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Yoga Studio Shamed After ‘Ghetto Fabulous’ Class Ignites Outrage

in YD News


Yikes, yikes, yikes. A yoga studio in Santa Barbara, CA thought it would be a good idea to host a “a ghetto fabulous yoga event” reminiscent of a themed frat party. Attendees were encouraged to “Please come dressed in your favorite ghetto fabulous outfit, snap-back caps, corn rows, heavy lip liner or whatever you can dream up,” with a link to a “ghetto fabulous” wikiHow page for ideas. The 90-minute class promised “serious attitude, guaranteed belly laughs and various costumes to be provided,” according to a studio newsletter.

Power of Your Om Yoga in Santa Barbara promoted the event with this copy:

“‘Each month we will be featuring a new funky class…this month let’s get ghetto fabulous! You sport the white tank, roll up one leg of your tight black pants, and we’ll make sure to have a rockin’ playlist bring the bling, lip liner and bandanas….seriously. This class has no extra charge. Just a chance to do something a little whacky.'”

And this image:


(NWA is originally rap group N***as with Attitude)

Really, Santa Barbara? This is not what we had in mind when we talk about yoga being a vehicle for acceptance and tolerance. A flurry of commenters responded with outrage and disappointment.

Via facebook, one commenter wrote: “You should cancel this class and issue a public apology. Or use the class time to have a discussion about racism. Changing the name is, pardon the pun, a form of white-washing. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Another: “The main reason this problem is even arising is because we have white people teaching an art form that originated in the Middle East/India. Like Miley Cyrus twerking, and minstrelsy (yes, you better believe it) they think that doing something ‘ghetto fabulous’ which is mocking and horribly racist, is supposed to be fun. The white mentality hasn’t changed that much, it’s just more subtle and acceptable. I’ll be sure to tell my friends in that area to steer clear of this place for sure.”

Studio owner Adrienne Hengels responded (but we’re still not sure she really gets it):

Thank you all for the eye-opening discussion and I do apologize for offending anyone – those of you that commented, emailed, and anyone else for that matter. The class happened and we are doing other themed classes in the future that may include various types of music/genres and we have made note to focus on the music versus singling out any group of human beings that has the potential to offend others as that was not the intention. I can see how it could be offensive and we do apologize for offending you or anyone.

An apology or a non-apology?

An unsatisfied commenter responded: “Both your original decision and your lack of honest apology are appalling, but neither is as appalling as your willful ignorance as to why this was such a horrible, racist idea.”

Unfortunately, this trend isn’t exclusive to the yoga world (see: Miley Cyrus) and is part of a much bigger issue of ignorance, cultural appropriation and exploitation in the name of entertainment. The saddest part being that some people don’t see this as offensive. Grills, gang signs and gimmicks. We feel like old farts saying this, but hasn’t “trendiness” gone far enough? Can’t it at least stop at the yoga mat? We mean, have fun and stuff, but seriously.

Posted August 28, the same day as the event, this image graced the Power of Your Om facebook page with the caption: “We are ahead of the trends! Twerk has made it into the dictionary. Soon it will be in yoga books- just watch!”


If twerking makes it into the yoga books we might have to pack it in and call it a day. Take us to the cave, BatYogi! Nice knowing you, yds!

The “ghetto” yoga class story has been picked up by some heavy hitting media like Gawker’s Jezebel and New York Daily News over the past few days. We can only hope all the attention and outrage will have a positive outcome wherein lessons are learned.



80 comments… add one
  • iamkeebler

    The only thing I’d like to point out is how this article is pointing out how racist this is… the thing I’d like to point out is ghetto doesn’t equal people of color. Ghetto equals those in a low income poverty situation which can be white people as well. Believe me, I’ve met many people of color who aren’t ghetto and many white people who are.

    • Erin

      I agree with iamkeebler. “Ghetto” refers to an income level. In fact, they even mentioned dark lip-liner, which is typically associated with “Cholas.” So who’s the racist here? It doesn’t matter. It’s not about racism; it’s about some ignorant and likely wealthy (they have a yoga studio in Santa Barbara) women who have most likely never been to the ghetto nor come close to understanding and NWA lyrics. I guess the NWA part could be considered racist…
      It seems they are too ignorant to be considered racist.

    • Annette

      It’s racist AND classist. It is the work of people of privilege, who are not the least interested in examining that privilege.

      • It’s nonsense. Only arrogance makes us separate ourselves from others in any way shape or form. Maybe this is a lame attempt, but still an attempt to walk in somebody else’s shoes?

        We are all stupid and crazy and there is no need to get on any high horses. I’m sure you could teach me a thing or two – – and that these women could teach you about being held to an inhuman standard just because they have some money.

        Feed what you want to grow. Compassion allows us to show the way rather than beat others into shape.

      • Oh, please

        Honestly, people with privilege don’t HAVE to “examine their privilege”. That’s just for people who are weak minded and desperately want to look progressive. People who spout this academic social justice “check your privilege” nonsense are nothing more than thought police.

        These yoga people can do what they want. Just because it offends you or some other thin skinned professional whiners doesn’t make it offensive. I listened to NWA in middle school as did kids from all different backgrounds. Those guys got rich and sold millions of records because they were popular with people across the board, not just black gangsters in Compton. This online grievance whining is out of hand and does nothing to remedy institutional racism.

        Individual “racism” is in the eye of the beholder and some people these days think everything is racist. Waaa “cultural appropriation”. Yoga is cultural appropriation of the Nepalese. Guess that makes everyone who isn’t from Nepal who does yoga “rayyyycist!” Uh, people don’t own culture, people can adopt whatever style they want. That offends you? Better run to Twitter and cry about it.

        This kind of empty “outrage culture” is getting to the “cry wolf” stage. Somebody somewhere feels “marginalized” and “offended” all the time and they NEED people to coddle their weak and tender feelings on the internet. Sucks to be them, I guess? LOL

  • Jimmie

    Thank you Iamkeebler for stating what I was thinking while reading this article. I don’t understand how the term ghetto went from meaning low income to meaning black. When the Origen of the word comes out of nazi Germany should we apologize to all the Jewish groups of the world for our culturally insensitivity referring to the impoverished neighborhoods as ghetto ? I have this to say if we don’t stop making things about whether white people are doing black ” things ” aka twerking or having things white washed the culture of racism will never change. Never. Stop making it about race and it will stop being about race . If you have an issue with ghetto fabulous classes and Miley twerking on stage then maybe you should stop and think that the real issue is glorifying a culture of , ignorance , objectification of women,doing time as a measure if credibility and slinging drugs . Or the absolute vulgarity of a dance move . The rest is superfluous .

    • Ren O'Connor

      Great comment Jimmie, agree completely!

    • I hear your rationale in defense of the Yoga studio and the hystorical roots of our colloquial use of the word Ghetto and I admit that I am confused how NWA was supposed to be overlooked as a direct contemporary black hip hop reference. That said, Compassion is what we are asking for when we ask those with the systemic priviliges of “white/passing” appearance to respect our cultural creations and credit us with them. I speak a truth that resonates with much of the African American community which is in it’s FIRST generation of so-called freedom in this country. We only just got the vote without lynching/crossburning, the right to sit next to “white/passing” people, and the enforcement of our rights to not be legally discriminated against in MY RELATIVELY SHORT LIFETIME. There were days in my childhood when I was called nigger as often as my name… This is some very real context that we as a people committed to compassion and conscious evolution need to take into account. After countless generations of giving (or having stolen from us) our labor, inventions, ideas, agricultural skills, child rearing skills, culinary skills and American Music and Culture we are as a people (who don’t all agree on politics religion and so forth) are in the nascent stages of self determination as a critical mass. This is something I believe that our “white/passing” co-citizens and community members can find compassion for and develop a sense of mindfulness around. The post-trauma symptoms of energetic imbalance that We People’s of Color have inherited as a result of our violent legacy of randomized terror requires that we maintain boundaries for our own mental/emotional/physical safety as we continue to make our selves visible across the Invisible Wall of Aparthied that effects the judgements and actions of all citizens and community members. (Note if anything in this comment makes you feel defensive, guilty, angry, reactionary, attacked or anything like that, I encourage you to look within for the roots of these feelings and allow yourself to have compassion for YourSelf as a co-creative member of the first generation of Americans to attempt to live outside of the invisible and often silent rules of Apartheid – the wall has two sides and it will take the efforts of all sides to dismantle it as we REPLACE it with something new) Ashe’ amen Aho Namaste, Dr. G. Love

      • Gilana

        Your comment is very thought provoking – how do we integrate that which should never have been artificially separated i.e. people. Since I have also felt the sting of discrimination, it is an interesting process to consider how that can be intelligently addressed.

        My first thought from this end of the tunnel is to start the process the way you want to end it. MLK did white people as much service as black people by giving them a basis from which to consider change. As far as I know he didn’t advocate black culture as much as people’s rights.

        So it might be interpreted that you are advocating a position of having your cake and eating it too.

        Compassion is what we are asking for when we ask those with the systemic privileges of “white/passing” appearance to respect our cultural creations and credit us with them.

        And eat it too:

        Definition of Namaste: “My soul recognizes your soul. I honor the love, light, beauty, truth and kindness within you because it is also within me. In sharing these things there is no distance and no difference between us. We are the same. We are One.”

        I would love your thoughts on this. Namaste.

        • Compassion and Namaste.
          Thank you,

        • There is something about interpreting the definitions of spirituality based on the lenses that are being used. It is so interesting that “white/passing” Americans express so much resistance when We People’s of Color ask for some space to heal and assert our boundaries after so many centuries of trauma. We as a people have been leading the civil rights movements (you mentioned Dr. MKL Jr.) and what we love to see is some real leadership from the other side of the wall of apartheid. But somehow it seems we are asking too much to be allowed some breathing room as we come out of a 500 year long nightmare where we find ourselves on a continent that our ancestors did not “choose” to migrate to, obeying laws we did not make, speaking a language that is not ours, and maintaining social norms that were created and normalized by others. Considering the challenges we have had as a people, African Americans have remained steadfast and earnest in our ability to reflect “Namaste” even under the most offensive of circumstance. Now, after being forced to build a culture inside of segregation – we are met with so much resistance and defensiveness when we explicitly ASK for this spirit space to evolve. I believe that is an important meditation for all those “white/passing” people who feel a need to a. resist our requests and then b.educate African Americans about what we really want and need despite our explicit requests.
          This past week African American comedienne Sheryl Underwood made a joke about the nappiness of Black Womyn’s hair. Her remarks were felt deeply by many as not a good place for a joke AT THIS TIME in our mental/emotional evolutionary process into self love. She received A LOT of criticism for this from the African American community. And you know what she did? She apologized. No shame. No long explanation about why she has the right to make jokes about culture or hair or anything. She had compassion. She saw the suffering of others and related to them because like all people she has suffering too. When we ask you for Compassion and Namaste, we ask you to allow us to SHOW you who we are before you interpret. And to allow us to heal before you push back. Do you really feel this is too much to ask? After a lifetime of being loving compassionate supportive and caring toward people who openly treated me like a second class citizen, I KNOW it can be done. I do it all the time. Namast.

      • Geryll,
        You said it all better than I could have ever said it! Thank you! Thank you for your clarity and your delivery. These times are very transparent and I am excited about all of the growth and work we are all doing as a collective. Although it will get ugly because cleansing brings up toxic waist that needs to be purged.
        This idea of “Ghetto Yoga Class” as a theme is extremely racist! Anyone who can’t see that is simply in denial. I can understand why “passing /white” people get offended and defensive about hearing about racist events/situations etc.. I get tired of it too. As an Indigenous Black American, I fell like Damn we still have to contend with this. We’re still working on this. When are we going to evolve? I say “we” meaning all parties. But… I do know one thing as long as “passing /white” people are in denial about racism because it’s just too painful to admit this “remedial cave man” intelligence is still running through the veins of our country; racism/Ignorance will thrive! What you resist will persist!
        Racism is one of the dark shadows of America. Until people admit and really face their demons and get real and truthful only then will the light heal the shadow and we can then create and live the dream of what is possible in this country.

        • Yes! We are the one’s we have been waiting for. We may not see the whole temple built, but we will have laid our stones. And I too am very excited about this great evolutionary shift that we can actually see and feel in our lifetimes! I love learning more and more about my aboriginal roots. Learning about the land, elemental spiritual practices, non linear time, and who knows what else? We have to be patient with the learning curve around us, and we can celebrate incarnating during the great shift together. Much love, Geryll aka dr. G. Love http://www.fivedirectionswellness.com

        • Oh, please

          If you want to “end racism” I suggest you stop making generalizations about “white/passing” people. Hypocrite.

  • Tricia


    • Gilana

      Peace is not easy to achieve. There is much war in the world and it looks like it is supported. As all masters say, if war is to lose it’s grip “out there” in the world, it must first lose it’s grip in your own heart.

      This has been an interesting exercise and I’d like to thank you for your thoughts.

      Continued wishes for your health and growing happiness.

      In love always, Gilana

      P.S. Sorry about any mis spellings.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Oh! The mostly white, mostly “betches” who may live in Santa Barbara:



    Before The Onion could even get to make this up!


    (Though blacks like The Onion too and their influence may have killed this idead long ago …)

  • Ali

    Perhaps taking a free yoga class to the “ghetto” once a month would be an enlightening and inspiring experience for these yogis.

    • Collette

      Well said. Through action and service, we learn and grow from the process.

  • Sorry to be the weird one out here but maybe it’s more of a sensitive issue in the US. Here is Europe this would not be seen as such a huge issue, just perhaps a bit ‘mal a droit’ (or clumsy). Maybe they just wated to have fun a bit, not against anyone in particular. We could be a bit less heavy handed…. When was the last time you did something stupid? We all do things like this from time to time. Yogis and Yoginis should have more compassion and know that people make mistakes.

    • sr

      And sadly it’s because of such ignorance in Europe that there are cars burning in the suburbs of Paris and riots even in Stockholm. Europe has a bigger race problem than the U.S., but (white) Europeans just don’t care.

      • Karen

        “but (white) Europeans just don’t care.”

        Gosh. And there I was, honestly believing I care a lot about all forms of injustice, and about dismantling systems that perpetuate it both within and without me.

        Seriously, assuming that any specific group is in lock-step on every issue may be really tempting. It just doesn’t match reality, and it leads to a dangerous “othering” and barriers between people who need to work together to deal with very serious social issues that affect everyone.

    • I agree with you Anna

  • So is the author of this article suggesting that we take NWA lyrics and ghetto behavior more seriously? Apologies necessary!?

    Saturday Night Live has parodied, made fun of and with all aspects of culture for many years. They used the most powerful subjects as subject to laugh at and make fun of. As a result things that we took too seriously, things that we never thought would change, have softened and changed – quickly.

    Come on guys – wise up.

    I say Go Girls! Make fun of it, have fun with it, dance and prance it! Take the power out of it, instead of giving it so much more.

    • Frank

      To me its the mindset. SNL from what I’ve seen approaches things with a degree of wisdom and understanding I don’t see here.

      • That’s interesting – and probably true. Yet, do you think this yoga studio was acting maliciously?

    • justno

      “make fun of it”??!

      So you believe it’s okay to mock ghetto culture? Your willful ignorance is appalling. And sad.

      • Gilana

        “So you believe it’s okay to mock ghetto culture?”

        Who said that? I don’t think it’s okay to mock anything, because it shows a lack of understanding and compassion – even people who make assumptions about and then judge me.

        And but, yes, sadly, I do think it’s okay to make fun of culture. Because culture doesn’t have anything to do with helping people – it has a lot to do with controlling, limiting, defining and tying individuals to stereotypes – whether the individual fits those stereotypes or not. To the point where their members get insulted up to warring when their culture gets made fun of, or is discussed, or worse gets attacked.

        Then, the members of that culture get assumptions made about them. That allows people with guns to shoot them, just because it was after a certain hour and they were walking toward them.

        Can you give me some proof that these “white, skinny, privileged b***hes” were being malicious?

        That they weren’t just going to have fun on a “ghetto” day rather than the tired old “hippie” day or the “vampire” day?

      • paul

        what is ‘ghetto culture’?

  • Brenda

    “Unfortunately, this trend isn’t exclusive to the yoga world (see: Miley Cyrus) and is part of a much bigger issue of ignorance, cultural appropriation and exploitation in the name of entertainment.
    The saddest part being that some people don’t see this as offensive.”

    Exactamundo. Just look at the comments people have left so far…

  • Collette

    How about the studio advertises and offers this class in the non-middle upper class neighborhood ? The neighborhoods of Southern California are quite divided by ethno-racial economic backgrounds. Do you think they could have gotten away with this in a working-class neighborhood with ‘ghetto people’? This shows the disconnection between some yogis and the ‘real world’. I speak from my own experience as I often feel like a judging hypocrite, even though I practice asanas.

  • Digiwonk

    I thought I’d not leave a comment, as it seemed likely that YogaDork readers would be of like mind that this is racist and insensitive beyond belief. But I’m surprised to see etymological hair splitting and demands to “lighten up.”


    This isn’t funny or lighthearted. It’s a monoculture of skinny, privileged white women in expensive pants playing dressup as poor, marginalized, black or minority subjects for shits and giggles. You know that little frisson of excitement you get when you pop on a grill and flash some gang signs from your yoga mat? That’s called “transgression” and the thrill comes from marking the vast, vast difference between your everyday culture and the one you’re aping.

    Look, I’m a skinny white blonde-haired high income fancy yoga pants wearing yogini. It is what it is. I occupy various kinds of privileged positions and my yoga helps me both to recognize that we are all part of one spirit at the same time that it removes the social filters by which I might delude myself into thinking the world is an equitable place. It isn’t.

    What would help is trying to craft a more inclusive yoga. Not to celebrate its exclusivity by ritual enactments of difference that merely reinforce the sameness of the “community.”

    • Lighten up is always good advice. And I am saying this from a highly educated and experienced place.

      Please stop calling me and yourself and everybody else names. It doesn’t help. It’s just another form of anger and hatred.

      If you think that “playing dressup as poor, marginalized, black or minority subjects for shits and giggles” let’s talk about fashion in general. As far as I know, the entire 60s generation did exactly that and at the same time payed attention to guys like Martin Luther King. As a matter of fact, we’ve followed them since then to now!

      So let me say this about that – I don’t care about racism. I care about people.

      Feed what you want to grow. Do you have a stake in feeding thoughts of racism? I bet you don’t – better to put that passion into your idea of more inclusive yoga – love to hear about what you envision.

      • Annette

        Sometimes “lighten up” is good advice — but not always.

        If someone is stressing about life circumstances beyond their control, a well-timed “lighten up” can help them let go.

        But I find advice to “lighten up” — especially in controversies like this one — is all-too-often code for “I don’t really care and therefore you shouldn’t either, now shut it.”

        Not cool.

      • Giliana,
        Most people of color in this country care about racism. So while we are glad that you care about us as children of the universe, and I do mean this, we appreciate and need all love. We would prefer if you left us to our process of rising out of second class citizenship, police profiling of our teenaged boys ( I have a 22 year old who has been stopped repeatedly for (no reason), handcuffed (with no cause) and brought into the station routinely throughout his entire teenaged years) So, Giliana as a mother rocking a frightened, ashamed, crying 19 year old on my lap after he ended up in a police station for 3 hours during a “short” trip to store to get us bread – I CARE ABOUT RACISM. My survival depends on paying attention to it. To avoiding it. To raising my children to be aware of it (so they don’t get shot, jailed, fired, misinterpreted, or villified). So if you don’t care about about this topic that is your perogative and I respectfully ask that you realize that just because you don’t care about something – that others shouldn’t. I do wonder why you are so triggered/compelled into discussing racism if it’s not your thing. Are you trying to educate me? Correct me? Debate with me? I can’t quite tell what your purpose is. Devils Advocate?

        I’m a doctor, healer, lightworker. reiki master/teacher. mother. artist. shamanic practitioner,party girl, costumer, actress and more. I am a spiritual educator with a large and respected practice in the city of New Orleans and around the country. I speak explicitly and with great guidance and a foundation of experience, research, and continuing study and conscious evolution of the relationship of the Global imbalance of the divine feminine (which has many cultural “side effects” such as racism, oppression, white supremacy, and perhaps most pressing – the global subjugation of womyn). And, I am as lighthearted and going with the flow of a person as you ever wanted to know. I party like a New Orleans Goddess. I dance the night away. I laugh endlessly. I don’t choose to lighten up about racism. And it is a very informed choice that I will not be “schooled” out of (believe me, you are not the first to try to impart the wisdom of “why can’t we all just get along” to me – I get it) Your desire to interface with people who are actively fighting racism when you don”t care about racism is truly something for you to look at. Racism, ignorance, and silence around it has been a living Nightmare for me and I am without a doubt one of the most integrated, cross-cultural, capable, educated, supportive, laid back, and compassionate people around. But when my and my family’s life, well being and energetic balance are in the hands of a dominant culture that can’t see us for who we are, I am not laid back about racism. I am not accepting of ignorance or spiritual transcendence by “white/passing” peoples who have no idea what it is like to raise healthy black children in this modern society that micro and macro aggressively co-creates an environment of self hate and energetic dysfunction. This yoga class is something that can cause shame for a peoples who are actively healing their way out of the shame of a legacy of hate. And these aggressions are ongoing in a way that can be really troubling over time: ie: Just last week the Deborah Brown Community School of Tulsa Oklahoma shamed children for wearing natural hair and expelled a 7 year old good student – Tiana Parker for wearing her natural hair) http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/09/07/to-a-black-girl-whose-hair-was-deemed-unacceptable/ Compassion and Namaste.

  • Dave

    Of course…..no way out. Had they called it a Legally Blonde themed class, all people of other hair color would have to be annoyed, or maybe blondes would feel they were unfairly targeted.

    Is there really a difference between being annoyed, upset, angry & intolerant about this class theme and voicing a serious opinion about it and people of different ethnic backgrounds acting on their disagreement in Syria killing each other??

    Get yourself in check the moment you feel outraged as in that instance you are removing yourself from the magic that is you.

    Is Halloween really the only time where we can dress up ‘inappropriately’?

  • Yesyogalove

    I think the bigger issue here is the lack of diversity among yoga teachers and students. Instead of picking on someone who made a stupid mistake, we need to look at ourselves.

  • Cathy Ge

    I appreciate the comment from above suggestign that the studio who offended other. teach free community classes in a low income area.
    i do find the theme andmakign fun of people very bad taste. there areways to explore and study countries and culture swithout makign fun of the citizens. Go to a school and look at geography, social, history and culture curriculums.

    • Gilana

      Making fun of people is very bad taste. Geography, social, history and culture curriculums are not people.

      I wonder if a better solution isn’t to invite ghetto kids to their yoga studio to teach them how it’s done? And then allow those same kids in any old time they want at a student rate?

  • paul

    the impression i have of ghetto culture (which is not black culture, intersecting though they do, and see http://www.blackagendareport.com for discussion on how black culture is anything but coherent) is that it values brutality, selfishness, homophobia, intoxication and the acquisition of stuff, even while acknowledging these only create more problems. i know these impressions are at least in part true, in part due to the way poverty is enforced in these communities, the larger culture that has these values more ‘politely’, and those who see advantage in indulging in the “savagery” because it can be set aside (as i think the power of your Om event did, unintended or unconscious as it may be), but i don’t get out much, so i am wondering; what is ghetto culture, does it have any positive/”yoga” values at all, and if it doesn’t is this what makes the event so extraordinary in its offense (for celebrating the values and otherwise engaging in a “polite savagery”)?

    • paul

      misogyny ought to be foremost on the list of what is presented as ghetto culture to the mainstream, allowed under the guise of a presumed ignorance (a sort of polite beastialization) that accepts the misogyny and cruelty as an inevitable ‘just part of a culture’, and (ie the uppity white women) who would participate in the ignorance is shamed for not knowing better.

  • Did someone in this comment thread really say, “I don’t care about racism?”

    I think this is something we should all care deeply about. If we honor the Light that is inside of us, and honor the Light in each other, it should help us care, and help us ACT for the benefit of all.

    PLEASE don’t tell anyone who is pointing out racism, sexism, or inequality to “lighten up!”

    • Culturally it is very correct to be very serious about racism, sexism or inequality. It is culturally incorrect to make light about any of these subjects. Bring them up in a group and the right things are said, because then the right things don’t have to be done. We say the same things the same ways over and over again. And we get a great reputation for being someone who “cares”.

      Additionally, being so serious is a real “turn off”! I’m old enough to remember “Jesus Freaks” or a Woman’s Libber in the 70s. People would cross the street to avoid talking to these serious people. I crossed the street to avoid them!

      I have seen humor help. Making fun of racism, sexism or inequality seems to have actually struck a note with people. We laugh because we see how ridiculous they are; how completely absurd they are.

      Spiritually, nothing is serious. The divine is joyful, bubbling, wild and un- explainable. Anything our minds can label is mind stuff that isn’t real. And what is more “label-able” than racism, sexism, or inequality? We can talk about those terms For Ever! And nothing has to actually be done.

      I said, “I don’t care about racism.” Because I don’t. Because “Racism” is too big an issue to apply, and as such it comforts people into believing that they are really doing something just because they “care” about the issue.

      “I care about people.” I care about how people feel about themselves and live and the quality of their lives. I care about their dignity and how they can change inside to have dignity no matter what’s happening outside. I can and do actually do something about that.

      To make this more obvious – as an example, I care that people go to this Yoga class and have fun, experience doing yoga to music they’ve never heard before, dressing in a way they have never dressed before , learn why this music might be attractive to some kids. How it feels to be so angry. And see for themselves that it is popular because it is actually a misguided attempt to rage against inequality and assert their dignity.

      And – I’ve never met a true racist who wanted to in any way want to touch somebody they are racist against. KKK would never dress up as ghetto kids and dance (or do yoga) to their music. Anti-Semetics would never put on beard and talus and sing hebrew prayers. True Homophobes do not dress “gay” and act gay. These group members wouldn’t do that because they know intrinsically that it would somehow place them on the same level as the people they hate. Only people with some curiosity would do any of that – and that is actually a form of reaching out.

      • matt

        Seriously? Have you never heard of minstrel shows? And homophobes act “gay” all the time as a “joke,”although one gets the sense that they’d like to try it… Just picking a couple things out of the massive, stinking pile of Wrong that is your post.

        • matt

          …and learn to spell. Also, read a damn book.

          • Gilana

            Hi Matt! I took your advice and read a book (although I’m pretty sure it’s not damned, but I work up to that.)

            My last attempt to communicate is posted today. Please advise if I did better in content and spelling.

            Appreciate your input,

  • Katie C

    These comments are horrifying. What a bunch of blinkered wankers. Read “Unpacking the invisible backpack” by Peggy McIntosh to get a clue about institutionalized racism and privilege.

    • What is a blinkered wanker?

      • Katie C

        blinkers – blinders on a horse so that it will only see what’s ahead
        wanker – jerk, idiot (used in the UK)

  • Oh, okay. Thank you. 🙂


  • Semper Fi

    Is yoga now becoming so mundane for people that you have to lure them in with a “rockin’ playlist” and gimmicks like dressing like ghetto people? It’s time for these types of studios to stop calling it yoga.

    • Vision_Quest2

      Right said. The moment they posited “levels” to their classes, and kept out the hoi polloi, so-deemed beginners This was based on their dismissive once-over of the potential class attendee–and letting in only those who passed their halo-effect “kewlness” test[s] into their so-called Open Yoga classes. Some of those newbies let in, actually trying everything (exhorted to, and mostly by the teacher. Motto of the day: “No child’s pose will ever be encouraged without me calling you out.”) Some wind up quitting class in the middle. Some encouraged to make it a habit, class after class – those who presented the best window dressing in appearance.

      Yoga had thus entered its Disco Era. There even had to be separate clubs for the middle aged, the overweight (over “whose” weight, I must ask?), and the less-resourced.

      Now, about a half decade later in California, their not getting the “Yoga as Disco is Dead” memo, THIS is the end result.

      The chickens have finally come home to roost.

      I am rubbing my palms together. Not to create heat for any restorative move.

      No, in toothsome satisfaction.

      So glad I have mostly a home yoga practice …

    • YogaonFire

      How can you judge yoga? I think yoga is what anyone wants it to be. Why do people think that yoga is just a bunch of asanas? If you don’t like it, don’t take the class. But I don’t think anyone should tell anyone else what ISN’T yoga.

      • Semper Fi

        I think that there is a misunderstanding in the West that because yoga is about liberation, people have the license to do whatever the hell and call it “yoga.” Yoga, of old times was a very strict discipline that invited only a few who could withstand it. Even the Buddha gave it up for something easier. Fast forward to modern times “yoga” has now become a big money maker alternative fitness kraze sponsored by Lululemon and their ilk. So YogaonFire, you take your “yoga is whatever anyone wants it to be” and meet me in 20 years with that practice. We’ll see who is still doing “yoga.”

        • Vision_Quest2

          The best said yet.

  • shannon

    Yes, some of these comments are pretty unbelievable. It is sad but true, a person can practice yoga up the wazoo to a 3rd series ashtangi but still be shallow, emotionally immature, out of touch and racist.

  • rachel

    “Apology or non-apology?”

    Non-apology. Anyone someone apologizes for “offending anyone”, they’re not apologizing for what they said, just how you received it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-apology_apology

  • It’s been quite a debacle, but it my hope that something good comes of this. Boo boos happen. Ignorance happens. I’m not hoping they lose their business. A better outcome than that is possible. Righteous anger need not be relentlessly punitive.

  • matt

    I’m an old white dude, and I can instantly see that this is racist. No one who is young enough to have danced naked in the mud at Woodstock has any excuse for this level of cluelessness and insensitivity. And these people were probably too young for Woodstock 94. Way to show us the way, millennials!

  • cyndi

    wow. this is why I am sometimes ashamed to be a yogi, because some people think yoga means that being spiritual means divorcing yourself from culture. culture is serious, because culture is how we express ourselves and live in the world. sometimes yoga culture, which is predominately white and upper middle class drives me crazy. not calling out racism and hate- which is often dressed up as mocking and comedy- is the equivalent of allowing evil to flourish and not responding to it. in our country racism and oppression of all kinds are the manifestation of the separation from ourselves and each other that we as yogis are trying to heal. in yoga we practice and teach unity of mind body and spirit-with ourselves and with each other. this culture and the people in it are incredibly fragmented, torn apart, and separate from each other. i see it over and over again both as a yoga therapist and as a mom of a child with disabilities. in regards to my son, i have been the victim of pity, scorn, mocking, judgement and forced isolation because people want to separate themselves from me somehow so they don’t have to feel the pain of my and my son’s experience. unless you have ever been the victim of oppression its really hard to understand, but it is the pinnacle of separation, and the opposite of union that i fortunately get to experience in my own yoga practice. if someone were to mock our experience in the way this class did for ghetto culture i would find it deeply offensive and misguided. not an effort to reach out show compassion and heal. we have so far to go in this culture sometimes i feel so very discouraged.

    • Gilana

      Yoga sutra consists of two words only: yogash chitta-critti-nirodah, which may be translated: “Yoga is the cessation of agitation of the consciousness.”

      Contemplating cultural influence is agitation.

      The purpose of physical yoga is to provide a situation in the body where the mind stops thinking, therefore attains “quiet” or “silent” mind.

      Quiet and silent mind observes, but it doesn’t judge. You will have to find another group to identify with if you really want to be: ashamed, discouraged, ‘someone’ who allows them’self” to be driven crazy, a person who “calls out”, judgmental and reactive to evil, a teacher, or a victim.

      “The cultural appropriation will serve no purpose other than making Yoga a new form of a quiet exercise routine, which the West has unashamedly done to a great extent. But in the end, all the poses, breathing, still point inwards – to the Brahm, to the Absolute Divinity within, to Sanātana Dharma, to Hinduism, albeit without the ism.” Sadhu Brahma

      “This they consider Yoga: the steady holding of the senses.” – Katha-Upanishad

      “Yoga is said to be the oneness of breath, mind, and senses, and the abandonment of all states of existence.” – Maitrî-Upanishad

      “Yoga is known as the disconnection (viyoga) of the connection (samyoga) with suffering.” – The Bhagavad Gita

      “Yoga is ecstasy (samâdhi).” – Yoga-Bhâshya

      “Yoga is said to be control.” – Brahmânda-Purâna

      “Yoga is the control of the whirls of the mind.” – Yoga Sutra

  • O ya I’m sure it was a real ghetto experience.

  • Hopefully the yoga studio learns from this that maybe yoga doesn’t go with everything.

    • Yep. It’s not like tofu, which happily takes on the taste of everything it is cooked with. Hopefully this will put an end to hybrid classes, themed classes, and all the fusion-confusion that is supposed to just get wrapped in a giant breakfast burrito and be called “yoga”. (I must be hungry)

  • shannon

    Looks like you have read a book or 2, your point though, with all the definitions? I think reference to classics text(s) are in order e.g. Patanjoli- the 8 limbs. Lets not fool ourselves though, yoga practice in the west is asana based- period. It just is, you really have to do a lot of your own work/study to become more well rounded as a yogi…

    • Gilana

      Thanks for your comment – Agreed, the practice is probably only physical postures. Asanas. Just physical exercise. It does seem to produce strong lithe bodies, but all in all it is just self-improvement.

      Calling yourself a Yogi or Yogini, if all you do is a very non-essential (but helpful) part of the practice of Yoga, is fallacious. Armchair “quarterbacks”. Physical yoga is supposed to be a device to get to the real yoga.

      One person actually seemed to be a real spiritual practitioner, but only contributed one hyphenated word. Somebody suggested that we not be so hard on the Santa Barbara studio.

      So, who knows if there isn’t true interest? It was worth a shot.

      And who can blame a person who has never been given the chance to attempt a real practice? Who is to say that it wouldn’t be embraced hungrily?

      There is real practice here in the West, but not in yoga studios. Non-dual/Advaitist teachers are running around the world sharing practice, but I don’t ever see them doing Asanas! (I am quite sure if the one that I have in mind ever tried, his friends could never get him unstuck. He would just have to live that way from then on!)

      Maybe a few people really do achieve a meditative state practicing Asanas – but that would be defined as: not distracted by your thoughts or emotions, paying attention to other than your self and the outcome of ultimately practicing compassion (not to be confused with righteous anger or the other manifestations here). Not to infer that i am above any of that either – I’ve had my share of trouble with it, too.

      Still, I haven’t seen many here who speak like they are practicing compassion here yet. Compassion is not restricted to “causes”.

      • shannon

        Asana practice for many is considered exercise- a work out-people go to the class wanting to get their buts kicked and to sweat. That is their work out for the day. Some classes are very challenging and vigorous. The thing is, people that are attracted to these classes tend to have an athletic background. Interestingly enough- eventually, many discover the true meaning of asana practice-on their own.
        and what is the true meaning….? Union, connection.your breath to a movement, your heart to your hips, head to your toes- heel to your finger tips, anxiety to your hips sadness/happiness to your heart via energy flowing its a beautiful thing Once you get this, asana practice hits a whole other level.
        The purpose of asana- connection- is to prepare to sit in meditation with a straight back, padmasana- for hours!
        Calling something racist is just that- it has nothing to do with compassion. Racism is defined in the dictionary as well as legally- so it is what it is. No matter the studios intention. Itnis just unfortunate that they didn’t have enough depth and social skills to realize it. Note- they are all white skinny women…

        • Gilana

          Agreed yet a little further –

          connecting to the body is the first step,

          sensing the body’s movement even when the limbs are still is the the next step,

          realizing that you are not controlling those movements and cannot control those movements, that they are controlled by something beyond your mind is the next step,

          wondering about and pursuing what that which controls those movements is the next step,

          finding that which controls your internal movement and realizing that it controls everything is the next step,

          finding that there is no boundary between your internal movement and the movement of anything else in your “world” is the next step,

          recognizing the sameness of everything and realizing it’s unity with an open heart is the next step, (btw: This is the definition of compassion), …

          With this process in mind you can see how getting somewhere in yoga and calling things “racist” are diametrically opposed.

          The sameness of everything indicates that Everything (no exceptions) has the same properties:

          John A is as racist as John B, who he is yelling at – John A simply hasn’t put that element of John Unity in motion at the moment. Right now John A is using the righteous indignation element of John Unity to punish John B’s racist element usage. That causes a lot of energy we call violence. Violence hurts John Unity – all elements alike.

          Have you ever noticed that racists and the self righteous people who yell at them are exactly the same – on the feeling level? Both upset, both sure they are right, both angry, both frustrated. That is the John Unity’s reality when violence is being activated by the parts of itself.

          And, (TA DA) that is why lightening up is the correct remedy – it lessens the energy and returns things to a more peaceful and joyous state.

          Am I saying this clearly?

          Recognizing the Sameness is all that is important, if what we say is true, “I want peace.” In other words getting to a point where you can say, “Oh yeah. I’m that way, too, sometimes.” That is peace – ending prejudice, racism, violence, war.

          “Let him who has never sinned throw the first stone.”
          But know that you always have it in you, you are made of it, you can’t get rid of it because it is your DNA.

          • shannon

            I think you are intellectualizing a simple truth. That is- we all deserve love and human dignity-it is our birthright- racist, murderers, rapists included- this (love) connects us all- the universal glue-
            this doesn’t change the racism inherent in what this yoga studio thought was good times.
            We are all the same and we are all different just like we are all good and bad- recognizing this is key to developing universal love- peace and love to you

  • Semper Fi

    I just went to this studio’s website. This is an example of everything wrong with American yoga. Teacher training, life coaching, all about the $$$$. It’s up to the yoga community to save our practice and set higher standards. Otherwise we will be like the aerobics/jazzercise kraze of the 80s.

    • shannon

      Im with you bro (or sista) take back our yoga

  • Gilana

    Ur funny.
    love and peace 🙂

  • Stewart Lawrence

    It’s not one studio. It’s a deep and pervasive bias coming to the fore in one place in a very public way. Yoga suffers from what’s called “institutionalized racism.” That’s more about the culture you create than the by;laws you pass.

    American yoga doesn’t seem racist because participants spout slogans of peace and joy and because you have already appropriated a “foreign” non-White culture and its symbolism — India and Hinduism.

    But anytime you put this many young and stupid middle class American white girls in one place — problems ensue. Sorry.

  • Stewart Lawrence

    By the way, how many of the leading yoga bloggers are women of color? And besides everyone’s favorite token, Faith Hunter, where are all the African-American or Latin yogis?
    Anyone promoting “affirmative action” in yoga?

    And the Yoga Alliance. What does it have to say about this important subject?

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