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So I've been doing a lot of yoga these days or I've been trying to it's one of my New Year's resolutions and I used to be really consistent with my yoga practice back when I used to go to an actual studio in my neighborhood because it gave me this physical space carved out from the rest of my life where I could go and meditate and stretch. And now that I do yoga at home, it's just so much easier to not do it because it's hard to commit to a time.


Classes are constantly streaming. And so I can always just be like, I'll do it later. Also, it's hard to choose a teacher now that I could literally practice with anyone at any studio in the world. It's also hard not to, like, check my phone quickly before savasana cultivating your personal practice.


It's really not about the tangible space that you're practicing in all the time. It's really about the home and spaces within yourself.


Amanda Gloriavale does used to teach yoga in Brooklyn when I took a Zoome class with her. She had just moved back to her parents house.


Advice Dossena Exhale Multinational forward. And as difficult as Zoome yoga has become to practice, it's even harder to teach.


A lot of us are teaching a lot less. I know I am.


Before covid, Amanda had to teach a ton of classes at a lot of different studios just to eke out a living in order to really make it.


In terms of all of the things that I have to pay for, I had to really stock my schedule.


You'd think Zoome would be a relief from running around the city from studio to studio all week long. But Zoome classes actually suck in a whole new way.


Me personally popping up classes. I could probably pop up more, but I think it'd be no way that I could physically be able to teach 17 classes a week.


When Amanda used to teach in a studio, she would call out queues for poses and walk around the room adjusting students. And if students didn't know what a particular position was, they could kind of look around at each other for guidance.


The Zouma aesthetic is physically doing the class and teaching and then maybe popping off the map to look at the screen and gallery.


They need to look out. So it's physically a lot more demanding for me personally.


And even though Zoome classes are actually more labor students expect to pay less for them, especially now that there are all these free pre-recorded classes on YouTube or donation based classes on Twitch or an app with a robot teacher. Let's begin in child's pose. Separate your knees wide.


We've been surprised to find out how much of the usage is actually people who are brand new who might be too intimidated to go to a yoga studio, accidentally start off yoga with us completely.


This yoga app called Down Dog came out in 2015. Co-founder Bensimon said usage quadrupled in twenty twenty.


There's a lot of men who write in to us who basically say they didn't feel comfortable going to the studio, especially like, you know, men who aren't themselves confident in their body or their yoga practice down dogs.


Algorithm splices together a sequence of yoga poses which are accompanied by a perfectly shot video of a model doing each pose. You can make classes as long or short as you want, or as easy or as difficult as you want. You can choose the voice you want to lead you, and you can opt for a playlist of curated alternative beats.


So I think just in terms of the settings you can pick, there are over like thirty thousand possible combinations.


I do like to use down dog if I want to practice at a time where I can't find a class or if I'm in a mood and I don't feel like interacting with other people because Down Dog definitely does not feel like you are practicing with a human tabletop bow.


Bend your right knee and reach your left arm back, capturing your outer right foot.


I think to whatever extent we can be, you know, we can have a lot of users, especially by making it more accessible and introducing people to yoga who wouldn't have tried it otherwise because of the high barriers. I think in the end that should mean even higher attendance at yoga studios because they do provide something that we can't. And so if we can sort of like widen the funnel of people who might eventually go to other studios were not as much at like true competition with each other as it might seem.


But it's kind of funny that it's set up as a competition, that we've come to this place where it's like yoga studio.


Yoga is the real yoga and all other forms of yoga are cheap imitations and incorrect. When truly the invention of the American yoga studio is so recent within the long history of yoga and people have always been able to practice on their own, it has nothing to do with technology.


I'm sitting here with my mom. That's Stella Bagby, writer at large for New York magazine, talking to her mom.


I remember being a young kid. I have these vivid memories of you teaching yoga in our living room. This is, what, probably 1979, 1980 I'm remembering. Where did you even learn to do yoga? I went to the library and there was a book on yoga. I don't I can't remember it was library or maybe some kind of a book giveaway sale thing.


But there was a book on yoga and I picked it up and you just picked it up. Why was it I just look.


No, it wasn't popular at all. Was completely unknown to me. And, you know, and I know when you knew, did you know? It just intrigued me and I enjoyed it tremendously.


So I started doing it. How often I start doing it every day. But wait a second. Is it back up? You had no way of knowing whether you were doing these postures correctly, right? Well, I looked at the book.


I didn't exactly the way he said to do them. I learned and I still believe this to this day, that yoga is not something that you practice in a class with people.


It is a solitary, solitary, personal practice. You have to understand it wasn't at all what it is now. When I got into it, it was really it wasn't a big industry. They turned it into that. And that, to me, sort of ruined it.


And when Stella's mom says they, it's actually a specific group of people.


After the break, the very origins of the American yoga studio culture. So how is your 20, 21 been with the arrival of a new year? It's a good time for a mental health check in. Maybe you'd like to give therapy a try for the first time. Maybe you're feeling ready to pick it up again. Whatever the case, better help is here for you with licensed online counselors who are trained to listen and help in areas like family and relationship conflict, depression, self-esteem, anxiety and more.


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I adore the experience of moving and breathing in unison with a bunch of people, yoga, after all, literally translates to union.


It's just that some yoga studios have become so much about doing headstands for Instagram and trendy sports bras and incense and heated towels. It can be kind of alienating sometimes. And this is why years ago I was excited to check out a studio called Yoga to the people.


They were not about, you know, like the expensive yoga clothes, the expensive yoga mat. It was very much like you're going just for the yoga.


Madeleine Adler is a writer for The Cut who wrote about yoga to the people, which were also going to call y TTP classes were pretty packed and it was supposed to sort of teach you to be able to connect with your breath and connect with the poses and and get to that space and be able to practice yoga, even if it's very crowded, even if it's really hot and sweaty.


But another reason, yoga to the people packed so many students into one room is that all yoga to the people classes were donation based. You just leave whatever money you had in a bowl, no questions asked. You could leave nothing at all if you wanted to.


And for that reason why TTP was one of the few places a lot of students could afford to practice regularly.


The thing that made it so great in its ideal form, which was its affordability, was also what made it sort of easier for it to really trap people.


Once you start going to a yoga studio on a regular basis, it becomes really important to you. You get to know your fellow students and you learn to understand the different styles and playlists of your favorite teachers. And they, in turn know your body and your history of injury in the way you move.


But the thing is, as much as it can feel like a community, yoga studios are businesses.


And I think that is really important to keep in mind when telling the story. It's like yoga to the people grew to be a community. And that's incredibly important. And that's what drew people in, was that it fostered the sense of community, but ultimately it was also an employer. And I think that line of professionalism blurred a lot and it blurred sort of immediately as soon as people started doing teacher training. A lot of avid yogis decide to take their practice to the next level by doing yoga teacher training.


It felt like a natural next step.


That's why Nikki Palma and Courtney Dixon first signed up to do y KTP teacher training just to get better at yoga. Maybe if I got trained, I could better my home practice. But once Nikki and Courtney each tried teaching, they realized they loved it.


You just you love teaching.


And I was like, I want to do this magic for the teacher training cost between twenty five hundred and thirty two hundred dollars, depending on how early you signed up. And generally, yoga teacher trainings can be expensive. That's not exactly unique to ITP, but what was unique was the way we went about it.


The end result of being able to teach students is incredibly positive. But there were aspects that were not positive.


There's no one official way to conduct yoga teacher training, no set curriculum, no real enforced rules or regulations about it. Remember this? We're going to come back to that later. The only standard is that there is this minimum, but teacher training has to be at least two hundred hours long.


But what happens within those 200 hours and how they are spaced out is entirely up to the studio.


People described it to me as like a 10 week long job interview, although it was a pretty messed up job interview.


For example, there's this one day where all the teachers in training were led into a studio and told to sit on the floor and follow the teacher in the front. And then this teacher lifted her arms high above her head before I even really understand it's happening.


And it's just like, OK, my arms are here. And everyone else started to raise their arms above their heads. They kept their arms in the air for one whole hour, wailing and shaking in pain.


Also, all the other senior teachers and managers are in the room like watching and supporting you. So you're basically freaking out in front of the people who are going to be your bosses later. But that was just part one.


Immediately after, with no pause, students were told to sit in a circle and they were made to participate in what was called a share circle.


Teachers in training were encouraged to share something extremely personal, something they had never told anyone before.


Again, it's like. Did I cry enough to make my bosses happy? Did I share a bad enough secret? And then you wonder, like, do these people still respect me after what I said? Does the thing I said change the way my colleagues feel about me?


They were also told, oh, by the way, you're going to have to go through this apprenticeship period before you can teach here and you can't teach anywhere else.


I wasn't getting paid for any of my classes and I had any. No, and because of my schedule, I had to drop my actual job that was giving me money to teach classes, new teachers and training taught extremely early in the morning or very late at night.


I would wake up at four forty, but I'd get myself ready and go teach. But I didn't care because I was teaching.


Yoga actually used to fight with my family about yoga because they're like, why are you doing all this? Why are you there all the time? And I was like, it's a community and this is what we're supposed to do.


And if yoga to the people sounds a bit kielty it was.


But as Madeleine found when her story of mistreatment at why she came out on the cut, it's unfortunately not a unique story.


I've been contacted by a number of people who say, you know, this sounds really similar to my yoga studio.


I think what ends up happening with studio culture in the West is that people are coming to find a healing practice and are ending up swept into models of behavior and systems that end up harming them or further inflicting and deepening trauma. And without noticing it, things get transferred. That's Tagil Patel.


So if you can, because there was a void in your life due to a relationship or due to a substance or due to any number of things, and you come to yoga and it fills that void.


It's not just yoga and that's jassal per week. Any spiritual practice can be used to manipulate and exploit. So it's not unique to yoga.


Jaiswal and Tagil are both yoga teachers and scholars, and I host a podcast about the history and politics of yoga called Yoga is Dead.


And so when we say what, that yoga is dead, what we're essentially saying is that most people are getting a very tiny slice of the pie, thinking that that's the whole thing.


That small slice of the pie is this idea that yoga is supposed to be a workout that you're supposed to sweat while you elegantly guzzle your way from pose to pose. It is indeed this Vinyasa style of yoga that I practiced at my local studio, which is not to say that it's inauthentic.


It still comes from India. But it comes from a very particular set of circumstances, because when India was an English colony, Westerners didn't really get meditation. And so they tried to stop it, mystic's the critics, the practices of yoga were banned because of the ban of yoga during colonial rule. This is where this very athletic and almost overly athletic form of yoga really comes to light, because this was a reaction to show, hey, we're not some weak people that just sit around doing nothing.


That's what oftentimes meditation, Athena, through the western lens of sitting around doing nothing, not being productive. How dare you not be productive.


And so this sort of active strength meditation was something Westerner's could wrap their heads around. And not only could they understand it, they loved it.


And around the early 19, hundreds to 1920s, a handful of Americans and Europeans made pilgrimages to India to learn yoga.


One or two people would come from different areas of the world and then find their way to India and become trained. That person was then looked to as a leader and yoga as they left India.


And thanks to the Immigration Act of 1924, which barred immigrants from Asia, the people bringing yoga back to the United States tended to be white, wealthy Westerners.


Only people offering yoga were not really Indians. So that lasted for about 40 years. And then we get into hippies.


And so for most of the 60s and 70s, American yoga was really found in small hippie enclaves in San Francisco. Otherwise, you learned it from library books until the 80s.


Group classes, group fitness classes and aerobics classes become like the hot new thing. And so this becomes the model for yoga.


But some old school hippies were like, wait, wait, wait. We don't exactly want to turn yoga into just another fitness craze like aerobics or jazzercise. A lot of these hippies had dedicated years of their lives to this practice and had maybe even gone to India to learn it. They demanded that there be standards and respect for yoga. It came from a group of people that came out of that era that we're talking about, like the 60s that were sitting at a table and decided that their yoga knowledge was being bastardized because it was being done in gyms now.


And in nineteen ninety seven, they formed an organization called Yoga Alliance. They created the minimum 200 hour requirement for teacher training.


What they tried to do as a kid is sort of take the experience that they had had in those trainings when they'd gone to India and translate it to sort of a Western working environment. And Western working environments, of course, in many cases are structured around numbers of hours.


Shannon Roach is the CEO of Yoga Alliance for the Teacher.


It means that they have graduated from a school that has been credentialed to meet our standards.


But it's not like Yoga Alliance administers a test for those standards. They can't really define what is and isn't yoga because there really shouldn't be any one way to do it. Which puts Yoga Alliance in a tricky spot, trying to regulate and standardize and inherently UN standard and often very spiritual practice.


Certainly we have relationships with our peer and sister organizations and massage therapists. Of course, there's Ayurveda, there are yoga therapists, but there isn't a formal coalition. And one of the things we've been talking about is, is it time doesn't make sense, especially given some of these questions about how the people who work and participate in those universes are handled or not handled by the structures of labor laws and safety net provisions and those kinds of things.


But who's to say if some sort of wellness industry coalition would protect workers even within yoga alliance? It's complicated.


We represent both the people who are often the workers, which are the teachers, and also the people who are often the employers, because teacher training programs often live within studios. And so we are looking to try and figure out how best to represent our members on that and also how best to play a role in sort of thinking about the role of workers versus the role of employers.


But I guess the thing that, of course, now in this moment of upheaval, when everyone's taking a good, hard look at their own industries and highlighting all the problems in their you look at places like yoga to the people and the kind of abuse that has been reported there. I mean, is there talk of regulation around misconduct?


And I'm so glad you asked that. I don't want to shy away from that. That has happened, certainly. In fact, I can share with you some of the resources and videos and tools and statements and everything that we that we had put out to the community. And I in no way am I saying this is an excuse. I actually just I say it to shine a light on all of the kinds of abuses of power like this.


I mean, can people turn to Yoga Alliance to complain? Absolutely.


We we now have what we what we've called our accountability department. We've built a department to take those incoming reports, complaints, et cetera.


But all the yoga teachers I talked to don't see what yoga alliance could actually do as a teacher.


There's been no benefit of me being accredited to the alliance. I I've never interactive yoga alliance like I don't really know who Yoga Alliance is or who runs it.


In terms of the benefit I receive, I don't really see them. A lot of yoga teachers feel like there's nowhere to talk about mistreatment, hardly even among themselves. In fact, a lot of the white teachers weren't even aware how badly they were being treated because they were too busy working.


And then the pandemic hit.


A lot of people had free time on their hands. Again, Courtney Dixon, one of the former white yoga teachers, you're stuck with your demons.


You're not working. Twenty four seven are breaking your back all day. You're stuck with your thoughts and you start to eliminate things like that.


OK, what happened to me is like what was that that that went down during the pandemic, a number of former white CDPR workers came together and created the Instagram at Whitecap Shadow Work, where anonymous posts share stories of exploitative labor practices, racist comments and micro aggressions, inappropriate touching, fat shaming and many other forms of abuse.


You know, this story wouldn't have been possible without the Instagram page.


Why TTP Shadow Work Madeleine Story about abuse that was published August of last year. Madeleine can get anyone from yoga to the people to comment or to respond at all.


It seems to be closed. They certainly are making it sound. Like they closed due to covid-19, it's not immediately clear how all of these allegations of mistreatment affected. The decision to close it, although former teacher Niki Palmer says it is not over yet. They're trying to they're going to try to come back to life in some fashion or form. That's just they learned nothing.


But a lot of the white teachers did learn something during the pandemic. A handful of them gathered over Zoome and formed the People's Yoga Collective, or PC, to try to fulfill the promises of why GDP and restore some of the community they love and miss.


That was one of the values we wanted to make sure we upheld with Parsees just to make sure that it's accessible to all bodies and affordable to everyone.


Their logo, their name, their decision to talk to me. Everything about people's yoga collective is made by absolute consensus. So it's a lot of meetings. But the collective doesn't make members pay dues. They all manage their own Zoome costs. And no one regulates who gets to teach at what times.


The online model definitely gives such an opportunity for there can be to seven p.m. classes, right? There can be a seven p.m. and a seven thirty and they're going to be different because they're different teachers. People's Yoga Collective is still debating whether or not they want to open a physical studio space after the pandemic is over because that would make things complicated. It means they would have to have a lot more meetings and conversations to avoid perpetuating the same mistakes and abuses that whites made, which to some degree are embedded in the history of American yoga.


Yoga is up against a lot. And what I think we could just go back to is how we think that people are actually moving into a more positive direction with what's being offered because things are online.


Teaching independently over Zoome is hard. You have to do a lot of personal branding and social media pushing to even attract people to your classes. And there's not a lot of support and there's still no health insurance. But the freedom from the studio system has let Tagil Patel teach yoga beyond the movement focused exercise, heavy vinyasa style.


Now that we've gone online, I have been able to offer meditation just as much as I've offered movement focused classes. And that to me says everything it says. It says it to the studio owners that would argue we can't have meditation because people don't come for that. They come for movement focus classes. That's just not the case.


And it's the changing times potentially. But I actually think it's always been been there that we want all that the practice can offer us. We just haven't been sold that for a really long time. So I've been trying a bunch of different things, I've done some classes with People's Yoga Collective and with my old studio I used to go to back in Oakland, I've practiced with the Down Dog app and with YouTube and with a new studio in Brooklyn and a handful of independent teachers.


I'm learning a lot of different styles and approaches. I'm just trying not to beat myself up that I haven't figured out a perfect, consistent way to practice. Now that so many people are doing yoga in new ways, we can reconsider what we want American yoga to be as a business, as a practice, as a culture. Without the cute outfits and the Instagram mobile studios and the rooms full of flexible bodies. You can just focus on the yoga, which is the whole selling point of yoga to the people anyway and the whole point of yoga overall, just just try to be present where you're at.


The podcast is produced by Alison Barrenger, Bob Parker and me, thanks to Nikki Palma and Courtney Dixon and all the members of the People's Yoga Collective, if you want to try a class that people's yoga collective outcome. And there is, of course, so much more to the history and culture of yoga that we couldn't get to hear, but they don't just get to it all on their show.


Yoga is dead. Check it out at Yoga is Dead podcast dotcom or as I say, wherever you get your podcasts. This episode was mixed and scored by Joel Robbie with music by Ray Royalle, our executive producers on a shot. Kurla, Stella Buckbee and Hanna Rosin were made possible by the team at New York magazine.


Support their work at the cut dotcom slash subscribe. I'm a very tough woman. Thanks for listening. Hi, I'm Jesse David Fox, a senior editor at Mulcher and host of Good One, a podcast about jokes. Each week I speak with a comedian, listen to one of their jokes, and then figure out how it all came together for this week's special episode. We're taking a look back at Trump's impact on comedy and its role in society today, talking to guests like Sara Cooper and Roy Junior, people who discovered comedy in the last five years old.


Motherfuckers got opinions and they're ready to give them. And that goes back to the whole Klaper isn't a punch line type thing. And they'll figure that out and they'll grow out of that. But they're far more opinionated in their comedy has way more teeth than most of the people that I came up with. The 98 writing jokes about Waffle House. Listen to Good One weekly on Tuesdays and the Fox Media Podcast Network. Subscribe on Apple podcast Spotify or on your favorite podcast that.