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UPDATE: ‘Yoga Nazi,’ aka the ‘Meanest Yoga Teacher’ in NYC Closes Bikram Union Square, Students Demand Answers

in YD News

bikram-yoga-union-squareAnother one bites the dust. UPDATE below. (And, no, it seems Bikram can not avoid being attached to scandal, in case you were wondering.)

It may have come as a shock to hardcore hot benders when they heard Bikram Yoga Union Square would be shutting its doors May 29 without even a rude remark or a sweaty heads up. BYUS is/was owned by Otto Cedeño, whom “friends” referred to as the “yoga Nazi” and who was also known as “the meanest yoga teacher” in NYC.

From the NY Post article three years ago that shed light on the meanie:

“He goes around and kicks people’s feet into alignment,” said Romero. “He doesn’t say anything and just shoves his foot into your heel.”

Cedeño often singles out people in incorrect positions — even bullying students lying on their backs in the purposefully restful Corpse Pose.

As there are minimal details about the studio’s closing beyond this post (below) on their website and tweets for students to come pick up their mats from storage, we can only speculate on the demise of the prime Union Square location, which follows an earlier closure of Penn Station’s Bikram Yoga Manhattan allegedly due to Yoga to the People peer pressures.

Was it the ‘Yoga Nazi’s’ rough teaching style? NYC’s rising real estate prices? The heat from Bikram Choudhury’s rape accusations?

Is this a trend? Cedeño’s bio states that he is “less likely to walk away from a commitment and more likely to take on a challenge.”

Here’s the message posted on the BYUS website:

MAT PICK UP – Friday 5/31/13 from 5-9pm & Saturday 6/1/13 from 9am-5pm.

Dear students,

We regretfully announce Bikram Yoga Union Square has shut it’s doors permanently. As an alternative, we have partnered with Bikram Yoga Herald Square so that all students may transfer their memberships to that location. We wanted to inform you that we will be verifying your packages as you go to Herald Square to make sure that what you get is what is owed to you. Meaning, if you have a yearly membership and it has 7 months left, we will verify this before you can take a class.

At the present time, we are compiling a list of all students whom are active to send over to Herald Square so that they may help accommodate you as easily and efficiently as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused but I want you to know that we appreciate your business throughout all these years.

Namaste,
Otto Cedeno
Director | OwnerBikram Yoga Union Square & Founder of MAX Men’s Yoga Shorts

UPDATE: Students were indeed shocked and saddened to learn about the closure. They’ve taken to facebook to voice their concerns, memories and protests over owner Otto Cedeno’s choice to continue business as usual while knowing about the imminent closure.

According to some reports, Cedeno was well aware of the lease ending and made the conscious decision to proceed as normal.

One student shared her frustration for his failure to act on ethical obligations:

I find it troubling that the studio ( meaning the owner)continued to collect money for unlimited memberships when it is clear that he knew it was coming to a close. 
Even though I never practiced bikram for spiritual or philosophical reasons one would hope that some semblance of ethics and ethical behavior toward staff and students would have been in play. 
Given that I don’t hold too much hope that may and membership are recoverable.

While folks were eventually given the opportunity to reclaim mats and a deal was brokered with Bikram Herald Square to honor memberships (and of course, other Bikram studios are thrilled to absorb new customers), some students are still left in the lurch. Legal Action Against BYUS was created amidst the hubbub and they want answers.

Their facebook page states:

After suddenly closing without warning, Otto Cedeno’s Bikram Yoga Union Square is not offering refunds, for packages or standing balances.

According to the building management, Otto was aware of the lease termination and continued to accept memberships. Although Bikram Yoga Herald Square is accepting transfers, they are receiving NO MONEY from Otto.

Where is our money going? Is this fraud?

Despite returning mats and offering transfers to Herald Square, he still is taking our standing balances and knowingly accepted memberships. This seems illegal.

For sanity’s sake, we hope this all gets sorted out soon.

——

Earlier

17 comments… add one

  • I’m not surprised. I don’t buy Groupons that often, but I do tend to scan the offerings and they were offering sale after sale after sale.

    At least he’s made a deal for people to move their practices, though he really should’ve offered the information up front, because time is money and most people chose their studio based on the convenience of its location.

    Back when Yoga Sutra closed its Philly location, they kept on selling memberships right up to the day before. The students had no idea. The teachers had no idea. The NYC location bit the dust soon after, following a few years of gross mismanagement.

  • genie

    I learned that the landlord is consolidating the yoga studio space with additional vacant space to build out 26,000 of new office space. Losing a lease is not uncommon, it happens all the time, and in Union Square it’s definitely not surprising. The studio was probably doing well. I would be surprised if the studio owner did not have advance knowledge of this and if he knowingly cheated people then that is a shame.

  • Vision_Quest2

    OM Yoga, an actual world-class studio run with right intention by yoga superstar Cyndi Lee, had lost their Union Square lease about a year ago …

    This presages–among other things–part of the end of the heyday of the ‘Wheatpacking District”, for sure

  • Debbie

    Cyndi Lee ended the lease to be with her new BF in Ohio and develop her online brand. She never made money off that studio, but it wasn’t doing any worse than in previous years.

  • She got rid of Mr. Pompous?

  • Vision_Quest2

    Some people call me Maurice, when I speak of the pompetous of love …

  • srichey

    Nothing to see here. This is always the risk when you buy an extended membership.

  • Lola

    He wrote an open letter with full explanation as to what happened, and why it was so abrupt.

    http://www.bikramyogaunionsquare.com/

    NY real estate is a b!

  • Good letter! I had to copy & paste the text to read is, since the background on the website is screwy, but it explains a lot.

  • Spiritual Bypass

    “Even though I never practiced bikram for spiritual or philosophical reasons one would hope that some semblance of ethics and ethical behavior toward staff and students would have been in play.”

    Oh the irony.

    If you’re going to call it ‘yoga,’ then at the very least a minimal standard of ethics is required (like not forcing yourself sexually upon, or raping your students, knowingly cheating your paying customers, or abusing your students); or else don’t call it “yoga.”

    Burn ‘Bikram Yoga’ to the ground and start over. Without the “Bikram.” Then you might actually have “Yoga.”

  • arlet

    this was one of the first studios I tried my first bikram classes. great studio. weird situation. http://extendyoga.com

  • I wonder if Yoga Dork could do some actual research — I know, wow, what a burden — on Bikram studios, and why so many franchisees, mostly women, seem so happy that they have found a route to business ownership?

    How many women has the Bikram business model empowered in this way compared to say, the Anusara model, or the Ashtanga model, or the Iyengar model? Any idea?

    Even some of the pother corporate systems – Yoga Works, Core Yoga, have what, a few dozen places, max, comp[ared to what, hundreds of Bikram studio franchises?

    Talk to franchisees, and see what it’s actually meant to them? I know several happy campers just in the Washington, DC area.

    Franchising is not for everyone certainly, but when it works, it works.

    Second, a lot of people start with Bikram – and then move on. Bikram is a big yoga gateway drug — and other methods and practices should probably be glad he helped establish and enlarge the yoga market.

    That’s capitalism — and face it, American yoga, 95% of ity, is ALL about capitalism and capitalist values.

    Seen the marketing on this web site lately?

  • Lala

    I don’t believe that YogaWorks has franchises. It has dozens of locations, but they are all owned by YogaWorks.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    Will look into it, thanks Lala. You’re making the case even stronger then.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    There’s a new story from the Detroit Free Press about University of Michigan star football running back Derrick Green using Bikram Yoga to become the nation’s top college recruit.

    http://www.freep.com/article/20130609/SPORTS06/306090111/michigan-wolverines-football-derrick-green-top-recruit

    I know how much Yoga Dork loves to celebrate top sports stars using yoga to enhance their athletic abilities.

    HAIL BIKRAM!!!!

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    “My mom gave me a choice of either Bikram yoga or ballet, so I chose yoga,” Green said of the “hot yoga” that forces the body to adapt. “It definitely helped me a lot on and off the field as far as staying focused on my breathing. I’m definitely more flexible and just the whole mental part on the field, yoga has helped me tremendously.”

    WOW you mean you don’t need that Hindu gobbledy-gook or all those happy horseshit encomiums from your local wannabe priestess to “get” the breathing or meditative benefits of yoga?

    Just consistent asana body work will do it?

    Who’d of thunk!!!

  • WOW! This is what we can call a masterpiece. Unfortunately information like these are not in access of majority.

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