, GLBL YOGA will show that the game was fixed all along.

GLBL YOGA’s “For the people. By the people” ethos acts as a veil for yet another capitalistic venture that uses the facade of “community” and “grass roots organizing” to sell its product. And yet, I hesitate to call GLBL YOGA a truly capitalistic enterprise, as that would infer some standard of equality.

In its strictest and most austere sense, a capitalistic venture must cede to the wishes of the people. That is to say, if no one buys your product, that product does not last. GLBL YOGA, however, with its determination to happen regardless of the people’s interest, behaves more as a fixed market. In effect, it is rigged capitalism. For, while with GLBL YOGA “the people” are given the option to fund the event themselves and thus determine the event’s lifespan, if we are to believe the likes of every entity associated with the event, GLBL YOGA will take place whether people vote with their money or not. Ultimately, there will be no ceding to public interest, since from the beginning the game was already fixed.

Holzer himself states it best:

“If people want something to happen, they will fund it. If not, it doesn’t get funded, or they subject themselves to the corporate sponsorship that traditionally comes with the cost of large-scale events.” [emphasis mine]

This statement, taken from Holzer’s rebuttal to detractors from the event, is a strange one that hides out in the open a very slippery, if not entirely threatening, tone. According to Holzer, unless people fund gigantic entertainment yoga events, they “subject themselves” to the bombardment of corporate branding and goodie-bags. A person would do well to ask, however, “Are there really no other options? (Rainbow Gatherings, gift economies, The Commons, etc.)?”

When dealing in the world of large-scale money-making entertainment yoga events there really are no other options, for these juggernauts tend to happen whether you like it or not. Because, ultimately, honoring the wishes of “the people” is only a by-product of the project. If people do not fund the project,  corporations will stand in and fill the sizable gaps, because furthering the image of the event-as-brand is what is most important. Not the people.

But, perhaps people, despite attending the events, are not taken with these types of media spotlights enough to want to financially support them. As Holzer states:

“Firstly, we might raise a whole lot more than the cost of the event itself through our Indiegogo campaign which would be wonderful. Then again, we might not, and that means people don’t want this company crowd-funded and we go back to the drawing board.”

Since GLBL YOGA has only receieved 2% of the funding needed from public donations, perhaps the drawing board is closer than one might expect. Or, perhaps people just don’t want this company, period, as is evident in the fact that previous GLBL YOGA events in the form of Yoga at the Great Lawn have been criticized since day one:

“We remember the negative reactions the community had to corporate sponsorship in the first Y@GL event and when building the GLBL YOGA brand, we looked for ways to minimize this distracting intrusion.”

Putting “distractions” such as informed public critique aside, if people are complaining about the events regardless of who ends up funding them, perhaps the issue isn’t so much about the money, but rather about the events themselves and what they represent. Maybe the harsh criticism is really an attack on the symbol of such bloated and hyperbolic festivities and what this symbol might do to real community growth in the future.

From my perspective, “crowd funding” is not the issue here, but rather the fluffy distraction. Holzer makes quite a bit of the potential fears people have of crowd-funded projects. As does co-founder, Sasha Lewis, in his interview with Well+Good NYC:

“Anytime you do something new and challenging, there’s going to be questioning. It’s healthy and important and is part of the way to evolve as a society.”

I don’t mean to speculate, but could it be that Holzer and Lewis are hanging out with corporate sponsors too much? As stated in our GLBL YOGA Response, community-funded projects are not new, and I find it hard to believe that modern people “fear” giving money to a worthy cause. In 2009 a whopping $303.75 billion dollars was given to charitable causes throughout the US, down three percent from the previous year’s $315.08 billion. Set against those kinds of numbers, Holzer and Lewis’ inference that fear is keeping people from supporting the event comes across as both arrogant and delusional.

3. GLBL YOGA Events Could Harm Local Studios

On the day of the event, GLBL YOGA has the potential of siphoning upwards of $300,000 out of local NYC yoga studios.

Who will really pay on August 16th when GLBL YOGA offers yet another free mega entertainment yoga event in Central Park? According to Lewis, despite GLBL YOGA’s mammoth intentions, there is no desire to become a replacement for what already is:

“We’re in no way trying to replace the intimate yoga experience, whether that’s your personal practice, in a small studio, or even at a festival.”

I don’t know about you, but I know few people who practice yoga more than once a day. As such, those who would normally practice at their local studio on the day of the event, will rather keep their dollars and attend the free event, which, if the organizers get as many people as they would like to see, will siphon upwards of $300,000 out of NYC yoga studios and be rerouted via financial vacuum effect into the event itself including the pockets of the celebrity instructors who are being paid to teach.

However, if all goes well for GLBL YOGA, it will not stop there:

“Our goal is to get 100,000 people practicing yoga at the same time, and we believe that has an incredibly powerful potential to impact the world in a positive way, through the force and energy that comes from doing yoga.”

Looking at a $15 per-class average, GLBL YOGA’s dreams include draining local yoga studios of at least $1.5 million dollars in a single day just to break a few records and hopefully convert the already-converted to what? Practice yoga a little more?!

As Holzer and Lewis have stated in their promotion of the event, the hope is to eventually take the GLBL YOGA model, well, global. And yet, it seems obvious to wonder what effect a stream of coordinated mega-sized “free” yoga events occurring around the world would have on local studios in the shadow of their vicinity?

Mega-sized “free” yoga events happening across the globe have the potential of draining millions of dollars out of yoga studios that have an already hard enough time paying the rent. And, for what reason? While estimates vary greatly, I would venture to say that more than 100,000 people already practice yoga at roughly the same time every day in the US and around the world. The only real benefit to bringing such a large number of people into one space to practice would be to create a media sensation benefiting first and foremost the organizers and the celebrity yoga instructors present, while simultaneously kicking local yoga studios in the financial yoni.

In Closing
Make no mistake, GLBL YOGA and other large-scale yoga events serve primarily to promote themselves by using the facade of community and health to further entrench their brands into the already super-saturated yoga market. The fact that the bar is being raised to such heights, proves that yoga as commerce is on the verge of “jumping the shark,” (if it hasn’t done so already), which may immediately precede its steady decline.

Branding ventures such as GLBL YOGA invent a lack where comfortably decentralized communities already thrive without the over-arching and determining influence of commercial interests. Like their punk predecessors, local yoga communities thrive on word of mouth, accessibility, and humility. Large-scale commercial yoga ventures need to invent holes in this dynamic form of rhizomatic networking in order to fill the one in their pockets, and do so by attempting to take advantage of a perceived community vacancy.

Just think about it….

Manufacturing a need where there is none? Now, where have we seen this before?


  1. It’s really bad timing:
    1. Indiegogo concurrently had a lot more attractive causes: e.g. the bullied bus monitor .. .to which all the donors did their yoga in another way..
    2. Seriously, climate change! who wants the dog days in NYC?.. if they have enough money they’d be in the mountains doing yoga on that day

  2. Yoga Observer

    Baba, I don’t think any of the participants in GLBL Yoga are evil persuaders like the pharmaceutical companies. I think they are simply misguided and believed too much in their own power of persuasion. I think the big lesson to take away from this is not that big events that feature yoga teachers and music are bad or good but that they are just marketing events…nothing more and nothing less. They don’t bring about world peace, they don’t feed the hungry and they don’t house the homeless. They are empty of meaning and are merely opportunities to sell things to an audience so hungry for meaning that they will find a “greater purpose” in anything.

    • Thanks for the comments, YO. While I certainly don’t know the inner intentions of either the promoters of GLBL YOGA or pharmaceutical companies, I do feel that when it comes to marketing and fabricating needs within communities or individuals, there is much to talk about about and probably a great deal that could be said when comparing the two. Of course, the discussion would be about the similarities in how seemingly disparate business ventures attempt to persuade the masses. That’s much more interesting to me than claiming that one is “evil” and another simply “misguided.”

      With regards to things being “meaningless” or “Nothing more nothing less,” I’d have to disagree. Proclaiming the meaninglessness of something is by default giving it meaning. The past hundred-plus years of “progressive” art has pretty much proven that!

      Though I absolutely agree with you that events of this nature do attempt to give meaning to those who seem to be so desperate for it. In a way, that is their greatest product.

  3. Linda-Sama

    interesting that Kickstarter accepted this “cause” when they rejected my proposal to raise money for a yoga therapy program I was trying to start at the domestic violence shelter where I teach. said it wasn’t “creative” enough.” guess I should have have a rock star yogi shill for me.

    • Kickstarter or indiegogo?

    • Yoga Observer

      I think Kickstarter only takes “creative” applications…movies, books, etc. Indiegogo takes a wider range of “causes” as well as movies, etc.

    • Yoga Observer

      In fact, I think Indiegogo will take pretty much anything like…I want to build a composting outhouse and need to raise $5,632 to do it or my brother is allergic to bees and I want to make sure he doesn’t get stung and need $1,472.34.

  4. “Origins in the Gettysburg Address” I’ll read the rest later. I’m laughing too hard to pay attention now.

  5. Yoga Dude

    Yoga coupled with “record breaking” anything just doesn’t sit right with me.

  6. Harmony

    Thank you Baba, for pointing out the issue of income drainage effecting studios-and local teachers-that day.
    What is so hugely curious to me is why EB, a studio owner herself, would jeopardize income at ‘home’, and income for her teachers. Honestly, the studio is struggling, from the look of class numbers being low (5-9 per class, except hers of course). Teachers do not make loads of $, and now, NY state is rubbing yoga more by asking for studios to shift their teachers IC status to Employee, raising fees to run their businesses, and actually putting studios in peril to stay open. (Please everybody: check out Yoga for NY to stay up to date on whats being threatened for studios and teachers in NY,and who is trying to help. http://www.yogaforny.org) That’s the businesses in peril, and yoga teachers livelihoods at risk too. Rodney and Colleen own a studio too. Dont they care abiut their teachers having jobs? Or its high season in the Hamptons-nothing to worry about?Just.so.curious to me these teachers/leaders overlooking such details.

    Oh and horrified to hear (rumor) of EB earning $5000 to do this gig. Really? To stand on stage and teach for what, 20 min? Ugly.

    • 108

      can somebody explain to me why it would benefit a teacher to be an Independent Contractor rather than be on Payroll? seriously, what yoga teacher would prefer to pay their own taxes at the end of the year and not be eligible for unemployment benefits? is there a single benefit to being IC? have all these pushy studio owners somehow played it so well that they have confused teachers into thinking that staying an Independent Contractor is better for them? the studio owners are just worried about their own asses and paying the 20%+ in extra payroll costs to pay their teachers unemployment, social security, etc..

      would love a hard & fast explanation as to why being IC is beneficial to the teachers? protect your teachers or save your payroll costs? you can still take deductions if you are an employee.

      • Warriors and Goddesses

        agreed…. same here in Australia. I’m just starting out teaching and all studios and gyms I’ve approached required an ABN (Australian Business Number) so you work as an IC….. pay your own tax, insurance, health, association memberships (which they require also) plus all the courses and ongoing training we attend…..

  7. ick

    i own a yoga studio and hopefully am teaching the students enough to have them realize what a colossal waste of resources this is. the day of the times square event our studio attendance was cut in half. yoga as entertainment is totally backward and the result of these types of events are 100% damaging to the local studios. local studios nurture their students, intimately, and create sacred space day in and out for them, with little to no press awareness or publicity. also having students sucked up into the HOOPLA is like a major step back in understanding the mystical nectar of yoga.

  8. Thaddeus

    This is a fine piece Baba…in-depth and straight to the core.

    And while I rarely find anything to take issue with you on, I must say that I think your statement about voting,(“This is why voting in America is free for all. The amount of money you have in your pocket has no baring on whether or not you are allowed to pull a lever in a voting booth. In effect, your vote is the same as my vote.”) paints a slightly overly rosey picture of reality in terms of American democracy. I mean, theoretically speaking, sure, but we all know that money plays a gynormous role in all elections…right down to who actually gets to pull a lever.

    • I totally agree, Thad. In fact, the original copy had the phrase “ideally speaking” in parentheses, but got nixed for flow. Probably should put that back in. Thanks for the check!

  9. I don’t think the folks over at GLBL yoga realized that there’s been a shift in the culture at large. With Occupy Wall Street and demonstrations going on around the world on a daily basis precisely against this sort of corporatism, most people who are plugged in don’t want this sort of thing anymore. And the yoga set are extremely plugged in. It caters to those Lulu clad mall-rats who don’t know any better and think that by going to an event like this, it’ll somehow impact the world and stop global warming or something. I think it’s high time this sort of “yoga” become occupied.
    Rob Holzer and Sasha Lewis need to read up on folks like Derrick Jensen who call out people on this faux-philanthropy and faux-environmentalism based on capitalist models. This GLBL yoga bullshit was never about democracy, it’s about capitalism and the two are NOT interchangeable.

  10. Babarazzi, you once again astutely point out the emptiness of corporate yoga-speak!

    now do you have any suggestions for how can I gently encourage my students to refrain from purchasing Lululemming clothing? it feeds a mentality that we need designer duds in order to do yoga “right.”

  11. Join YogaForNY.org and do something for your very own Yoga community! We are working with the State on important issues that will affect yoga studios in NY City and NY State. It’s *your* organization and it needs your support.

    We would also like to reach studios, teachers and students all over the state to keep them informed of developments. It is vital, for example, that every Yoga studio owner and Yoga teacher understand the difference between being an independent contractor (IC) and an employee, for example. Our meeting in Albany last Wednesday, 7/11, with officials of the Department of Labor was productive and has opened the door to what we hope will be a fruitful collaboration on what it is to be a Yoga IC.

    • 108

      alison, please explain to me why it would benefit a teacher to be an Independent Contractor rather than be on Payroll? what yoga teacher would prefer to pay their own taxes at the end of the year and not be eligible for unemployment benefits? is there a single benefit to being IC for a non-studio owner yoga teacher? the studio owners are just worried about their own costs and paying the 20%+ in extra payroll costs to pay their teachers unemployment, social security, etc..

      would love a hard & fast explanation as to why being IC is beneficial to the teachers? protect your teachers or save your payroll costs? you can still take deductions if you are an employee.

  12. Thank You! I have never heard of Derrick J. So great to learn some stuff. Shall I go post this on the “comments” section of the GLBL Indiegogo site as I have been doing…do you think anyone reads the comments section except me? How do we get the organizers to read today’s post? How high should my makeshift platform be on August 16th so that when I infiltrate the GLBL stage to demo how I can almost stick my big toe in my anus EVERYONE will be able to see it? x

  13. ryan

    I hope you wash your kicking foot tonight. I haven’t seen a foot up someone’s ass that far in a while.

  14. Mat

    There is loads of footage of the yoga-as-commerce shark being jumped by John, Paul, George and Ringo on their return from India in the 1960’s. Old Skool.

  15. I’m not sure if this link was clear underneath the Jensen video but this chat between Chris Hedges and Michael Moore also touches on how laughable this corporatism has really become

  16. kc

    I agree with Yoga Observer. I wouldn’t say that Global Yoga (yes, I refuse to spell it the other way) or it’s founders are as insidious as Big Pharma, but they their “saving the world by laying down is savasana aka literally doing nothing” *must* go.

  17. j

    the angels have spoken:


    Unfortunately, we have decided to postpone the GLBL YOGA event scheduled for
    August 16, 2012 in New York.

    The mission and the overall concept of GLBL YOGA were embraced with great
    excitement and enthusiasm. However, our experiment with crowd-funding the event
    did not meet our ambitious expectations. As a result, we’re going to take some time to
    rethink our strategy and model, and we will return with renewed purpose in the summer
    of 2013.

    We deeply believe that GLBL YOGA can be a tremendous catalyst, using the power of
    yoga to foster unity and community around the world. We’re grateful for your support,
    and we look forward to seeing you next summer.

    In the meantime, we will be providing a full refund to all donors. Thank you and namaste.

  18. helen@

    you have to love that not only did they shut it down, they erased all the negative comments on the donation site. well I guess elana brower is wrong.

  19. @helen@, I’m so brokenhearted, I could weep … real (or crocodile) tears …

    Not that I ever want to give my hard-earned money to a studio for yoga.

    But this proves to me that some people have been living in the clouds for the past few years …
    and it kind of smacks of the kind of hubris that even musical stars would not entertain …

  20. Pingback: GLBL YOGA admits defeat, "postpones" event until 2013

  21. justbehonest

    its so strange that, glbl, EB, RY, and yamaPR believed so whole heartedly that this was about union, and community and was going to save the world, but now that the public doesnt want to pay them, they are not going to show up? really? so shocking. why wouldnt they foot the bill if it was such a pure and radically fun event for so many people to come together in the name of… i cant keep this up.
    baba – i love that you give words to things that are just reactions inside of me that i havent been able to express. that they were using a “rigged democracy” was a thought trying to form that i didnt get to. you did.
    and that epitomizes why i love what you are doing. you have helped transform my jaded critical self into a more eloquent and at peace pup.
    its always nice to know you are not alone, so thanks for making me feel like im a part of something, at least a part of the conversation. as opposed to the nut jobs using yoga and magical thinking and branding to surround themselves with yes people who cant really communicate. they speak in tshirt, bumber sticker quotes.

  22. Pingback: The Models Theory of Yoga vs. A Model Theory of Yoga » Mat Witts

  23. Pingback: The Models Theory of Yoga vs. A Model Theory of Yoga | ROuGH yOga


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