This article has everyone so excited! Gather round dear jesters, and greet your Yoga King! (really NYT?) His name is Vinnie Marino and he rules the land of sunshiny Yoga! (that’d be California). Hailing from humble beginnings east coast style, young Vinnie grew up in rock ‘n’ rollin NY; a rapscallion upholding the time honored tradition of music and drug addiction (this was the 70s). In fact, it was “White Rabbit” Grace Slick (of Jefferson Airplane), Vinnie’s boss at the time, who encouraged him to pursue the yoga cloth. But little had they imagined that would translate into royal robes and a throne.
So now decades later King Vinnie holds court with a gaggle of “cult-like” admirers, students who come from far and wide for a yoga fix from his highness. Though it doesn’t seem to have reached Bikram-level bootlicking, adoring students, including celebs like Heather Graham, David Duchovny and Jeremy Piven, mob his classes to sweat with the yogis. And sweat they do; his classes, accompanied by a soundtrack of classic rock (naturally), are supposedly killer in many senses of the word.
“That class is torture if you’re not really good at yoga,” said Ms. Graham, who dragged her boyfriend, the filmmaker Yaniv Raz, to class on her birthday last year. “It nearly destroyed me,” Mr. Raz said.
Yet, loyal subjects return to pack studios and converge in “mat rage.” At least he keeps his morals in check:
“Coming from New York City, I have really good boundaries,” Mr. Marino said. “I know when to let people in and I know when to back off.”
Thank goodness! Don’t want another scandal on our hands. eek.
So ok, we get the draw – just a regular, former drug-addicted, NY-accented, non-preachy, singing-inept, rock ‘n’ roll cult-figured dude, who just happens to teach yoga, just like us! er, wait… (a major part of King Vinnie’s appeal is tapping into his drug-addled past and sharing stories of triumphing from the brink of destruction.)
“The intensity of a drug addict to find peace is a similar thing to someone getting involved with a spiritual practice,” he said. “I think my drug history lets people know that we’ve all been through some heavy stuff and change is possible.”
Dunno if we agree with the parallels exactly, Sire, but right on for sharing your real life trials, which obviously is inspiring to others.
Still, with the tone of the article and celebrity quotes, our first gut reaction was ‘ugh, “Yoga King”? Mat Rage?’, and that brunch photo kinda made us want to toss our cookies. But you know, we’ve never experienced the majesty of a Vinnie Marino class, and for all we know, it could very well live up to all the hootin’ and hollerin’.
“Part of my appeal is that I’m not preachy in any way,” Mr. Marino said. “I’m a regular New York guy who is teaching yoga.”
It’s unanimous: drugs are bad news, and also newsworthy. The mass media continues to create a growing league of yoga superstars, and in this case, informs us recovery isn’t a bad gimmick, whether intentional or not. Nor is “I’m just a regular Yoga Schmo.” If all goes as planned in the yog-glam media machine, we look forward to your memoir Vinnie.
Additional celebri-praise from the King’s website:
He Rocks, They Flock: The Yoga King [NYTimes]
UPDATE: Curious what all the fuss is about? How could we forget, Vinnie plays a starring role in Yoga Journal’s “Ogden” series with the Inappropriate Yoga Guy. Thanks to Margaret in the comments for the reminder.