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Rockstar Yogis Are Assholes…

in YD News, YogOpinions

…And some are just rockstars. (some are just assholes, too, we imagine?)

(seen at Wanderlust, minus guitar, plus feathers)

Lately we’ve been surrounded by a growing bevy of yoga “rockstars” and asana poppers and flexi folk taking it to the next level! What does that even mean?

Well, ideally something different to you than it does for your nextmat neighbor. While stages, real and virtual, seem to be sprouting up like mold spores on a Bikram carpet, there’s a counterbalance to the physically proud and posturely prowess (not that that’s especially bad either, despite Stewart’s rants).

For instance, some who practice yoga, in the Ashtanga tradition (that’s the 8 limbs, not the style made popular by Madonna Pattabhi Jois), know it is a many-layered practice – besides asana, there are like 7 other limbs! While Samadhi may not be within immediate reach, the Niyamas (in short, how to treat yourself) and Yamas (how to treat others) are surely worth thinking about, or not thinking about, depending on which crazy hard asana you’re working on.

Yoga teacher and ex-Anusaran, Bernadette Birney, whose voice pierced the yogasphere when shit went down a few months back, had a few things to say about physical competition and yoga rockstars on her blog post “Being an Asana Rockstar Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You’re Not an Asshole.”

Fact:  some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met have had some of the most physically impressive practices I’ve ever seen.

(No offense intended to the physically proficient. Some of the loveliest people I know have advanced physical practices, too.)

I want to be really clear that I don’t object in the least to anyone caring about physical prowess more than I care. I am not suggesting that it is somehow superior–or more spiritual–not to care about physical mastery. What I object to is mistaking physical prowess for doing the work of determining what value it has for one’s self. I object to mistaking physical prowess for being a yogi–or even just a decent human being.

My burning interest in yoga lies in being a Nancy Drew of Consciousness. I yearn to sleuth out every crazy, beautiful, fucked-up part of myself–and of this crazy, beautiful, fucked-up world–and figure out what it’s good for. I came to yoga because I wanted tools. Now I have them, and I am passionate about sharing them. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

I don’t care enough about rocking my asana to make a greater–or lesser–investment of time or effort. I won’t be logging in the hours on my mat to take it the to the next level. Instead, I will be busily becoming the best consciousness super-sleuth that I can be.

We think that’s a great personal statement amidst all the extra focus on physical ability and stretchy bodies. It’s all about intention.

Yesterday we posted a video of somewhat controversial yoga teacher Meghan Currie in which she demonstrated a powerful and impressive, and yes physical practice, with the intention of sharing because we found it interesting and thought others might too. Some celebrated, and some stomped their feet calling for a revolution. Absolutely agreed, diversity is needed and should be welcome. Growth and transition are in the air.

But in this practice of sun and moon, yang and yin, can we not watch and admire someone else’s practice (including an amazing transformation) and still feel ok about our own? Can we not find the balance between physical yoga and the emotional and spiritual sides some of us may experience? Asana is still a limb, and it’s the first introduction many have to the practice.

Does it have to be you’re either a yoga hippie, a rockstar or an asshole? Or a hippie rockstar asshole?

We’re with Neal Pollack on this one.

note: these opinions are opinions, and opinions are like…well you know the rest. pardon the potty mouth.



63 comments… add one
  • opinions are like bellybuttons and everyone’s got one 🙂

    • VQ

      And some bellybuttons are innies and some bellybuttons are outies … lol

  • Janet

    There should be space for all types, classes, colors, styles, philosophies etc. Yoga is big enough to encompass all.
    I think the biggest problem right now is that most yoga studios have these asshole rock star yogi-types because they bring in the clients and therefore have cornered the market. There isn’t a lot of options for those of us who don’t want to be a part of that, outside of large metropolitan areas.
    We should celebrate those genuine transformations which have made others happy, and there is nothing wrong in admiring someone else’s practice. You said it best, it IS all about intention.
    But where is the line between admiration and exhibitionism? Appreciation and voyeurism? Doing yoga because it is a genuine spiritual path for some and doing yoga because it gives you the attention you’re craving from others?
    Just a thought.

    • YD

      Good points, Janet. Thank you for sharing. It may come back to intention. Though the tough part is truly knowing or clearly seeing what another person’s intention is.
      Leaves plenty of room for opinions and discussion, that’s for sure. All of which is essentially good.

  • Pavanatanaya

    I guess when you write your own blog you can pretty much assassinate anyone’s character and get away with it. Couple that with the Egocentric website, featuring a couple dozen pics of yourself doing asana and you have a recipe for arrogant pie. Calling someone an A**hole is a form of superiority, a projection of the shadow. So when you promote yourself as the Nancy Drew of consciousness, you damn well better look at the prior paragraph and the harsh aspersions you cast and remember,’ Everyone you meet is You’.

  • “sprouting up like mold spores on a Bikram carpet” love it!

  • BeaNs

    There is nothing about a rock star that I want in a yoga teacher. Nothing.

    • VQ2

      Methinks, being that Birney is out of Connecticut, and in our vast Boston-to-Washington megalopolis, in fact … and also, not one of those Corepower Yoga apologists, she is a force to be reckoned with … ummm, I would and did, take a 70 year old former rocker who teaches a mild (and I mean THROWBACK-mild) practice …

  • Personally I would prefer a well balanced teacher who could rock the pose, yet be humble enough in their practice to provide the spiritual lesson of that class…..I would prefer the teacher not to be an asshole.

    • VQ2

      Agreed. Some of the advanced asana-bearer/teachers who ran a studio that I will never return to, were spiritual, but they’d also personally insulted me.

      So, as with their asana, they could not control themselves. They’d even wanted me to give up my home practice. My home practice, physically containing practically none of the party-tricks, and it would have been totally their level-deflated Level 1, but I had to cross train and prehabilitate for biweekly classes. And preferred their All Level and Level II classes, because all except two of them, thought us beginners were too lame to be taught bandhas and pranayama, which I needed/wanted.

      At the bitter end, the nicest one of the bunch later wanted to charge me highway-robbery prices to continue …

      I got news for them. They are not better than me. Just different!

  • Friday

    I started my practice for the physical aspect , 12 years later it’s becoming a little more about the the way I live , think and intent. It’s a never ending journey, dependant on your head space. I am open to all forms of the yogic practice. But my basis is the physical. It’s about acceptance of where you are at. Some days you need to meditate some days you just wanna rock out a practice! I like the variables.

  • Emily

    I’ve read her blog and think she has a valuable and knowledgeable voice, but to post an entry about assholes doing asana RIGHT BELOW a picture of herself in Hanumanasana tells me that Ms. Birney may have done better to think before pressing send…

    • Vision_Quest2

      Yeah, there IS a disconnect there. But, at bottom, Anusara as originally conceived and what still remains at least a good half or more of Birney’s practice and teaching is supposed to be above all, a MILD practice (personally I’m nothing if not all about mild, myself).

      Unlike other yoga personalities who started out with mild practices in their lineage, but then souped them up (i.e., Sadie Nardini), Birney is dissociating her image from that of the Wanderlusting, slacklining, handstanding John Friend and yet remaining true to her MILD bent.

      Hanumanasana is one of those poses that look a little more accessible (if only an illusion), and it’s uber-showy without being intimidating-looking, such as mayurasana is …

      And does not scare off those like me who are not loving inversions even after years of practice …

      Birney will survive appealing to those from non-Anusara styles … but there are SO many other than Anusara derived/inspired that are also into pinpoint alignment ..the approach is calculated enough …

    • Stewart J. Lawrence

      She’s a few french fries short of a Happy Meal, that one. But after all, she IS an Anusara Girl. Need I say more?

    • Pavanatanaya

      Trust me, If Birney had the delete button at her disposal here, We’d all be toast.

      • Vision_Quest2

        Not THIS old lady.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    Whoa Jenny!

    I really like how you’ve been trying to claim me as your very own bosom-buddy “dork-mate” of late (or is that dork-mat?).

    I mean, blush blush, I confess that being singled out for attention makes me feel kinda special in a you know…well, DORKY….kind of way.

    Could this be the blooming of true “virtual” love? It is spring after all, even in cyber space. (And in Yogaland, where we never age and our tushes are never to big or too small but embody the Divine Arsana always.)


    Don’t worry, I won’t start doing any cartwheels just yet, but still, blush blush….

    I’m yours (at a reasonable rate)

    Ever fondly, Stewart

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    Seriously, though, Jenny-Jen, it would be great if you actually got out of Corpse Pose and did something useful with your vaunted status other than mindlessly recycling what your favorite friends and john-friends are doing in your collective all-consuming, never-ending quest for ever-more page views and click-throughs?

    Real opinion-makers – I know a quaint term from yester-year – lead their readers, or try to, at the risk of causing a stir and disturbing their shanti-wallets. They certainly do much more than provide a pain-free forum for their own verbal and pictorial bloviating.

    Blogging, in the end, is not just a social media circle jerk – or a girl-gang vibrator baton twirl.

    It’s very, very hard for women to truly lead. I know, dear. I’ve been around real leaders my whole life and there aren’t any without penises in the yoga world, not a one, certainly none under say, 60 or 70 years old?

    You can’t have an industry and a practice operating at this level of mass narcissism and expect true critical insight to emerge that will lead to constructive action.

    American Yoga is perhaps the perfect expression of what Jean Baudrillard and Guy DeBord have called the “Society of the Spectacle.” Far from contestational, it represents the triumph of social stasis. More than booze or pills, it’s the “soma” – the mass sleeping pill – that Aldous Huxley envisioned in his Brave New World.

    Ir’s hard to imagine a more elite, self-satisfied, conforming world that so perfectly reflects the underlying social hierarchies of our times – all the while projecting the illusion of the opposite.

    Yoga is modern “Maya” par excellence – the latest mystical veil of American commercial capitalism.

    But one can always hope that someone might decide to break the cycle….or perhaps a Divine accident might occur.

    Did you see the movie Brazil? A bug falls on the Machine of Death and issues the wrong termination order, and inadvertently sparks a rebellion.

    Like when an IT employee – a male, of course, not into yoga, in the slightest – decides one day to slap an expose up online and sends all the nervous little yoga girls a-Twitter for weeks and months on end.

    And then, like the sea, the tiny wave is consumed, and yogic peace is restored, and back on shore, all the pretty yoga girls are back doing handstands, the bloggers dutifully recording their every move, and soundlessly and without a trace fury, life continues, with only the giddy din of pet girlish peeves and jealousies suggesting any sign of life at all…

    Same as it ever was, same as it ever was…

    • Stewart J. Lawrence

      I’ve got it, YD!

      Let’s sponsor an essay contest. I just know you like essays. It’s the kind of thing you can do in the shadows of a NYC, coffee shop, and not have to get too dirty over.

      Maybe get Carol Horton to help you, she’s great at following the pack, too. (Or like Italy after WWII, jumping into the victorious battle after she’s first tested the wind) .

      Here’s my essay topic:

      If American Yogis had been advising Mahatma Gandhi on how to be “mindful” and “empowered,” would British colonialism ever have fallen to the Indian nationalists?

      Or would Gandhi’s projections and judgments about the evil British been yogically refocused back on himself, his raging male ego tamed and soothed by the lovely feminine gaiety and dance of his blessed Shaktian consorts?

      Sleep Mahatma, sleep, it’s all an illusion….bow to your Guru… Little Bapu….Rest…… Sssshhhhhh…

      In think it’s PERFECT for you guys.

      • Waylon

        Ahhhh, Stewey is still miffed that Carol Horton blocked him on Facebook and now another yoga girlie has his panties all in a twist. Don’t worry Stu, you are still the queen yoga bitch.

        • Stewart J. Lawrence

          I actually wear it as a badge of honor, Waylon.

          It’s always interesting to see what women cannot handle. Truth usually, especially if it involves something about them.

          However, fact: when a wannabe academic like Horton censors someone else’s post not because it contains any offensive speech but simply because her own loyal fans can’t handle it, and she caves, then there’s an ethical issue here – an d probably a mental problem also.

          At a minimum, it shows a lack of intellectual courage and integrity.

          Then again, no one has ever accused Carol Horton of having either in abundance, have they?

          Same with Yoga Dork. Censored a post that simply provided information- nothing more. I don’t mind personally. and nothing a yoga-related person does surprises me actually.

          However,again, the lack of any guiding ethical journalistic principles.

          It’s why these girls should stick to blogging? You, too actually.


  • Salley

    The comment I left on Bernadette’s blog that she deleted in a classic asshole move, mentioned that I was more impressed by people who get this before they become old, injured or embarrassed by a disgraced yoga kula. Her insights are hardly timely as other bloggers were writing about rock star yoga while she was all goo-goo eyed over the most douchbaggy of them all.

    • Vision_Quest2

      There are not a whole lot of them who call bullshit on the whole spectacle who are under 50 and/or uninjured.

      I mistake those people (David Regelin, for example) for Iyengar people, btw.

      It’s a law of nature: youth has to be trenchant … too soon old, too late smart.

    • I get that you don’t like that I deleted your comment. My position is that I am under no obligation to post barbed comments–particularly ones made by people using pseudonyms–on the website that I personally foot the bill for. No apology there. To your point that my post was reactionary to the disgrace JF brought on the Anusara community, and for the record: the first draft of that post was written in January 2012–a month before the Anusara scandal broke. Certainly, though, the Anusara situation has prompted further reflection on my part.

      • Carla

        I have to say it troubles me that you find it neccessary to take negative feedback out of the discussion. To say “I foot the bill,” sounds a bit like, “it’s my ball and I’m taking it home to play.”

        • Vision_Quest2

          It happens even where “the bill” is not directly footed, such as among your Facebook soon to be UNfriends, deleting comments that don’t seem to penetrate their minds. (or change opinions.)

          It’s not about owning, it’s about controlling.

          [But maybe it does not happen to you. It does not happen to me anymore, I keep my Facebook bright, shiny, happy people … and almost no friends either]

    • Stewart J. Lawrence

      And you’re surprised. Yoga is a female power-trip now, which is why it will not grow beyond a certain point. Better hurry up girls! The baby boomers are dying! And there are only so many felons to take their place!

      By the way, how come the new prison yoga fetish is all about MEN? You don’t want to work with your sisters in prison — or is it that they they don’t want to work with YOU?

      White girls hung up on Black men. Gee, what a surprise. Maybe my next article should be: Mandingo Comes to Yoga. Or Yoga and the new Miss Anne. This is really classic.

      Anywho,it’s a walking pathology the American yoga movement. It’s taken me ten years to figure out that the people who have flocked to it are the ones sufficiently damaged to need it – the rest are doing their normal thing.

      Which is what I will now return to. Thanks for the visit to the petting zoo.

      • Pavanatanaya

        This Rockstar Asshole display is headed with a pic of a dude. So of course “Rockstar Assohole” is characterized as Male. I have seen no shortage of Yoga Bitches ( my term for the gender counterpart) stroll into class 15 min late, snap their mat open, and meet and greet all their estrobuddies regardless of what I am trying to convey as the “Class Instructor”. I shrug my shoulders and turn up the vinyasa. The Yoga Journal did the same shit with their “Ogden” series depicted men as predatory doofusses in yoga. The funny part was, in the very same issue, there was a big expose’ as to why more men didnt do yoga. More and more I am seeing the ‘girls club’ aspect of Yoga come out and it is quite distasteful . Like they crap butterflies and light then assassinate Men as the ‘problem’.

        • VQ2

          Remember what Groucho Marx used to say—”I would never join any club that would have me as a member” …

  • Yoga Dork, Yoga Tabloid. Yes, yet another attention getting post. The new wave of yoga websites, blogs, journals etc. seemingly are focused on getting what?

    Really nothing to do with yoga or CARING. Ergo, more EGO than Yoga. Sensational Headlines that get clicks. And does this serve?

    I am OLD school, and eternally devoted to the HEART of yoga. As a nurse, yoga therapist, there ain’t nothin’ Rock Star about my service. Just the real deal. Saving lives. Witnesses to suffering. Nurses WIPE YOUR ROCK STAR ASSES coming into the world, and wipe them when you are “leaving the body.”

    And according to yoga, this is all a dream. ” Row, row, row your boat. Dream On…like Steven, the uber rock star. It’s all good. Keep playing out your play YOGA DORK 🙂

    For more on Yoga Rock stars, check out this other Sensationalizing Yoga, Yoga site on the DECLINE and FAll of the Yoga Rock Star.

    Keep on rockin’ in the free world. xo

    • VQ

      Don’t think I didn’t comment there, too, as Vision Quest2 … and I am not even a member anymore of that otherwise worthless electronic kula for mostly young, newbie yoga teachers who are still trapped in “Look at Me” mode.

      • VQ

        On second thought, I really should leave it alone. some of them got their wish at my being halfways out of yoga now.

        EAT IT that Rockstar Yogis (and others) may be losing (paying) students (and their $$) to the conscious dance community … and of course, online and self-sequenced home yoga practice and/or back to the pilates mat …. lol …

  • Chris

    Some of you have some serious issues. So much negativity for seemingly highly intelligent beings. I too am partially disgusted with “American Yoga,” but lashing out at others usually doesn’t help change anything.

    Some dude toying with Gandhi metaphors – Be the change you want to see in the world. That was his greatest lesson. Should we all be condescending assholes?

    If you don’t like the American Yoga scene take your practice into a more personal/isolated space. That is how we truly find stillness in our practice. Classes and studios are there for instruction, not the foundation of your practice.

    Lighten up people, peace.

    • Vision_Quest2

      “Classes and studios are there for instruction, not the foundation of your practice. ”

      Amen. YOU said it, I didn’t. Their mission and proof that they’ve accomplished it, is that they work themselves out of a job.

      This is what Ashtangis (the downmarket Madonna-fan use of the word) and the old-school Hatha teachers always knew …

  • Dear YD, I enjoy this site. It’s like you’ve rented this theater and invited everyone to come in free and have a look. You throw various objects onto the stage and anybody there can jump up onstage and say something on the subject – or on a different subject. People can rant, preen, whine, bicker, bare their souls, show their asses, start and carry on feuds, gossip, throw their feces, whatever. Some complain that you are a bad hostess because you’re not doing a different kind of party. Some want to start fights, some want to keep the peace. Some want to talk about what you’ve presented. A nice, noisy mix.

    I teach in a very good studio in a small town in Northern New England. I don’t see all the strife that apparently is out there in the Big Yoga world. Very often the people in your theater make categorical statements about “most yoga studios” and “most yoga teachers.” These references are often the preface to a derogatory statement about how yoga is taught and practiced. I don’t see it. I need to get out more.

    This really is helpful to me, to witness all this. I will pretty soon be one of those 70 year old yoga teachers. And I’m getting an education in your little theater, YD. Seriously. My wife and I will soon relocate to the great southwest. I will continue to teach and all of these discussions are helping me to think about how I want to be as an indie yoga teacher, on my own without the shelter of someone else’s studio. I’m learning a lot here, and I thank you very much for having me over. Blessings to all.

    • VQ2

      Lol … it’s brutal out there in the Southwest … but the theater there is more like a natural amphitheater … like Red Rocks (Colorado), if you will …

      • VQ2

        Nobody could keep Robert Sturman from using that breathtaking venue, however … for his next photo shoot …

        • We’ll be closer to White Sands, NM. I could always get my wife to take a picture of me there. 🙂

  • Vision_Quest2

    This article sums it up perfectly:


    Scratching my head at this.

    I do remember them at that studio, as being a bunch of geniuses at sequencing, but attitude of a teacher, is more important to me than cold, scowling, ego-driven professionalism which leaves bad feelings in their wake.


  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    One last thing on this beautiful day to celebrate the Mother Archetype – and the real live women who embody it.

    Why would anyone depict a Rock Star Yogi Asshole as a man?

    85% of the yoga teachers are women.
    73% of the yoga students are women.

    Can we at least admit, just plainly, that the vast majority of yoga “assholes,” simply by virtue of the gender dynamics, are women?

    Do the math.

    • Vision_Quest2

      Patti Smith and Joan Jett scare this generation of women, that’s why. Those two were the female rock-star archetype. Not cisgender enough. Not yoga-ish in the hypocritical popular fantasy post-feminist yoga goddess way …

    • Pavanatanaya


    • Denis

      Maybe, but considering that the few token males involved seem to make the most money, make the biggest mistakes, and garner the majority of press attention, it’s a toss-up. Also, since you’re by far the loudest, most obsessive and misogynist critic of the whole scene, you’re fast becoming the biggest asshole on the scene.
      Will you please just stop this squealing and foaming at the mouth, Stewart. You’re reallly devolving into a neandrathal.

      • Pavanatanaya

        Calling Bullshit! Standing up for being male is not misogynist. The strafing attack on Stewart is pretty dickish.
        Also calling Bullshit on the premise of your first sentence. When a Woman yoga teacher f*cks around, they are called sex empowered. When a dude does it, he’s a dog. So your ‘toss up’ dismissal of the Stewart’s post is unfounded.
        It’s pretty easy to kick a ‘Dog’ but if you pick on the very cute ‘sex empowered’ girl, it is misogyny? Psh!

        • VQ

          Like I said, post-feminist. Women had the power before.
          It’s a class issue and a fame issue.
          Well known women can only get away without the taint of slut-shaming. See Paris Hilton for example …

        • Denis

          Oh wait, aren’t you the douchebag who started blowing all this hate and stupidity on Bernadette’s FB page? She essentially told you to piss off, didn’t she? I second that.
          JAYSUS, we got some reactionary oinkers on here.

        • aloha

          That was Tom Kelley, the guy swinging his dick all over the place on the yoga group FB page. Those military guys….they just want us. all. to. line. up. in. lockstep. Behind them.

          • Tom Kelley

            Denis and Aloha and their ad hominem attacks are indicative of the Kula . I doubt seriously that you would say this to my face. Exactly what did I say that is hateful? That Stewart would actually stand up and call this what it is might threaten the pussy whipped among the Kula. So the Kuladogs descend and start the attacks. Princess buttercup and her egoic “Dig Me yoga” stands and calls people ‘Assholes’ but I am hateful? Psh!

        • aloha

          Hi Tom,

          I think the word “dickish” suffices as hateful.
          But anyway, the whole resentful angry white male thing is tiresome. Go home, Rambo.

          • Tom Kelley

            Riiiight But your attack on Stewart J Lawrence was upright and righteous? Let me quote ” Also, since you’re by far the loudest, most obsessive and misogynist critic of the whole scene, you’re fast becoming the biggest asshole on the scene.
            Will you please just stop this squealing and foaming at the mouth, Stewart. You’re reallly devolving into a neandrathal.”~ Dennis…er Aloha

          • aloha

            dick, pussy, pussy-whipped, fears of women, blah blah blah — yeah, misogynist. You and Stewart should just go work for Rush or Howard Stern or Glenn Beck.
            Misogynist? YOU?!

          • Tom Kelley

            And I am hateful for calling this dickish???Um OK

          • aloha


            you’re adorable.

            suck my dick

          • Tom Kelley

            Well said Aloha…Kiss your Mother with that mouth?

  • I’m not exactly a fan of this post, but most of the commenters here are behaving like assholes themselves. Just sayin’…

    • MIRROR

      Nice meeting you

      • Vision_Quest2

        @MIRROR, leave her alone.

        I expect not a whole lot of compassion from PTSD yoga teachers. Not meant to be a judgment, but she was involved with rock stars (in the music world … unless I have her confused with somebody else), and had suffered assault …

        I really have to get off other people’s blogs ….

  • WednesdayMornin

    Very much enjoy Stewart and Toms assessment. Its bang on actually. I don’t care about the language. I like colourful, passionate perspectives as well as people who don’t patronize with a mouth full of saccarin sweet pretentious posteurizing . Keep it real guys! You pack alot of punch and its refreshing to see such raw authenticity and passion.

    • Ah the afterglow

      Hey you guys,

      Be sure to wipe off after that mutual satisfaction you just indulged, there, buds. And have a cigarette….

  • Denis

    Emma, Thanks for swallowing

    • Denis

      Stuart, thanks for stealing my moniker!
      You’re so LAME!

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