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Yoga Nazi?: Otto Cedeño, Bikram Berator of NYC

in In Class, YD News

100501_otto_cedeno_jc-69.jpg“1-2-3-4 chaturanga to the floor! 5-6-7-8 Shut your mouth and meditate!” Introducing the Yoga Drill Sergeant: Prepared to whip those vrttis into submission! It’s the second coming of The Yoganator! No really, according to the New York Post, America’s new pop yoga rag, Otto Cedeño, is not afraid to unleash his Vishuddha chakra to bend you past your edge, and yell at you! (throat chakra if you hadn’t figured). Mr. Otto, a former Broadway dancer, owns Bikram Yoga Union Square (oh Bikram), and has built a solid reputation as the “meanest yoga teacher” in NYC.

Like a drill sergeant — only dressed in tiny black shorts that he designed himself — he screams into his headset at a young woman with sweat dripping down her legs, “Pink shorts. Yes, you. Crotch down!”

It’s 104 degrees in the studio and a middle-aged woman is trying heated Bikram yoga for the first time. “If you’re not going to get your knees down, you might as well be eating pizza down the street!” he yells.

There we go with more crotch talk again, though you can’t hide much in those Bikram booty shorts. Anyway, this “meanie” title hasn’t come by accident, and we get the feeling he’s rather enjoying this.

“My friends call me the yoga Nazi,” said Cedeño, 46. “I laugh.

Allrighty. But it’s not just his bark. Says a returning customer:

“He goes around and kicks people’s feet into alignment,” said Romero. “He doesn’t say anything and just shoves his foot into your heel.”

Cedeño often singles out people in incorrect positions — even bullying students lying on their backs in the purposefully restful Corpse Pose.

Ha. Uh… to some of us dorks this may seem a bit overboard on the roughhousing yoga scale (which we just formulated a few moments ago!) but we can imagine there are plenty of practitioners who appreciate the manhandling and too-close-for-comfort “Savasana!” in their ear. Right?

The article goes on to mention the gross price tag of said yoga berating, which is 30 smackeroos per drop-in class. yowch! Really though, if you’re a super meanie Yoga Nazi you’re gonna need that cash for your super fancy website!

Seriously though, someone get this guy a lozenge and a cup of chamomile.

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15 comments… add one
  • Laura

    It’s scary that this man seems to have a following! Hopefully these yoga practitioners realize that not all yoga teachers and styles of yoga are like this. You can be pushed without being bullied. I had a teacher (not as bad as him, but still a bully and an angry spirit) once injury me pretty badly in a pose for pushing me deeper and holding me there, even as I tried to resist as I could feel the damage being done on my body. Bully Teachers can be very scary and dangerous!

  • he’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    and I would have to question the personalities of people who would be drawn to a teacher like that. it’s been said that we get the teacher that we need at the time. hmmmmmm……..

  • A while ago, I put an over-the-top “guest post” on my blog, supposedly written by a crude, hardassed yoga teacher. Then I was surprised and horrified that most readers seemed to miss the joke and think that “Bernie the Enlightened Yoga Master, founder of the Samadhi or Death! chain of yoga studios” was real.

    Apparently, reality has a sense of humor even more twisted than my own…

  • I truly believe there is a certain type of personality who is drawn to this type of yoga and yoga teacher, people who feel the need to be humiliated** and yelled at. does that really make them feel better?

    **oh wait…dominatrixes figured that out a long time ago….;)

  • Yogini

    Yeah. I am not sure how Bikram does it, since they don’t do inversions. But, the yoga studios that do–an inversion is the perfect position for a shakedown … if a student has been on a budget and not enough money has passed from them to the studio per unit time, way to get a private session out of a student who can ill afford it. To a yoga teacher I have had: you know who you are … word DOES get around … !!!

  • This just makes me sad. Not only do his students suffer abuse, but they pay $30 a pop for it. There are so many conscientious, knowledgeable and kind yoga teachers out there, but they are not the ones who get recognition in the New York Post. This kind of behavior just reflects negatively on yoga in general.

  • Yogi2

    I have been to this studio, and had him as a teacher. He is really not as bad as they make him seem to be. He does correct your postures and fix you, but I like that. I also do pranayama as well as vinyasa and truly know what yoga is about. He does not kill the vibe, he just kicks your ass. Sometimes you just need that, a little breath, with a little ass kicking.

  • it sounds like its almost like hes doing it for the attention. good job, ny post, for giving it to him.

  • kiwi

    This makes me sad too I don’t really understand why anyone would want to take this type of class, and as Charlotte said it’s upsetting that he is getting the attention of the NYP.
    But I thought the quote” Pink shorts, yes you, crotch down” was freaking hilarious!!! And I visualize how my classes filled with gentle middle age men and women who just want to stretch and chill would react if I screamed that in class….

  • Yogini

    Yeah, Yogi2, well, mine does a mean kirtan and preaches on veganism … for the same cost of admission; I might be back to that class (I want the kirtan, at least) … BUT the pulling and the prodding is going to be off the menu …

  • “I truly believe there is a certain type of personality who is drawn to this type of yoga and yoga teacher[…]”

    I think Linda’s on to something here. Some people don’t think they’re getting ‘healthy’ unless it hurts or they’re straining, and some people… well, let’s just say maybe this is how they understand life. Like someone who had a mom whose only means of communicating with them was with a scowl and snappish comments or something (I’m working through that! Honestly!).

    I will say that I had a great experience with Bikram from Mary Jarvis in San Francisco, when I lived there. She was awesome and sweet and the exact opposite of this guy. But now I’m more into other forms of yoga that aren’t hot (I live in Texas… I sweat enough thanks!)

  • Simone

    I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I think otto’s class is great. I took his class a couple of weeks ago,  and found  it to be more like a bootcamp yoga. He is a little militant in his practice and yes he is obssessive about posture , but this attitude caused me to work even harder , I felt much more in tune with my body and I took my body further than I ever had , I never felt as invigorated after any of my Bikram sessions as as i did in his . I say continue the great work , and for all the people that can’t  stand the heat, get out the kitchen , for his class is not for the weak of heart.


  • Rocío

    I took Otto´s class many times and he is my favorite teacher in that studio, even though the other teachers are great sweet old-school-yoga women, whom I also admire. Otto is not as mean as they say, but yes, he has this style. But what he encourages is discipline not pain! And discipline and focus is what some of us are looking for in this type of hard-core yoga. –Cause this is not a class for people that are not in shape and just want to relax.
    But through this discipline path, Otto leads you to a different kind of meditation and I feel very grateful. Right now my ass hurts because two days ago he made me stay in a posture longer than I was willing to do it. And this kind of pain is actually not a bad one, it just means I did my best, and now I know that my strength is bigger than I thought. During the camel pose he also insisted in a very non-violent but persuasive way that we stick to it longer, and I felt so much intensity, that he laughed, cause he could tell what was going on in my through. I thought: shit, I need to get out of this pose, I can´t breath. But it turn out that I could breath there, and I did nothing but continue to breath. And then I heard his laughter and I understood he is some kind of guru or zen master underneath this broadway-queen-military disguise. Afterwards he explained to the class what chacras were involved, what kind of emotions we might have felt and man, he knew exactly what he was creating for us. And I thank him.
    Discipline has nothing to do with humiliation; if you are willing to stick to it and honestly try your best, it is full of compassion.

    (and BTW, it´s not that expensive, if you get unlimited classes for the week, I think is worth the same as a one-time class.)

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