As an indirect by-product of working at Yoga Journal magazine, I came up with the term Yoganomics® – with the specific hope of being able to give yoga practitioners, teachers, studios and yoga low cost price points to counterbalance the apparent negligence of American yoga education.
In New York, Miami, LA and San Francisco, some of the fortunate yoga teachers can make six figures. In the rest of the world, most yoga teachers have two jobs, kids, and are often times single parents. There are others who generalize yoga into being purely a spiritual practice and have illustrated a “glowing and spiraling” reality.
Yoganomics was not really made for the spiritual aspects of yoga, if that’s what you want. That’s just not who I am. For me the “real” topic of spirituality is completely personal. I am interested in learning what others think, but to espouse “the one answer” is ridiculous to me. I can’t walk into a church, temple, or mosque without asking myself why. My experience has been that we each have to walk our paths alone. That whatever it is we meet that greater purpose on our own terms, and choose to acknowledge it or we walk away of our own free will. There are many ways to get rationalize your own truth, but the reality of teaching yoga is that it’s a part time gig for most people who have chosen that life.
Yoga teachers who are making it in the yoga realm, are performing in a vaudevillian show that dances from city to city and is dubbed in Sanskrit – based on what they have learned from their teacher. In some cases, they learn it from their Guru. The people who take their classes have huge expectations. I had huge expectations. I felt I wanted to be whole.
Students are seeking, just as the teachers were – and the beautiful thing is that yoga is there to show you the way. But… you have to autonomously listen to your body…
When Yoganomics came to me, I was at Yoga Journal and the idea was percolating for a while. As time went on, one thing that has been made pretty clear to me is that bigger yoga corporations are inflating the worth of yoga as an industry – and the actual doers of yoga (the teachers and studios and small businesses) aren’t getting a quarter of the credit they deserve, but they are stuck in a larger scheme of a PR marketing ploy.
When I was at Yoga Journal, I spoke to people on all ends of the spectrum, all day, everyday. What I can tell you is that – yes, there are some teachers that are doing very well for themselves, but for the majority of teacher have other jobs – just to make ends meet. The ratio of successful teachers to those teachers who teach because they love it, I estimate to be 1/40 … meaning for every successful teacher there are 40 other yoga teachers who have other “primary incomes” coming from other non-yoga places.
There are many conversations, emails, and other things happening right now, that are shaping, and reshaping yoga. Events that are among the groups affected by the Regulation of yoga and the lack of available credentialing. Presently, most people in yoga are completely unaware, unconcerned or just plain oblivious about the events happening around yoga education… but even if they don’t realize it, yoga is changing right before their eyes.
What is change?
Whether people accept it or not, it is clear that the idea that is slowly coming to fruition is:
“why hasn’t yoga advanced farther in the last 17 years?”
When you think about how widely accepted yoga has become today, I’m compelled to think that the mediocre “good” is sometimes the enemy of the “best.”
What’s happening in yoga is not a collective participation. Most Yoga Teachers are not “in” the conversation, India is not a part of the discussion, yoga teachers and studio owners *not affiliated* with Yoga Alliance – are not a part of the discussion – …and really, anything without Corporate money is not a part of the discussion, either. Yes…. that is absolutely correct… even the “known” yoga teachers are not a part of the discussion.
As it stands right now, yoga lineages are not communicating with each other for proprietary reasons.
Until the Governmental intervention of yoga regulation (taxation) occurred in New York, Virginia, Texas, Washington and Missouri, only a few teachers and studios woke up out of the Yoga Alliance illusion that “Corporate” and “Not For Profit” yoga is not who they claim to be.
Yoga Corporations don’t have a “spiritual” vested interest other than their profits and manipulative marketing.
The key issue is that the more we leave the decisions in the hands of the huge yoga corporations, the more we are going to switch motives of yoga from Altruistic to Proprietary and Soulless.
Who the Heck Am I, Again?
In the four years that I worked at Yoga Journal magazine, each of the people at Yoga Journal are all wonderful and I love them all. The teachers I had there are truly wonderful… and my yoga teachers mean the world to me. I went from being truly a novice, to practicing to near exhaustion, to finally getting an understanding of yoga as a discipline. I had the same five regular yoga teachers for all four years I worked there: Sarana Miller (Ana Forest), Charu Rachalis (Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar), Jason Crandall (Iyengar based Hatha Vinyasa), Richard Rosen (Iyengar), Stacey Rosenberg (Anusara). On the rare days that a teacher couldn’t make it, other regular teachers were Deb Burkeman (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Ana Forest), Jennifer Rodrigue (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois – Iyengar Influenced) and Dina Amsterdam (Yin Yoga), and Chrissy Graham (Anusara Yoga). As a rule of thumb, I tried to make it to yoga usually 6 days of week, and most weeks I succeeded, however doing yoga all the time can take its toll on you emotionally as well as physically.
As a occupation, I handled the largest number of small business advertisers within Yoga Journal:
- Yoga Journal Directory
- Yoga Classifieds
- Online Marketplace
- Living Well Section
- Conference Advertising
These sales arenas allowed an extremely close view of and the yoga industry as a whole. I literally know hundreds of studio owners world wide, I managed to developed the yoga studio directory into a more lucrative position for the magazine, wrote the business model for the video podcasting and made it profitable, and also created the name for the “iPractice” iPhone app, (which actually Yoga Journal has now trademarked… iPractice Trademark Serial #: 77869400). I am a natural and Independent business thinker and Yoga Journal benefited.
Because of my direct demeanor and ability to talk realistically with small business advertisers, I was embraced with warm and positive feedback. From that point on, as the times of the recession kept getting worse, any success I had with my section came from them, but for many, the economy took it’s toll on them. All of the small business owners, the sole proprietors or the Limited Liability businesses, live in todays world and in the very real economy. For many people, they can feel the effects of the economy as it is changing.
Even despite the economy, I had more advertisers visiting me than perhaps anyone else there. My voice is recognizable and friendly and the customers and people I helped would fly from all over the world to have lunch and catch a glimpse of ” Yoga Journal”.
Yoganomics is a by-product of my time of working at Yoga Journal. When I came up with the word in 2006, while at my own home, I knew it was directly influenced by conversations I have had with some of the employees, but especially with friends like Les Leventhal and Ex-Yogi Times San Francisco Editor – Lisa Maria, as well as actual conversations I had with many of my advertisers.
I didn’t need any prompting, I laid the groundwork, thinking that Yoga Journal would completely support the idea. I even got a Yoga Journal editor to collaborate with me: Diane Anderson Senior Editor of Yoga Journal. We filmed two episodes of “Ordinary Yoga™” & “Yoganomics®.”
Once they were completed and edited, Diane and I “viewed” them with my boss Bill Harper, publisher of Yoga Journal and Vegetarian Times, the GM of the Active Interest Media “Healthy Living Magazines,” Pat Fox, Diane Anderson (co-collaborator and Senior Editor of Yoga Journal) and Lisa Wolford, my immediate boss.
I covered products in the first episode of Ordinary Yoga and interviewed Dana Flynn and Jasmine Tarkeshi, from Laughing Lotus, for the second episode of Ordinary Yoga. The videos weren’t shot professionally, and I wasn’t really familiar with the whole concept of filming yet. Even though the response was of interest and I was almost commended for expending the effort… I was inevitably shot down.
They did, however, like the business plan I had written for the episodes. Within six months Yoga Journal had yoga podcasts on yoga classes, using, of course, the exact business model that I had created. It honestly baffles me how they did not see the vision of Yoganomics, but what are you going to do? The past is over for a reason. Let’s move on.
And I did move on… I was committed to Yoganomics by purchasing the domains, and continued to work for Yoga Journal. As I later figured out for myself, the real reason they didn’t want to support Yoganomics, wasn’t because they didn’t see the validity or the need, it’s that Yoga Journal is already an established business, and Yoganomics inevitably does not fit into the scope of Yoga Journal’s pre-established businesses of Magazine, Conferences, DVD’s and Sales.
As time went on I felt compelled to start Yoganomics. Business-wise it made sense, and business to consumer-wise, it made complete sense, but my immediate boss Lisa Wolford, the publisher Bill Harper, and the company that owned Yoga Journal, were monotonously not interested. Believe me… I tried every angle I could to get Yoga Journal to throw some money at the Yoganomics idea to start it, but they repeatedly and quite consistently said no.
There was something that changed for me about six months after they said “no” the last time. After a pivotal discussion with a colleague in a separate industry, I made a conscious decision not to go above and beyond for work any longer. No more staying late unless it was necessary. No more listening to un-planned, small picture results. Either you build a product to have a positive impact, or there just isn’t a reason to blow marketing smoke. Yoga is not about whose corporation is bigger, it’s about the practice that allows you to surpass your own limitations.
I knew it then, just as I know it for certain now, that I had drawn a line and it was just a matter of time. I also knew it would have been utterly counter productive for me to start a side business for Yoganomics when I had already pitched to them. They had already made it very clear that whatever I did while I was at Yoga Journal belonged to Yoga Journal. So after Yoga Journal laid me off, I had no choice but to start Yoganomics.
In 2009, I had accompanied Les Leventhal to the first Wanderlust to film him. One evening after we met about the logistics of our business relationship, (since I was still working at Yoga Journal), he looked at me and said, “Can’t you feel it? We are right on the edge of something big… Something is happening and it’s exciting.”
For once, I was slow to answer, because I felt like I had been told “no” so often I had learned not to trust the excitement I felt. After he left, I walked to the park and I could hardly sit still. I knew he had been right, but not about us teaming up together, but about me finally having the courage to do what I should have done years before… start Yoganomics.
Without knowing it, the idea for Yoganomics the business was given to me and I had no idea where to start. So far, I have made tons of mistakes…. and I am committed to the realization that I am going to make a ton more.
Hecklers and the naysayers of yoga tell me all the time that the term “Yoganomics” doesn’t have a place in yoga, because “money and yoga don’t mix.” They can’t understand why I trademarked Yoganomics.
Whatever! I get what people are saying, and I also familiar with the urban legend that yoga should be free… but I whole heartedly disagree and ignore them.
There is greed and huge amounts of money running throughout yoga, but for the most part, yoga is readily being shaped by the yoga corporations that have the money to push their agendas. Just look at Yoga Alliance, Yoga Journal, or any other yoga corporation that’s flourishing. They are not strangers to money, in fact, they have fooled most people into believing that “corporations” are spiritual entities. I have heard yogis referring to actual product companies as being spiritual entities.
In truth, theyoga marketing is really good and consumers bought into it. The result is that the actual teachers and small studios have very little influence on who or what is shaping yoga.
For years, successful yoga teachers have been their own boss. That means that they became solution focused entrepreneurs. Anyone bogged down in the semantics of “classifying” yoga has blinders on as they ride the bus. It isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about how you can grow… how you can surpass your own limitations.
Who do you think is the most disgruntle by the imperial Yoga Alliance, and the inflation of corporate yoga? Really… Ask yourself that question… Who? India, that’s who. While the US has taken on it’s own “Yoga Inc” trademarking war, India has been overlooked as having any real say in the Regulation Process.
Instead of being led down the American Dream of pseudo spiritual corporate marketing, try to see the information as a wake up call to get smarter about the things you should have been doing in the first place.
If I didn’t feel strongly about Yoga, Yoganomics, Regulation, and corporate business, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. In my “exit interview” at Yoga Journal, I specifically asked both my boss, Lisa Wolford and General Manager, Patricia Fox, “if Yoga Journal had a non-compete agreement,” and they responded with, “No, Skip [Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, CEO of Active Interest Media] doesn’t believe in no compete agreements.”
I had all the permission I ever needed, the only thing that was left was for me to actually do it. That means that I had to get out of my own way.
In comparison to other jobs I have had, I love Yoga Journal and most of the employees. YJ is hands down one of the best “jobs” that I have ever had. In many ways it’s where everything started for me, where I noticed my niche with Yoga Teachers and Studios, and it eventually left me with no choice but to start Yoganomics.
…. Keep Yoganomics yoga specific, participate in any yoga process that keeps yoga organic and whole and not selfish profits at the expense of others.
I am a sober reality of yoga & small business, old 1956 – 1964 Mercedes Pontons of any model, side show carnivals, traveling around the world, utilizing “manufactured recycling” and the development of useful eco products, real contortionists (vs the emotional sort), all white clothing, Media Broadcasting (or Web Broadcasting), investing in the future of Africa, Orphans, all black clothing, disability rights, eradicating the corporate plague of unaccountability, ending dependence on OIL, jeans and a black t-shirt and reducing the number of endangered species.