Published on March 2, 2011 by      Print
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By Erin Nelson

All right, maybe that’s not grammatically correct. I’m a yoga heathen and I certainly haven’t bothered to learn whether “yoga” is feminine, masculine, eight-legged, or spiritual kibble.

Yeah. I was the one who flirted with yoga.  When I was a teenager I kinda sorta enrolled in a 6-session class at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, only to be kicked out because I missed session three.  I thought it was some cruel ruse to separate me from my money, and that it was just a tiny bit elitist to push me out of the class because I forgot one class. I was in high school! I had things to do! My future was coming to greet me, and I felt they should understand that sometimes it was more important to greet my future than my yoga instructor. I was IMPORTANT!!! Does this sound familiar?

Now, I live near Boulder, Colorado. It’s probably the most spiritually egocentric place I’ve ever had the pleasure to observe. People regularly manifest without apology that you will revolve around their tiny little world as they wish, and that you will be chill enough to “let it go” and visualize your own damn peace somewhere more convenient for them. I can go to the Pearl Street Mall and pick out every yoga cliche and hear all of the Loathsome Words in about an hour at any busy coffee shop. I can also tell you that I’m not gonna plop down $10 for a random yoga class. Why? Well for the same reasons some folks on Recovering Yogi have cited:

  • Short attention span/poses
  • No direction
  • Lack of continuity
  • More money is spent on pants than on the facility
  • Perfectly Pompous Poppinses as far as the eye can see
  • I eat meat. Especially bacon. From real pigs.

I want the old kind of class, the kind my mom used to teach.

She didn’t care if you were a kid or 90 years old. She didn’t have the boring chanty kind of Yanni stuff playing; she had Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac rolling along. The room didn’t have to be hot, cold, feng shui’ed, or otherwise. Whatever was would be, and she would guide us through the poses one at a time.

Often it took a bit to learn a pose. People who were new weren’t shunned out of the class, but they were told that they should stop at ‘x’ point and hold as the rest of the class went deeper, and to concentrate on breath. Eventually a regular and close group evolved. It was about grace, connection, and opening with yourself and the higher power (or none) that moved within us. In short, it was about each person’s personal relationship with yoga.

A world away from today.

I appreciate the variety out there, but it’s kinda like the personal care area in the grocery store. Go take a look in the deodorant aisle and you’ll see about 50 different packages in varying colors and shapes. All say they are newer, better, stronger, prettier, sexier, more feminine/manly. And they all have the same aluminum, questionable fragrances, and percentage of antibacterial ingredients in them. Do we really have 50 different kinds of armpits?

You could say the same about yoga.

I can see hot yoga developing in India because, well… it’s hot! But by the same logic we should have wet yoga (for the monsoon season), toxic yoga (to mimic the working conditions for many there), and classist yoga (to keep the Brahmin yogis from the rest of us minions). When I first met yoga there was only one kind of yoga, and it was often called a different name. One of my favorite tapes of all time is still Raquel Welch’s “Ultimate Beauty and Fitness.” “Yoga” isn’t even in the title. And it’s only on VHS. And the poses are held a looooong time. And we are told, yes, that it may take a looong time to learn it.

So where is this rant going? The multiple class structure, breath lessons, and call to dedication have been dumped in favor of McYoga studios in the name of opening the practice to the masses — to avoid elitism and make it accessible. But what has really occurred is yet another branch of spiritual consumerism, a new profit center, and a promise that yoga is the panacea of all your egoic whims and sufferings. If you just sign up for 10 classes at the low price of $100, buy those cute color coordinated yoga outfits that enable your inner yogi, and make sure you have a bitchin’ mat, you too will be absolved of being human. You too can now stride smugly among the worldly attached, knowing that you have stepped onto the path of gorgeous, skinny, vegan ultra yogis. All for $20 and a couple of hours per week (oh, and food that you can’t really pronounce). That’s a TON easier than church!

So I’m posing a different approach: The Guerilla Yoga Movement! (G.Y.M.!)

Many gyms have rooms you can rent for a couple of hours. Shoot, you could use the library, and that’s free! Why does yoga cost so much? Yoga is the only physical activity besides dance (that I know of) that is so expensive to practice. Soccer? Nope. Softball? Uh-uh. Running? Heck no! So what is the deal with yoga? What about a yoga co-op????? We could rent a building or house — or find a spare room at a community center — and have folks pay a fraction of what they now pay to go to a “real” studio. Or get together at a friend’s house! My point: practicing yoga doesn’t have to be such an expensive endeavor.

Did you teach at one point in time, but had to discard it because the Studio Mafia didn’t like how you taught, what you ate, where you’d been? Did you give up on practice because you almost passed out in a hot yoga class? Are you sick of the uber-macho dynamic yoga (I call it Pilates for more sensitive yet manly men)? Then join the G.Y.M. movement. If you used to teach, teach! If you used to practice, join in! If you know a thing or two about nourishing the body, volunteer it, but don’t ram it down folks’ throats with the threat of karmic hell.

It’s time to take yoga back!

We can do it! We can do more than say “I can’t go near a studio because it’s fake/pricey/fascist.” If you are feeling more than disenchanted, then someone else is probably disenchanted too. Get together, figure out what “your” kind of yoga is like, and get ‘er goin’! We should not have to hide in our living rooms in solitary confinement, dreaming of that lovely Studio-La where we can get our yoga on.


About Erin Nelson

Erin Nelson is a practicing 4-year old at heart, with a few years of experience. She enjoys puppies, snow, rocks, the ocean, and the love of her good friends and family. Lucky enough to live in Boulder County, Colorado, she plays with her son, her dog, Arrow, and whoever else feels adventurous that day. In general, a happy WYSIWIG kind of gal.





Filed under: Zombie Yoga and Tagged:


  1. Anna Guest-Jelley says:

    So with you on this one! I teach at a community center, and it’s awesome!

  2. Christine Stump says:

    Yes! Yes, yes, a thousand times “Yes!” When we lived in Albuquerque full time, Aaron and I used to have random… OK, well a little planned… Guerrilla Yoga Events. We’d just pick a park or a trail (we always held it outside, a particular passion), send out an email a few days before and see what happened. It was always amazing and unpredictable. Viva la Yoga!

  3. Amanda says:

    Studio Mafia – LOL! Hilarious!

    I just got a gig teaching on the rooftop at a day spa – to a very “non-studio” crowd. Excited to bring yoga out of a stereotypical atmosphere…

  4. Kat says:

    I teach in a university student activity center. There are no fees for classes (the use of the facility is included in student tuition). I recognize that my “students” are coming for fitness, strength, flexibility…and not meditation and alternate nostril breathing. But, I’m YogaFit trained, so it all works. My main goal is to keep it approachable and welcoming, and if they want to get more into the chakras and bandhas, I can guide them to that.

  5. Misanthropic Yogini says:

    If you don’t like the studio vibe, practice at home — it’s free. If you don’t like the way classes are taught, become a teacher and teach your own classes — not free, but well worth it.

  6. Adan says:

    if viva la yoga ain’t right, we’ll call it tex-mex & it’ll definitely fly ;-)

  7. Teaching My First Yoga Class – One Month Later « Yoga Adan says:

    [...] today, i came across “viva la yoga” – great title huh with stuff like, “i want the old kind of class, the kind my [...]

  8. Yogini5 says:

    You know, I’ve been practicing yoga regularly for less than 4 years.

    And even though it had not been the best introduction to yoga (I had been able to do it indoors, in my sneakers!), I remember fondly the air of fellowship surrounding a class I took 20 years ago.

    Things have changed so much, now it’s all about challenging inversions, or backbends, or acro, or getting into the woo-woo stuff …

    All the poses I was avoiding, I should now want to be able to do?

    Only a French poodle looks natural doing Pincha Mayurasana, and even she had to be trained … ..

    Oh La la la Yoga!

  9. michele says:

    Studio Mafia–my favorite line! So true, briefly I taught at a studio where we were expected to teach the same exact sequence every single class! To be at a certain group of poses by a certain time….

    • Yogini5 says:

      Yeah, is it the exact same one where all the teacher trainees had to be able to hold headstand for 30 breaths … as a prerequisite ? (whether or not they signed up for it the moment they started practicing)

  10. Elena Brower says:

    Founder of is Marc Holzman who now resides in Paris and is amazing:

    Sweet post.

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