Scenes from the business of New York yoga.
What do you do when your favorite yoga teacher is unexpectedly fired from a studio and whisked away without notice? That’s what happened to the popular, yet somewhat controversial and rebellious Marco Rojas when he was unexpectedly fired from upscale yoga studio Pure last week, after teaching there for four years. Those outside of the NYC yoga scene might not feel the ripples from the firing heard round Manhattan, but there are certainly some relatable notes.
The NY Post seemed to think so in their Page Six article, as well as the hundreds of yoga students who were thrust into a panic when their favorite teacher, Marco Rojas, was surprise fired from his senior teacher position just 45 minutes before his lunch time class last Tuesday and escorted out of the building. This was followed by an email from management sent out to Pure teachers explaining a “mutual” agreement and a warning on the impending outrage from a legion of upset students. And an attempt to squash the gossip mill with this:
“Please keep in mind that what led us to this moment is much less interesting than where we go from here.”
Marco disagrees that any agreement was mutual and has since dispersed letters to his mailing list, facebook and former colleagues at Pure sharing his side of the story. In the letter to Pure teachers:
We are students and teachers of yoga. There is only one yoga. Truthfulness is one of our pillars. It has the power to affect ahimsa and the balance of our whole universe.
My intention is to evolve and create harmony. I did not decide to part ways with Pure Yoga. I was determined to teach Pure yoga. As a result, I was asked to leave.
I went to a meeting 45 minutes before my Tuesday noon class to address “communication in dropping classes with members.” I was fired effective immediately and escorted out the back entrance without having the chance to have closure with my students whom I have been teaching for years. In that moment, my connection with my students at Pure was terminated instantaneously.
While the firing seemed sudden, the rift had been forming over the past year or so due to disagreements over scheduling, retreat management and, more broadly, how a yoga business (in this case, a corporation) should be run. The clash came from both sides.
“He thought he wasn’t expendable, and they thought he wasn’t worth it anymore,” said one Upper West Side novelist and yoga mom. “They started to marginalize him and push him out.” Sources said Rojas further antagonized Pure because he was also teaching at rival Ishta Yoga.
A classic case of yoga politics and the clash of yoga and business?
NYP refers to Rojas as a sort of ‘deity’ to his students (full disclosure: we happen to have practiced many times with Marco and can attest to his strong command, yet still somehow humble approach to teaching yoga. His classes are a unique mix of vinyasa flow, holding fundamental poses for ungodly amounts of time and motivational self-empowerment through a booming Venezuelan-accented voice. “Do not quit the class” is a common intro to new students.) When we asked him about being fired, Marco shared that his first response was happy, “freedom!” he thought. Then the voices of practicality crept in, what about money, my family? (Marco has a wife and a 2-year-old).
And then he got emotional. Tears came to his eyes as he thought of the night before being fired, when students, keenly suspicious something was up, asked if he was leaving them, and he told them no. To be seen as a liar to his students and to have them think he would lie to their faces and then abandon them was, to him, the worst part in all of this.
The Bigger Picture
As we all know, the yoga teaching scene is getting even more competitive and cutthroat by the minute. We’ve said it before, being a yoga teacher ain’t easy, and one shouldn’t be surprised when just like that one day in you’re in and the next day you’re out. But when a beloved teacher, who was bringing in loads of devoted students every week, is suddenly let go and without a reason, besides it’s not working out (read: he didn’t believe Pure was run with yogic principles and wasn’t afraid to talk about it), we admit it gives us a bad taste in our mouths for what already gave us the bitter lemon shakes, yoga incorporated. Yet them’s the breaks aren’t they. What isn’t surprising is that squeaky wheels don’t always get greased, they get canned.
Unfortunately for the students and Marco, they will have to find places elsewhere to reunite, and Pure will continue focusing on the bottom line (sometimes cutting pain in the ass/great teachers in exchange for an expanding list of trendy hybrids like Figure 4, congruent to partner fitness chain Equinox.)* It’s all evolution nonetheless.
In the letter to his students Marco closed with: “Let’s be part of the solution, not of the problem.”
The only solution we can gather out of all of this is to keep practicing. Oh, and maybe never ever trust The Man, even if they are The Yoga Man.
*extra full disclosure: we have practiced at Pure many times and on some occasions have even taught there. Many great teachers still teach there, and at Equinox.