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Yoga Student Suing Hilaria Baldwin for Negligence Busted as Overzealous Handstander, Says Witness, Alec Baldwin

in Lawsuit-asana, YD News

2012 New York Philharmonic Spring GalaIs the student suing yoga teacher Hilaria Baldwin, Alec Baldwin’s wife, one of those obnoxious and dogged handstand guys who just have to kick up even when the teacher tells him not to? Possibly, and yes it sounds like it, according to a witness.

As an update to the well-debated ‘student claims yoga teacher’s negligence then sues teacher for “emotional upset”‘ case involving Hilaria Baldwin, Alec Baldwin’s wife (and by association a tabloid target) a witness’s account via the NY Daily News:

Wolff smashed his leg through a window and cut it because he was trying to execute a full handstand after Thomas warned him to be more careful, witness Melissa Petitto said Monday.

“She called him out,” said Petitto, 31. “She said, ‘Spencer, just take little hops, little hops.’ ” “He didn’t listen,” Petitto recalled. “He just went all the way up . . . The next thing I heard was the window crashing.”

Wolff also blames his injuries on Jan. 15 at Yoga Vida on overcrowding, but a source said there were only 40 people in the class, and the studio holds 70.

Alec Baldwin’s tweets from February 17th seem to back this up.

Alec Baldwin Tweets in DefenseSo if this witness, and Alec Baldwin, are being truthful (come on yogis, for satya’s sake), then Spencer Wolff just had to kick up into handstand because he always does and why does he have to listen to this teacher anyway, she doesn’t even know his practice?  If this is true, the studio wasn’t as overcrowded as we were led to believe, and Hilaria had actually asked Spence to not kick up. He does anyway and smashes into a window.

Maybe we should just enact a new yoga studio rule. Padded walls all around. No windows. No, even better, ant-gravity yoga. Not the kind with the silks hanging down like Cirque du Soleil, like actual no gravity capsules a la NASA. No, even better, plasma yoga! Yoga in a tank of plasma-ish gel that surrounds and cushions like Dr. Scholl’s shoe inserts for your whole body. Maybe they can team up with Michelin for the ultimate yoga suit. Add vegan marshmallows and you got yourself a deal.

Michelin Yoga Man


Humor and clearly brilliant product development idea aside, this is perhaps a perfect question for all the yoga teachers out there. If a student is “acting out” as it were and doing their own thing, what do you do?

By the way, it sounds like old Spencer’s case doesn’t really (hand)stand a chance. Lawyers and legal gurus feel free to chime in.

[awesome image via]



Student Sues Hilaria Baldwin, Alec Baldwin’s Wife, For ‘Emotional Upset’ In Yoga Class

23 comments… add one
  • I teach yoga to kids and adults in Portland OR, and I have only had one experience with a student expressly defying my instructions. In this case, it was a gentleman who was placing the sole of his foot directly on his knee during tree pose. This is asking for injury–obviously, the knee has not evolved to sustain being stood upon. After repeating my warning cue (“Your foot should be above or below the knee, not right on it”) about three times, I walked over to the student and quietly asked him about it directly. His reply? “Oh, I’ve had knee surgery so many times it doesn’t really matter.”

    Giga-wha?! That means he should be MORE careful than the average student! I don’t know the details about Ms. Baldwin’s class, but I can vouch for the fact that some students will push through pain, even though their yoga instructor has encouraged mindfulness and loving-kindness toward oneself during practice. If she specifically asked him to “take small hops” and he defied her instructions, it seems that this case should be dropped.

  • Defiance often trumps compliance in yoga classes. I had a student fling into a bizarre headstand variation despite my warnings not to do that very thing (my voice was louder and Louder and LOUDER till I sounded like a fool). Of course she did what I said to refrain from (“refrain” – a polite command) and she went down and broke her arm. When she approached me about money back I informed her that I have a defiance fee and to consider it paid.

  • yogafresh

    The Student is absolutly right …

    Please Check out this video this video ;
    Alec Baldwin’s wife Hilaria Baldwin teachs yoga here..’gangerously crowded and unhealthly Yoga? Studio…’

  • Bridget

    That is obviously a class with 70+ people for a news story. You can tell there is more than 40 people. They are mat to mat and the room is enormous.

    I teach yoga and unfortunately its just they way we Americans are. We don’t want to be told what to do. However, true yoga is self-discipline, self-control and a mind body connection. Not just doing whatever we want, when we want. Complete stillness and control of the mind and body.

    I don’t feel handstands are appropriate in a daily yoga class. He couldn’t do it and was given repeated warnings but still preceded. Such a pity.

    • John

      I don’t feel a class is complete without handstands, been doing them daily for years with only positive results.

      Teachers need to be able to tell who can do a pose safely and who can’t (and with the woeful standard of handstand among yoga teachers that’s going to be difficult) and students need to know what they can do safely and what they can’t (and that’s difficult when some of the benefits of yoga come from doing new stuff).

      I hate the idea that you shouldn’t teach what you can’t do because I’ve seen it proved so very wrong so often but probably you shouldn’t teach what you can’t assess for safety. I’ve certainly had much better results telling students I can’t assess their safety in a pose so I’d prefer they didn’t do it than simply telling them not to do it.

  • yogafresh

    The Student is absolutly right …

    Please Check out this video ;
    Alec Baldwin’s wife Hilaria Baldwin’s ”dangerously crowded and unhealthly Yoga? Studio”


    • I watched the video and did not see any mats overlapping…everyone had room for their arms, legs and other anatomical belongings. If extra space is needed for bloated egos, OH WELL!

    • Vision_Quest2

      Say hello to the real tapa$, Hilaria….

  • Denise

    I am a yoga instructor. Many times I have gently and respectfully explained to a student that it he or she was not quite ready to do a headstand if certain aligned principals and steps were not yet happening for their bodies. Also explaining that it would be unsafe for them to do so at this time. I will announce it first to the class what is required and then individually discreetly so as not to make them feel uncomfortable.any times they do not listen and throw their legs up into the wall. I can encourage patience & compassion with ones body and to listen to the natural intelligence of their bodies. But many choose to listen to only there egos. It sounds like that is what happened here.

  • lovetoflop

    First, this wouldn’t even make the news if she weren’t married to Baldwin. Second, why would anyone (student or teacher) be kicking close to a window in a handstand???? Third, watched the video that yogafresh is so intent on us watching and can only say that one of the biggest problem on this crowded classes (for only one teacher a class of more than 20 is definitely crowded) is that the teacher keeps “doing” the class along with the students instead of relying on good clear instructions, perhaps demonstrating once, and then move around the room guiding and adjusting students. Fourth, yoga is about listening to your body, preparing your physical body for meditation, being aware and when you have music in the background how can you apply all this? that is multitasking which is not yoga….but hey that’s what it sells, isn’t it?

    • George

      Good point! Why in the world would any teacher let a student go up into handstand by a window? In the video, that studio doesn’t exactly look like it’s great for inversions anyway–or at least the half of it that we see. One wall is windows, and the other has storage for people’s stuff. But then, maybe her students never need a wall for these things….

  • PattyS

    Well, the room in the video is crowded, and I only saw a row of windows. I’m assuming there is a solid wall opposite that could be used for an inversion practice. If there’s not enough room at a solid wall for everyone to invert who wants to, the class can be split in half, with half doing handstand at the wall, the other half in the middle of the room doing a preparatory pose, maybe something to fire up the core muscles. Then the two halves switch; that solves the space problem. No student should ever be allowed to do an inversion with a window behind them, that’s just asking for trouble. That being said, there are students who will never listen, and let ego take over. You can’t fix stupid.

  • SoBeach

    Dude should have had enough sense not to kick into a handstand in front of a window in the first place. Good grief. Hope his lawsuit brings him everything he deserves.

  • Elizabeth

    I have students in my mixed-level classes who ignore almost everything I instruct. (Fortunately, this is a teeny tiny number of people.) For the most part, they know they are ignoring me–I’ve confirmed through personal conversations.

    Personally, I don’t give a damn if you do handstands every day, you are NOT doing them in my class if I am not teaching them. One, handstands are usually not appropriate for the space and populations in my classes. (There are exceptions, and I have taught both headstands and handstands, but I tailor my classes to the attendees.) Two, since I am responsible for your safety while in my class, you’re not doing any poses I’m not instructing, please. If you bust out a handstand when the practice is done, or do that at home, that’s fine–I’m not responsible for you at that point.

    It is seriously disrespectful to attend a yoga class but ignore the teacher and do whatever you want instead. I understand modifications, and choosing alternate poses (e.g. bridge instead of wheel), but if we’re not doing handstands in class today, that means ALL of us are not doing handstands in my class today. If you have a problem with that, don’t come to my class–there are plenty of others.

    • Honomann

      Those random handstand guys are like apes beating their chest to establish dominance in the troop. The apes are much smarter, however. Even they would know better than to attempt a handstand near a window. Darwinism!

    • John

      I’ll bet you’re ok with people modifying down. Even recommend it – whatever you’re teaching.

      Very often objections to modifying, or modifying up, are just feeling threatened. If, for example, yoga teachers taught exiting from handstand correctly, instead of thinking a backbend was the best way out, they’d know it’s perfectly safe to turn out on a yoga mat.

      I tend to go to classes where the teachers are confident and competent to cope with students who can safely modify the practice taught, not ones where they expect students to slavishly follow a one size fits all routine and think ego is the only reason a student might develop the ability to adapt a class to suit their body rather than the teachers.

      • Vision_Quest2

        These other teachers are the self-mortifying hammer teachers. And they have to pass that self-mortification on–and/or just because the challenging inversions are easy for them, and they’d taken to them nearly immediately.

        Bottom line–if all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail …

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