Two Yoga Events This Weekend in NYC /// One is Worth Your Time /// The Other is Probably a Publicity Stunt

This weekend there will be two yoga events of note, both of which are happening on the same day (Saturday, September 29th), which, as you’ll see, amounts to a great double rainbow of cosmic irony.

Two totally insane memes from way back merged into one….

The first event will be a benefit for Yoga for NY (the organization that kept the State out of your yoga studio’s pocket). It’s mission is to (in part)…

“represent students, teachers, training programs and studios—large and small—in an effort to maintain the well-being and longevity of accessible, affordable, and quality yoga in New York.”

As far as events go, this one looks pretty dope, has a fairly solid message, and with a short and sweet after-party attached, you can hang long enough to make a friend, but bounce before the conversation goes stale and things start to get awkward. The flier looks like this:

The press release looks like this:

The second event is “Yoga in the Park,” and is the brainchild of Flavorpill and EmblemHealth. This event will take place at Harlem River Park. The main teachers this time around will be Rodney Yee and Colleen “wine is pranayama” Saidman. The stated intention of the event is to take “yoga out of the studio” and bring it “into the park,” an agenda so detached from the situations of struggling local yoga studios it could only be endorsed by the likes of celebriyogis who have already made their riches off commercial yoga culture.

From our perspective, the two events have some pretty sizable differences. You’ve got one event that wants to take people out of already struggling studios, while the other wants to help studios stay open so students will continue to have a place to practice. One event has nothing to do with local studios. The other has almost everything to do with them. And yet, both events will have music. Both events will have asana. Both events will have sponsors. One event will probably might be rained out. But, only one will have Barbara Verrochi chanting! It would make sense to want to be near that.

Barbara: down with the squat

Soooo…. What’s to say? Well….

Last week’s “Yoga in the Park” event, lead by none other than…you guessed it…Elena Brower, happened in the hilly hamlet of DUMBO, Brooklyn. Now, for those who don’t know, DUMBO is home to exactly one bills-to-pay yoga studio. Now, wouldn’t it have been amazing if Flavorpill and Elena took all their event’s commercial weight and put it behind the one studio in the area only a few blocks away? It would have been especially interesting if they did so knowing that an event such as theirs has the very real potential of siphoning students away from studios on the day of the event. And, it’s not like both the event and the studio don’t have anything in common. Both Elena and the local studio come out of the Anusara scene.

Look. I know it can be incredibly hard to imagine that something so slathered in good vibes as Flavorpill or “Elena Brower” or “Rodney Yee” or “free yoga in a park” or “green” sponsorship could actually manifest as something very much the opposite of what its marketing suggests. But, it’s true. And, I know it stings. Unfortunately, from the perspective of The Babarazzi, “free” yoga events, complete with over-hyped yogilebrities that barge into small yoga communities under the guise of promoting that yoga goodness, act as little more than publicity stunts. They’re “pop-up stores” using their access to hundreds of eager future consumers to promote their own self; giant advertisements for the people running them.

This is a Target pop-up store

And, it’s a bummer. ‘Cause who wouldn’t want these free outdoor events to be awesome and amazing?

Our advice? Hang around events that matter or find your fun elsewhere….

73 comments

  1. That’s some incredible dancing at the end of the piece, there. Thanks for posting about this issue. The women who organize Yoga for NY have done all of us studio owners a great favor. I was curious why Elena Brower was not involved with the Yoga for NY benefit and I was told that her business partner didn’t want her to be a part of the organization– or something like that (not an exact quote). I thought: “strange”. It seems like something that both parties– Elena Brower & Yoga for Ny– could really benefit from. C’est Domage. X

    • That IS strange. Even someone who was once my teacher (no comment) got involved with Yoga for NY. But then, they also, naturally, did not want state REGULATION!

      About Brower? No comment, either …

  2. gross

    barbara chanting, YAY! elena brower in a park, SNORE. Yoga for NEW YORK for Yoga, um, you may want to rethink that too. like any “organization”, YFNY takes its cues from its leader at hand. alison west is fully self-serving & slightly off her rocker. its nice that she found a cause to catch her cray cray TYPE A into happens to have the double impact of taking taxation off of yoga classes (yay for students!), and that the “regulation” of Yoga Teacher Trainings has been eliminated for now. Their new mission is to save the ass of the studio owners so they can get away with treating their “employees” like freelancers. forcing them into independent contractor status, despite being told what to teach, when to teach, to practice & be part of their studio, and shifting schedules around willy-nilly. possibly a handful of confused yoga teachers out there want to be on independent contractor status, but any teacher with a sense about finance will realize that its better to be treated at employees and get a W2, meaning the studio owners pay their unemployment taxes and SS. its the “tea-party” yoga clique of mean girls using their yogic language to bully a bunch of yoga teachers into thinking its better to be Independent! its like having poor farmers thinking they need to vote for Romney.

    agreed that these free events make me want to barf and the photos that end up on facebook before the event is even over with grand displays of fake cronyism among the “teachers” involved really makes me double over. but this YFNY event also is just more crap-balls. at least most of the individuals involved with the YFNY are (at least not yet) totally disconnected.

    • Chai Fan

      I agree. As a yoga teacher, being hired as an independent contractor makes it very hard financially. Sure, you get all the money, but at tax time it is a financial nightmare. Plus, I want money taken out for social security. If I am an employee, I get a tax return like everyone else. I have often been confused as to why Allison West supports this, and everyone goes along. As teachers, we are employees of a studio. We have to abide by the schedule, changes, studio requirements, etc. I have no idea how this makes us freelancers. Thanks for pointing this out Gross…

      • gross

        i love being called GROSS! no problem CHAI FAN!

      • lookdeeper

        Chai Fan,
        Not sure you understand what you asking for either. Yoga studios are subject to yoga teacher whims, last minute travel plans and their further education and etc. That is not how an “employee” would be treated. Do you know any of your friends that are employees and can take off whenever they want. Not that I don’t support that, I do. But that is why yoga teachers should be Ind Contractors. They need the freedom to do as they like. Now, if someone wanted to work at Equinox full time, that is a different story. The reason why yoga studios are in support is that they don’t want to go out of business. They want to continue to serve the community and do what they love. Look deeper.

    • lookdeeper

      I can really appreciate some of your comments here but I think there is some misunderstanding about what it would mean for local yoga studios to pay teachers as employees. Most yoga studios are barely making it and it is struggle to even pay the monthly bills. A local yoga studio in general is no cash cow. On average, most teachers at a studio teach 1-3 classes and/or make around $100 or less. For a studio to pay taxes on say 20 teachers would put them out of business. Honestly, would you consider someone making between $40-$150 / week an employee? Do you realize the repercussions on a small business? An employee connotes that one would be working at only ONE studio. That is not true as far I can see. Most yoga teachers are all over the place. That by definition is an Independent Contractor. They teach privates, some do retreats, they teach all over the city, they have websites, they self promote, etc. I realize you may have your personal issue with A West however, the cause is good one. She has also created a meeting group for local studios to become more educated. I am not sure of the intentions of the event itself but the organization has been very helpful and informative for local studios.

    • @gross: Thanks for the angle! We typically lean toward the extreme left when it comes to most things (preferring no State [existence] involvement whatsoever, but rather small community enclaves deciding for themselves, etc etc etc), but decided to shelve those perspectives in order to pitch the two events side-by-side, with the intention of highlighting the absurdity of the “free yoga in park” thing.

      However, as a rule of thumb, we feel organizations work best when they seek a singular clearly defined goal and commit to being temporary enterprises that disband when that goal is reached. Usually, what happens is that organizations come together with a vision, achieve some gains, and then expand their vision to include more. We typically find this approach to be problematic. There’s an anarchist essay on this concept somewhere. Someone should find it and post it.

    • wondering

      too many studios too many teachers

    • Need to add a little more to what lookdeeper is saying: Yoga teachers need to be independent contractors so they can make tax deductions like other small businesses. Otherwise, it will be impossible to make a living teaching yoga. If you think yoga teachers get paid squat now, just wait and see what they’ll get once their W2’d. I get that you may have had some bad experiences with yoga studio owners. Believe me, I’ve been there. A lot of the time its because yoga studio owners are not yoga teachers but sometimes even when they are they still conduct their business in unbecoming and detrimental ways. However, having these crazy yoga studio owners as your employer is not a better situation then being hired as an independent contractor.

      Having made a living as an independent yoga teacher for more then ten years before becoming a yoga center owner five years ago, I can say that the independent contractor status is definitely in the best interest of yoga teachers. There is no way that you are going to be able to teach enough classes at one center, you have to teach at more then one place and that’s why its better for you to be your own business. Of course, there are corporate structured yoga centers that W2 teachers but that doesn’t mean more job security or better hours or any real benefits outside tax liabilities (which can be managed in different ways.) More importantly, when you have no personal relationship to the person who signs your check, you have no way of knowing where you stand.

      As for YFNY: The previous two victories alluded to (state regulation of Yoga Teacher Training and sales tax on classes) were hugely important to the independent yoga centers. And the efforts of the NY Yoga community have become a model for empowering individual communities across the country to protect their interests as well. Alison was kind of enough to jump in and take on some responsibilities when no one else was stepping up to. Frankly, because folks are concerned about being the public face on anything. (Incidentally, I’m sure that’s why EB is on the side line.) Folks don’t want to call attention and end up triggering an audit. And not because there is something to hide but because audits are largely a racket (I’ve been through one before.) The subjective nature of the review process can be massaged like you wouldn’t believe. I was/am still hesitant to be publicly participating but I figure us indie yoga centers gotta stick together.

      I’m with Babs on no group think or quasi community bullshit. However, given YFNY’s track record on actually serving the interests of the NY yoga community and having attended meetings personally, I gotta give props where its due. Haters need to step off or come to a meeting a tell us something different.

  3. gross

    and yes, i love how elena trampled Abhaya Yoga Studio in DUMBO, while she sits pretty (probably in la perla) in her SOHO studio as she crushes anyone so she can be #1. what a full-on mess. flavor-pill can kiss my _ _ _.

    • Dyspeptic Skeptic

      Wow, I did not realize Elena had such powers. Please elaborate on how this single teacher is able to “crush” all other NYC teachers. In fact, a reasonable argument can be made that a large yoga event in Dumbo could benefit Abhaya in the long run. If I were Abhaya, I would have been handing out flyers at the event. Were they specifically prevented from doing so?

      • gross

        of course elena has power. she is the most popular yogi in American today, maybe other than Seane or Shiva. i’d be amazed if she is truly powerless in the workings of these flavorpill events that she’s been the star of for years. my point is if eb wanted to be “in the community” she could have found a way for an Anusara Sister Studio 2 blocks away to have some purpose or inclusion in the event. rather, this event probably emptied Abhaya Studio of students the entire day as they could have a free class with superstar elena. not sure i said she could crush all other NYC teachers.

        agreed, if i were abhaya i would have been passing out my personal biz flyers to every single person there. i have no idea what flavorpill would allow or not. but, i can guarantee they probably asked abhaya to put a poster up at their studio to help promote their free event. UNCONSCIOUS!

        • They pretend to be non-competitive with other yoga studios – particularly with those in the same or complementary styles (ie, Jivamukti vis-a-vis Dharma Mittra, etc.) … but if one is leisured or “out there” enough to have the time (time is very equivalent to money) to go to these so-called “free” events … to devote HOURS to getting there, hours to standing around, waiting in line, etc., they know they are not losing students, except possibly in the short-term–with-or-without promoting their studio.

          These poseurs cross-poliinate each other’s studios … Anusara (or its close derivates–excluding the as-yet-unknown-quantity “Roots”) as a style is hardly primarily-home-practitioner-friendly … even post-John Friend …

          I maintain that Abhaya Yoga knows what it is doing … sadly for yoga …

        • The P

          Extremely doubtful the event emptied the studio for the entire day. Having been a student there in the past for over 2 years I doubt it even made a noticeable dent especially considering the only conflict was with one noontime basic yoga class. From my experience the majority of students I’ve known at that studio are not overly impressed with those big events or starry-eyed over EB. And let’s face it, it’s a 10 minute ride on the F train to Soho where you can catch EB twice a week if that’s your thing. I doubt they gave two thoughts about yoga in the park or cared if people chose to go there, seriously.

  4. Itstrue

    The problem is that people are sheep, they follow the crowd to these large events without giving it a moments thought of the impact of these big events, both on the culture of yoga and the smaller studios in general.

  5. Marcella Bucci

    Gross and Chai Fan – I appreciate that you have an opinion about Alison West and YFNY and I understand your feelings on being an employee versus and Independent Contractor. There are great arguments for both.
    But, I’m curious if either of you ever come to a YFNY meeting to express your opinion? At each meeting there’s an open forum to listen to what EVERYONE in our community has to say. It is by no means Alison West’s agenda to save Alison West’s Yoga studio. Also curious if either of you filled out the survey that YFNY sent out to Yoga teachers asking them if they prefer to be an employee as opposed to an IC? The results of that survey were taken to Albany and presented so we could come up with a system that works for everyone.

    Interestingly enough, most teachers wanted to remain IC and a few wanted to become employees.
    Because of that, YFNY is trying to get Albany to allow teacher’s who want IC status keep it and teachers who want Employee status have it. All without bankrupting the small studio. The payroll tax and employee tax will be very high and many small studios are just making ends meet so that added expense could mean the closing of small studios.

    The way the law is written today, if a teacher is an employee, at many different studios, then each studio would be paying that teacher’s SS tax and unemployment tax. That makes no sense and just gives the government a ton of money they don’t deserve. YFNY is trying to work out a compromise.

    All of the above takes time and money which is why YFNY is having this fundraiser. As far as I know, it is the only Yoga related event in recent months that is truly about the Yoga. There are no “celebrity” teachers, and the message is quite simple and to the point…”help save Yoga in NY State”.

    YFNY, especially Alison, works tirelessly to keep small studios open for business. If we lose this latest battle regarding the teacher’s employment status, then small studio’s will close and we’ll all live in a city with 3 choices; Jivamukti, Pure and Yoga Works.

    And that reality depresses the hell out of me and many of my fellow teachers and practitioners.

    • Thanks for commenting, Marcella!

    • You forgot Exhale and Equinox(-ious). Now, the list is complete.

    • gross

      hi marcella, you have some good points but its about saving the studios, not the teachers. but thanks for replying. but saving the studios is a very worthy cause since then teachers won’t have anywhere to be either independent or employees!

    • Death and Taxes

      Marcella-

      Look, on the one hand, I’m all for studios and teachers deciding jointly whether their agreement will be an employee or IC relationship without any regulation from the government. But you and I both know that in the absence of law or oversight, ALL yoga studios would only hire independent contractors. Equinox, Exhale, PURE and Yogaworks hire on a w2 because their lawyers tell them they have to, not because they’re rich enough or big enough to afford it. I can assure you of it, as I have worked for all of those organizations.

      So this idea that YFNY is giving teachers a choice is really a farce. They’re advocating for studios to protect them from an obligation to pay 6% SS, plus unemployment and WC. If YFNY accomplishes its goal, show me a single small studio that will stand up and say, “Finally, thank Ganesha, at last I can hire all my teachers as employees and contribute to the same social safety programs that all other major industries participate in.”

      As a teacher, a studio tells me when I have to show up, evaluates the quality of my work, and, in most cases, makes significant demands on the style in which I will teach. Those are pillars of an employee relationship. And yes, I know that there are numerous other considerations. But I don’t believe those considerations are significant to the point of excusing the studio from contributing to SS in the way that most every other business does for its workers, or contributes to a fund that will give me minimal protection for an on-the-job injury in an industry where my body is my livelihood, or minimal unemployment protection if this tiny studio just scraping by closes up shop, or the fickle studio owner decides they don’t like what I’m teaching and fires me.

      And I don’t follow your (and YFNY’s) argument that if a teacher employee is on staff at many studios, then all those studios are paying SS and unemployment tax that somehow gives the government extra money. If I understand the law correctly, if I am an employee at two studios making $10k at each for a total of $20k, each studio pays takes on the $10k I make at their business. They don’t pay taxes on the money I make elsewhere. What’s the problem with this? How is it different than if I made $10k working at McDonald’s in the morning and another $10k working at Burger King in the evening?

      • Death and Taxes

        Also, why does my avatar icon look like a dick with a smiley face on it? …Is that what I look like?!

      • Death and Taxes- The reason that Equinox, Exhale, PURE and Yogaworks hire as W2 is because of there legal corporate structures and because they offer classes that use equipment and sell memberships instead of straight classes (Yogaworks is an exception but they have modeled themselves on a gym membership model and are protecting themselves as such.)

        I agree that studios and teachers can decide how they want to do things and no one else should get in the way. No one is mandating independent contractor status. But if the state decides to mandate W2 status then it will most certainly be to the detriment of yoga teachers. What I think you are missing is that once you are W2 then you can no longer make deductions. Even though independent contracted yoga teachers are responsible for paying their own SS taxes, they are able to offset their tax liabilities just like other small businesses do. Also, independent yoga teachers tend to get paid a higher rate then at a corp because their taxes are not being withheld.

        Being a yoga teacher is free-lance gig. There are advantages and disadvantages. But if you were unhappy teaching at the large corporate centers then I’m not sure why you want to force smaller centers to behave the same or, more likely, force them out of business. The issue is not just the money but the cost prohibitive nature of the process. Big corps have business guys who work this stuff for them. Independent centers are usually just one person and having to play by the same rules as corporations will likely mean the end of community centers. You won’t have any place to go but the gym.

        And yeah, your avatar does look like a dick with a smiley face on it.
        But I’m sure don’t really look like that.

        • Death and Taxes

          I hear ya, and I understand it’s a tangled issue, and would love to see some room for studios and teachers to maintain IC status, as no doubt there are studios that require and deserve it based on the way they do business. But for all that they provide to teachers, there’s a significant cost there as well.

          And I get my mala in a twist at the lopsided way this has been presented by YFNY, and, I think, in your post as well. Much has been made of tax deductions, by you and by YFNY, and who doesn’t love the feel of itemizing ones deductions. Let’s say you earn a handsome $50k from IC teaching. If you claim $10k in deductions every year (and good luck doing that), you’ve saved yourself, at best, around $5,000.

          But in exchange for that luxury, you are paying a guaranteed 6% extra on every dollar you make for social security. You are purchasing your own health insurance. At Equinox or PURE (same company), if you teach 5 hours a week you are eligible for coverage at a rate (last time I checked) of less than $350 per month. Tell me anywhere else in the country I can work 5 hours a week and get health care. Equivalent coverage on the private market averages $1000 per month. You are foregoing worker’s comp, and equivalent disability insurance on the private market is hundreds of dollars a month. Or you go uncovered. And unemployment insurance? Just forget about it.

          I, like you, have been teaching 10 years, much of it freelance at mom and pop shops, but also much of it under the nefarious, mustache-twirling banners of Yogaworks, Exhale, PURE and Equinox. And I haven’t seen the wage disparity you mention. In fact the opposite. Hourly rates at Equinox started at around $50 and averaged about $65 after a few years. At PURE I know folks who started at $70. At Yogaworks and Exhale, I could make between $65-$95 per hour depending on headcount. At a small studio as an independent contractor, if I was hired above $50 per hour, that was a stretch.

          I know the big Babas and many of the little babas here are great lovers of the little guy, and “small community enclaves” and artisanal didgeridoo quintets, and so am I. I own one of those, too. But there are important costs that these “small community enclaves” are passing onto their teachers. If teaching yoga is to be a viable career (and I’m not sure it should be), there are vital things the little guy can’t (or won’t) accomplish in that regard. As well as a shit ton of good, life-changing, intimate teaching you just ain’t gonna find in the steam shower at Equinox after your 24-Carat Gold & Caviar Indulgence Facial (can’t make that up).

          I don’t want the small studios or the independent status to disappear. Small studios are some of my favorite places to practice, to teach, and to listen to indigenous quintets. What I am suggesting is that from a labor-supply and livelihood standpoint, those big studios may actually be making it more, not less, possible for some of our favorite teachers to thrive and continue teaching in small studios–by making sure they have a place where they can get the benefits small studios won’t give.

          Dickface over and out.

          • Wait. Should I be adding up to a “1” or a “0” on my tax forms?

          • You make good points Death and Taxes. I must admit, you have me questioning my position some. I think its a fine thing that there are gigs at gyms and mega centers that provide health insurance and other benefits for yoga teachers but am not convinced that the corporate structure is really the best model. You and I have managed to make it as independent teachers (thanks to Healthy NY for making my monthly health insurance premiums $700 instead of $1200 of course). So, it is possible. And I think there is something to be said for an intimate and more personal relationship between yoga teachers and yoga centers. However, I’m going to look more into what it exactly means to have teachers on W2. If it really is in their best interest and I can make the numbers work, I am happy to contribute to the commons (I hope Yoga Dude sees that.) Thanks for the perspective.

        • love the actual, insightful, intelligent discussion of what i consider to be a very serious issue in the yoga world today. i thought i was the only one who ever considered that IC status was totally sucky, under the guise of yoga studios being awesome, progressive, benevolent employers. in my opinion, the yoga studio model that functions on free labor via flaky “work study” volunteers, and teacher trainings that clog up the teaching market is a completely unsustainable model, and is going to crash. i await with joy the inevitable retraction of the yoga boom – because it is doing a disservice to yoga teachers who take their profession seriously, and are trying to make it their vocation.

          in my opinion, a better business model would be a cooperative – a small group of like-minded and experienced teachers who all have an ownership stake in the studio, and share in the profits, agreeing to teach exclusively for said studio. no free work study labor – if you want the studio you have a stake in to run, then you have to show up and do the work, not just waltz in and teach a class. no sub list – teacher/owners cover each other.

        • Yogadear

          IC leaves the teacher broke come tax time. I am doing way better financially on W-2’s. If your deductions are offsetting your Social Security contributions, etc., then you are taking a private car to every class you teach and your yoga pants (that you ONLY wear to teach) must be Armani. Or maybe you are fudging the numbers. Besides, you can still take deductions on your private clients.

    • Yogadear

      Being an employee is not going to yield a lot more revenue. The government is going to get it’s money either way. If you are an IC, the teacher pays it. If you are an employee, the employer or studio owner pays it. It is a grey area, I give you that but telling Yoga Teachers it is good for them feels like it’s out of the play book of Karl Rove.
      If you tell a teacher how to teach, when to teach and provide all the materials to do so then your an employee (How about those non-compete clauses too!)
      If you have a teacher coming in for a workshop they are an IC.
      http://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/dande/ic.shtm

  6. giggity

    it seems only “beautiful”, “sexy”, VULUPTUOUS yoga teachers make it big, while at the same time preaching self love and self acceptance and giving… while heavily promoting themselves. how hilariously ironic and disgusting and HYPOCRITICAL. thanks for making it hard on those who are truly committed to a modest life of sharing their knowledge, teaching, and practicing yoga. most came from privilege, while claiming to “give up everything to pursue their love of yoga”. monopolize the yoga world! is this the cellular phone business, or yoga? EW.

  7. Marcella Bucci

    Oh yea, Exhale and Equinox (which is basically Pure Yoga). Thanks for completing the depressing list. 🙂

  8. Thank you Marcella for clarifying some of these issues. Well done. Almost everyone here (though I am not sure what GIGGITY’S comments have to do with today’s post…but, heh…I am sort of VOLUPTUOUS so maybe I still have a shot at making “it big”) have brought up points that I think all of us yoga teachers struggle with. There can be an ideological clash between the Studio Owner and the IC teacher. I can empathize with the needs of both. At this time I am primarily an IC yoga teacher and I have fantasized about receiving a salary, getting benefits, etc. The world of the IC is financially tenuous. But then again my innate sensibilities have a hard time giving up the freedom of being financially insecure. That goes against common wisdom– we assume financial security offers freedom. Go figure. I often have to fight the urge to strip off my clothes and run far away from most institutions including the PTA. So I have no answers, but I sense that Yoga for NY is a good thing.

  9. Big ups on this one Babs. Interesting point about the park event vs local studio and big names swooping in. Most astute and relevant. Kudos for keeping it real and showing blogger love to the grassroots.

  10. The P

    I’m not a fan of the mega-spectacle yoga in the park events and have no interest in attending .. but really, the event in DUMBO only conflicted with one basic yoga class at the local studio. If you want to do your part to help the local studio and the Sat noontime teacher recoup losses from that one class on that one day then by all means drop in her class this coming Saturday at noon (or some other Saturday)! If six people reading this do just that I think you will have more than offset any losses. The view from the studio alone is worth the trip, but the teaching is damn solid as well. It’s one of the best studios in the city, imho.

    Mostly I think these big yoga events are big, silly wastes of money and resources promoting yogalebrity culture and silly-headed notions like our massive group together can raise the energy to shift the planet woo-woo. I don’t buy that they are hurting the bottom line of local yoga studios, tho. A noontime weekend yoga class in NYC has more competition from a glorious, sunny Fall day than some big yoga event down the block. Those events are damn boring and annoying, though, and I would be happy if they fizzle out soon.

  11. Yoga Dude

    I love how taxes should always be paid by someone else other than me. There is a Republican yogi somewhere reading this thread and smiling.

    • Red Herring. Yoga centers and teachers pay lots of taxes, just like everybody else. The reason that yoga classes are not subject to sales tax is because it is a form of instruction rather than a product. The only reason that the state even considered looking at it otherwise is because of beleaguered budgets and all the “yoga bleaching” that goes on. In the discussions, a NY state official specifically mentioned that yoga is being advertised as a weight-loss product. Once some thoughtful yoga professionals got in the room with the regulators and presented the facts, they agreed that no sales tax should be charged. No different then any other form of instruction.

      I know the political landscape is looking a little grim for republicans these days but yoga teachers and yoga center owners tend to be very hard working and upright citizens. No one is trying to get away with anything and we certainly aren’t freeloaders. In order to make a go of the profession of yoga, you have to be quite entrepreneurial. No one is getting any handouts, that’s for sure.

      • Yoga Dude

        Who said yoga center owners or small business persons in general are not hard working? My point is everyone wants someone else to pay the freight due to the community whenever possible.

        and who would think to advertise yoga as a weight loss product 😉

        Interesting topic, I hope the taxation of yoga doesn’t make its way West. I am glad this trend was stopped in NYC.

  12. Yoga Whelp

    You know, reading all this stuff, I really can’t wait for John Friend to make a comeback. Maybe the Blazing Solar Flames could do a reunion tour – appearing at a yoga studio near you!

  13. lookdeeper

    J. Brown, articulate and intelligent comments. Thank you for keeping the conversation real and grounded. The yoga world needs more of you. The teachers who work for you are lucky people.

  14. Lookdeeper, Death and Taxes, Marcella, and Yoga Dude, and Jay Brown: Thanks for all these comments– you should all consider joining a debate team and I’m not being sarcastic. I have found myself flip flopping over these issues myself since I sold my Upstate NY yoga studio 8 years ago. Each one of you brings of valid points that I will glean from.
    I found the link to the IRS definition of Independent Contractor and the difference between an IC and an Employee really fascinating (thank you Yoga Dude)–here is a tempting fact from that site:
    “You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if you are given freedom of action. What matters is that the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed.”
    So, now, when my boss says to me: you have to lead a jump forward on an exhale rather than an inhale when you teach here… I’ll say: “Only if you make me an employee! But until then I’m an IC and I’m leading it on the INHALE….Nanny Nanny Boo Boo your pants are on fire!”
    But, seriously, great commenting, kids. x

    • Yoga Dude

      “So, now, when my boss says to me: you have to lead a jump forward on an exhale rather than an inhale when you teach here… I’ll say: “Only if you make me an employee!”

      Not a little sarcastic?!? j/k I was thinking the same thing when I read the IRS site. I believe the application would have more to do with the time and general subject matter taught and that actual teaching would be given the same consideration and protections afforded a teacher in an academic setting. That being, you have a course to teach and general guidelines, but the specific content is as the pleasure of the instructor.

  15. Yoga Whelp

    Whoever said the purpose of yoga as a spiritual practice was to allow yoga teachers or yoga studios to survive commercially? From a “consumer” perspective, do I really care? I do not. I learned my best yoga at the Y, and I practice my best yoga at home.

    Who ever said yoga studios are primarily about imparting spiritual wisdom or technique? In my experience, they are primarily small business profit centers and arenas for socializing and informal community building for people who lack these venues elsewhere. At their worst, I sometimes feel that I just walked into a gynecologist’s office or a modeling audition — uninvited.

    And finally, whoever said yoga teachers are ;primarily about sharing the gifts of the Spirit? These days there are all sorts of motives for people to become yoga teachers – and “public” yoga students that range from the mundane (easy part-time gig) to the delusional (look I’m a Goddess now).

    We really seem to be deeply wrapped up here in the kinds of mystifications this site is normally devoted to exploring. If I had known this was going to be a meeting of the yoga small business association, I would have brought a book.

    Is there coffee?

  16. Yoga Whelp

    I really defy anyone to tell me that yoga studios are necessary for the propagation of yoga. They are the source of the very abuses in yoga – the branding, the cultism, the training of manifestly unqualified teachers (because the raining programs subsidize the studios).

    I would turn all of the studios into private membership clubs, and keep the “public” out it. People might may an annual membership fee and everyone can brand and bonk and nurture each other at will. It would almost be like a speakeasy, or a sex club.

    Move the real yoga training to yoga schools and academies that are fully public and get it out from under the small gurus with their personal ideological, business and empire-building agendas.

    But again, the main issue for me is: why do people assume that the small studio culture is the solution? I learned my best yoga first at the Y, then at a community center. The best part of it was that the yogis were itinerant in these settings. We were using borrowed space. The yogi wasn’t an owner or a marketer.

    I do think there’s a real issue as to whether yoga teaching should be done as a full-time profession – that is, if it is going to claim a spiritual mantle. Yoga as fitness, perfectly cool. Yoga as some kind of faux “enlightenment” training. Don’t think so. I love my church and some other spiritual gatherings I regularly attend – and I don’t pay for my sermons, or my group discussion in either – but I do make donations.

    There’s a fundamental issue of spiritual materialism here that the contemporary yoga movement has simply blown off – or more scarily, embraced – in the name of cashing in on yoga – be it the corporate cash in, or the small business one. It’s still casing in, is it not?
    .

    • amphibi1yogini

      You were lucky. And if any of this happened before the large-scale involvement of the internet–and that dastardly Facebook–doubly lucky.

      The information available and shared out there for free (or for a nominal price of a dvd) is STARTLING! Even if it is just a come-on for new students/distance learners …

    • (clap, clap, clap)

      Like Babs, I also have anarchist sympathies and tend to agree that co-ops are the way to go. The days of the corporate model and all these insane yoga gurus and spa yoga types are numbered, methinks.

      I’m neither a yoga studio owner nor instructor but have entertained the thought of taking teacher training in order to offer yoga to specifically ethnic groups and create a space where other visible minorities feel more comfortable. I can only speak for myself, but to me it’s yoga’s health benefits which outweigh everything else and the gentleness of some parts of the yoga practice are perfect for old Greek grannies and Indian grandpas, groups for which exercise is normally not a part of their culture but without a doubt, they too can also benefit from.

      How would I create that space? If I did go in that direction, I seriously don’t see myself working out of a
      chi-chi-ka-ka-poo-poo studio or gym but more likely at a room at some cultural centre or joining a yoga collective and offering it through a co-op space.

      I also agree with Yoga Whelp that spirituality is best left to be a private matter. You’re not gonna find it in a corporate studio with delusional and immature Lulu-clad suburban girls-turned yoga-instructors chanting Om shanti. I did try addressing the issue of spiritual materialism, cultural imperialism and white privilege and the blow-back was pure vitriol.

    • Greenpoint

      well I don’t agree with your premise/framing of the issue, its not about the “propagation of yoga”, studios exist for peeps to experience/practice/enjoy it, its not an invasion…if you like doing yoga at your Y, go for it…if you find a studio you like, go there…

      and holy shiva, using “I love my church” analogy as some kind of representation of what spiritual gatherings should be about, ie that yoga biz/studios should look to that as some kind of spiritual model is pretty frightening, the abuses and horrors of organized religion(s) and Churches have wrought on humanity speak for themselves…

  17. Yoga Observer

    Yoga can only be practiced inside yourself. No studio needed. Although it seems a hut with no bugs and lots of ashes and dung might be required. As several texts state, a guide or guru is needed too. At least in the early stages of learning.
    In our materialistic society we have taken the route that the teacher should charge a wage vs. we should take care of and pay our teacher what our teacher needs (not in a Bikram, Rolls Royce needs way).
    This is indeed a problem because the delivery system for “yoga” is not pure and if the delivery system isn’t pure than the teachings are polluted.
    All of this being said, the real problem in the IC vs. Employee debate is that NY State changes its interpretations of what an Independent Contractor and an Employee is with every audit. So there is no clear direction here for a small business owner of any kind to open an establishment. If a studio requires a teacher to teach only at their studio or in their style or several classes a week then the teacher SHOULD be an employee. Many studios are selling yoga training as a career move and if they treat it as a career they should pay the required taxes.
    If however the teacher teaches at several studios and is making an independent career in yoga, the arts or another healing profession or has another full time gig and teaches yoga on the side one or two times a week they should be an independent contractor.
    Yoga for New York’s best work would be having all NYS yoga studios treated with the same guidelines that are public and known to a potential studio owner before they open a business so that clear economic choices can be made and planned for in advance.
    The IC vs. Employee debate is raging in the media world as well. Where magazines and newspapers are being audited with differing results regarding their Freelance writers and artists.

  18. gross

    yoga studios aren’t going anywhere. so just relax people. get a grip on reality if you think that yoga can’t happen inside a studio. there is always a space for it. if we didn’t live in nyc we might just invite people to take class in our living spaces, but we can’t even move in there.

    • Hi again–I’m back from the doughnut factory–and I want you to know that I DO teach classes right in my bedroom. come over. I hide the bed.

      • Yoga Whelp

        I confess there is something delightfully lascivious in your suggestion that the bed is still there looming – you merely hide it. You must have an interesting dream life nightly, with the passing of many bodies, some celestial, some rather less so, through your subconscious?

      • gross

        its bigger than mine then.

  19. Greenpoint

    well I’m coming in quite a bit late here, and haven’t read all the comments, but would like to add that the reality for studio owners RIGHT NOW is that if you are treating your teachers as IC’s and get audited (and these days the mafia, um excuse me, the State, LOVES to audit yoga studios) you are going to get stuck/fined/screwed over with serious fines/penalties/back taxes/etc for not treating them as employees…

    now it would be glorious if Yoga for NY can change/clarify that situation as it is quite the burden cost-wise for studio owners to treat all teachers as employees (talkin’ around 15-17% extra costs per employee’s salary/earnings)….

    I apologize if this issue/idea has been vetted already above…

  20. gross

    missed you greenpoint! thank shiva you are back!

  21. Lots of talk about “independent contractors” and “employees” here. Notably absent are any references to organized labor (unionism) and to collective bargaining. The independent contractor model is attractive to studio owners because insistence on teachers’ independence necessarily rules out any possibility of yoga teachers’ organizing and engaging their employers in collective bargaining. When one independent yoga teacher asks for a cost of living adjustment, it’s quite easy for management to plead poverty and say that the studio can’t afford it. When a union of yoga teachers demand a COLA, though,, suddenly the studio owner has to actually make that prickly decision about whether or not s/he supports management or labor. Most owners I encounter naively claim to support labor, when nothing could be farther from the truth. To quote a tried-and-true union ballad, “Which side are you on?”

    I see this struggle played out every day at my job at the Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO. Without the Guild, the big boys–Paramount, Warners, Sony, etc.–would run roughshod over the rights of writers. The contempt management has for labor is only mildly nauseating, and it’s frustrating to smell faint traces of it in the Yoga for NY argument.

    Sorry to get somewhat Marxist here, but when that owner does in fact plead poverty and claim to not be able to provide his laborers with a living wage and basic benefits, then he’s acting more like a Vanderbilt than a Vivekananda. Part of mindful and ethical business-ownership and -management is the ability to compensate one’s employees fairly. Being able to pluck yoga teachers from a bottomless sea of independent contractors is a perverted system that owners of yoga studios have been (literally) capitalizing on for years.

    I wrote about this as Yoga for NY was amping up its reactionary hysteria:
    http://monstayoga.com/2012/04/09/putting-the-union-back-in-yoga/
    http://monstayoga.com/2012/07/09/which-side-are-you-on/

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