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Shiva Rea Gets Slammed for Flow ‘Just a Show’ at Indian Yoga Festival

in World News, YD News, Yoga Feuds, Yogi Quotes

“This is not yoga, it’s just a show, but to succeed in California, this is what they have to do.”

Austrian yoga teacher Florian Palzinsky, 42, groaning in response to Shiva Rea’s short-shorts “writhing” in Yoga Trance Dance at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh.

According to reports, some 20 peeved practitioners, not feeling the Cali blonde goddess’s shakti flow, up and left before the performance ended. Ouch!

“Wearing skimpy clothes, glamorising or doing unusual things definitely effects the dignity of Yoga. The government needs to step in and retain the essence and authenticity of the tradition Indian art,” warns Yogi Ram, founder Trika Yoga and Rishikesh’s Kala Ashram.

While we understand the floaty flight of the yoganator approach isn’t for everyone, we can’t endure the “skimpy clothing” argument. Have they seen the Iyengar loin-pampers? Bikram bootie bottoms go without saying.

So Indian traditionalists aren’t thrilled with Western adaptations.

Crap! They are so not going to love our new line of YD branded ‘nothing-butt-just-be’ thongs and beer koozies to accompany our trademarked Whiskey-A-Yoga series.


Yoga row between Indian purists and Western ‘free-form’



43 comments… add one
  • hey, why let a little cultural sensitivity get in the way of trance dancing? don’t be a hater, yaar!

    why is this automatically seen as new v. old, open westerners v. conservative Indians? why put this in terms of a “clash” or war of us v. them? what a tired argument. so anything “western” is automatically better? and JUST BECAUSE its Shiva Rea, she’s automatically more knowledgeable? please. I see it has a lack of cultural sensitivity, nothing more. move on and get out of the current us v. them mentality.

  • until someone unearths footage of the last 5000 years of yoga practice as it actually happened, in all sub-sets, anywhere, including india, i can’t support the thesis that shiva’s version is inauthentic or unworthy

    and if that digital or 8 track footage is ever dug up 😉 then i’ll fall back on my long standing stance (pose?) that yoga is a human invention to try to come to grips with whatever (too big for me to say) , that’s it’s organic, evolutionary, and basically, is just gonna change over time…

    • vic

      oh yeah, that western trance/estatic dance has hundreds of mudras attached to it that the offended Indian yogis thought it capable of usurping their intricate theater/dance tradition. Please, why not learn complicated Indian- mudra moves? Wait, if it can be done away with, why even go to Rishikesh? if this any-move-is-a-yoga-move is ok for the western crowd, then do yourself a favor and not feel insecure by going to india to dilute/usurp what they’re doing.

  • Here we go again. I agree with Linda’s fatigue at the old us vs. them thing. We don’t have to take sides. I’m a longtime practitioner and am much more attracted to the more classical, subtler forms of yoga (including all eight limbs). My asana practice is subtle and satisfying to me, but this is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed moving my body in much less structured ways. Back in the day, I danced at 40 Grateful Dead shows. It was freeing and fun, and if that opportunity was still around I’d do it again. I’ve even danced to celebrate the closing of a few meditation retreats. That, too, was exhilarating, and my memories of it make me smile. I did not, however, consider this to be yoga. It’s dance, movement, and often ecstatic. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, it generated a huge amount of positive energy, but it does not resemble my yoga practice, which is also joyful, but in a much subtler way.

    I think a part of the issue is that people are creating new movement forms and calling them yoga. This doesn’t mean yoga can’t adapt, but many forms have moved so far afield as to become extensions of the cultural addictions yoga is meant to free us from—intensity, constant activity, competition, image-consciousness, etc. I can understand why traditionalists are discouraged by what they see as dilutions of the form.

    Many of the new forms may create their own positive energy for their practitioners, but I don’t feel that everything needs to be called yoga. There are many things outside the yoga umbrella that are worthy and wonderful.

    • Nadine

      I identify with this point of view, right down to the dancing at Grateful Dead shows…I watch the trance dance and it looks like what I was doing back in the day around a Rainbow Gathering drum circle or music festival than yoga. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not bashing Shiva Rea or her movement endeavors, but I don’t understand why this free-form dance stuff is being placed in the same category as yoga. I just don’t get it.

      • I agree. I don’t know Shiva Rea and haven’t practiced with her, so my knowledge of trance dance is from looking at the video above. I am absolutely not bashing her or her work. From the video above, it looks as if trance dance is probably a lot of fun and generates positive energy. But it is not the same as yoga.

  • It’s a goofy dance but I wouldn’t call it asana.

  • and I would like to say that Shiva did not invent trance dance as she or others like to claim. she trademarked it. big difference.

    people came out the caves dancing. it’s been around since I fell off my dinosaur.

  • Stephanie

    Didn’t you hear? It’s only okay for men to wear minimal clothing. When women do it, it’s perverse and shocking.

  • I wanna see footage of Shiva at the festival!

  • Richard K

    Groan if the government (any government) gets involved.

  • Yogi-A

    Believe it or not, everything confirms to the culture of its age.
    “cultural clash” is more than likely looking at the same thing from a different angle.

    Indians practice their yoga in a quite ashram where they try to perfect a pose at a time under the guidance of A guru.
    Most other places people go into whatever yoga classes and do whatever style they feel like, absorbing from many different teachers and aspects.
    The intention is still yoga, but just going about it from different directions.
    You have your twisty ravines where you can’t see the end, I have my steep hills where the top is above the clouds. They get to the same place. Acceptance is hard since it can shatter most of our belief systems, and most people aren’t ready for their beliefs to be changed.

    Maybe you find peace in your journeys.
    nom piece of peace peach~

  • Wouldn’t it be more culturally sensitive to respect the fact that if you invite yoga teachers from the U.S. to teach as they do here and they comply, then you should not walk out on them, denounce them in the press, and call for government regulation?

    If the “traditionalists” don’t like having US teachers like Shiva at an Indian conference, then they should take that up with the conference organizers. But if you’re attending what’s obviously an international, culturally diverse conference, then I think that you should respect the differences that manifest there – or at least find a way of negotiating them that’s less aggressive and derogatory.

  • @Sama – So are you saying that Shiva is drinking the Koka-Kula (yes, I’m still working on stealing this from you 🙂

  • Oh for heaven’s sake… everyone is entitled to their opinion. But as has been stated… do we REALLY know how yog was practiced at all times? Oh, and if animals can evolve… why can’t yoga ;)?

    • Richard K

      I’m with Heidi.

      And all life forms evolve: plants, sponges, unicellular organisms, etc.

      • Lisa

        I agree with both of you. I respect tradition and I respect evolution. Yoga was created by humans. The Indian Government is looking to protect the tradition and culture of yoga, just like in Italy and France, where certain foods have been protected by the government to protect a piece of tradition and culture. And while I think it’s very important to protect these traditions, I also think it’s ok for people to want to evolve and create something new. Anything with cultural value- yoga, art, music, food, etc, will have these old vs. new debates time and time again, and I think that both sides are right and both are ok, and they should be able to live happily side by side.

  • being denounced in the press is standard operating procedure in Indian newspapers. you should read what they write about Sonia Gandhi. Ms. Shiva should feel honored.

    I would venture to say that people got more upset over the “skimpy” clothes than her brand of yoga. skimpy in India is very different from what westerners consider skimpy. remember that this is a government where certain politicians wanted Richard Gere arrested because he kissed a Bollywood actress in public. on the cheek.

  • Jen

    I LOVE Shiva!!! Her prana flow yoga is so amazing and it feels so much more natural than standing in triangle for 5 minutes. I am so sick of these “yoga purists” saying yoga is only yoga if it is taught by an old indian man who makes you meditate for hours and sit in poses for equally as long.

  • Ahhh! Gotta love this nonsense! She is beautiful and inspirational and hey, with a bod like that, I would do it in a g-string! I love that Shiva takes ‘risks’ with what she does! She brings a GORGEOUS element to yoga and totally different to most instructors which is fresh and out of the box. You go girl and don’t let the bad press stop u! I live in Africa so I have all her stuff on dvd including Trance Dance and cannot wait to see her here sometime too. OmChanti777

  • Chris

    Yoga is about the Mind and the Soul taking up that fantastic journey to a Higher Place within oneself. The physical Yoga Asanasas are a precursor to that Great Journey, to bring the body in tune with the Mind and the Soul.

    Yoga is Hindu. Yoga is from the 5000-year-old Hindu tradition of the ancient Nation of India.

    So, even more disturbing than New-Age-Yoga is when people who are still stuffing their faces with meat, claim to be practising Yoga, just because they get all bendy for an hour a day.

    One cannot have one’s Meat and one’s Yoga-Mat. So, choose wisely.

    There is no such thing as cruelty-free-meat.
    There is no such thing as Christian Yoga.
    There has never been a carnivourous Yogi or Yogini.

    Yoga instructors, scared of losing customer-base, will pretend that Yoga does not require vegetarianism, when, in fact, Yoga demands vegetarianism.

    • I disagree with following:

      “There is no such thing as cruelty-free meat.”
      “There is no such thing as Christian Yoga.”

      Human beings have been eating meat for a while; and just as in nature animals eat other animals, it’s natural and okay that human beings eat meat in moderation. If you were critiquing the massive factory farms and the conditions of those farms for the animals and well the people as well who work on the factory farms, I would understand. But that’s not what I see you doing.

      It’s dogmatic and insensitive to tell people they can’t eat meat and be a carnivore. Why? Well, for one, the tradition of the vegetarian yogini is also the tradition that believed that the wealthiest Brahmans were the only ones who were worthy of ‘not eating meat.’ Being a vegetarian was an elitist tradition built in the same tradition that believed that untouchables shouldn’t walk on sidewalks. And while the roots of Hindu texts are pure, Hindu history, just like Christian history, is lined with big mistakes because both have been coopted by politics. It’s not a black and white situation here.

      Meat eating needs to be examined from many points of views; and if you feel strongly that no one should be eating meat, I think most people would be open to hearing your viewpoint if you could explain it with the intention of sharing what you know, just like a good asana teacher does.


      • Chris

        Dear Renee,

        I think that Guruji explains it a whole lot better than me.


        I could spend all day in a wheat-field or in an apple-orchard, and come home feeling mentally at peace with myself.

        Could you spend all day in a slaughterhouse and come home feeling mentally at peace with yourself ?

        • It’s frustrating in the digital age trying to have constructive conversations when people don’t respond to what you have said,

          As I had already addressed, “If you were critiquing the massive factory farms and the conditions of those farms for the animals and well the people as well who work on the factory farms, I would understand. But that’s not what I see you doing.”

          It’s hard to converse when people answer before hearing. That’s all I have to say.

  • John

    Isn’t there one tradition that yoga is derived from dance originally? It’s as valid as most of the other explanations. Also, it would make Rea’s version more authentic…

    What’s with saying it’s “Indian traditionalists” who don’t like her stuff and then leading off with a quote from an Austrian?

    The problem with skimpy clothing seems to be that it’s a woman doing it. Much like “western” yogis are happy for women to go to class in the absolute minimum but love to whine about men taking their shirts off…

  • Ryan

    LMFAO!!! This an actual video for sale? If you bought this Trance Dance stuff the you are a failure in life. Everyone has “invented” this when they were children…it’s called being a kid & jumping, dancing, moving around and having fun! But when you put a glossy wrapper around it and call it yoga, pilates, zumba, or whatever the lemmings will follow you. All about $$$$$$$$$$$.
    Just put on some music (or no music) , go to your living room, bed room or lawn, then gyrate! Done. Brilliant. Free!
    There, I saved you all time & money.

    • Holden Francoise

      “If you bought this Trance Dance stuff the you are a failure in life.”

      lol. egscuse me. But that is their demographic. lawl!

  • Rebekah

    After spending 3 days with the kula at the Anusara Grand Gathering this year, where John spent 3 days building the shakti and love, I went to Shiva’s trance dance. After such authenticity at the GG, this seemed forced. It seemed she was trying to do in one hour what John did in 3 days and it just didn’t work for me. Others loved it, but I left early.

  • Andrew

    Wow, she trademarked what people naturally just ‘do’ at concerts on any given night.

  • rbw

    yoga is life, every aspect of life…
    dance is part of life, therefore dance is yoga..
    as we breathe, we live, as we dance, we live and breathe.
    open mind, open heart…

  • rbw

    i think it is a sad statement when someone dedicates their life to yoga is slammed by others. reality is interpretation and perception.

    oh, and on “skimpy” until women can attend a yoga class wearing the same as men, i think it best to bite one’s tongue.

    perhaps critics could revisit the concept of “brahmacharya of speech”. again i say, open mind, open heart…

  • Sundaravel

    Comparing this woman to BKS Iyengar is absurd on countless levels, but I’ll just mention one since you brought it up.

    The difference between she and BKS Iyengar and Bikram is that she is a woman. In today’s Hindu culture, it’s completely unacceptable for a woman to be scantily clad in front of anyone expect her husband, let alone at a public display. It is highly offensive and considered indecent, inducing feelings of extreme awkwardness. Indians are very sensitive towards public displays of anything perceived as sexual. And yes, a women wearing hardly anything public is perceived as sexual, believe it or not. Men and women are not the same. Not unequal, but not the same. You can disagree with this principle if you wish, but the fact of the matter is, that’s how it is in India, in Asia, in most of the world!

    Another thought – when you’re a guest in someone else’s home (a Westerner in India in this case) one must have the depth and humility to follow the ways of the land, of its people. This is merely a classic example of a Westerner (specifically an American, and even more specifically a Californian) feeling justified in offending the very culture from which she claims to have summoned her wisdom.

    This woman’s somewhat surprising and profound lack of understanding, respect and humility towards Indian culture shows her true lack of understanding of Hinduism. She truly ought to limit her “yogic” activities to California, which is undoubtedly the only true place where anything called “trance dance” can be combined with “yoga” and presented as a homogenous package.

    You know, I read a few other comments to this post. The person who compared Ms. Rea’s Indian media plight to Sonia Gandhi clearly does not understand Ms. Gandhi and the pain she’s created for the Indian people. I wouldn’t expect a non-Indian to grasp this.

    To “Renee,” aka “ThursdayYogadotcom,” explain to us more about the history of jati, of varna, of shakahara, of mitahara…you seem to be an expert on this. Vegetarianism *is* integral to yoga, my dear. Are you at all aware of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras? Of yama and niyama? Of Gorakshanath’s work? Of the Upanishads? These outline the necessity of mitahara to yoga. I highly recommend at least thumbing through them, because that’s how little work you have to do to realize how important this concept is to practicing yoga in it’s full ashtanga form. Let’s distinguish between hatha yoga and ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga yoga is the full “eight-limbed” system perfected by Sage Patanjali, of which hatha yoga is but one limb. It is called as “asana.” Asana is not the entirety of yoga. There is much, much more. Much more which needs to be understood.

    Yoga is not just something somebody made up a long time ago in India. No. It was revealed over centuries in India by sages and mystics who then recorded it in our sacred, ancient scriptures. That is the source of yoga. Look to that for answers, for true definitions of concepts, for better understanding the path of yoga, not just hatha yoga, but the full ashtanga yoga as outlined by Patanjali.

    • Ant

      Great post. The funny thing is, in the sutras, very little attention is paid to the physical practice of yoga. In fact asana doesn’t seem to mean ‘posture’ but seat. I believe Patanjali only mentions three seated positions! When Jen mentions that ‘ she feels much more natural than standing in triangle for five minutes… and meditating for 2 hours’ perhaps she should do such things more. When we can feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations, we know our practice works, not when we can touch our toes and have a tight buttocks.

  • Philip

    Trika Yoga? You mean the Romanian who was kicked out of India for inappropriate sexual conduct?
    The Indian government controlling yoga? There’s enough corruption in the name of yoga already.
    Shive Rea makes money. That’s what she does, and she’s good at it. Which is what bothers the ‘ascetic’ Hindus. If there’s a buck to be made, they want in.
    As far as I’m concerned, there all part of the same problem.

  • InsaneJane

    Yeah, well so I think these dudes are just notvery impressed with the simple truth that Shiva is a gud danged marketing queen. I mean, they said and did what so many of us would like to, but get caught up in buying.

    I can’t do her brand of Yoga. I will never fit into her clothing line, squat half as long as this woman can, or dance like Frankie Goes to Hollywood ever again without a J and an oxygen mask. I mean I just want to wear toe nail polish and not feel bad about it while finding a way to breathe through the anguish of it all.

    Peace Nero!

  • Cint

    I totally agree with Florian (from the article). I have done a day workshop with Shiva and it was a dance workshop. Don’t get me wrong, I love dance. But it was clearly not a yoga workshop. As Shiva explained in the workshop, her influence was from studying with Hawaiian traditional masters. She didn’t mention yoga masters!! Let’s stop pandering about the topic and confusing the argument. Skimpy clothes, west vs east…etc etc…I challenge Shiva to just call her teaching what it is…call a spade a spade…I’d be happy with that!

  • Shaki

    I was at one of Shiva’s workshops and was shocked how big of an ego she had with her students. I thought she would be a down to earth person but she acted like a very mean self entitled woman.I have extensive Indian dance training and found her “dancing” to be extremely ungraceful, she just jumped around with bad posture and improper technique. When one becomes so self absorbed in their image as a “yoga rockstar” and making money they lose the essence of what yoga truly means. I recently took an old school hatha yoga class with no flash or ego just some pranayama and asanas and it was so refreshing.

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