When Yoga Is Business
Many yogis in New York City are grappling with the aftereffects
of another upheaval in their yoga universe. Earlier this month Pure yoga studio
fired popular teacher Marco Rojas in a manner he believes reflects their lack
of adherence to yogic ethics. Pure has dismissed the act as not even very
interesting, but it brings up some valid questions: is teaching yoga just
a job like any other, and should studios be held to the same principles we
expect teachers to exemplify?
Rojas claims that the rift with Pure management began as a
result of his urging them to run their retreats, schedule, and business in a
manner more in alignment with yogic values. “Management thought I was difficult,”
says. “Managers are not yoga practioners.” Pure claims that the departure
was mutual and that “what
led us to this moment is much less interesting than where we go from here.”
The day he was let go Rojas was called into the office 45
minutes before his class to discuss “communication” issues. There, he was unceremoniously
fired and escorted out the back door. This abrupt departure suggests that it
wasn’t exactly a mutual decision. It’s also the most upsetting part of the
situation for Rojas who had no time to speak with his students or say good-bye.
Rojas since been able to reach out to his students via Facebook stating, “I did
not agree to leave you. I did not make that decision." He is also
encouraging students to let compassion guide them and is reminding them that
they still have yoga and should continue evolving rather than getting caught up
in petty details.
This situation brings up many questions for us as
practitioners of yoga. As students we can choose not to support studios that
seem concerned with profit above all else. Teachers could also make this
choice, but taking such a strong stand against a studio may mean the difference
between supporting yourself as a yoga teacher and having at least one other
In an ideal world, every yoga studio would exemplify the
values and ethics of yoga. The current reality is that most studios are run
like any other business, and at some point they must consider the bottom line. While
it is admirable and understandable that a yoga teacher would prefer to teach at
a studio that exemplified yogic principles, most people don’t expect to keep
their job if they constantly clash with management at their place of work.
So we have another thin, grey line to traverse. At what point do we decide we cannot support
a studio anymore, either as a teacher or a student? As yoga teachers, how can
we stand up for what we believe in without losing our jobs? There are no easy
answers when a practice meant to speed the road to enlightenment is blossoming
in a capitalist culture.
What is an appropriate way for teachers to handle a situation where they disagree with their studio’s business practices?