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The Yoga Teacher Firing Heard Round NYC – Truth and Consequences in the Business of Yoga

in Business of Yoga, YD News

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.

Via NYP:

“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.

——

Earlier

69 comments… add one

  • Dublin Salas

    Excellent !!!!

  • You know, YD, you took a lot of shit for breaking the Anusara story in February, but I was always grateful to you for the part you played. Thank you for the above post, and especially for “never trust The Man, even if they are The Yoga Man.” As a broken-hearted, busted-up former Anusari seeing the community I loved in ugly-ugly shambles, these words ring particularly loud and true. Big love on you.

  • Lauren Taylor

    I keep hearing from ex-Anusaris that they are “teaching their asses off” and rebuilding their tarnished brand – or some refurbished version thereof – one little asana at a time. On the other hand, Anusarans have been known to live in a world a bit of their own making? My boyfriend, who knows them better than I do, says the group pathology hasn’t really changed, it’s just morphing. Which comes closer to the truth? If I wander to down to a studio, will someone ask me take my clothes off, or try to brainwash me?

  • Leslie N

    I left Pure yoga a while back because it became a celebrity and PR-addicted culture. I was sick of reading tweets about what star or real housewife of somewhere took class… one time. I miss my chosen teachers, but I was more interested in yoga spirit than yoga butt, which I consider a lucky side effect of the practice. The Figure 4 craze also changed the vibe at the studio. I wish Pure’s management had thought to take a chance on going all the way with their yoga/spiritual practice brand, keeping it, well, pure. When Pure began, all the different practices were represented, and it truly was a yoga haven. Now it feels like a cacophony of brands – teacher brands, style brands, fitness brands, clothing brands and the studio brand – and the yogi gets lost in the shuffle. A real missed opportunity. The loss of Marco Rojas will deal them a body blow. He was a prize — powerful yet humble, immensely knowledgeable, challenging and charismatic.

  • Interesting! I was wondering what’d happened up there. This gives a little more scope to the Page 6 angle.

  • shelita

    Great article & so true. Even out here in the burbs! I’m with Ariane, I love YD for keeping it real.

  • Marco is an inspirational and generous teacher that gives his students much more that a tight stomach and buff arms…he has touched our lives and shown us what yoga really means. Because of Marco, we are all evolving and will continue to evolve past (un)Pure Yoga. Yoga is truth, and Pure is not. Namaste

  • I also love that members have reached out to Equinox corporate who has been completely unresponsive! Talk about dysfunctional and unprofessional from the top, down!!!!

  • What is Figure 4…

  • sweetclafoutis

    Figure 4 is a barre workout that incorporates ballet moves and strength training with various props. Pure charges an extra monthly fee on top of the yoga membership. I tried it and thought it was torturous, but it seems to have a following.

  • Pure’s website says:
    “For people seeking a long, toned and flexible body, the physical journey often includes a combination of strength training, barre work and cardio. Figure 4 unites these elements into a high energy and revelatory immersion that works the heart and the limbs in tandem for faster, more effectiven results.”

    I’ve included their copied & pasted typo :)

  • M

    Not to be a stick in the mud, and I’ve never taken this guys class or taken a class at Pure, but if I ran a studio and one of my teachers was talking negatively about it openly to their students, I’d be a little more than pissed.

    I don’t care how great a teacher you are, if you don’t like where you work, then leave. You aren’t going to change a business without being a major investor in the business or by being respected – and talking sh*t about the business is not the way to go about acheiving either of those.

    As for losing his students, they weren’t his to begin with. It’s about the yoga, not the teacher. Do your work without attachement to the results. Maybe he should re-read the Gita.

    He sounds like he was full of himself and was causing a commotion. Pure may be a big corporation, but it looks like they made a good move getting rid of something negative.

  • eric

    Three cheers M!

    Everyone step back for a moment, and consider Pure’s perspective: a VERY popular instructor is a problem. Wouldn’t it be easier for the business to not ruffle members’ feathers and generate negative publicity and keep him on? UNLESS, the problem had become unsustainable. It is a TERRIBLE thing for an employee – ON THE PREMISES – to talk shit about their employer. That’s not speaking to truth to power or being unafraid of THE MAN, it’s BULLSHIT and grossly inappropriate. It’s more than policy or a standard, it’s ETHICAL. This image of the PURE management having all this money and not caring about nurturing their constructive employees is just not true. I’m going to play devil’a advocate and wonder why PURE would feel they could no longer continue to employ their most renowned and popular instructor. It had to be bad enough to dismiss him, from their perspective.

  • I have to agree that speaking to students about whatever issues you may have with your employer is a big problem and lacks professionalism. I do not know if the teacher in this article did this, I’m just saying that it is, in general, unprofessional.

    There are ways to be heard. When I struggled with what was going on at a studio where I taught, I asked to sit down and talk with the owner. We had a dynamic and loud conversation, and we disagreed on many points. But, we did come to consensus on many points, and I changed some of my methods which he criticized, and he also changed some of the studio policy as well.

    It wasn’t 100% fixed, but it was helpful.

    I’ve always been vocal in staff meetings as well, because I feel those are times when it is appropriate to bring up any concerns one has. But these are not “client-facing” places. And if I am going to be facing the clients of a given studio, I do need to be respectful of the employer.

    That being said, there are some challenging “grey areas.” For example, one of my “students” was also one of my “very good friends.” He still is. He started out as a student, then stopped doing yoga for a bit, then became a friend, and then became a student again. he would often take classes at the studio mentioned above. So, do I not tell him what I am experiencing with work — friend to friend — because he is also my student and also goes to the studio, even though his first loyalty isn’t to the studio?

    I could see how this could be interpreted in a lot of ways.

    What about fellow teachers who are not teachers of the studio, but who sometimes practice there, who can give me professional advice on how to handle certain situations? Talk to them about it or not?

    What about my fellow volunteers (coworkers) who are not teachers, but who are affected by certain policies. If we are all talking about the policy and how it affects us, should I not talk about it because I am also employed there, or should I be able to talk openly because we are all ‘staff’ in a certain sense?

    I think that these are areas where an employer may be “more strictly” looking at anything that I say as being “off limits.” Because the first two are “studio clients” to the studio first, and not friends or fellow professionals of mine — that’s secondary to them. In the instance with the fellow volunteers — it was work-for-classes, so they are students, and as a teacher, i am “above” them in a way, and I need to “be a good example” — which possibly means not airing any laundry.

    End of the day, there is a lot of fluidity in the yoga community in a lot of areas — where students become friends or friends become students, where fellow teachers may be students or friends as well, but they may or may not work for the same employers, etc.

    And, well, come to think of it, a good answer is getting supervision. LOL But before I thought of that, I probably said too much to the wrong people all the time.

  • YD

    This is a good point and counter perspective worth thinking about. Thanks for bringing it up.

  • terrie

    Dear M,
    Marco never talked “shit” about Pure…you need to take his class before you decide who he is…as for his students…we are Marco’s students, he constantly tells us that we are our own teachers. He is a yogi through and through. If you are a yogi, take his class.

  • This is not an isolated event in the larger community of yoga teachers vs yoga studios. We’re talking about a yoga culture that is growing more and more corporate by the day, employing a varied population of yoga teachers who have vastly different personalities, goals, outlooks and priorities. It seems inevitable in the current and rapidly evolving conditions that schisms, arguments, and even dramatic power-plays will occur.
    There is always a tipping point of sorts, in every industry, when the vision of those in charge no longer aligns with those who provide the actual service. Of course, a business owner has the prerogative of removing “insubordinate” employees, but these employers might be served by observing that these incidences are rising. Even though there are a large number of under-trained, impressionable new yoga teachers out there eager to snap up positions in these corporate clubs for very little pay, there is still a powerful community of well-trained, experienced, genuine Students of teaching Yoga who believe in the integrity of the practice for the long haul. Those Student/Teachers will be the ones who actually resonate for the long term, with the students who wish to go deeper than just the aerobic experience of yoga, and desire to know the Truth of themselves through devoted Practice. It is this integrity that will last beyond the fads, the trademarked “new” styles and programs, the commercially attractive nameplates and rock stars.
    These entities are following the money, not the Spirit, so they will move on to the next big thing and we will be left to build up the ‘second wave’ of integral Yoga education through more genuine, grassroots, community-driven systems and processes. In many places its already happening. Perhaps as students, it is in our best interest that this process happens now, quickly and is not drawn out over more and more time. Perhaps Marco’s story and those like him is resonant of the Universe saying, “Be honest. Be your own Truth. Do not let them muddy your waters of knowledge.”
    Perhaps.

  • eric

    Oh, does that integrity in teaching include getting paid/insurance/paid vacations? One of the earliest precepts of yoga teaching was that it not be a source of income that you depend on, to avoid compromising your teachings. And, lets be honest, Marco had a set routine in his classes at PURE, and it was much more physically oriented than spiritual. Please. If you’re teaching for PURE, it’s understood it’s much more about the exercise than kirtan or guidance or anything else. Headstands first and foremost, MMMMMMMAYBE ahimsa gets a shout-out.

  • @Eric – WHAT are you talking about, “Marco had a set routine in his classes”??? You do not know Marco AT ALL!!! Clearly you’re not practicing a yogi because that is the furthest thing from the truth (satya)! The spiritual element is what sets Marco apart from the other teachers at Pure. He’s NOT all about just the physical practice. You’re making a blanket statement. If you actually took Marco’s class and were LISTENING you’d know the difference between him and the other Pure teachers…

  • eric

    I have taken his class. He NORMALLY spent 20 minutes talking in circles (more about if he came by to adjust you, he means no offense, et etc) and that to stick with the pose because that is a measure of endurance and spirit and not to leave the class early. Nothing particularly profound at all. Much more about the physical exercise. It wasn’t a class you take to deepen your practice, in my opinion.

    And PURE isn’t a studio you go to for spiritual teachings. (At least no more spiritual than you can even sometimes get from a Zumba class)

    And, yes, I did hear him make comments about the studio. Were they grossly inappropriate? No. But if you’re management and perhaps you’ve discussed this issue with him in the past, then the accumulation becomes unbearable.

    Marco DID have a very sweet compensation deal with PURE. Things that virtually no other instructor gets: paid vacations, a couple of other incentives. Which is fair enough: PURE wanted him to be exclusively theirs, and to get that, you pay. But don’t act like him teaching was a strictly spiritual act on his part. He was an employee, and just about the best paid one. And he no doubt felt – somewhat justifiably – that he put PURE on the map. But that doesn’t mean the studio needs him more than he needs it.

    But thanks for your tolerance for a different perspective.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    Madame Dork –

    I am suffering from whiplash. Can you please help? Here, as always, you are laying bare the foibles of corporate yoga entities with the clever and snarky wittiness that your readers have grown so accustomed to.

    On the other hand, you have just started writing the fluffiest of corporate yoga blogs for the glossy trade magazine Yoga Journal, under your real name, Jennilyn Carson:

    http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2012/06/yoga-with-a-view.html

    So, my general question is, will the real Jennilyn Carson please stand up?

    First, don’t you owe it to your readers at YD to explain – I’m sure you have perfectly good reasons – why you have decided to write the “Yoga Buzz” column for Yoga Journal?

    Isn’t that actually worthy of being reported – and possibly even “debated” at YD?

    Also, for the readers at Yoga Journal, shouldn’t they also know that you are the editor of Yoga Dork, which is quite widely read also?

    I would be the last to accuse you — or anyone else — in the celebrity yoga world of “selling out” for the equivalent of thirty rupees. The practice is far too widespread and widely accepted perhaps to even be commented upon at this point.

    However, but basic journalistic ethics and rules of transparency would seem to dictate that you make this latest development in your “professional career” – and your re-positioning in the yoga industry – apparent to readers?

    Otherwise, one might conclude that like so many of those you poke fun at you are up to something shady yourself.

    Are you?

  • YD

    you’re getting way ahead of yourself stewart j. lawrence. there’s no story here. to clarify the post was a done as a one-off, no one was paid and it’s something that could be posted on YD just the same (did you read it? you might have missed the point). it wasn’t published here, and so it wasn’t a YD authored post. there’s no crazy underground deal with the devil going down, so please put your attack mode on hold.

    this blog isn’t about one person. it’s about yoga.

    However, I do find it alarming that you seem to be persistently frothing at the mouth in a “gotcha” stance trying your darndest to harass for no other reason I can gather than to simply harass. your commentary is welcome, but the meanspirited nature of your personal attacks come off as vicious and uncalled for, though I’m flattered over the attention.

    surely you will respond, but I’m through trying to put up a defense. you are free to stay, you are free to go.

    perhaps there’s more to discuss on your highly journalist efforts about the rise of the yoga butt http://recoveringyogi.com/the-rise-of-the-yoga-butt/

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    My position stands. Thanks.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    By the way, just for the record: What I did here is no different from what you do when you practice what others might call “gotcha” attacks on Sadie Nardini or another of one of your favorite personal targets?

    I didn’t hear in your reply to me that you considered it a legitimate issue to raise – whether there’s a possible conflict of interest in reporting for both magazines ibn this way – which you might well have.?

    Though I do think reading between the lines of your rely, which includes more details about your engagement with YJ, suggests that you are indeed aware of the possible issue involved.

    Thanks for clarifying. Like I said, perfectly legitimate issue to raise, I think, and you answered it. And frankly, since you have recently extolled your own virtues as a yoga watchdog, you might some small merit in my doing something along the same lines.

    Unless it’s really about personalities to you – Sadies, mine, John Friend’s, God knows who else!

    I did read your YJ piece, by the way. It doesn’t even sound like you and I am surprised that you bothered to write it actually.
    Especially if you’re NOT getting paid!

    Cheers, SL

  • eric

    I dont see what the conflict was regarding YD/Jennilyn writing for YJ, and I don’t see the direct connection between the issue you’ve raise and the article being discussed.

    My two cents…

  • The yoga world is getting strange and scary.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Why do I have the sudden feeling that me and my attitude towards commercialized yoga have been increasingly vindicated?

    The chickens are starting to come home to roost.

  • sproutsnthings

    Bad teachers or those with personality problems have to be let go. Period. I was at one studio where a charismatic instructor had “adjusted” a girl violently and then had assaulted another yet the studio kept him for 6 months despite the shower of complaints, because he had a “following” and made the girls and housewives swoon and brought in the ca$h.
    Where’s the line between bringing home the bacon with teachers with a die-hard following, and then operating a business along sound ethical lines? I find many studios are just making up rules as they go along and have no real idea of what their own boundaries are.

    If Marco was trash talking his employer with clients, that’s just poor professionalism. If he is as good as everyone claims he is, then for sure he’ll find another home soon enough. Your actions and your integrity usually have a way of standing up on their own eventually.

  • “I find many studios are just making up rules as they go along and have no real idea of what their own boundaries are.”

    This is often my experience also. This is not because they are necessarily “big bad corporations.” A lot of the studios that exist these days are run by owner-teachers (maybe not in NYC and similar — but say, nearly all of those owned in Wellington except the two that are run through indian guru-related organizations). A person does yoga, likes yoga, gets trained to teach, teaches around at gyms/churches/studios, then decides to open up shop.

    Often, these folks have no business plan, no marketing strategy, and no methods of analysis. No understanding of their core values nor how to formalize those values into a business. I know this, because my first studio more or less failed because of it. Luckily, I was the only teacher teaching there.

    Today, my business is planned, clear, and cohesive. When a teacher or student asks me about X or Y policy or issue, I explain the philosophical underpinnings and how I codified those underpinnings in that policy as best I could. I like to dialogue about other perspectives and options, too — so I often ask the teacher what s/he is thinking in light of that information.

    So far, we haven’t had any power plays. We have had people who have struggled to build classes, and people who have come-and-gone in a flash (of their own choices, not because I let them go or there was a big drama — usually it was simply something like the schedule wasn’t gelling for them), and we’ve set up an internal support system and a consistent process for how to have problems or complaints managed (whether from clients or from practitioners or teachers).

    But most of the biggest problems are because the owner-teacher hasn’t been clear from the outset and is often “feeling” his/her way through the maze of how to run a business. And this often leads to favoritism, specialized treatment of some people and not others, and general inconsistency, as well as an over reliance on teachers who have a strong following vs those who mirror the values and requirements of the studio.

    Anyway, words words words. ;)

  • sarah

    Everyone from the teachers, to the students to the studio is one big freak show. Stop going to classes people, there is nothing there anymore.

  • wondering

    It is interesting how a home practice is rarely encouraged by teachers anymore. Rather, all the studios offer these “unlimited” monthly deals etc that serves to promote this concept of “followings” and packed classes and who’s who etc., and actually discourages a home practice.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Aaaaand … it’s not rocket science to sequence your own vinyasa practice. It ain’t all just old-school Richard Hittleman stuff that’s being practiced at home.

    You can make it as gentle or as strenuous as you want it to be. But, be prepared for a little trial and error fallout. After the first two years of primarily home practice and down to about 10 yoga classes a year … close to none, now … it got to be gravy. And there is so much support online …

  • This is true. These processes actively discourage home practice, which is the foundation of practice.

    Our pricing structure is designed to help students make a commitment to practice — once a week, twice a week, and more if they want (they lock into their rate when they make the commitment).

    But, we also teach that the practice “belongs” to the student, and so we actively encourage home practice. Likewise, we *teach* how to start a home practice, and what different “home practices” look like. Meaning, some people will study a given posture, do some warm ups for that pose, just work on that pose. Others will do a sequence. Others will take extensive notes. Others will spend more time in pranayama. And, like VQ2 says, you can make it as hard or soft as you like.

    It can go hand-in-hand, and that’s what we strive to do. People like classes for different reasons, and so there’s nothing wrong with taking them (or teaching them). But the cornerstone is home practice. Then, it’s “yours.”

  • Sally

    I have a very reasonable annual membership at Yogaworks where I have practiced for 7 years. I am aware that it’s very corporate and not a mom and pop at all. However, in my experience, the teachers are well-trained and professional (unlike smaller, more self-proclaimed “spiritual” studios where I have taken classes.) There is only one teacher whose classes I go to. The rest of my practice is at home. The membership is so reasonable that even if I only go to this one teacher’s class 2 X a week, it works out to $10 a class. This has actually encouraged me to practice at home because I don’t feel like I need to go to class every day to get the “value” of my membership.

  • Foremost, both large and small companies use these pricing points/tactics, so I wasn’t comparing “smaller” vs “larger” but rather discussion how pricing can encourage dependence rather than independence.

    Second, I never asserted that one company is “more spiritual” than another based on size of the company or whether they are using these pricing structures. Simply, I was pointing out how these structures are designed to create dependence on the studio/classes.

    Finally, I simply asserted that our collective’s pricing structure was considered to the issue of creating student *independence* as are many of our other practices. One of the underlying values of the pricing structure was that students would be independent, and so these practices follow out of that.

    When you base your business on your values, really creative things arise. It’s exciting and interesting. And, I think, worth sharing.

  • Vision_Quest2

    @Jenifer, if it were ONLY the pricing that creates the dependency on studio classes, I could live with that and would have nothing to criticize. It’s all the other things: the verbal abuse from the teacher, the not letting a student catch their breath when they’re already straining (in some studios)– it’s the drill sergeant teaching in general in many cases.

    Dependency at the cellular level: that is what today’s commercial studios are about.

    Even avoiding the obviously trendy online offerings (since I practice distance-learning-wise to a teacher from time to time), I still find I have to cross-train my fitness level strongly to keep up with the teacher, which is obviously a recording of a studio class …

    This is exactly what had happened to aerobics back in the day. Except for a few teachers, the recorded, home-use classes had been at a difficulty level the average student could live with. The aerobics studios had known this. But they’d had less of an agenda.

    And the studio yoga of that era: they never castigated you for going into child’s pose. Q.E.D.

  • VQ2:

    I know exactly what you mean. So many of the tactics of many studios — large and small — is to manipulate both students and teacher. There’s a lot of yoga ‘double speak’ — calling people yogic/unyogic, lots of shaming (the shaming of students makes me bonkers), and all kinds of craziness.

    I’m just pointing out that it doesn’t *have to* be that way. That a person or studio *can* choose to make active decisions and policies throughout their business that support their values, rather than undermine them.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    Too true. If you teach a “man” to fish, he won’t have to buy any more fish from you.

    Wait, isn’t that the point of mentoring…hmmmm.

    The other thing, though, is the “community.” A lot of women go to yoga studios for the faux “sisterhood” – and to be “seen.”

    America yoga needs to be studied less through the lens of spirituality and more through the discipline of sociology and social-psychology – if you really want to know why we have the yoga we have.

    What we really need is not large scale clinical studies of yoga practice, but large scale social scientific survey research of yogis and yoginis – to tease out more clearly some of the underlying motivations and benefits.

  • Kirsten

    I think it’s unfair to say that women go to studios for faux sisterhood or to be seen. That may be true, but it’s not true for me. I go because being in a class keeps me from flaking out and doing a short sequence of my own at home. Being in a class makes me do the postures I avoid in my home practice because they are harder or I know that I do them well or comfortably. Being in a class means I stay in savasana longer. Being in a class means my husband and kids aren’t a distraction. Being in a class means I learn a thing or two about a posture I didn’t know before. I usually go at 6 AM and have been the only student there.

  • Vision_Quest2

    “Being in a class means I stay in savasana longer. Being in a class means my husband and kids aren’t a distraction. Being in a class means I learn a thing or two about a posture I didn’t know before. I usually go at 6 AM and have been the only student there.”

    IMHO, the above are the only valid reasons not to practice yoga at home—although they are powerful ones and not just excuses. The rest are excuses which require courage, facing yourself and your needs, multimedia knowledge immersion, and the inductive leap …

  • I think that there are many ‘valid’ reasons to practice and many valid reasons to go to classes. I do not think it’s fair to say that “these” are the “only” valid reasons and everything else is an excuse.

    Likewise, people practice for a variety of reasons anyway, so to say that it can only be done at home, or that there is only one or a few right ways to practice is very limiting.

    I find yoga to be, in many ways, a limitless, freedom-creating practice, and I strive not to push my judgments as to what is best, right, and valid on other people and their practices. They are capable of determining that for themselves.

  • wondering

    few contemporary yoga teachers are mentors. though they may believe otherwise…I guess that is a source of the trouble these days

  • A little tiny bit of advice: Autonomy is an awesome solution.

  • wondering

    so true. nothing better than sliding under the radar and having the freedom to just be

  • noel

    through love reverse of fortune seems good fortune. – rumi

  • Yoga Cynic

    Sex scandals? Profit? Self-righteous justification? Are we talking about Yoga or the Catholic Church? Way to go Western Culture for mucking up yet another precious jewel.

    Time to take a step back, people.

  • Boodiba

    @ Yoga Cynic – don’t make it out like it’s just the western teachers and studios, cause that isn’t the case.

  • Yoga Cynic

    @ Boobida – I didn’t. I said “Western Culture”. The Joises, Bikrams etc., etc. are not excluded. Unfortunately, one could even loosely include the nations of India and China and others as well.

    To those making the point of home practice – I agree. Prostrate to the teachings, not the teacher.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    No, don’t prostrate at all. Don’t even create an idol of your yoga practice – because it ends up creating an idol to yourself. Create no idols, period. The real point of yoga is to get to the point where you no longer need yoga.

  • Vision_Quest2

    There is much truth in that. The point being you will no longer need yoga practice because yoga (as a state of being) will pervade your entire world.

  • Thaddeus

    I want to thank you for telling this story. Clearly, there is a lot of stuff which has occurred behind the scenes which none of us will ever be privy to, but with that said, the issue is very close to my heart.

    I too was recently, “let go” from my teaching position because the owner of the studio did not like my energy. I had no opportunity to provide any explanation to my students, or even say good-bye. In part, this was because I was fired via email while I was in India, but that is another whole issue. The point really is that I was shocked by this turn of events, especially given that I had never heard anything but accolades for my teaching from the owner.

    It just goes to show that we must keep practicing as you point out, however, I would add that we might also be cautious of those who are merely pretending to practice.

  • @Thadeus,
    I find myself in your very shoes my friend. It is shocking and disheartening when a business chooses to go another direction, (a euphemism here, I know) especially without any appropriate warning.

    The point I tried to make in my comment above, is that those of us who love the study of yoga, who yearn to teach it from within, will find a place, a space, a community in which to teach. While the circumstances of our release are suspect and hurtful, in time we will find a teaching home that fits just right and aligns with our values. Business is business, yoga is practice and somewhere the two can meet….it’s just still working itself out a bit.

    Good luck in your next steps :)

  • Boodiba

    @yoga cynic: ok that was not clear. I guess we can infer you think anyone who charges for yoga is “western culture”? I know Bikram is based in CA but the Jois crew technically still lives in India.

    I don’t find crass materialism to be confined to the west or western mindset.

  • wondering

    maybe not confined to, but we in the U.S. do excel at consumption! for example, check out the next post re:” yoga” sheets

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    Many of these same trends and issues are present in the yoga Motherland itself. Partly because capitalism is a global culture, and partly because some aspects of yoga that are problematic seem endemic to yoga, in fact. Yoga, despite its virtues, also contains the seeds of ego temptation, asymmetrical and abusive teaching relationships, and a tendency toward extreme body worship. The last time “pure” yoga was practiced was probably uh, never.

  • I spent a couple months in Goa (again) last winter and was newly amazed by how blatantly and universally material it is. I mean, there is no industry but for tourism. The parade of people harassing you on the beaches is relentless. Sometimes girls even swim out after you into the water! NYC is a utopia compared to that. But you know…, relative poverty and then newer wealthiness is a great incentive to the hunger for more, more, more. Perhaps I have a different perspective. I’ve never owned a car, any property, even a kitchen table. My footprint is very small. I’ll check out that other article though.

    And this is an interesting thread!

  • Amy

    I took many of Marco’s classes over the past few years. He is funny, charismatic and a talented teacher. He was also openly disparaging to his place of employment which is unprofessional, unacceptable and certainly not Yogic when PURE afforded him so many opportunities. He created animosity with other instructors as ell. It is sad to watch him use his charisma and power to continue to perpetuate drama among his and other students. Even while I was enjoying his classes it was obvious this was his MO — too bad.

  • sweetclafoutis

    Amy, you have made some very good points. I had a similar feeling about Marco, although I only took his class a handful of times. He does give excellent adjustments, and his class is very physical and demanding. I personally didn’t like his language about being a quitter if you couldn’t hold a pose as long as he asked. Sure, he’d qualify it by saying you could rest and come back, but I found it off-putting, not inspiring. Why would a teacher want to make a student feel inadequate? I also recall him making at least a couple of negative comments about Pure during class, which surprised me at the time. If Marco is so purely about yogic principles such as ahimsa, why is he bad-mouthing his former, once very generous, employer? Doubtless Pure will lose some members over this, but we didn’t all swallow the Marco Kool-Aid. There are other teachers at the studio who embody humbleness and union. Yogi Charu, for one. I will continue to be a Pure member because it has enabled me to establish a near daily practice, as well as provided me with the tools for home practice. Is it ideal and truly “pure”? No, but I don’t think there is such a beast–certainly not on the Upper East Side, and maybe not anywhere.

  • Amy

    Glad to see others felt as we did sweetclafoutis. I did not at all enjoy the “us against them” spirit I felt in some of Marco’s classes. Or him attempting to use his students as tools for negotiation. Yogi Charu is amazing!!!
    PURE will lose some members, and continue to be very successful. Marco will no doubt do quite well wherever he goes.
    What will be, will be.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    In spiritual terms, is anything necessarily “out of order” here?

    A teacher grows in his practice and chafes against the cocoon that has supported his growth. So, let’s say he is a butterfly – and its’ time for him to use his own wings? He was having trouble doing that while still wrapped in such a tight cocoon.

    How man y times have we seen relationship break ups being just the spur to growth that one or both parties need?

    Maybe Marco needs to find the strength and confidence to build his own practice elsewhere?

    I see a lot of fearful yogis and yoginis clinging to their original studios for dear life. It’s the fear-based ego. No wonder so many become dysfunctional families?

    Spread your wings! No doubt he’ll look back on this “rupture” with hindsight in a completely different way.

  • Emily

    I took this guy’s class several years ago. Was it good? Yes. Was it on par with what one would expect from a “deity”? Nah. I wish people would stop projecting such intense worship onto their teachers! It’s ooky.

  • Curious

    Please educate me. Is there anyone of consequence in the spiritual realm who has a tattoo the size of a billboard on their arm?

  • Robert

    Terribly written article. Awful journalism. Just sad.

    For this studio to fire someone in this fashion, something had to happen. At least the Post said that they tried talking to Pure. What’d they say? “No comment.” They gave him the professional courtesy of not saying anything, as to not let the karmic cycle of his mudslinging continue. What kind of teacher chastises their employer in a class??? Isn’t that asking to be fired? I wonder what he got paid per class – probably more than most. He’s lucky he wasn’t shown the door sooner.

    Be a professional. Don’t air your dirty laundry on the interwebs. Don’t start talking about the big bad yoga corporations that offer health care and 401k, so if you screw yourself up practicing or teaching you’re not out a few hundred bucks. God forbid something worse happens. Chances are you get reviews, too, if you’re employed by the big bad Pure. Reviews that could lead to…raises? Sounds awful! I’m sure many teachers would love to know that they have a chance to not teach for $40 a class for the rest of their life.

    If you don’t wanna trust “the man” (who is that by the way?), then don’t. Definitely don’t trust the yogadork, though.

  • sweetclafoutis

    Gee, a lot of piling on the yogadork here. She’s a blogger. This is not a newspaper. Would it really change the blog post so much to have included a “No comment” from Pure? She knew that’s what she would have gotten, same as the NY Post. Personally, I’m glad she has provided a forum to discuss this issue from many angles. It’s her blog, her opinion, and she has a right to it.

  • timmie

    I have been a member at Pure for the last 4 years. When I joined I had never taken a yoga class outside of a gym or beach resort. Marco was my first teacher and it is because of him that I have a practice. Because of Marco I know that it does not matter who is leading a class, where your studio is, whether you practice at home or in a crowded room. What matters is what you learn on the mat and how you use your knowledge.
    Pure’s rationale for firing Marco is irrelevant as are whether the reasons were valid or not. It is irrelevant whether as an individual you like or dislike his classes or his personality.
    What is important are the lessons the incident can teach us. It is a mistake for teachers to look at a corporation as anything but a business. It is a mistake for an entity in the business of Yoga to believe that teachers are interchangeable and that there will not be fall-out when a popular teacher departs. Finally, it is a mistake for a student to become too attached to a teacher or studio. Sometimes evolution sucks

  • Never heard of him...

    I live in NYC, have been practicing yoga for decades. Never heard of this dude. WTF is the issue of “closure” with your students? You got the closure when the door hit you on your way out. Seems very full of himself.

  • eleonora

    the problem at Pure is the management.. not the teachers..

  • eleonora

    I personally had terrible experiences with Pure management, as a costumer and as a person.
    My privacy was not respected and I never got apologies for some very unprofessional actions they did with me.
    When I reached to the corporate to explain my reasons they basically told me They did not care and I was free to leave Pure, but they NEVER apologize.
    Pure Yoga should learn a little more what Yoga is and treat their costumers and their teachers with more respect, and if they want to be just a “gym” where people can workout to get some asanas and toned their behind, they should not promote them as A YOGA STUDIO.
    That’s my personal opinion and I do not want to offend anybody with it.
    I think the way the fired Marco was unprofessional, rude and against any yoga principals we learn in real yoga studios.
    Respect, Love, Non violence, etc etc etc…
    But the truth is : they don’t care.
    marco was just a “teacher” and costumers are just a number…
    mostly a CC #.. for one that it goes 2 new comes.. they really don t care!

  • stan chaz

    Did you expect a corporation to really c-a-r-e about people?
    …..to really care about caring people- such as Marco?
    ….and to really care about yoga?
    Hurt their bottom line and they’ll fake some concern.
    In my book, Pure Corp = Pure Shit.

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