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MY History with Yoga Journal

Jan 30, 2015

Brian Castellani’s view of yoga, his history with Yoga Journal Magazine and how he started Yoganomics®.

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 just walk into a church, temple, or mosque without asking myself why.

My experience has been that we each have to walk our paths alone. 

Whatever it is that we meet, we make a conscious choice to whether that choice is a greater purpose, or our greatest mistake.   

We make that choice on our own terms, without regard for acknowledgement, or whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

We walk 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.

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, sometimes are required to perform in a show of sorts that dances from city to city and is dubbed in Sanskrit – based on what they may have learned from their teacher.  

In some cases, they learn it from a Guru. The people who take their classes have huge expectations. I had huge expectations. I felt I wanted to be whole as a person, but those feelings were based on an illusion of what I was seeing.  What I would come to understand later, would determine the next chapter of my life. No one wants to be manipulated.  No one wants to be mislead.  Most of the time they are not… sometimes they are. Sometimes students are taken advantage of, which always pop up to the cries of many people who claim they are angry. 

KK Ledford is a wonderful yoga teacher in San Francisco, California.  She has been on the cover of Yoga Journal and was a teacher I always enjoyed taking yoga classes from. 

Students are seeking, just as the teachers were before they became teachers – and the beautiful thing is that yoga is there to show you the way.  But… you have to autonomously listen to your body, and not push open the door too quickly or you might force the results. 

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 spiraling marketing and ad prices.

When I was at Yoga Journal, I spoke to people on all ends of the spectrum, all day, every day.  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.

How Do You Define 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 two decades?”

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 less collective participation, and more about Yoga Teachers who 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.

It might be sad but it’s absolutely true… issues that affect yoga are not voted on, but decided by a select few, and even “known” yoga teachers are not a part of the discussion.

Brian Castellani who was interviewed by Antonio Sausys Marun Avisap, on his show called YogiViews, where they discussed Yoga Alliance, John Matthews & Lynn Bushnell.

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.

(Have you ever heard how Lululemon was started?)

The key issue is that the more we leave the decisions in the hands of Nonprofits, Media empires, and huge yoga corporations, the more we are going to switch motives of yoga from altruistism to proprietary marketing.

Let’s Talk Shop For A Minute

In the four years that I worked at Yoga Journal magazine, each of the people at Yoga Journal is wonderful and I love them all. The teachers I had there are very skilled, creative and educated… 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), Jennifer Rodrigues, Andrea Fotopolis and Chrissy Graham (Anusara Yoga). As a rule of thumb, I tried to make it to yoga usually 6 days of the week, and most weeks I succeeded, however doing yoga all the time can take its toll on you emotionally as well as physically.

My Department

As an occupation, I handled the largest number of small business advertisers within Yoga Journal 

  1. Yoga Journal Directory
  2. Yoga Classifieds
  3. Online Marketplace
  4. Living Well Section
  5. Conference Advertising

These sales arenas allowed an extremely close view of and the yoga industry as a whole.

At the time, I literally knew hundreds of studio owners worldwide, I managed to develop 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).  The point is, 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 the teachers and the studio owners, despite the economy taking its toll on them.

All of the small business owners, the sole proprietors or the Limited Liability businesses, live in today’s 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“.


    Who Thought Up Yoganomics®

    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®.

    Yoga Journal Podcasting

    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.

    The Beginning of Yoganomics®

    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®.

     2009 wanderlust Conference

    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. 

    The Hecklers and naysayers within yoga have told 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®.

    In truth, the yoga 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 disgruntled 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 path of the American Dream, with pseudo-spiritual corporate marketing, what if we tried to see the information as a wake-up call to get smarter about all the things we 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 non-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®.