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Suit Alleges Wanderlust Festival Stole Yoga Training Methods From Alanna Kaivalya

in Lawsuit-asana, YD News


A suit recently filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court claims that Wanderlust Festival knowingly stole NYC-based yoga teacher Alanna Kaivalya’s training methods for their own purposes after stringing her along for months. In the court documents, Kaivalya alleges that Wanderlust founders Jeff Krasno and Sean Hoess pretended they were planning to hire her to run a new yoga teacher training program, promising to do so when they had funding from investors, but then dropped her and proceeded to use her material anyway, according to the court papers obtained by NY Daily News.

According to the report, Kaivalya’s lawyer John Golaszewski says in the court papers that Wanderlust execs Krasno and Sean Hoess “courted Kaivalya professionally for months in 2012.”

Via the NY Daily News:

At her insistence, they signed a non-disclosure agreement, where they promised to withhold any confidential information that she shared about her teaching techniques, program development tactics and overall know how, according to the suit.

Kaivalya was worried that after giving them her training manual and insight, they would refuse to hire her and create their own program. However, to encourage them to hire her, court papers say, Kaivalya worked for months with a Wanderlust consultant to create a digitized manual.

Krasno and Hoess repeatedly assured her that they intended to hire her as soon as they had funding from investors, according to court papers.

However, after four months of promises, they pulled the plug on those discussions in April 2013.

“Krasno informed (her) that one of Wanderlust’s unnamed partners had refused to sign off on the Kaivalya Model Program,” the papers say.

Since then, the Wanderlust camp has gone forward with the yoga teacher training program offering it at their festivals as well as satellite studios (besides the behemoth summer festivals that continue to expand, Wanderlust also has their own yoga studio in Austin). Kaivalya alleges that Wanderlust “has in fact started a Teacher Training Program which is entirely based on and in most respects identical to the Kaivalya Model Program” and the materials she disclosed to them during their relationship.

Alanna Kaivalya has her own training method called The Kaivalya Yoga Method. She is an author and outspoken writer who received a lot of attention lately for being a former Lululemon ambassador who told Chip Wilson he can “kiss my fat yoga ass.”

This is how Alanna Kaivalya describes her method via her website:

Alanna on The Kaivalya Yoga Method:

“The Kaivalya Yoga Method is the style of yoga I founded a few years ago that was simply an amalgamation of my decade-plus experience in yoga and spiritual traditions. At some point, I needed to codify what I was doing so people could identify with it.

There are a few elements that make it unique: the focus on intelligent sequencing rooted in the Krishnamacharya traditions, hands-on adjustments as a way to deepen human connection, and the integration of mythology and philosophy to guide people to a deeper understanding of the self.

I’m using these tools to encourage the student’s independence, self-empowerment and self confidence. I am focused on giving students the tools that they need to reveal their true nature, independent of an external teacher, but internally empowered to drive them on their personal journey to meaningful transformation.

That’s what’s really different.

I’m not in it to become some teacher that students rely on or come to need. I’m in it to give the information needed so students don’t need me anymore.”

Kaivalya is currently on retreat so her lawyer commented for her: “Ms. Kaivalya’s priority is to those yoga practitioners and instructors to whom she has dedicated her practice.  We are optimistic this matter will be resolved in a manner which both respects, and protects, those techniques, methods and teachings to which she has dedicated her career.”

We reached out to Wanderlust via email and received the official comment via their publicist:

Wanderlust’s 200-hour Yoga Alliance®-certified teacher training is a wholly original, best in class program. It was created by Schuyler Grant and Nikki Vilella of Kula Yoga, with contributions from a number of leading yoga teachers and scholars. We are extremely proud of our work, and we will defend our reputation and rights vigorously against Ms. Kaivalya’s false claims.

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.

Update: This was also covered in the NY Post but with no new details besides that, according to the suit, Alanna is calling for Wanderlust to cancel the 25 programs it has left in 2014 and pay unspecified damages for fraud and for stealing her program.



22 comments… add one
  • S.

    No surprises here folks! Wanderlust has scores of classes under the title of “Ashtanga” and “Iyengar” and when you look up the instructor, they are not authorized or certified. It seems like Wanderlust’s mission in to rip off legitimate yoga practitioners and co-opt it with rock star style yoga with DJs and light shows. When Wanderlust comes to town, they drain all the resources and students from the locally owned studios. I hope Alanna prevails in her lawsuit.

  • Seems rather naive and dumb to work unpaid for months and to freely share your intellectual property without a signed agreement.

    • paul

      did you read the article?

      • Vision_Quest2

        Yes, I did. I am also answering stewart j. lawrence. What, are you worried about Tara Stiles suing somebody who sets up a yoga studio on the same block as her studio, who wants to use the name “Strayla”, the way Macy’s Herald Square wanted to sue a store who set up on the same block as Macy’s and called itself “The Smallest Store in the World”?

        Why are you worried about her (and her husband) possibly suing anybody. It’s a joke!!

        • paul

          vq2, my question was intended for timothy burgin, as it seems he hadn’t read the article; sorry for the confusion. why are you interested in this issue?

          • Vision_Quest2

            @paul, because I hardly support commercialized yoga … and it’s interesting to see the chickens coming home to roost … had idly been thinking about that Udemy course she teaches (or a few others–most of them not in yoga–instead) … decided to stick with my mind-body downloads … you don’t have to be on YogaGlo to have a kind of ‘tude. Not saying it isn’t justified … but it does make me flinch … Sorry, Alanna …

        • paul

          vq2, i have learned more chanting along with versions of the mahiṣāsuramardini stotram found on youtube than the anything i’ve studied passively .. i’ve read on chanting, (alanna k herself has a book now on the topic, i haven’t read it), but those lessons are mostly useless, and learned better engaging anyway.

  • underhandedness in the yoga world? I’M SHOCKED!

  • Mango

    “…focus on intelligent sequencing rooted in the Krishnamacharya traditions, hands-on adjustments as a way to deepen human connection, and the integration of mythology and philosophy to guide people to a deeper understanding of the self…. to encourage the student’s independence, self-empowerment and self confidence… focused on giving students the tools that they need to reveal their true nature, independent of an external teacher, but internally empowered to drive them on their personal journey to meaningful transformation.” <— Sounds exactly like the teacher training methodology of nearly every YTT or YTT module I've atteded or studied the curriculum of. If they copied her exact training method and resources and plan, that's different, but otherwise that is too vague to be unique and just lists what a good yoga program should have if you plan to teach vinyasa.

    If they are using HER training materials, like copying the ones she made herself, that is different. If she worked with their consultant to build a manual that they are currently using inclusive of her wording, writing, and design, she probably has a leg to stand on in a suit. But if they changed it enough, then it's really not a copywrite infringement. Maybe an ethical infringement. Lesson learned: Always sign a contract for remeration via royalties or payment for your participation! Especially if you are going to work on something for four months.

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  • Janet

    All these so-called “alternative” fests like Burning Man, SXSW, Coachella and Wanderlust have all, without exception, gone corporate so why is type of behaviour surprising to anyone? It’s the nature of the beast….If you lie down with dogs, you get fleas.

  • PS in NY

    This is what happens when yoga becomes a product.

  • Wondering

    If people weren’t trying to brand, sell, trademark, possess and consume yoga would these problems exist?

  • Vision_Quest2

    Well, dance culture (both its high and low arts) is the same way. The battles may be cattier and less publicized, but that’s only because this is heavily middlebrow consumer-culture we’re talking about. Hello!? New York Daily News?

  • Lori Tindall

    I can appreciate this article and the comments that follow. I really like this from Stewart J. Lawrence, “We need to tend to the entire orchard while it is growing — the kind of seeds we plant, and the soil we nurture. It’s foundational gardening — rather than reactive hysteria to another “blight.”

    We also need to pull some weeds.

    I have personal knowledge of a Yoga Alliance (YA) registered school that acquired a copyrighted teacher training manual, and proceeded to willfully and knowingly, copy and distribute this manual (50+), without payment or approval beyond the originally purchased number (3). At the root of this was a director who did not have any “500hr” (now 300hr) curriculum (nor the knowledge base to write it, in my opinion) and the desire to grown her student base. For profit. This is not a problem in of itself, but it is when it is at the expense of someone else’s efforts without proper payment etc. I don’t think manuals (or technical material) can or should be stolen. Plagiarism, and it’s cousin copyright infringement, isn’t just a “no-no” in college. I have substantial written documentation of these facts, including emails, document lists of students etc., and because of international law and limited resources of the owner of this manual, nothing may come of this. I think it is just a matter of expensive legal maneuvering, threats of defamation etc., and the unwillingness of people to “get involved” that this continues on. This school was put on notice to stop using the manual, and has since done so, I’ve been told. Yet, it did profit from the use of it, and enjoys the position of “no worse for the wear”.

    I run the risk of being sued just by writing this response (I’ve been threatened that if I say anything–I will be), but nothing is untrue here, and I have AMPLE documentation. I am simply appalled that certain people in the Yoga community will attempt to get away with this type of behavior, and are banking on those who are in the know, to be “Yogic” and not say anything. YA, full of their own limitations and issues, would hardly be a proper mediator for these types of legal matters, unless of course, they had some provisions on their ethical standards for registered schools and arbitration. I am unaware of this, as it appears that they are just a registration for marketing purposes, for a fee.

    All I can say is: BUYER BEWARE. Public awareness might be all we have. That fun loving “wise” Yoga teacher may just very well be a lying thieving one too. But by remaining silent, not acting on information with critical thinking, we are part of the problem. Have you ever read the Customer Reviews on Amazon? People really do have a lot of opinions, many of which are quite constructive and helpful, but we don’t see this in the Yoga community. At least not mine. YA has attempted to “help student awareness” with rating schools on their website. But it is not anonymous, so we will likely not see many critical and truthful responses. We are all in our own “small towns” and many are more concerned with keeping their “yoga clique” status, than making waves. Or doing the right thing. Are we censoring ourself out of fear of being sued for slander, or worse, getting kicked out of the cool kid circle? Or even worse yet, being critical and “un-Yogic”? Let’s try discernment. Yet, the average Yoga consumer doesn’t know what they don’t know. Many of these students who desire to become Yoga teachers, often have very limited, or no Yoga experience. Their motives may be naive and short sighted. I see this as a trend; if the student has money, then they are accepted into the school. It is about the money, hidden under the lure of feel good transformation, and the perceptions of what Yoga is, and what being a Yoga teacher all about.

    We can all learn from the likes of Marion Jones & Lance Armstrong, it’s the lies and the coverup that is worse than the original offense. Maybe. Still, it’s surprising what contrition and an apology will do these days. Yet, these ethical issues lay hidden under our modern legal system, you are innocent until proven guilty. And people are depending on it. Who has the money and the desire to see these through? Ethics & truthfulness in Yoga…that’s a great concept.

    “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” ― John Wooden

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