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Ashtanga Goes McYoga with Millionaire-backed Chain Expansion

in Business of Yoga, YD News

Ashtanga is next to get the McYoga treatment. Are we doomed? Or just trying to survive? Welcome to the new Jois Yoga, the Ashtanga-branded studio chain and clothing line. Was it inevitable?

Here we go.

Vanity Fair takes a fairly in-depth look behind the scenes of Ashtanga Yoga, a powerful yoga style developed by the late Pattabhi Jois with hardcore devotees all over the world, its current growing pains and how new changes in leadership, teaching regulations and commercial expansion have the community and teachers divided. Oy, it seems these days, no style is safe from a rocky road of money, biz politics and power in the land of capitalism. But is this a bad thing?

Backed by her husband’s multi-billion-dollar hedge fund empire (hubs Paul Tudor Jones’s net worth at $3.2 billion) Sonia Jones, a devoted Ashtangi with an enterprising spirit has the money and the connections to bring Ashtanga to new heights on a global scale with Jois Yoga, a new studio chain taking the teachings of Pattabhi Jois and stepping away from the typical “stinky incense and smelly” environment to one with “space, light, and a stylish boutique.”  There are already Jois Yoga outposts in Islamorada, FL, Encinitas, CA and Sydney, Australia with a fourth ready to open in Greenwich, CT. (NY is on hold for now.)

Sonia, who has been criticized for favoritism in the past, was so enthusiastic about the practice she made friends with the Jois family years ago and ended up as a benefactor of sorts for several of Guruji’s voyages to the US, his 90th birthday party and even visits to the doctor when he became ill. We think VF went a tad overboard with the “trophy wife” moniker, but Sonia is certainly wealthy with money and time to spend.

Jones is also a noted philanthropist, the founder of the Robin Hood Foundation, the oh-so-stylish charity for the hedge-fund set. The Joneses live in Greenwich. This will be his wife’s fourth Jois studio, or “shala” in yoga lingo, and that’s only part of her far-flung project. In partnership with Pattabhi Jois’s daughter and grandson and a friend, San Diego-based entrepreneur Salima Ruffin, she’s also launched a Jois line of yoga clothes, and she is setting up charities to bring yoga to everyone, from charter schools in Florida to villages in Africa. Ruffin likes to say that Sonia is the “Mother Teresa of yoga.”

Jois Yoga, however, is viewed as a combination of Lululemon and Yogaworks (CA-based chain of yoga studios) with the glaze of “no expense spared” that some critics say came on too fast and too strong with commercial appeal.

“I believe it’s about power, and I don’t want to be part of it,” says Lino Miele, a senior teacher, about the Jois Yoga project.

There’s also resentment:

“A lot of old-school teachers resent Sonia because they perceive that she’s getting in the way of their special relationship with the Jois family,” says Russell Case, a teacher who is now working for Jois Yoga. And there’s also a feeling that Jois Yoga founders haven’t always acted in a very respectful way.

This enterprise also has big name Ashtanga teachers like Tim Miller, Chuck Miller and Eddie Stern on edge. Tim Miller, who has his own studio in Encinitas was asked to join the teaching staff at the new Jois Yoga just down the road that opened in Summer 2010, but eventually bowed out after being treated like an “employee at a 24-hour fitness center.”

And the exaggerated Bikram-esque approach has many questioning the intention and the integrity. Although Sharath (Pattabhi Jois’s grandson and new man in charge) and the Jois family have the final say, it’s Sonia’s money, or her husband’s rather, that is ultimately funding the change.

But with a reputation for attracting type-A “tattooed downtown hipsters, actors, and other assorted gorgeous people” and celebs like Madonna, Willem Dafoe and Gwyneth Paltrow, the popularity of Ashtanga was too much for some even in the 90s when the method really took hold in the US:

“As the Western mind began populating the room, it changed the room,” says Chuck Miller, one of Jois’s early students and one of the most advanced practitioners in the world. Miller stopped at the fifth series and, in 1996, ceased going to Mysore. “It was too much of a party for me,” he says.

We don’t have to tell you Ashtangis are hardcore, and many adhere to the rigorous 6-day-a-week crack of dawn recommended practice, plenty of whom may never get past the primary series let alone attempt series six in this lifetime. But what of those sticklers anyway? VF points to the somewhat murky history of Ashtanga and the tracing back to Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois’s (and also BKS Iyengar’s) teacher, who developed his asana series from a 2,000-year-old manuscript he found in a Calcutta library that he believed portrayed postures pertaining to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois

Since Pattabhi Jois passed, Sharath has taken the lead and explains that they are simply “trying to keep the tradition alive”  in order to protect the teachings from being mutated in the West (cough*power yoga*cough). But the truth is, yoga, and Ashtanga are indeed evolving. Even Tim Miller has traditionally no-no props in his studio. “I’m interested in what works, what is effective,” he says. “I’m not stuck in some model that says, You can’t do that, that’s against the rules.” And in light of much hoopla and some legitinate concern over the safety of some yoga poses, evolution of the practice seems inevitable and in some cases necessary. Are we too hung up on authenticity? Scholar Mark Singleton thinks so.

Singleton posits that the postures we know as Ashtanga may have grown out of a “synthesis” during Krishnamacharya’s time in Mysore of Western and Indian “gymnastic forms.” In his view, authenticity is the wrong way to think about yoga, because yoga is an ongoing evolution, not something static.

So how do we preserve teachings and grow at the same time? We’re not sure. And is this really so different from Iyengar-branding? These questions and more will continue to arise.

There’s no word on whether Jois Yoga will go the trademark/copyrighting route a la Bikram lawsuitfest. Time will tell.

Sonia maintains, “I wouldn’t be doing this, trust me, if he hadn’t said, ‘Will you open schools for me all over the world?’ ” She and her business partner Salima say they don’t expect to make money on the new slew of studios. According to the VF article, the Encinitas studio cost $1 million to build and rent is $11,000 a month.

‘Should money plus dedication get you more yoga than dedication alone?’ asks Bethany McLean, author of the VF piece.

Maybe. It will get you to be the owner and patron saint of Ashtanga Yoga at least.

“I don’t think it’s proper for others to say how this is wrong or this is right,” says Sharath. “Everyone has their own rights to share the knowledge with others. Nobody owns this.”

We’ll give you five breaths to mull that over. Perhaps we should just keep practicing, practicing, practicing…?




72 comments… add one
  • The Vanity Fair piece was notably even handed. I hope that your readers make it through the fairly lengthy piece… its certainly not for the tl;dr crowd.

    I’ve got no horse in this race (old guard versus new), as I think the practice speaks for itself. The design of the ashtanga sequence is intelligent, and to modify it without intelligence delegitimizes it.

    A slightly varied breath count here and there isn’t much of an evolution, comparatively, but it sure is there. As guruji was to have said to Nancy Gilgoff”you teach what I taught you.”

    I’m pretty into that.

    I can respond with an assured nature: Sharath took the piss out of the notion of copyrighting asana… saying without much wiggle room that no one “owns” yoga– yoga happens to you.

    Anyway, I’m presently in Mysore so I might be a bit extra opinionated.

    By the by– good call on the “Iyengar” branding comparison , YD. As far as the “jois” shalas are concerned, I’m not exactly convinced that they’re going to be bringing in truckloads of students or cash, are they? I think the Encinitas one smacks of insensitivity all around, but Greenwich? Isma-whathave you? Those locations just seem like places Sonia probably has a house.

  • Andy

    Great article by VF, I thought. Seems like these will be some pretty sweet studios. Places like Yogaworks/Corepower what-have-you DO have positive aspects. I don’t see anything wrong with places to change and some sweet yoga stuff for sale right there in the studio. Combine that with teaching the true Sharath-approved Ashtanga Vinyasa and it sounds like you’ve got some great places to go practice yoga.

  • What really got me was this line:

    “Both Sonia and Salima say they will never make money on the studios, and they are concentrating on philanthropy.”

    Why open a studio down the road from Tim Miller?

  • simply yoga

    My heart is heavy for Tim Miller. You will never find a kinder, gentler, more humble, more dedicated individual, teacher and practitioner than Tim. He has given so much with everything he has. It’s a shame, but there’s no question he’ll continue to be out there inspiring his students by his own shining example.

    • Rupali

      I wholeheartedly agree with you! Tim’s the best and even this won’t flurry his feathers. He’s probably way over it by now and continually his beautiful life of service.

    • suzanne

      I am with Timiji all the way. He was my teacher,as was Guruji, for several years.Change and adaptation, which is what Krishnamacharya taught is important however, balance is important and throwing the baby out with the bath water is foolish.
      There is power,beauty and magic in maintaining the authenticity of all traditions.
      This particular change is not welcomed by me so Jai Tim, Lino and Nancy !


  • I really hope these McYoga places don’t catch on and start putting all of the current wonderful Yoga instructors out of business.

    This is the same thing that happened in the health food industry with Whole Foods.

  • honomann

    A combination of Yogaworks and Lululemon? The end is near.

  • Janaki

    Authenticity may be the wrong way to think about yoga, which is a living and evolving tradition. But authenticity is absolutely the right way to think about Ashtanga Yoga, or Sivananda Yoga, Bikram Yoga, or Anusara yoga. If you choose to use the name, you should have the blessing of the teacher and honor that teacher by staying true to their teachings. It is through this discipline and honor that we can evolve and stay authentic at the same time. Yoga will survive despite all of the controversy, which is more about the industry than the practice

  • As a small studio owner, I can understand someone with unlimited funds who loves yoga wanting to make a luxurious oasis for the practice. Most people I know who own/run studios do it as a labor of love, and have some additional sources of income or support. “Branding” a big name is never going to ensure quality – think of the finest restaurants – can you really duplicate a talented chef? Hopefully, there will remain room for the indie yoga studios, as well as corporate, trendy, chains, etc. I like a good blockbuster movie, but it’s usually the more obscure documentary that truly inspires.

  • Honomann

    Imagine a Lululemon ambassador starting an Iyengar chain and inviting Patricia Walden to help come clean the floors. Disrespectful!

  • Andy

    Honestly I think Lululemon is the best yoga clothes and traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa is the best yoga. I realize the Lululemon reference was a joke, but even if they do sell them in the Jois boutiques, I say great! They are the best, performance-wise. Boom—I hope they open a few more. As long as they remain true to teaching the Ashtanga yoga correctly and Sharath approves, I say terrific!

  • Chris

    Kind of off topic. Lululemon ~ who gives an F!! Since when are there “clothes for yoga.” It’s called athletic wear and its been around a while. I realize that Lululemon has been around a while, but I don’t think I’ve properly vented my distaste for it.
    I will never purchase any “yoga clothes.” I have spandex, yes, not from Lululemon. Guess what? I have a lot of tshirts, under-armor type shirts as well.

    They seem to work just as well as that Lululemon shit I see women wearing everywhere. Hell when I’m practicing sadhana solo, sometimes I do it naked.

  • Honomann

    Obviously, Lululemon has their corporate cronies monotoring these threads.

  • left

    Why are they doing it at all then, if they are not making any money on it and it only drives a wedge between the Jois family and other senior teachers?
    I don’t practice Ashtanga anymore but I have fond memories of how simple and noble the practice was. No luluheads in sight, actually if there was any trend at all it was underdressing/tatty gear. Why spoil it?
    And what’s with this Encinitas place, is it a black hole of yoga or what…

  • CTYogi

    As a devoted Ashtangi, I have no problem with Ms. Jones’ opening studios. In fact, I welcome it because I’d love to find dedicated Ashtanga studios when I travel.

    But, why open studios that will be in direct competition with long-time dedicated teachers like Tim Miller??? That’s where I have the problem.

    I’m happy to hear that the New York studio is shelved for now, and hope it will be permanently shelved. If Ms. Jones truly wants to spread Jois’ teachings, than rather than opening competing studios she should look to outposts where there are no dedicated Ashtanga studios. I also truly hope that current Encinitas Ashtangis and anyone interested in learning the Ashtanga system in Encinitas stay with Tim Miller.

  • Carol

    Why did they put one up in Encinitas where Tim Miller is? No confusion there. This says everything about who they are and what they stand for.

    I think I’m just about disgusted by yoga studios and yoga ‘lifestyle’ and yoga boutiques and cut-throat yoga teacher competition and yoga festivals and yoga facebook networking and celebrities that do yoga and the whole nine yards. And don’t forget yoga gurus ready to capitalize on all of this under the banner of maintaining a lineage. I have definitely reached that tipping point. Thank you, Vanity Fair. I was focusing disgust on John Friend and his minions, but now I see it’s bigger than that.

    None of this speaks to why I got into yoga in the first place. As this article points out, it was easy to keep going along because of the fun and drive of moving on to the next pose. Something always just around the corner.

    If this yoga is such a smooth fit for privileged assholes that treat revered teachers like shit, and for megalomaniacal empire builders that screw their employees and promise me an opening from their new Soulmat (TM), then I start to question if this yoga is so valuable.

    I know most small studio owners are in it for the love of it, but I see everywhere this move toward hipness and distraction in an effort to stay competitive.

    • Perry

      “I think I’m just about disgusted by yoga studios and yoga ‘lifestyle’ and yoga boutiques and cut-throat yoga teacher competition and yoga festivals and yoga facebook networking and celebrities that do yoga and the whole nine yards. And don’t forget yoga gurus ready to capitalize on all of this under the banner of maintaining a lineage. I have definitely reached that tipping point. Thank you, Vanity Fair. I was focusing disgust on John Friend and his minions, but now I see it’s bigger than that.”

      Thank you!!! Couldn’t agree more!

    • Andy

      I pretty much agree with all of this. The more I read about the yoga world in the online blogosphere the more I practically get disillusioned.

      But I would not be so quick to label this event as indicitive of all that stuff. I am assuming that with Sharath’s blessing, the teaching and content of the yoga classes at Jois Yoga studios is going to be the real deal. Am I wrong for assuming that?

      • simply yoga

        Only thing is, like Carol said above, if they treat revered teachers like crap, a teacher like Tim Miller who has intelligently and passionately carried on the teachings of Jois to near pristine perfection for so many years… well, that’s an indictment of the entire Jois Foundation, as far as I can tell. It’s a smack in the face… and for what? What’s their thinking? Is this how they respect their own tradition?

        How many cities across this country alone have zero ashtanga presence? The caliber of Tim Miller’s teaching is exemplary. Why move in next door, and let’s face it, try to run him out of business?

        I really do wonder, from this example, how they intend to proceed from here. If it wasn’t for the crass Tim Miller thing I wouldn’t feel so dubious. But let’s call a duck a duck. It doesn’t look good.

    • Neighborguy

      The Soulmat ™!!! I’m gonna find it and like it on Facebook! 😉 Carol, that is brilliant!

      After reading all the latest and greatest about yoga (Anusaragate, the How Yoga Can Cripple book, the growing hate-on towards lulu) I have to stop and remember my continuing love of the practice. All of this is such noise and some yogis take themselves waaaaay too seriously.


  • Boycott .....

    Boycott Jois Yoga in Encinitas !
    Show those people what’s the true integrity in yoga spirit .

    Damn! Probably won’t do any good since they are loaded with money and have no hearts !

    • The Chief

      Occupy Yoga! Occupy Jois! Jois Yoga and the the backers of Jois yoga are the 1%. We are the 99%. Lets take back our yoga. Occupy Jois!!!

      • QuantumSprite

        Occupy Jois Yoga!!! Fist to the face of the Mammon worshipers . The demon of Mammon has possessed the yoga world. Wake Up Everyone!!!


  • honomann

    The sad thing is that some noob will go to the Jois studio in Encinitas, like it, then try Miller’s studio and find out it’s closed on a full moon. Then she will yelp it with one star and say out it’s not authentic like the Jois studio.

    • ganeshite

      i looked at the jois website. they teach traditionally – closed on moon days. based on the article they are ultimately blessed by sharath, so i imagine things are pretty traditional at these studios.

  • Jessi

    Don’t compare yourself to the Jones’. The Jones’ are fucked up people. (disclaimer: although I don not personally know these Jones’, when the phrase fits……)

  • simply yoga

    And P.S. to my above. Sure, Encinitas is a cool place. Yogananda dug it. But is it some kind of holy land? Some shrine? Does the ashtanga that’s been going on there for so many years need to be shoved aside like it’s somehow not worthy? I’d venture to say it’s the most worthy. Tim has been humbly and quietly toiling away for years without much fanfare, doing extraordinary work. What the hell?!

  • Chris

    It is entirely sad that the West takes a noble, profound, sublime thing like the ancient Hindu science of Yoga, and degrades it to a pedestrian, commercial trinket, to be sold as as so much retail merchandise.

    The Hindu science of Yoga is 5000 years old.

    There was Yoga before the West tried to subvert it into Yoga, Inc.
    And there’ll be Yoga, long after the last franchise and retail-outlet of Yoga, Inc. has bitten the dust.

    In India, Real-Gurus like BKS Iyengar and Baba Ramdev are practically giving it away for free – just like Patanjali meant for Yoga to be disseminated, for the greater good of all Mankind.

    The lovely flower of Yoga sprinkles its fragrance in the wind, for all to delight in, asking for nothing in return.

  • Jono

    A very interesting article. Agree with what everyone has to say. Maybe it is too taboo to mention but what make the Jois Yoga in Encinitas even more troubling is that the lead Mysore instructor is Manju. Could they have anyone else more significant to draw people?
    I have always wanted to study with both Tim Miller and Manju. Did they have some kind of fight or animosity between them? “”He [Guruji] would be thrilled, ” says Manju Jois.””???

  • Bill

    Come on. McYoga? Isn’t that phrase just as degrading as Vanity Fairs “trophy wife”? Do we really want to throw stones when you live in the glass house? Four studio’s do not make a world wide capitalistic empire. (Don’t get me wrong – I don’t understand opening in Encinitas without working with Tim) And remember the current 6 series have changed. If you listen to David Williams he will be glad to point out how poses were added to the first and second series as gate keepers, to keep down the length of time a number of people who could practice in order to allow more into the house.

    Life is change. Yoga embraces the change. Yoga is calming of the fluctuations of mind.

    • Rose

      You mention “If you listen to David Williams he will be glad to point out how poses were added to the first and second series as gate keepers, to keep down the length of time a number of people who could practice in order to allow more into the house.” Is there a website link to this?

    • Carol

      I find it curious and interesting that you say they should have “worked with Tim” (a nice little euphemism if there ever was), but then, voila, you’re so ready to brush that aside:

      “Life is change. Yoga embraces the change.”

      Well maybe you could just “embrace” the “degrading” comments about this new corporate entity. Are we to be non-dualist or are we not?

      This little yogini is not embracing. Screw that. I am MAKING the change. Someone else may choose to accept whatever is shoveled out, not me.

      This take on yoga philosophy illustrates exactly what I was talking about elsewhere: It’s a soft and accommodating philosophy that asks for nothing and gives quite a bit less. Oh, but it does roll out a red carpet for continued commercialization. Oh, and the “it’s all good” happy talk ends the second you assert your own voice in support of integrity. That’s not auspicious, not in alignment.

      I can do yoga on my kitchen rug and share it with friends for free!!!!!!!!!

      • Bill

        One of the points I was making is that how you practice your yoga is up to you. And by practicing yoga I mean all eight limbs from a Buddhist perspective. Is the practice following the eight paths? Is one practicing Right Speech, Right Though and Mindfulness in the discussion?

        Though one may argue that Patangali’s eight limbs include renunciation of worldly goods, most Buddhists would accept that having wealth is not necessarily evil. Is it wrong to build a beautiful yoga studio? Is it wrong to make a living from owning and running a yoga studio? Is it wrong to practice in great studio? Though I would offer that a beautiful expensive building does not make a great yoga studio – a strong and supportive sanga is much more important.

        I don’t know Sonia, but from what I have read, her intentions appear sincere and good. I have a half dozen close friends who have just returned from the confluence, several which have trained with Tim for many years. Maybe we will get a better perspective on what happened and why.


        • Carol

          Oh, it’s delightful to practice in a comfortable studio–all other things being equal. And taken out of all other contexts, there is nothing wrong with practicing in a studio that took millions to build out. And there’s nothing wrong with being the wife of a billionaire and using that unique position and power to form a relationship with the Jois family when that same family is quite eager to enjoy the fruits of said relationship.

          I’m just looking at the effects of the product of this relationship: the Jois Yoga corporation . Did it create harmony or did it create bad feelings? Does it help form a positive image of yoga for the public or does it perpetuate the idea that yoga is something to be sold to hipsters that can afford $20 classes and the right clothes?

          Do the larger than life photos in the studios of Guruji and Sharath and Sonia and her family say that yoga is for everybody and that everyone has this primal and essential connection to the source, or that yoga is a hierarchical series of connections to the fortunately-born or well-connected, and that teachers gets closer to the source by striving to gain favor with the well-connected, while students get closer by going to the expensive, branded studio with the big pictures and purchasing the branded clothes?

          The same person that has power to arbitrarily approve or disapprove of a teacher’s right to teach in the Ashtanga lineage, is the same individuals that is a “founder” of the Jois Yoga brand. It seems to position Jois Yoga up on a throne and give it the official tiara of Ashtanga lineage, does it not?

          Of course, people have the right to opt out of this system, just as people could have opted out of the pathology that Anusara became. Teachers are saying they saw the warning signs and ignored them. I think we have some warning signs here.

          I’m choosing to opt out of brands and expensive studios because they all seem to foster the same pathology of fear, favor-currying, homogenization, self-silencing, favoritism, and threat of ostracizing within teachers in the pyramid structure. Not to mention that the other limbs basically have to sit out in the back alley because people just want to move and exercise and not have to listen to or talk about philosophy or hear why their cute clothes aren’t important or just sit quietly for a half hour.

          • QuantumSprite

            Could not agree with you more, Carol.

            There are warning signs here. Bill, the person who responded to you, says that Sonia’s “intentions appear to be sincere and good,” as if that solves the problem and resolves the argument. This type of attituted simply propounds the regugitated New-Age spiritual babble that everything is love and light. Let us not forget that more often than not the opposite of the good is “good intentions.” It seems that John Friend had good intentions to and look where that got him and his organization.

            It is true that it is not up for us to judge and that each story should challenge us to look deeply inside ourselves and recognize what is it in us that helped create the monstorsity of the yoga-industrial complex, along with all the other Emperialisms we have unleashed upon the world. The Jois’s as a family may not even understand what is happening.

            We live in the Kali Yuga, let us not forget that. We are not so evolved as to claim that we have good intentions in everything we do. Collectively, we are more asleep than we have ever been, and this fact aids the perpetuations of these types of ideas and behaviors.

            I for one an opting out too.

            For now, let us examine our own conscience and raise the energy of this thing by trying as hard as we can to maintain love without judgement within our own hearts. That does not mean that we will not engage in polemics of intellectual nature. We shall not judge. We shall be firm and not stoop down to the lower energy of money, greed, and competition. Let us love and be firm at the same time.

            Ya NUR

  • joy

    I dunno… it seems Ashtanga hit is hey dey in the 90’s and other waves have since crashed, power yoga anyone? There are teachers who are more creative, varied and dare I say it- safer… but perhaps they would do well to open a studio in Portland b/c isn’t the 90’s alive in portland (a Portlandia reference) :)…

  • Honomann

    Sounds like Jois family has an axe to grind if they are placing a high ranking teacher next to Miller’s studio. Maybe they are pissed at him for calling the Shala a “party.”

    • simply yoga

      I think that was Chuck Miller, a different senior teacher, not Tim. Pretty sure.

  • HY

    I think that Manju Jois was based there even before the shala was set up, they didn’t need to plant him. Open to corrections!

  • Keep Yoga Weird. I wrote this article to say that these comments show a very real backlash against the continued corporatization of yoga. http://www.accessyoga.net/2012/03/09/keep-yoga-weird-after-anusara-and-jois-yoga-blowups-its-time-for-an-end-to-the-selling-of-yoga/

    • simply yoga

      Love what you have to say, Richard. This really struck me, from another one of your pieces on the subject:

      “Right now, it looks like a salient moment in the post-Guruji development of Ashtanga yoga. Will a new generation consider Sharath a worthy transmitter of the practice? Or will they find a deeper transmission from the Western teachers who were studying with Guruji when Sharath was in diapers?”


    • Carol

      Hi, Richard

      I’m glad my words and others’ inspired you to write the article. Very well done. And as Simply Yoga says, the other one made excellent points, too.


      • Thank you Carol and SY! I don’t think it’s accidental that the Broad book, the Jois situation and the Anusara debacle have all piled up in this moment in time. As I said, I think there is a backlash from this corporate takeover of our practices. I read somewhere on Yoga Journal something about Open Source Yoga (a bit geeky, but meaning the opposite of proprietary (trademarked) yoga). I can’t imagine something like this happening with Iyengar yoga because the structures are so well set up and the American centers already established. But as Eddie said, Guruji was completely uninterested in such structures … I guess he just wanted to teach…

  • Christopher

    For what it is worth…went to the Confluence in San Diego this past weekend..Tim Miller, Eddie Stern, David Swenson, Nancy Gilgoff, & Richard Freeman…
    Got there a day early and went to Jois Yoga in Encinitas for morning Mysore ….Manju was teaching ….only 7 or 8 people in the room…meanwhile, down the road …Tim had 30 or so at his studio …the students will decide where to go.
    At the Confluence….the Jois table selling $90 yoga pants was not being visited by attendees, while the other tables…including Manduka had lots of traffic.

    • That is exactly right. Jois booth was noticeable for its size and total lack of visitors.

  • Lavazza

    Many interesting points. But I don’t understand how somebody can call what makes Ashtanga vinyasa unique from other asana practices a “tradition”. I mean the man who invented the practice recently died. In a few hundred years we will know if he started a tradition or not. Asanas practiced in the way and with the attitude described in PYS is a tradition though, but there is some discussion if many (or any) ashtangis asana practices are in line with that tradition.

    2.47 The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening of effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite.
    (prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam)

    • Rupali

      I like that particular translation of 2.47, Lavazza. Which commentary is that from?

  • Re: “VF points to the somewhat murky history of Ashtanga and the tracing back to Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois’s (and also BKS Iyengar’s) teacher, who developed his asana series from a 2,000-year-old manuscript he found in a Calcutta library that he believed portrayed postures pertaining to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.”

    The Sanskrit word “asana” means “seat” or “to sit”. The only “posture” mentioned in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is a seated posture – as in sitting in order to meditate and practice the “cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”.

    Why do people believe there are physical postures in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, aside from sitting, when there are none?

    • Andy


      • I think that asana practice is derived from hatha yoga pradipika and tantra. i agree that patanjali’s classical yoga is distinct from the later developments. it is dualistic and the later forms were closer to non-dualism; but we are not practicing classical yoga. neither are we rejecting it. we are moving our bodies in very intelligent ways to create an opening for awareness.

  • david starr

    Never mind the debate about branding for a moment. I went to visit my father in Islamorada a few weeks ago, and I visited this gorgeous yoga studio with nice welcoming teachers on the trip. Anyone who goes down to Islamorada, I suggest checking it out. And also, there is a beautiful 50 meter swimming pool in town a mile or two away. So to whoever created the space, and the dedicated teachers there, thank you. By the way, I am not an ashtanga person. I practice regularly at dharma mittra in nyc.

  • Imagine.....

    Western Capitalism + 5000 Year Old Tradition of Yoga = Anusara,Inc, JF Scandals, Jois Yoga, etc, etc .

    For those who really want to delve into the Astanga tradition, please take classes with Tim Miller. Tim is the ‘real deal’. He has spent decades studying and deepening his own practice and his skills as a teacher. He started out in the 60s/70s and has truly earned his astanga credentials (which did not even exist until Tim asked Pattabhi Jois if he could give him a ‘certificate’ – Pattabhi Jois said ‘Yes, please give me $100’ – thus was born the astanga certification process).
    When I last visited Encinitas, I stopped in to the new Jois Yoga studio. I felt like I was in some upscale LA Fitness Club. This is NOT yoga! This is blonde wood, luxurious bathrooms, aromatherapy, $100 organic cotton yoga T-shirts etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it if you are looking for a few hours of luxury and relaxation (probably with an inexperienced, underpaid young female yoga teacher). But you can’t ‘buy’ a deep yoga practice — you have to earn it and learn it one day at a time on the mat.
    I asked the front desk at the Jois Yoga studio where Tim was, and was distressed to learn that he was not teaching there. That is all I needed to know. I politely asked for information on where Tim had relocated his studio and left.

    Yoga is a ‘big tent’ and there should be room for everyone. But shame on those trying to bottle, homogenize, brand and sell it to the unsuspecting.

    • ganeshite

      actually two authorized level 2 teachers teach at Jois Yoga Encinitas. And it’s where sharath teaches when he is on tour. Guruji was going to teach at the islamorada location when it first opened so clearly there is family support for the Jois Yoga shalas — and not just from Sharath and Saraswathi but Guruji as well (when he was with us). And I think you’re doing Tim a disservice by shunning corporatization and mentioning Tim asking for certification in the same breath. couldn’t we view his request as non-yogic in some ways? just playing devil’s advocate. I have full respect for tim and what he has done for this practice.

    • Andy

      I totally understand the desire to practice with Timji over the Jois yoga place. I would too. But I don’t see what is so wrong with having a nice place to practice. Even the most senior, letitimate yoga teachers on par with Tim Miller sell things at their studios. The studios might now be as new, but the Richard Freemans sell their DVD’s, practice sheets, charge for classes etc. the only questionable thing is opening in Encinitas, but from the looks of it Tim is getting a lot of love in reaction to this and I’d say that having more Sharath-approved Ashtanga Yoga taught is a good thing.

  • Susan Cooper

    It’s up to people to be honest with themselves about what they’re paying for, and whether what they’re paying for can really be bought. Money is just a medium for exchange. Old spiritual tenets portraying money as evil were generally promoted by those who benefited from receiving contributions from their followers, often through programming their followers to believe in original sin and perceive contributing money to leaders as a way of being “saved” from such “sin”. Programming them to think of poverty as virtuous and affluence as sinful is just more bullshit along the same lines. Now we have people who are financially successful being criticized simply for their financial success. It all goes back to being honest with oneself about what one is paying for, and being honest with oneself and others about the quality of what one is really selling.

  • Wall Street bought into Yoga Journal and that saw the tide turn in the West to take over the budding enlightenment industry, yoga wise.

    Self development is always a personal journey. Hang your hat on a commercial slant by all means, just check your personal integrity monitor. Again personal choice as to where the red zone lies.

    Every choice we make is our own. Own each one, learn and grow – if that means a greater abundance than another, so be it – leads to yet more choices. The circle turns – love it loathe it or let it be – my choice, your choice – Om responsible!

    Anyone for a vegan Big Mac?

  • kiwi

    Tim Miller was a Lululemon ambassador.His photo was on the wall of shame in the Lululemon next to his studio.also if “no one owns astanga yoga”,why do you have to go all the way to Mysore the get the all powerful bullshit (indian bribe) certification. only rich or reckless people who use to have families can go.

  • Carol Holguin

    What I would want to know, with regard to the Jois Studios, is how are they paying their instructors? Do they offer benefits, health care, 401k contribution, disability insurance? Do they have a code of conduct for their instructors? If these facilities are going to be cooperate, should they follow the same rules and regulations of other cooperate facilities? Independent studios/shalas are usually run by one or two teachers who scrape by a meager living (often supplemented by other work). Their code of conduct/ethics are solely dependent upon their own morality. If they get injured, they have to step aside for a bit and have a sub/co-teacher take over. They are like the little book stores, drug stores, grocery stores I once frequented but have almost completely disappeared. I’m loathe to see the independent yoga shala go that way… I practice in a beautiful, large, well lit room that my teacher rents at a Performing Arts center. There is one bathroom on the same floor, no shower, no lockers, no fresh towels, no water. It’s a wonderful place to practice and I would never stop going there for one reason: my teacher. Now, if my teacher was to be hired by one of these Jois Studios because it offered her more financial security etc., I’d probably follow her there.
    I’m not particularly enamored with the corporatization of yoga, but I am in favor of yoga teachers being able to make a living wage, have health/disability insurance in case of injury/illness/life.
    I guess we’ll see how this all plays out. However, it’s clear that there is a predatory vibe to the Jois Yoga Encinitas studio; why put it down the street from an established Ashtanga yoga studio that is home to a well respected, certified teacher? That is just wrong. Will that be their MO. To plant these studios in direct competition with already existing Ashtanga studios? Or will they part themselves across the street from a Core Power studio?
    Personally, I am drawn more to the grassroots, punk, alternative, grittier aspects of Ashtanga that I find in the small shalas; from my experience there tends to be a little less lululemon and a little more surf shorts, scruffy leggings and tank tops…more breath, less product.
    All very interesting, but no matter what happens, it’s just me, my mat, and my teacher in the end.

  • Tom

    Here’s the litmus test: what would David Swenson do?

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