Something smells foul in yoga festival land and it’s not your neighbor’s downwind. Even that we can laugh at, but what’s happening in the wake of the Santa Fe Yoga Festival is no joke. As thoroughly reported by It’s All Yoga, Baby, yoga teachers who taught at the 2014 event are left with a bitter taste in their mouths as they are still waiting for payment more than 10 months later, payment that was promised and agreed upon in a contract.
It’s true, the festival model, whether it be yoga or music or whathaveyou is not always sustainable. It requires many moving parts coming together and usually a majority of those parts costs a lot of money. (Hello, tons of sponsors!) When Kurt Young, co-founder of the Santa Fe Yoga Festival set out to create an event on par with the soul-schmancy, party-friendly Wanderlust Festival with bells, whistles, live music and top name teachers, what he ended up with was overspending, overdue bills and $40,000 in losses. What went wrong, we’re not entirely sure. (Tickets cost the public upward of $299 each for the weekend fest, and it was reportedly well-attended. There are always hidden, ancillary costs, of course). But as promises of payment became a broken record and to this day still remain emptier than a fountain of free coconut water at a hot yoga class, there’s one thing we know for certain – yoga teachers are steamed for being given the run around and even more frustrated at being lied to.
“Personally, what bothers me the most is being lied to so many times,” one teacher told IAYB. “That is more upsetting to me then not being paid as he promised repeatedly.”
Even so, a lot of the teachers awaiting payment made a choice to stay mum over the issue because they were being the nice, compassionate yogis they’re expected to be, while others, motivated by a growing voice of frustration, have decided to speak out, albeit anonymously.
“I was hesitant to talk to you after receiving your email inquiring about this issue,” one teacher told IAYB via email. “I don’t like conflict. However, I feel that if I stayed quiet, I would be doing a disservice to all my fellow yoga teachers that are currently in this predicament and to all of the future teachers that may find themselves in a similar situation.”
Still, there are other teachers who feel the payment should just be absorbed by the debt and forgiven as a way of donating their services and promoting yoga. (Who needs money when you’ve got prana, right?)
That might sound very nobly yogic, but compensation for work isn’t any less yogic, is it? Did we mention this year’s Santa Fe Yoga Festival is happening in August and the lineup was just announced and it includes and big ‘ol concert featuring yoga’s musical son himself, Michael Franti? Tickets are on sale for $299 for the 4-day weekend event ($249 if you buy early. Or $339+$25venue fee? This site says Franti concert is included in the $299 “adventurer pass,” while this site tacks on an additional $40 to the “adventurer” ticket price for the show. Seriously, who even knows).
But this year Young says he’s got a new business model he calls “collective cooperative.” Translation: nobody’s getting paid any money. Apparently, more than 300 eager yoga teachers applied to teach at this year’s fest for free, with 30-ish making the final roster, which is yet to be announced. Now if that doesn’t say something about yoga today, we don’t know what does. Could be these teachers love yoga and are itching to spread the light so much that they don’t need any of the devil’s money to get in the way of the pureness of the message, or maybe they’re so excited for the opportunity to be in the festival spotlight and potentially grow their experience, student base and/or brand that they’re willing to take a loss.
In any case, all Young wants attendees to receive is an “authentic experience” which just gets all clouded up when money gets involved, apparently. Despite fouling up last year’s fest right in the ear, Young sounds confident enough to pat himself on the back for his ideas and leadership skills:
“It’s true we made some first year blunders but they are surmountable,” he told IAYB. “It’s also true that this festival is tremendously popular amongst yogis who want an authentic experience. And even when financially we were in a tough spot and everybody wanted to jump ship I stayed on and saw this project through. That is true leadership. Now this festival will grow by leaps and bounds and it will be an amazing experience every year on and I believe our collective cooperative will be superstrong and influential in the yoga world.”
And that influence will be authentic, too, we hope? We’d like to think authenticity starts with honesty, respect and integrity. Pay your yoga teachers or tell them they’ll never see a dime. We know you’re all about love. The least you could do is be honest. Or, maybe offer them a free ticket to this year’s festival? We think Franti would approve.
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