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The Colossal Failure of Modern Yoga

The Colossal Failure of Modern Yoga
Most contemporary yoga teachers cannot answer one simple question that any teacher should be able to answer without hesitation. And that question is: What do you teach?

Written by AYS Founder James Brown


Every time I look at the screen to write this I feel nauseous.

I taught successfully within the yoga studio system for almost 20 years. But I don’t any more and I think the reasons for it are worth sharing with those of you who still do.

I was a full-time yoga teacher from 1997 until 2015. Beginning in 2004, I focused on educating practitioners so that they could be teachers. I helped get the Teacher Training at YogaWorks in order when it was still a teeny company and helped grow it into the global leader in the spiritual industrial complex that it is now. Then I started my own little company so I could focus the content more on the philosophy that underlies the practice. Over the years, I’ve taught about 1,000 people to be yoga teachers, and a lot of them are extremely good ones. But now I just can’t stomach the thought of trying to teach in that thing that the modern world refers to as a yoga class.

Now I’ve moved from the yoga mecca that is LA back home to the Chesapeake Bay where I grew up; and I’m happy to say that I haven’t seen a yoga studio for a few months. When people ask me why I left LA, I tell them that it’s because I couldn’t stand to look at another yoga teacher and, for now at least, it’s true.

That’s because “yoga” has taken on a new meaning in the public lexicon and the new meaning is absurd. It’s been less than 50 years since the first group yoga class happened but in that short time, the content of those classes has veered so far off course that it falls well outside of even the most open and generous definitions of yoga practice.

Classes with yoga in the name are a free-for-all now. Most of them are led by people who have practiced for a short time, then took a short training with an inexperienced teacher. Instructions about how to practice yoga have become practically extinct, replaced by music, smiles, and well-intentioned but misguided falsehoods.

And that has slowly but surely eaten away at my ability to function as a studio yoga teacher because of how much energy I’ve lately had to put into dispelling the prevailing understanding of what yoga is, what yoga does, and how it does it.

But I have not rejected the practice and never will. I am a yogi still. There is no aspect of my life that isn’t about yoga, from the big picture to the most minute details. I do the practice and I live my life according to what I’ve learned from it. I practice yoga because it taught me what the world is and who I am. It showed me how to recognize happiness and how to make happiness happen. The things I’ve learned on my mat provide a beacon in darkness that makes pain understandable and manageable. Insight from yoga practice guides me through experience by making me know that whatever is happening will never be repeated and to pay attention to it as a way to move forward with less avoidable suffering and with greater contentment. What I have learned provides solid ground when I am in a world of chaos, which is always.

I want to teach those things and I used to be able to do it well. But things are different now.


I loved my job so much. Almost nothing in my life mattered as much as my work. Anything that got in the way of getting the word out about yoga was pushed aside without much thought. I lost contact with my family, drifted away from friendships, and didn’t interact much with anybody who wasn’t part of my learning and teaching yoga. I sold my car to make payroll and was evicted from three homes while trying to keep my yoga studio open (it closed in 2013). For a long time, it felt like it was worth it. My mission in life, and its path to completion, were clear.

Then a couple of years ago, I started to see that things were changing for me and I didn’t know why at first. I started showing up late to anything that had to do with teaching. I watched myself sabotage my career and my relationships with my students. Last year in Manila, I taught my 44th teacher training course. And I can tell you with great assurance that it was the worst teacher training of my career, and that it was awful because of me. I didn’t know why I was self-destructing, but I was.

I would start shaking and sweating while I was teaching things that I’d taught hundreds of times before without stress. I threw up every morning. I cried every night. In the last days of the training, I broke down in a shopping mall, sat on the floor, and called my host studio owner to ask for help, something I have never done before. I didn’t recognize myself as a teacher any more.

Then I came home in March and went to bed. And I didn’t get up until August. During that time I neglected every relationship, every responsibility in my life, except the one I have with my dogs, (who have taught me more about yoga than anybody). When I finally woke up, I knew what the problem was. I hated being a yoga teacher.


I started to hate my job because I wasn’t being allowed to teach yoga any more. Instead, I spent time with students un-teaching the idiocy that’s been learned in classes with yoga in the name, as well as from social media, and from the way that yoga is talked about in contemporary culture. It did not used to be this way. Something is wrong.

Yoga has a big problem now. That is that most contemporary yoga teachers cannot answer one simple question that any teacher should be able to answer without hesitation. And that question is: What do you teach?

The vast majority of modern yoga teachers are incapable of breaking down the most basic concepts about what yoga is, what the human body is, and how they can work together in this thing called asana. They tell their students all about the magical things that happen when you do as they say but they cannot, for the life of them, explain what it is that they are doing and how that may connect to any usable tool for living.

So, what are yoga teachers doing, if not teaching yoga?

Just have look at the advice that the world’s biggest yoga publication, Yoga Journal, has for new yoga teachers. The number one tip? They tell you to do something that is completely unnecessary but has the appearance of being a requirement: register with Yoga Alliance, the creator of the problem. And what is Yoga Journal’s next tip? Buy insurance … from Yoga Journal.

Or head on over to social media, where the world spends a whole lot of time. See there that yoga rock stars like to teach how to “get” fancy poses with a few words that are not based on reality, and are always accompanied by a flattering photo. Or scroll down a bit further and find teachers who share videos of people they’ve deemed to be bad getting killed, posted along with their clucking comment that this is karma, revealing that they are profoundly misguided about what karma is and what a yoga teacher’s job is.

Also, my inbox has been populated lately with a new thing: promo from services that offer free sequences to new teachers as a way to get them in the door. The sequences are lists of poses and that’s all. Teaching yoga from a list that somebody else created and that you don’t understand is not okay. This is not how yoga is taught. But the writers of the lists and the people who try to use them don’t know that because they haven’t been educated about yoga practice and how to teach it.


The descent into this embarrassing charade called yoga started when Yoga Alliance training standards, 200 hours of contact with almost no direction about what is taught, no oversight, and no skills testing, became the norm.

Teaching asana as a yoga practice takes skill. It takes an understanding of the body and an even greater understanding of the system of yoga, because this new thing we do, using the body as the tool for practice, is not that easy to fit into the context of traditional practice. It can happen, but it requires knowledge, training, practice and skill.

However, Yoga Alliance requires none of those things. Their under-educated registrants cause harm by misguiding trusting students. But they are only doing what they’ve been taught by Yoga Alliance-registered teacher trainers, most of whom have no business teaching yoga, let alone yoga teachers. But they don’t know. It’s not their fault.

It’s time that skilled yoga teachers, the ones who know this is not okay, to do something. I have talked to hundreds of them about this in the past couple of years and every single one of them agrees that the Yoga Alliance standards are way off the mark. Publicly, however, they say that we should all be nice to each other and not criticize. There is almost nothing written by other yoga teachers about this mess. Complacency is not yoga and skilled yoga teachers know that. So, where are you? What are you doing? Are you going to let this keep happening or are you going to speak up and help the world learn about yoga?

210 thoughts on “The Colossal Failure of Modern Yoga

  1. Brilliant article! I’m new to teaching but have learnt to engage with all my students individually & collectively to share just that. The yoga truth. This has been passed on from the great teacher Stephanie Calhoun. I feel comfortable telling my students all about anatomy, fascia, breath, discomfort, anything that arises! They need to know & deserve to understand what is happening.

  2. I think you worry more than you need to about this. There are plenty of very serious practitioners both in the US and abroad. If you have any doubt about that, go visit the Iyengar institute in Pune (India) for a month and come home inspired (and humbled). And In regard to how to handle the things that are discouraging you about the state of Yoga practice and teaching, I recommend the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. And most importantly: Get back to doing what you love. Practice and teach yoga.

    1. I know there is good yoga out there. That isn’t what the article is about.

      I don’t pray, I do things. I like that AA prayer, though. Especially where it says something about the courage to change things that I can. That is what I am doing.

  3. commercialized yoga…. yoga to yoke … man and god the real yoga is for spiritual upliftment.

  4. Yes. Yes. I so totaly agree. This counts for somany sorts of (spiritual) teachings. Often it becomes a role with a wanted spiritual status. Spiritual materialism it is.
    I find it sad. Understandable but sooo sad. The living true teaching does not come across in these pratices.
    I’m not a yogi. I’m a soundhealer as a conductor of energies with high frequencies. But in this field ofcourse same things are happening. I stopped trying to reach them, stopped explaining, stopped being angry and sad. I asume they do their thing as pure as they can do in this moment. But I don’t want to be interactive with this energy. So the only thing for me to do is follow my own path, hear the bigger realities and (sound-) sing.
    In loving connection
    Yolinde Galama

  5. I in a way am going through what you have gone through not to the extent but I sure can understand. I was working at a studio that all the did was criticize everyone. Try to change the way I teach then put me though a YA training because I was the only one who wasn’t ryt. I had done a certification class with a teacher that was not ryt before this and it was amazing, inspiring and so educational. During my 8 week TT with the studios eryt it was horrible. I hated going and I couldnt figure out why. Afterwards I didn’t conform to the way I was taught to teach during that time and I slowly got pushed out. I questioned everything I did from there on. I now teach at a gym with more mature people who actually have an interest in the all around yoga. Philosophy, asana, meditation, daily living. Not just who can do the coolest arm balance asana. I’m still feeling down and trying to get back to who I was in my personal practice because now I feel like that’s even been torn down ( am I doing it right…) . I love your article. Thank you so m7ch for your words. Xoxox

  6. This is all very true, and I agree, but what do you suggest? This article echoes many of my concerns (I studied a 200 hour Yoga Alliance registered course and definitely did not feel at all ready to teach!) but doesn’t offer any suggestions about what we should do. How did you train? How did you learn how to be a good teacher? Can you offer any advice for people that want to learn and prepare themselves?

  7. Thank U !

  8. You are telling my story. I just gave up my YA ERYT and Training Certification for all these reasons. I will never train another student again, it is just too much mess, too much BS and too much too much. Thanks for being bold to say it out loud.

  9. YES! I hear you brother. I so hear you. I am in quite a similar situation, and I am chewing through it. I must say though, everything has its surface (its superficial aspect) and its depth–everything. It seems to me that no matter what we do, the same basic dynamics you describe will exist, and need to be allowed for, somehow. Or else, what would we do? Stop being a massage therapist because some act inappropriately? Stop being a public servant because many politicians are corrupt? What genre of livelihood exists without massive impurities associated with it? So we do what we do, in the best way we can, and trust that those who resonate with where we’re at will find us. Indeed, it may be our dharma to hold up the shining light of quality, transparency and integrity in all of this. I wish you peace.

  10. Also from L.A.; the birthplace of McYoga… that’s why I scrapped all of the other methods and started over again by studying B.K.S. Iyengar. He was the real deal.

  11. Thanks so much for putting it in words.
    I’ve to admit sometimes I feel like no one is interested in what I’ve to sell in terms of Yoga. That I would create a bigger base of students if I looked different, talked different, was less crazy and more professional.
    Professionalism, is that what you are aiming at ? Do you believe I should be talking more about anatomy, corrrect alignment and therapeutic uses of asana, or would you rather hear more about how the biochemical changes in the physical expression of the ‘Kshetra’ or field of the body during asana practice can bring up ‘Vasanas’ that might cause mental injuries off the mat ?
    How far would you like to take it ? ‘Traditional’ Yoga -as in the practices related to Asana- what is that ? And since we may never hope to attain to the Brahmin traditional lineage of Vishista-Dvait and become a Jivamukta (partially merged woth the divine), any ‘tradition’ is what we make of it, here and now. Such will be our contribution to what is in essence a rebel-against-the-brahmin-order tradition anyway.

    I believe YA standards are fine. Yoga will sort itself out. How difficult it really is, for me, to accept that I AM NOT THE DOER.

    Hari Om!

    1. I am in a similar position. It sounds like you are a teacher I would like to learn from. As teachers we need teachers too. If you put anything online please do let me know. X

      1. Thank you! I have put EVERYTHING online … except the actual asana practice, which I teach live in 4-week courses (in popup studios that i rent, not in existing yoga studios businesses) to people who have already done all of the online content.

        If you interested in the bundles of courses, I am going to be offering a 25% discount publicly but don’t want to announce it too close to the publication of the article because I don’t want to make it seem like I wrote the article to sell courses. (If I was doing that, I wouldn’t have written about how I hate teaching yoga, would I?)

        You can see how it all works by watching the short video at the top of this page:

        Then scroll down for a list of the online courses and live intensives. Click on any of them to see details about curriculum and a breakdown of each module by lesson. I am online every day from 9 AM to 9 PM to chat live with students in the course. Click on that little bubble that is at the bottom of the page to text with me and I can give you a promo code if you want to do them. And if not, chat with me anyway! I wrote the article to get the discussion moving in a new direction and want to hear what you have to say.

        Check it out and thank you!

    2. In short, here is what I think a yoga teacher who purports to be teaching in alignment with the yoga sutras should be able to do. They should know, when they teach, what they are saying and why they are saying it. And what they are saying should be able to take a student, from wherever they are, into a practice of yoga. Yoga practice, as Patanjali defined it, is an effort to steady the mind. In order to do that in the context of asana (which is only one of many possible ways to practice the yoga of the sutras), they would need to know enough about the body to fulfill that first objective: know what you are saying and why you are saying it. That usually, but not always, requires anatomy study. But, my teacher actually has never studied anatomy in a technical sense, but she sure does know what she is saying and why she says it. I don’t care where teachers get the info, whether through their own practice, or by taking a course, or by studying with a teacher … but they should not teach if they don’t know what they are teaching or what they are saying.

  12. Oh my word I 100% agree with this. I am not a teacher, but a student. I had a fabulous yoga teacher and mentor who sounds much like you. She allowed me to pay what I could to attend class, she kept her eyes open and on all of her students, able to shift the sequence of class based on the class’ needs be it emotionally, physically, mentally, she spoke of how yoga is a way of being on and off the mat, she has an astute knowledge of anatomy that is second to my mother who is a physical therapist, she is the only one I trusted to make adjustments to my body during sequences- and as a result I got stronger, I healed- physically and emotionally. She left my area to move to another country and I tried so hard to find another teacher- but none were the same. They played loud top 40 music, kept their eyes closed (how in the world could they know what I was doing) and had no idea how to help me make adjustments. Studios both large and small asked for my social media information and wanted me to share photos and inspiring tips with others- they turned people away who couldn’t pay for one class, they became a place where thin woman were the norm and lord help a woman who walked in looking different than that.

    The worst part is I continued searching and found a teacher who came highly recommended. She asked me to fill out my medical history, and then tossed the completed card in a basket- didn’t look at it once. When I asked about modifications as I was just coming out of physical therapy, she told me to “listen to my body” but that “we need to go to the edge to mitigate fear” as she then proceeded to lead class with her eyes shut. Did I mention the class was billed for seniors? At the age of 40 I was the youngest one in the class by a good 25+ years. Needless to say I re-injured myself in that class (lesson learned) and have been healing from neuralgia ever since. It’s been a year.

    I have healed by finding a Tai Chi teacher, and find that while it is not yoga, it is movement and connecting of the mind, the body and the heart. However, my teacher? The one who taught for over 20 years, who had her own studios? Well, she like you, has retired her yoga teacher shingle- for she too, could no longer find a voice other than hers to speak the truth.

    To that end, if you find a way to change this and a way that I, as a student, can be of service, please let me know.

    1. Wow, Beth. This is powerful. I am glad that you still know, through that experience, how to discern for yourself the things you have. What I have done recently to change this is to put all of my course content online and I have been really delighted that I am finally finding the people who want to know more. I am able to engage with them online as they take the courses, and they are learning more than I was ever able to teach in a studio or in workshops or courses. I still teach live teacher training courses, but only to those who have done all the online prerequisite work. IT is a whole new world. By doing this, I have taken a big detour around the whole mess that is the yoga studio system. A lot of those students, though, do own studios and run teacher trainings. Things are trickling down to the practitioners through them. I am hoping that this grows and that other people do things like this.

      SO, in short, I am using technology to teach. I think that having to maintain a physical structure and a staff of people is one of the things that has made those in the studio system cut corners. They have to in order to pay the rent and payroll. I’ve been there. I didn’t cut corners with the content, though. I cut corners with the financials so I could sustain the teaching but that didn’t work out because landlords want money and teachers need paychecks.

      This is what I am doing. Please stay in the conversation. Thank you so much.

  13. You’re right, but you might consider accepting that most people don’t want to really learn yoga. They want to stretch and feel good… And that is actually perfectly acceptable. Eventually life will teach them what they need to know, the same as it does for everyone else. As you know, the classical practices are esoteric and unappealing for most; many are simply inappropriate for a modern secular life (amaroli? kechari?). As a new yorker I have never met a saddhu, but I still learn from the texts, and my teacher.

    If you are upset by this trend of aerobics being labeled “yoga”, then you might want to… I dunno, practice some yoga, find a better perspective on it.

    On the bright side, for all the thousands of uninformed, there are willing and open minds who are being starting their journey to truth who would not have had the opportunity otherwise. I am sure that you have had a huge impact on many, but not all (or even most). That is the value of teaching.

    Good luck and I hope you are feeling better soon!

    1. I do feel better, thank you! And I do practice some yoga. I am always fascinated when yoga practitioners who disagree with some point of view of mine, then respond by suggesting that I practice yoga. Like the yoga will bring me around to agreeing with them. Aside from that, I am in full agreement with you. But that isn’t what my post is about. It’s about how most classes with yoga in the name have no yoga practice in the content.
      As I taught full time for 20 years, I am well aware of what brings people to yoga and how that may not seem to jive with the original intent of the practices. My entire training course, which is very extensive, is about meshing the desire of the student with the thing that we have to offer. OF course, people don’t come to yoga to be yogis. That is not new info. I have responded to that with a comprehensive program that allows teachers to teach, in their own voice, real yoga practice, on a yoga mat, to people who are there to get a hard butt or to meet ladies. It’s all good! Except when we knowingly lie to them and present something that we know is just exercise and call it yoga.

      1. I apologize for offending with the “practice yoga” comment, it was meant tongue in cheek but I see it as rude now.

        1. No apology needed but thank you!

          1. Maybe Dan meant practice a la Sutra 1.1 – 1.4, then focus on 1.32. I always find peace in the Samadhi Pada.

          2. Liz,

            Dan was kidding. Maybe you are, too. But, in case you aren’t, and to prevent others from doing more of that, here are my feelings on that.

            I don’t think anybody can assess which sutras I need to focus on in my life based on a blog post. It doesn’t work like that. The sutras aren’t little directives that you can prescribe to individuals based on whatever it is you base this suggestion upon. I appreciate the intent, but this is exactly the superficial stuff that I am writing about.

            You can quote some sutras. Great! I translated them myself over four years of intense work and after 15 years of intense practice and study. Neither I nor any other human being is well served by sutras prescriptions from the comments section of a blog post.

            If you would like to discuss the sutras with me at length, take a course. If you want to read my translation, it is available for you. But if you want to tell me what I need to work on, when you neither know me nor how the sutras work, please do something else.

          3. Hey James, I’ll keep this brief. I’ve seen your article all over FB and other social media and that’s fine with me. Very quickly in my study of Yoga I realised that there was lot of BS, maybe mostly BS and I’m in the UK where it’s a little less diluted. I took myself off to Chennai to study with the Mohans who I believe hold at least authenticity beyond what most consider to be authentic. We’re not gymnasts, we’re teachers (hopefully) of ‘the truth’. Hope you don’t experience too much BS from expressing your opinion.

      2. Hmm… I have been thinking about this topic a lot over the past few years, actually. So I’d like to try to again. Here’s why:

        I had a brilliant, dedicated, and knowledgeable teacher in the past who was very hung up on the misrepresentation of yoga, much the same as you’ve expressed in this post. He taught me so much, but it always puzzled me how someone so far along in his studies would be wounded so deeply by what is essentially a matter of semantics (the definition of the word “yoga”).

        He often expressed misgivings to me about continuing teach. Like you, he spent a great amount of energy unwinding unhelpful teachings, trying to redefine the practice for his students, and was often frustrated at the commercial, Western perspective that dominated “yoga” in his circles. His authenticity alienated him from other yoga teachers, who were offended by his critiques and threatened by his deep knowledge.

        As his student, I was always hoping to feel two things from him. First, I very much wanted him to be satisfied with the enormous positive impact that he was having on my life, and the lives of other dedicated students. Shouldn’t that have been reward enough? Second, after I started to appreciate the teachings I was offered, I was waiting with bated breath for him to be peaceful about this, for a sense that the practice was successful in helping him detach from this hurt. Wasn’t that actually the point of practice in the first place? But he was always looking for something else. I offered many points of advice on how I thought he might deal with the challenge, but he didn’t appear to take them.

        After getting to know him, I realized that he was under financial pressures, which were amplified by students being turned off by the teachings. People (“teachers”) would come into his school with the attitude that they knew better than him – immensely disrespectful given the devotion with which he had studied and practiced. Of course, they didn’t know better, because they had learned incorrectly elsewhere. There were other stresses – family, government, subsidiary businesses and pursuits, and so on.

        His example taught me a lot about how to frame my own life conflicts, to get at the bottom of things. Fundamentally, all of these misrepresentations and slights were external, and he had internalized them. Many of them were minor but over time they accumulated into a festering ache. This impacted his teaching and even discouraged him from continuing. I am still not sure how I could have helped him, or even if it was correct for me to try.

        I’m telling this story because, believe it or not, despite the messages the world seems to send, the world – particularly the Western world – needs accomplished yoga teachers. Our society is horrible at helping us understand why we are here. There are few tools to help individuals build strong, steady minds that can anchor and protect from negativity. Yoga is a gift and teachers who have delved so deeply are rare and precious.

        As a student, if I can help any accomplished teacher to remember that, then I am doing my part in some small way.

        With respect.

  14. The answers of how to live are rarely found by persons who are unaware there ARE practical answers. Yes it is sad that “yoga teacher” no longer connotes one who sees the path. But let us continue to inspire by sharing our clear view, however we can convey it. Thanks, Eric

  15. Hi, I really do appreciate this post, and understand where you’re coming from. But I want to share my personal story as to why I started yoga and now, newly teach it (trained at Kriaplu Center).

    I’ve always been fat. And from an early age, my body was told by many people that I lacked grace and was “too big” for certain things. I always saw yoga as something to try, but the bodies I saw practicing…well…did not look like mine. But I kept going to classes, started connecting with my body in a unique way, and I grew to explore body acceptance through yoga as a tool for self-love.

    I wanted to train with one of the best schools possible, Kripalu, because I respect yoga and believe it important to learn something properly. Anyone can do a pose, snap a photo, and carry on — but I’ve learned that yoga happens off the mat way more than on it.

    Today, I have a business called More to Love and I help people feel better about their bodies, no matter the size. But it’s mostly fat people. And I teach them yoga along with other things. I teach to a room full of large bodies that never felt welcome in a “mainstream” class. I teach them a niche type of yoga, informed by my own decade of learning + training. And while it might not be the yoga you learned or value, it’s the yoga this population needs and wants.

    I’m totally open to the fact that I know <1% of all the asanas and how to explain/teach/live the yama and niyamas other than reciting. However, I've chosen to blend my work in body acceptance with the practice of yoga and it's helping a lot of people – including myself. I honestly get excited knowing that the practice of yoga is something I will have for the rest of my life – even beyond a business (because I understand it'll change over time).

    But I hope you know — without your work before this, yoga would not have been accessible to someone like me. If you didn't teach the many, it would not have spread. Karma Yoga perhaps…or the passing on and truth that a living art has to grow as more people explore, interpret and make it work for their lives.

    1. OK Rachel, well done. Your comment was the first one that made me cry. I hope you are happy! Ha ha ha. It was a happy OMG she is so wonderful cry. So, yeah, be happy. I would really like to talk to you about what you are teaching. I love fat. Love it. Fat people are beautiful. Yoga people could stand to be a little fatter in my opinion. I love what you are doing. Promoting rail thinness as an ideal body type is not cool. You are creating a new paradigm. Will you please get on my site sometime and live chat with me? You just click the thingy at the bottom of the page any time between 9 AM and 9 PM EST any day and I will reply. Or send an email to and I will get it immediately. Send me your number if you want me to call you. I would like to share what you have said with a larger audience. Thank you.

      1. James, such a kind reply ..thank you! I’d love to connect, my email is rachel [at]

    2. Thank you Rachel. I so appreciate your comments. I’m a latecomer to yoga, started practising in my early 50s and have undertaken 200 hr training and now 500 hr training with a wonderful Indian Rishiculture teacher, who himself trained at the renowned Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry. We are so blessed to have had thorough training in classical yoga – covering all 8 limbs in depth. We learn in ashram style and also have a lot of fun. I think the ‘larger person’ issues can be similar for older people – they don’t always fit into the mainstream classes… a very balanced and considered response to James. Thanks again.

  16. I think when people speak of yoga from outside they look at figures that relate to sign ups for classes. The figures are good. But how many who sign up have a daily sadhana? That is the issue this article is about. Right?

    But if you are right and it is all just for show, this means that the reach of yoga may be exaggerated, right across the world. Is this a problem? If 1% of 1% are participating in daily sadhana, is that “bad”?

    Yoga is probably one of the hardest commitments you coud choose, it doesnt surprise me that some water it down, and if that makes it accessible, if one of 1000 gets it, thats good.

    It is hard to deal with “fashion yoga”, but not impossible. Where I teach we chant, and we breathe, and we show our yoga roots. Most relate, and some come closer, while others drift away. To me that is healthy, yoga is a life choice, not a pair of pants.

    1. I am speechless and grateful at the same time. I have been teaching for 25 years and was afraid to state and then began speaking about unqualified teachers and the horrendous teacher trainings they explained they attended. It is a shame that 200 hours or a weekend workshop gives permission for someone to teach (I mean that there are quality 200 hour trainings) who has never even practiced yoga. I did not feel qualified to attend a teacher training until I had been practicing at least 10 years. Thank you for reinforcing my beliefs, my thoughts, my feelings….

  17. Thank you. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this, having heard my own story told back to me through your article. I first found yoga in Seattle with one of the most deeply and authentically spiritual people I have ever known. I remember looking at her immense, unwavering smile and thinking, “What does she know? What does she have? I want that!”

    I ended up traveling to India for a month with my Sanskrit teacher (this studio actually had a Sanskrit teacher) and starting the 6 month teacher training program the day I returned. I felt as though I had been given a magic box of jewels to share with the world. Then I moved to LA.

    I struggled to find a community that understood and valued what I had been given, and was successful to some degree. I gradually worked my way into the yoga industry and at the height of my teaching career was teaching 12 studio classes a week and working with a private clientele which allowed me to support myself on my teaching. And then exactly what you described started happening–I started to dread teaching. Fortunately, life offered me other opportunities and I started to move away from teaching. I gave up my last class about three years ago and haven’t been able to get myself to even go back inside a yoga studio since. My friends (and more so my students) can’t believe that I’m not involved in yoga anymore, as, like you, it was all I was about for years.

    Thank you for validating my experience and calling out this vile trend of the mass marketing of our mystical science. Your article has shifted something inside of me.


  18. people always look at me with a confused expression when i say, “yeah, i used to teach once upon a time, but i just couldn’t do it anymore,” and i have tremendous difficulty explaining why.

    this. this is why.

    in the nearly 9 years since i took my first yoga class, i’ve seen the community grow into something that i no longer truly feel a part of. i definitely still have teachers that i love, respect, and from whom i still enjoy taking class… but the ardent love for group yoga is gone, replaced by a heaviness in my heart and a sometimes lonesome home practice. the energy almost universally has become this sort of cotton-candy-rainbow-daydream-sparkle to cloying extent, but has no actual substance. any “bad” feelings are hushed up and pushed away, instead of acknowledged and dealt with. and often it’s downright physically dangerous.

    thank you for having the courage to call a spade a spade. standing right there with you. xoxo

  19. Thank you for the post. I generally disagree.

    I have practiced yoga in North America for 15 years. I have been to at least 20 differnt yoga studios in all different yoga styles. I have had at least 50 differnt teachers, some for one class, some for 20 classes, some for 150 clases. Here’s the thing: I have NEVER ONCE experienced the phenomenen you speak of. Most teachers have been good. Some only ok, but some exceptional. One of the ironies has been to discover that it is sometimes the youngest and even less experienced teachers who teach from a truly connected state (ie, a state of yoga). I assume this quality is not easy to intill into a yoga teacher….So if yoga was going to heck, why haven’t I heard of it, except from a yoga teacher training school,l such as yours?

    Secondly, what I find in many studios- and which to me represents one aspect of the unhealthy Westernization of yoga- is a tendency to always talk about yoga technique and injuries! Your article actually conforms to this pitfall of North American yoga. The trendiest of trendy yoga studios in Toronto almost ALL cater to this thinking on some level or another: Don’t put your toes together in mountain pose or you could injure your knee; don’t lift your shoulders in half-moon (shoulders down the back is like it’s own little religion). It’s alomst as if Western science- with it’s Cartesian emphasis on skepticism, has come to be skeptical of yoga itself! Fine, be scientific, but also be yogic: with an emphasis on the miraculous quality of the human body and mind; of the unlimited potential in the student who is connecting to self and others via yoga. Pose technique has taken total dominance over the yoga imagination, and yet the best teachers I ever met alomst all encouraged brave calm depth and experimentation with pose technique, not a constant vigilance that yoga can hurt you.

    To me, this is a little like” Holmes on Homes,” who has created a generation of renovation experts who claim that they are the true source of proper building technique, amidst a sea of unprofessional hacks. I think this is simply untrue. There’s lots of good tradesmen out there, just as there’s lots of good yoga instructors.

    1. Just because you haven’t seen what I have seen doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Read the other comments. I didn’t make this stuff up. I am really glad you haven’t seen it, though!

      You make a lot of assumptions about me, though, and they are wrong. This article is not about alignment or injuries at all. My training curriculum has info on that, as it should. But, not this article.

      I NEVER use the word “proper” unless I am making fun of something. I don’t think it has any place in yoga practice. So, where’d you get that? Not from me. I agree with your points about alignment and all that. But they are a reaction to something other than this post. If you have an axe to grind, you may grind it here. But if you want to tell me what I am doing wrong, get it right.

  20. oh James, your post makes me so sad. I wish you could come to my classes. I’m teaching 16 years now. I trained with the best and am paying it forward. I’m also an environmental professional. I’m also a breast cancer survivor. Me and many of my teacher friends are striving for the real deal. We’re out here, dear James. The students just have to find us.

  21. Thank you. I have been sharing this privately with people and also on FB because I have left teaching yoga for now for similar reasons. I have worked for studio owners who didn’t know any of the texts or history and who chastised me for teaching mudra when I was teaching from the sutras because they didn’t know the difference. I have worked for studio managers who hired their young cute inexperienced teacher/friends and overlooked me for subbing opportunities and class openings so their young friends got more work. I was in the Bikram world (horrors) and given the worst classes, told not to extemporize, etc., because they didn’t understand that I was dissecting and decoding the Bikrese dialogue to find yogic philosophy and psychology in it. All along my students have been so grateful. I taught in a college, but my classes were taken away and given to less experienced teachers who taught athletic yoga even though 1/3 of the class was designated lecture. I decided to start taking classes to see what was out there and was appalled. Music and entertainment, little substance or safety. I also teach Pilates (still do) and decided to look into the fitness world because at least it seemed to me it didn’t masquerade as anything it wasn’t. Well, it also is filled with even less experienced and educated teachers. I certified to do a cardio fusion of dance/yoga/pilates and at 62 try to find any decent jobs. Never mind that I was the best student in my training, most flexible, best alignment and teaching skills (I am a retired professional art educator). I was asked by the trainer to take other teachers’ classes and give her feedback. When I did, she told me she didn’t want to hear it as it was negative about their knowledge of subject and pedagogy. I guess she only wanted to hear how well they were doing. I used to teach in my living room and may again, but have been considering just doing sittings for meditation and some satsangha or dharma talks. That’s what my teacher did. I have a Masters in Social Work with yoga and art therapy emphasis, 800 hours massage training (I do Thai bodywork), over 2500 hours of yoga teacher trainings and my favorite moments in 25 years of yoga have been when I am in flow and connected with the energy of the practitioners in my care. I was taught if I wanted them to go deep I needed to go there first. I may just take the emphasis off asana other than to use a few for examples of moving to stillness, sitting with what arises, etc. There are good teachers out there, but we tend not to be glamorous or in the top 100 list that was just published. My first teacher has said many times “Yoga is popular, but what’s popular isn’t yoga.” BTW, I did post this article on FB

  22. I’ve been a yogi for 14 years – it’s the foundation of my health and happiness. I’m also overweight, and modify every class I’m in. I appreciate this post. I find “Bikram” to be a form of abuse and not yoga at all. I reject “glam yoga” and the idea of perfect bodies and perfect poses. My practice has taken me primarily to Yoga for the People – donation based, with no famous teachers or gurus, where all are welcome. Where the breath is the foundation, and an hour spent in child’s pose may be your yoga. We are each our own teacher, and the asanas are an invitation, not a mandate. It’s all about the breath.

  23. Thank you very much for the article. We moved to LA area (Westlake) not long ago and my husband decided to join YogaWorks. I went with him five times as his guest and I was shocked with such a low level of teaching. I tried different classes with different teachers and my opinion was always the same.

  24. James, your story is eerily similar to my own. I recently wrote a blog post about my observations about the changing “yoga” industry that echoes your sentiments.

  25. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am totally with you, and I to stopped my 2 year teacher training in Iyengar because I feel exactly what you are saying. Yoga is so personal and there is so much more to it then asana. So I decided instead of waisting my time and convincing people that there is more to it then a workout, I just revert to practicing and connecting with awareness. Heads up, you though for many years now is time to focus on living it. 🙂 Sending over lots of positive energy!

  26. This is all very interesting but at the end of the day I think there will always be good teachers and there will always be bad…this is true in any profession or trade… Ok, yoga is more than this..but still the same applies. Remember your teachers at school? The ones who you loved and had something special about them, and the ones who didn’t have that thing at all!? Or the difference between a good dentist or plumber or a bad one?? Makes a HUGE difference! The difference is not always quantifiable in yoga….it is perhaps a ‘spiritual’ thing…for want of a better word.
    A good teacher on paper can be left a bit wanting in reality…and like someone else said a less qualified teacher can have that certain something.
    Teachers will always range from terribly ill informed to downright dangerous, money driven, ego driven… Could go on…
    And there will always be outstanding, knowledgable, inspiring, truly authentic and connected teachers, and many with a lineage and wealth of wisdom to impart.
    I totally get and agree that the true essence is watered down and has veered off track rather, and also agree it’s not necessarily anatomical knowledge and a definitely not a cool pic on Instagram that should constitute a good teacher…I agree there is obviously a lot more of this stuff going on…and the studio thing…and the training programs thing..totally get it..
    Im glad you said what you did and that this discussion has happened, however I think the important thing now ( like in any modern day worrying phenomena) is to focus on the positive. Can you change the tide of yoga studio/ exercise/ !!?
    OK , the rainforests are being chopped down, ice caps are melting, animals and humans and the planet alike are being exploited and abused, things are v worrying if we go down that road… This yoga stuff is the same… We just have to concentrate on doing our bit, teaching from a place of authenticity and doing our best, however overwhelmed it appears amid the onslaught of modern crapiness…

    1. We do have to concentrate on doing our bit. My bit is that I have had a long career teaching yoga teachers around the world … AND I am a voice that people listen to. So, my bit is writing this article, and this article will make more good yoga happen. That is my bit. It is different from your bits. Thank you so much for your support and please keep the conversation going.

  27. yup.. Nice reply… . We all have different bits ?

  28. Nice answer… Yup, all our bits are different ?

  29. I am saddened by the yoga classes that have no yoga in them except for the poses. Where is the philosophy, the essence of yoga? Where is the mindfulness and breath focus? It is all smiles and pop music and it makes me want to barf. Those teachers don’t teach yoga, they teach workout classes with yoga poses.

  30. So would she throw out Yoga Alliance? At least they have minimum standards. There are some people teaching with zero training, and some who took a weekend workshop and gotva certificate to teach with no prior experience. It’s also not fair to assume all yoga teacher training programs teach in the way she suggests and that there are not lots of teachers who communicate and share much more than just the physical practice. Yes, I agree there is a yoga culture in the west that is in many ways not being true to the philosophy of yoga. However complaining and criticizing without offering positive suggestions for improvement is not the best solution.

  31. Thank you for writing this. I did my first yoga teacher training with you over 10 years ago at Yoga Works in Santa Monica. It sounds as if my yoga teaching career followed a similar, albeit much smaller and less international, path as yours, and I appreciate seeing that I am not alone. Thank you.

  32. Very due, thank you James, for opening the can of worms, just hope no one finds a lid.
    and yes, happieness and peace, identification of what is going on inside.
    thank you Morag from Apple Cross Yoga, Perth, who has posted this.

  33. Right on.

  34. I will be brief with my comments! Perhaps, you could take a look at Svaroopa Yoga…..this is a very different paradigm from what you have described! Here you will find what you are looking for.

    “Know the Bliss of your own self, Svaroopa!


  35. Hey James, well written and i totally agree with it all. I have been facing the same dilema for a few yrs now. I have been teaching full time for the past 16yrs and haven’t wanted to pursue the teacher training side of things for that sole reason of how someone can become a yoga teacher in 200hrs??! Yes, i could make shit loads of money….but, it totally goes against the grain of what yoga is really about, as you well and truely know. My training was more apprenticeship based and there was no end date given, so the training basically finished when i proved to be a competent, devoted and present teacher. As it turned out, it lasted for 18mths, 30hrs a week, 6 days a week and if i wasn’t on my mat during this time, then i was out of the training… excuses accepted!
    Thanks again for bringing this issue to the surface, i will definately be sharing it as much as i can :). Namaste, Julie

  36. An interesting artical, I agree with some aspects of it but I feel holding Yoga Alliance or Yoga Journal accountable for the current state of yoga in the US is not completely accurate. I feel that as yoga teachers in this modern era of yoga we need look no further than the mirror in front of our face. I have taught yoga on and off over the past 10 years but more off over the past 5 years when an unexpected shift in my perspective happened. I attended Naropa University and majored in Traditional Eastern Arts focuing in yoga and Taiji chuan. I had already been an active yoga teacher for 5 years at this point and working as a massage therapist. I decided to major in Yoga to deepend my knowledge in the classic yoga tradition and get a deeper understanding of the psychology and philosophy of yoga and am still very pleased with my education and experience. What was unexpected was that after I recieved my education I made a choice to stop looking at yoga as a job, a carreer, or a source of income. I feel this is the real driving force behind the decline in our modern yoga era. I feel it is an error to see teaching yoga as a profession that one does for a livelihood. I feel our country needs perhaps a handfull of people that teach yoga as a proffession and the rest teach a class or two once per week after, or before, the job that they do daily to pay bills.
    Yes, the quality of yoga teachers is on a steady decline, that is apparent to me. I feel the decent into what is today called yoga didn’t begin and it certainly doesn’t end with Yoga Alliance, I feel it began when people decided that teaching yoga as a primary source of livelihood became acceptable. I could be completely wrong, but these are my feelings on this subject. I still teach yoga from time to time and I have many friends that have chosen to make teaching yoga their livelihood. I haven’t taught an offical class for about 2 years now. I teach yoga daily though in my interactions with people durring my everyday life. Yoga has become a huge industry that continues to need more students to sell the merchandise to, to sell the yoga vacations to, to sell the teacher trainings to. What would happen if yoga teachers taught yoga truely out of a place of selfless love of yoga. This doesn’t mean you don’t charge for a class, what it could mean is that as a responsable yoga teacher I choose to teach one or two classes a week and make my livelihood another way.
    So many talented musicians play music and write songs for the love of music and pay the bills with a different vocation, so many artists create amazing and beautiful works of art will engaging in a different livelihood. I don’t feel yoga was ever meant to be a profession and until that is addressed I don’t feel that our current state of yoga in the west can be corrected. But like I stated before, I may be completely wrong and don’t mean to offend anyone. I know for myself when I addressed the issue of how can I best represent yoga today, how can I do no harm, how can I best assist in correcting the path of yoga in our modern era it was clear to me. Share yoga through my HEart because how much love and respect I do have for yoga, but don’t make my rent dependant upon this. I needed to look no further than the mirror, if I am expecting yoga to support me financially that I have asked too much from yoga.

  37. Having lived in Los Angeles a long time, I know very well what you might have experienced there in terms of “celebrity” yoga and the focus on style over substance. I now live in Austin, Texas, and the yoga vibe here is better overall (though there are still pockets of shallow trendiness). My teacher trainers here (Yoga Yoga) have not been glamorous, famous or all rail thin. They know the yoga sutras. They know their anatomy. They teach for all bodies. What a relief after the pretentiousness of SoCal!

    Still, I have a love/hate relationship with yoga precisely because all of the shallow vanity that has overtaken the spirituality. I very much blame Yoga Journal, who invented the “yoga model,” and I will also blame my own sex (female) because we have sadly been leading the charge with this foolishness of yoga selfies.

    Now Yoga Alliance is further setting a bad precedent by divorcing themselves entirely from yoga therapy – the very discipline that might save yoga from being just another trendy exercise du jour. Anyone who has studied gym fitness – even a little – knows that fitness trends come and go. Step used to be the big thing and it’s becoming harder and harder to find, for example. Super fast flow yoga just as exercise simply isn’t guaranteed the longevity people think.

    But there’s a huge yoga industry that makes oodles of money off of yoga clothes and props and fashion. They’ll keep pushing shallow yoga until the next trend comes along.

    Sometimes, I really hate modern yoga!

    For this reason, I have delved into the world of qigong – which, in its home country of China, has its own problems with crazy cult leaders abusing the practice. Still, because qigong is inherently gentle, and there is no such thing as a glamour pose, I don’t think that qigong wil fall into the same trap yoga has. Qigong might gain in popularity, but it will never be as trendy as yoga is. No young person will want to do qigong just so she can look good her in “qigong pants.” For the perennially impatient, it is a practice they will pass over.

    So when I am feeling grumpy about yoga, I turn to qigong for relief – it is so nice to practice something where the “selfies” often consist of old men and women in loose robes. 🙂

  38. Personally, what I read there was that the author’s dissonance with modern yoga had nothing to do with good or bad teachers, but with the dissolution of the philosophies and culture that makes yoga ‘yoga’.

    Every profession should also always have proper training, without it, people stop taking yoga seriously it turns into merely a fad. People are appropriating the convenient or popular parts of the yoga culture and philosophy and creating a lazy mock up and acting like it’s the real deal. It’s lazy and it is false advertising.

    Plus, the author can definitely make a difference, that is exactly what they are doing now, by spreading awareness. It may not seem like much, but it is a start.

    Please understand that when it comes to someone’s culture or a heart-felt ideal, it is not a great idea to act like their concerns are something that cannot be changed by one person, or that they should just look on the bright side of things.

    I may not have much, (if any) yoga knowledge, but modern acceptance of cultural appropriation, or the ‘watering down’ of something cherished by any group of people is never something we should let people get away with. Bringing about awareness, and discussing the issue is very beneficial for both the cause and those involved.

  39. thank you for expressing everything that i have thought for the longest time. As a long time student its becoming more and more apparent to me how many people have taught me the wrong things and how few have taught me the right things. Every time i hear yoga being discussed by ignorant “teachers” i am saddened as its pushing more people further and further away, and everybody assumes that because you practice yoga you are one of “those” kind of people… I hope the effort you have made in talking so candidly about this issue is recognised and that something will be done.

  40. Dear James,

    You mention you’ve taught around the world. Do you have any experience in Israel? I am experiencing an alternate reality in my teaching here and maybe you can shed some light.



  41. I quit teaching for these very reasons! Disenchanted with how yoga has become nothing more than exercise (and even that is being poorly taught). I have very recently decided to dedicate myself to teaching again. I can be part of the solution by teaching and not be furthering all of this garbage. It’s has been very disheartening and I’ve spent many nights crying but now I’m refocusing.

  42. I can resonate with your writing because I also had this over the last year, falling away from everything I did that was spiritual. It all looked meaningless and taking my life backwards instead of forwards in life. Being miss understood or loosing contact with family and friends cannot be the right healthy way in life. That’s what I felt. And it wasn’t easy at all!

    I have one question I want to ask you. What would you say yoga is about, and how it can contribute to life? What is the right way that you are talking about.
    OKaso it’s 4 questions 🙂
    All the best to you!

  43. Very resonant. I had a very similar experience. Right down to panick attacks which happened as I went to the studio to teach yoga classes. I wanted to smack every person who told me to “just breathe”. Krishnamurti speaks so much of the “relationship of yoga” in his works. I finally arrived at the understanding that my relationship with this “new” yoga was an unhealthy, abusive one. I loved “yoga” but it kept beating me up and I kept going back for more. no longer care what happens to American “yoga”; for me it is not yoga. It’s not my role to be a torch bearer for classical yoga. Turns out I’m just a human being trying to get through life as graciously as possible, like most. I do other things now, which are my yoga practice. Besides, which Upanishad was it that exhorted the earnest practioner of yoga to focus on change within, rather than changing the world outside? Someday—when the mainstream is bored with it—the pendulum will swing again and yoga will return to its roots, away from materialist or new agey positive thinking extremes.

  44. 1. Ability to control mind is based on living oneness rather than number of practice years.
    2. Teacher training is never finished, Sageness never begins.. No such thing as a bad teacher, only one that has yet to accept the path of growth based on compassion and tender encouragement.
    3. Gift of knowledge is reminding all is within.
    4. Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching 49
    5. No-one said group teaching would be easy, abstain if you lack the fortitude. Know thyself.
    6. Your responses to blog comments are insight into your own mind.
    7. Geophysical location is irrelevant to oneness communication and sentient touch.
    8. Be the inspiration / change. Blog a disappointment, receive a disappointment. Blog a lesson, receive one.
    9. You can not be on solid ground if your view is of chaos.
    10. Being a thought leader is not an end of itself but a distraction to oneness.

    When the consciousness is kept on Yogic Oneness, you will have no fears; every obstacle will then be overcome by courage and faith.

    Resolve the contradictions within, communicate with one loving heart felt voice, this teacher is inspiration to others.

    1. Can somebody else reply to this please?

      1. Unsolicited advice is likely to be more about the ego of the advisor than the well-being of the advisee.

  45. Hhhmm whilst I agree with some of what you say I take umbrage with section 4 paragraph 2 onwards as you seem to be intimating that teaching asana practice requires a lot of skill around alignment. When I was taught & teach that achieving the ‘perfect’ position is not what’s important but the awareness of your body its sensations etc. Each style / school of yoga varies vastly on the importance given to different practices, alignment is not considered important in Satyanada yoga yet is heavily emphasised in Iyengar. There are many ways to practice yoga and so long as you’re not teaching students difficult and dangerous and egotistical poses without proper knowledge and you are telling your students to be aware of their body, breath etc & to ensure no pain is there at any time then you’re doing OK, its even better if you can teach some more in depth practices, but really this focus on alignment is also the colossal failure of modern yoga in my book

    1. I understand your point of view about alignment. I never mentioned it and it is not what the article is about. I absolutely do not think that a good yoga teacher knows “alignment”. I said they should know what THEY are doing and why they are doing it.

  46. You’ve lost the connection with your heart. Rediscover that, and clarity will fall into place.

  47. While I totally agree with many of your points, teachers that are inexperienced in practice and training are out there, informing the lost, lonely house wife, putting them at risk for injury and perhaps a very misguided view of the practice. HOWEVER, with all due respect, you are taking yourself a bit too seriously.
    It appears from your words that you have taken a rigid and rather dogmatic stance in this ‘what yoga is’ argument….this is the same layer of rigidity and single pointedness that yoga seeks to help us shed, become lighter, create more space. “INSTRUCTIONS ANOUT HOW TO PRACTICE YOGA HAVE BECOME PRACTICALLY EXTINCT REPLACED BY MUSIC AND SMILES” really? As though music and smiles have no place in a traditional practice, and we must all sit like at the foot of the guru, as serious chanting monks to get this thing called yoga.
    I have taught for the past 1O years, and I too have become a bit jaded with the endless pursuit of a handstands or the pretty teachers with too many mala beads on telling me how to get spiritual. On the other hand, the serious types who insist on chanting in sanskrit, who insist yoga must appear as it did 5,000 years ago in India also get under my skin. Because, on the other hand, who cares if you wanna wear mala beads just cause theyre pretty?
    If the spiritual practice or guru are to act as a mirror to the self or your soul, then I will say this yoga had brought me closer to my laughter – the kind that wells up at the most “inappropriate ” times, i.e., like a serious meditation.
    I used to be a purist, but that was when I was following someone else’s way….In my experimentation, I am finding that never works. I truly am the guru. AND SO ARE YOU YOGI.
    I DO advocate safety, and I have been injured by the physical practice so it is very important to me, but this thing, this yoga is simply to teach you to listen, to hear the silent stirring of your soul
    And sometimes it leads you to laughter, and music and handstands. Me personally? I say, f*** handstand. Lol.
    But lighten up my friend, it’s all just the divine play of the universe. NAMASTE.

  48. There is so much in your article that I can relate to.
    I do not teach teacher trainings. I don’t want to because I don’t want to work that hard. It feels like a blood sweat and tears endeavor stuffed with responsibility and even liability. Because every teacher trainee is a reflection of the information you gave. <— that is how I feel about the onus of training yoga teachers. Thing is no one else thinks that. It is a lucrative gig. All you got to do is promote it, get 20 to 30 of your interested yoga students $2000ish a head and bam. Yoga alliance is such a joke. All they do is collect dues and pass out credentials to everyone who pays. Whenever I do pay my dues, like every 3 years or so, they are happy to credit me with that stupid E, because the more teachers who have been registered for the last 15 years the better yoga alliance looks. According to YA I've been 'registered since 2002, when in fact since 2002 I have registered 4 times.
    It's about More money. I have seen many trainings poorly pieced together well intended but ill informed , but they are a revenue source for studio owners and teachers. Yoga teachers want to make a living, I get that. It is too bad they have to sell their souls to do it.

  49. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but the biggest problem in the yoga world is that teachers like yourself feel like you need to quit.

    As stated in comments above, there will be good yoga teachers and bad yoga teachers. Good lawyers, crooked lawyers. Good doctors, bad doctors. And just politicians.

    Seriously though, the problem lies in the fact that the masses (those that you see immersed in social media and ‘getting’ fancy poses) are drawn to sensationalist nonsense that is regurgitated to them through misinformed yoga teachers who haven’t done much work on themselves at all.

    So yes, it can be massively frustrating. But in the end, it’s the people who actually have real education, experience, and humility who should be teaching. Easier said than done, but the students who are drawn to the wrong teachers will essentially get what they want…and when they realize they still want more, they will try and find someone like you.

  50. There is no such thing as good or bad yoga. Yoga has good and bad in her, in balance. Yoga is all. The same is in the world, your country, in every human. The only thing you can do is spread yoga by your experience, some people wil never be aware of yoga, Some people do and everything in between. When we want to change the people around us, the system of everything outside our selfs, it is not going to happen by telling they are bad. Or doing bad teaching….. When you point with one finger to another, you Will point with 4 fingers to yourself….

  51. so what if yoga has evolved over the years? It’s becoming mainstreamed and popularized is so great because Think of all the people that are getting into excellent shape and taking time out of their day to relax! What does it matter to you if not everyone who practices also practices the philosiphy? Live and let live my friend!

  52. You’ve lost the connection with your heart. Rediscover that, and clarity will fall into place.

  53. I started a teacher training a few years ago and dropped out because I didn’t think anyone should feel qualified to teach yoga based on what was being presented. At first I was pissed at the teacher because I thought she was capable of so much more. Then I saw the “requirements” from yoga alliance and realized she was following their guidance. My anger shifted from her to YA. Now I go to classes because I love the energy of practicing with others but often (not always) try to tune out what the teachers are saying and tune in to my breath.

    1. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experience. I am just curious if teachers ever seem to notice that you aren’t listening and if they do, what goes down? Are there instructions that do get your attention? And, if so, what kind of instructions are those? I am very interested in this! Thank you again.

  54. Very interesting. Thanks. As i read this and your story, my thoughts go to one of the biggest problem i see in lots of the alternative healing world including yoga and that is the emphasis on the individual. for many of us we can do all the yoga we want, all the meditation but if we do not have love, true connection to humans, nature and animals, we will never be happy. We need healthy relationships with our physical/ energetic selves, but that can not save us from a modern world where many of us are lonely and disconnected with broken social circles. It can maybe help us be open to connecting, give us strength and support, but we are so complex and dealing with so many problems, maybe yoga can help us be healthier but most of need so much more right now. we also need to understand what gives us real joy and meaning and In my mind that is right relationship, real connection with self AND other.

  55. I share your frustrations about trying to teach the public about yoga. I teach at fitness centers and a lot of the students enter the class room with expectations that were developed through corporate yoga studios and glossy magazine ads. Many people that try out my class don’t return, probably because I talk about the sutras and discourage them from trying postures that they are clearly not strong or flexible enough to do safely. My core students are dedicated and mindful and love the practice, but they are small in numbers. Because of this I am getting pressure from the corporate managers to do whatever I can to increase my class size. But I won’t, because I teach yoga, not a class format. Keep up the good fight, eventually people will recognize that the superstar yogis are a bunch of assholes anyway.


  57. As a 61 year old I have been practicing yoga (mainly hatha) on and off for 40 years. And have moved continents x 3 during that time. Whilst I don’t understand the teaching jargon I have come to notice that while I enjoy my current 2 teachers slightly different styles yoga today is not the same I understood what I was doing and why i was doing it in the days gone by my then teacher leaving me with a good foundation for the rest of my life. Today I find yoga lacks the depth and challenge it one did due to reasons I believe your article covers

  58. […] Πηγή: The Colossal Failure of Modern Yoga – American Yoga School […]

  59. James I have taught for 20 years and its my honest opinion that a very large percentage of yoga teachers know very little about their subject.

    They may be able of taking people through an experience as a group, but I’m not certain that they are capable of or know much more! I have practiced with many very highly lauded teachers in London and only one is the real thing!

    I welcome your article and the fact that it addresses these issues.

    Warm regards from London


  60. As a yoga teacher of 30 years, I agree, there has been an erosion of what I know to be yoga. I do see it more as erosion than evolution.But others may differ.

    Asana is indeed just that, it is merely a method for reaching a desired state. Many yogi’s do no Asana at all, yet in the west, it is all about the posture.

    I don’t really speak up, because I Mind my own Business, I observe, and try to become an example of what I believe yoga to be. I reflect and question my own viewpoint. I preserve my energy.

    I teach my students what I know to be yoga, and I no longer teach Asana class, I gave up after 10 years in 1997. But yes, I am still a yoga teacher.

    And I give thanks that i found and adopted this path at an early age and that it has transformed my life, and my mission is simply to share and transform other lives.

    May you continue to be blessed
    Caroline Shola Arewa –

  61. “There is almost nothing written by other yoga teachers about this mess.”

    Wrong. Been writing about the state of yoga in America since 2005.

    1. Since you are a writer I would think you know what “almost” means. I would love to read what you have written! Please share some links on here. The folks reading these comments would be interested, and so would I.

  62. Thank you thank you and thank you for speaking out!!!
    I can not begin to tell you the horrifying scenes I have seen here in Asia and the death threats I have received from yoga studios and ‘yoga teachers’ (corporations) because I am out spoken about all that you put so eloquently into words above.

    My blood, sweat, tears and soul thanks you.

    1. Thank you so much, Nanci. I would really like to hear more about your experience. YOu can share it here or email me or live chat with me here 9 AM to 9 PM EDT any day.

  63. I can understand the despair; no one who has trained in a given subject for any amount of time enjoys watching someone training improperly. My own background in martial arts training, friends that I have and their thoughts on the trainers often found in a commercial gym, and a couple that are professional trainers with their own gyms; each of them will have an understanding in regards to discussions such as this about quality of training of those who teach. I believe discussions on this particular subject take place between professionals in any subject, so knowing about yoga is not necessary to understanding the pain being shared here.
    Personally I can empathize with someone so trained having their business fail while all around them people with little or no training in the actual art are seeing their studios turned into national chains. But commercialized yoga isn’t about the history, culture, belief, religion, nor anything else associated with the word aside from the physical attributes of the practice. As yoga became mainstream popular I think it is best to accept that the word itself was hijacked by the corporate world. The ‘idea’ of yoga is what they started selling. It is the ‘idea’ of yoga that has been popularized, not the actual practice of what would be considered real yoga, or traditional.
    It can be tough to compete with the flashiness of commercialism with such a background. Let’s just say a Shala is not a yoga studio. Commercialized yoga came into being to meet the demand. With such a belief background, as with any professional, it is near impossible to compete with the changes the corporate world will have brought to the table, because what they bring is generally anathema to the professional’s beliefs. They don’t care about the quality of training; it is simply for them a matter of meeting the demand. The public’s ‘demand’ was to have somewhere to practice the new fad. The new fad needed space and bodies to teach, and the demand for both far outstripped the availability of both. Quantity was what was required, and that was all that was required, quality fell to the wayside.
    It is only a few years back that I knew nothing about Yoga, but I love to read; so when my older daughter informed me she had decided to make a life for herself in yoga, a new subject was added to fill some of my spare time. My daughter, I should mention, is a practitioner of Ashtanga, an apprentice under Fiona Stang at , and currently on her first trip to Mysore, India.
    I live in Vancouver, Kitsilano at the time, where you can hardly go for a walk without passing an example of the type of yoga studio this article is likely referring to. Yoga is popular, that can’t be denied. When I first moved back after having been gone some eight years, an observation I soon made to my younger daughter was we should be playing ‘Black tights!’ rather than ‘Punch buggy!’ when driving around the neighborhood.
    Reading up though on her personal choices, the discussions we were having, her just sharing her daily life to me, what I came to understand, and what I shared with her, was that I believed all this current craze with yoga would only benefit her personally in the long run. Because what I saw was that out of all these people taking these classes, by the ‘trained’ teachers that taught in the countless yoga studios, as well as in countless gym’s, the day would come when at least some would want more from their training. I’m not the only one who reads, and when that day came, it would be people like her that they would come looking for.
    Yoga has gone mainstream. It is here to stay, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Professional athletes being just one example, but look at how many freely admit that yoga has been part of their injury recovery program. Or the recent mention by a few older players that yoga is the only reason they have been able to keep retirement at bay. Not too many years ago it would not have been cool to admit such. Yet if professional teams use yoga as part of their programs, professional athletes use yoga as part of their daily routines, how long do you think it will be for such to start leaking into school athletic programs. I can tell you this, when it does, and many probably are already looking, those that do their research won’t be looking at any 200-hour Yoga Alliance specials. Unfortunately for them, the numbers trained traditionally are likely still limited.
    Education is everything, and where I believe great leaps could be made in my daughter’s community, is in better educating the general public in the differences between the commercially trained yoga instructors that have poured forth to meet the immediate demands, and those who have been trained in the traditional methods. I mean I’ve come across more and more articles of late about the number of injury’s that occur in these studios. My daughter though, like her mentor Fiona, and all those like them, are not going to criticize as this article asks. My daughter is not going to change her beliefs to suit a need, no matter how much empathy she may feel. She can only be herself, and like the reed bends with the wind, I think traditional yoga will find its place ‘within’ commercialized yoga rather than pitting itself against.
    As an athlete taking a yoga class, he/she doesn’t need to learn the chanting, the meditation, the years and years of training that a traditionalist goes through. Let alone the trips to India to get certification. As the article states, ‘Teaching asana as a yoga practice takes skill. It takes an understanding of the body and an even greater understanding of the system of yoga, because this new thing we do, using the body as the tool for practice, is not that easy to fit into the context of traditional practice. It can happen, but it requires knowledge, training, practice and skill,’ but he/she can demand these same qualifications of the person teaching. But first he/she has to be aware of the differences in their teacher training. I see that day where that demand is there for those trained like my daughter. I saw it early on in my reading, glaringly so actually, because there is such a vast difference that exists between someone certified under Yoga Alliance and a Fiona Stang. It is night and day.
    Unfortunately, as mentioned, traditional yoga enthusiasts will not engage in criticizing the training of another. They can set examples, by just being who they are. By sharing themselves as my daughter has in how she herself will say her limited experience, by teaching others. Not just in the traditional Shala, but she guests teaches at various commercial studios within the city, has corporate clients, as well as taught a summer program at the University of British Columbia. It is for me, and those like me who have such people in their lives to get the word out there. Social media can be a wonderful thing; we just need to start sharing such articles a lot more often.
    Commercialization brings out the numbers, but yes it can also often be messy. The quantity over quality that almost religiously occurs in such instances. Much the same occurred in the martial arts community, in particular the loss of traditions where only the physical skills are taught. Yet in smaller towns and communities where once only gyms existed, martial arts training can be found most anywhere. That has happened only in my lifetime. I was a young teenager when the first Bruce Lee movies hit the drive-in. As a comparison my own belief is this bodes well for my daughter. Yoga may not make it to every town, but there will be a few where you’ll eventually be able to go for some really good training.
    The more the demand for better teaches grows the better the teachers will become. There are more than a few teachers probably who took the training they did because that was the only training available to them. Economic factors, lack of education on your subject, it is not easy to go to India. If the demand for those skilled with traditional training rises, there is likely more than a few commercially trained yoga instructors who will love what they do enough to start attending a traditional Shala for their own continued training. That is really where I see growth for those trained as my daughter; in teaching those who teach, because yoga isn’t going anywhere. I’m fifty-four, and I just received my first mat this past Christmas.
    Traditional Shala’s and the yoga they teach will always have a tough time competing against the gyms and studios. I am actually constantly surprised by how few yoga enthusiasts in this city have even heard of Ashtanga Vancouver, while in the same sentence talking about how yoga is their life. Yet thanks to that same commercialization I believe my daughter has a better chance today to make a life for herself in the choices she is making than she would have without such. I’ve always been a dreamer; the only difference today is that my dreams are more often synced towards my girls. With all this reading the last year or so, and I read all the Facebook posts that crop up under my daughter’s worldwide friendship’s as well, I actually like to believe that the day may come, and not too far away, where the general public continues to haunt the studios and gyms; continues to do their yoga with music, or whatever other gimmick is popular at the time; while the ‘teachers’ that work at what must now number thousands of studios, haunt the Shalas. Professionals always strive to be the best. In yoga, from my limited understanding, but it seems to me to be the best… means being trained in something such as Ashtanga.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute this. I hope a lot of people read it. It’s very insightful and also very interesting to see it from your perspective as a father and as a martial arts practitioner. I wonder what martial arts would look like if the thing that has happened to yoga had happened to that. Instead of kicking each other, maybe they would be high fiving and blowing air kisses while listening to K-Pop!

  64. Rather a world filled with “new age yogis” whom have had their fire ignited and are still passionate about converting the unconverted than a world with fewer people knowing or understanding yoga. I work for a studio who’s entire mission is to convert those whom only see the physical benefits and allow them to figure out for themselves what else yoga embodies. It really works.
    Please don’t give up on us new teachers we need you!
    Great piece of writing, very interesting, thank you x

    1. Thank you! I would never give up on new teachers! I hope my article doesn’t make it seem like I am down on them. It is the system- the status quo- that needs fixing, in my opinion. I love new teachers! When I owned a studio, most of my faculty were beginning teachers but they had been very well trained and they were teaching what they knew. I am still teaching! I have these online courses here and I also still do 4-week intensives a couple times a year. I left the yoga studio world, but not yoga. And I never will. Thank you so much for your interest and please stay in the discussion. And let me know how I can help you if I can. I a here online 9 AM to 9 PM EDT every day to help the students in my courses and also anybody else who thinks I can help.

  65. I started practicing yoga 8 years ago, and I have recently decided I would like to become trained to teach.

    I would like to go to India for my training (I love travelling, I found a program that is much cheaper than here in the US, and I want to learn more about the underlying philosophy to teach from that aspect).

    Mr. Brown, do you, or anyone reading this, have any suggestions for reading material, places in India, etc that would help to learn more about the aspect of yoga you advocate for?

    Also, I understand the rhetoric surrounding the 200, 500 hour certification has caused a lot of hogwash to surround the true meaning of yoga, but yogis who want to teach must obtain this to meet the requirement to teach in most studios. Do you recommend an additional requirement of the study of the philosophy of yoga?

    1. Thanks for your input and your question. It sounds like you are on a good track with your education. I would love to help you find what you are looking for. I have an online philosophy course here, which you can have a look at. But, if that isn’t what you are looking for, and even if it is, there are plenty of recommendations I can make for your study. I don’t know a lot about the many teachers in India but I can give you some general tips on how to choose the right program for you. I do have some recommended reading and other resources. If you would like to chat with me, just click on the chat request bubble at the bottom of every page on our site. Then I can find out more about what you are looking for.

      And for anybody else reading this, same goes for you. I am here to help you learn if I can.

      1. Hi James, I too would love to hear about the … ‘online philosophy course here, which you can have a look at. …, there are plenty of recommendations I can make for your study. I don’t know a lot about the many teachers in India but I can give you some general tips on how to choose the right program for you. I do have some recommended reading and other resources’

  66. I began my yoga path in 1970 as “guru yoga” and spend the decade trying to attain peace and the answer to the question Who am I? Then I gave up the path and spend 20 years just doing my life in the material world. In 2005 the path came back and I opened a yoga studio, only to find that being a yoga teacher was not the answer. I evolved into Buddha Dharma and gave up seeking and wanting to teach altogether. The question who am I no longer comes up. Now I teach a class in Insight Meditation and write what I see and discover. I don’t feel I’m teaching anything. But teaching often does me.

    The problem with America Yoga is that it is framed within a paradigm of seeking and self improvement. It has become dualism without the non-dual ground. It has become space/time without the black hole.

    1. Well said! Thank you for your contribution to this conversation. I would love to hear more about your path.

  67. i actually learned yoga from a true master in India, who perpetrated the tradition of kryshnamacharya’s teaching, without any advertisemznt and on donation, je taught me how to combine yoga asanas in order to help others recover from serious ailments,.
    When toga alliance advertised on their new criteria to help yoga therapy enter the medical sustem and asked what we would think about a doctoe prescribing yoga lessons, I expressed my concerns. The effect was fake profiles spoiling my facebook wall and insulting me….. It says it all!

  68. Yoga… like the truth…
    Needs no teaching nor defence…
    Still… always present… Colossal Failures…
    Are mind made misconceptions…
    They are never here…Yoga is watching…
    The mind’s movement… until still
    Mind without minding…

  69. And yet… On the right side of this story American Yoga School is proud to advertise numerous online self-paced yoga courses including philosophy and physiology-related asana instruction. The irony.

    1. Yes, we do! This is what I do now instead of teaching in the yoga studio system. I am reaching the people that I couldn’t reach before and they are learning much more, in a better and deeper way, than they were able to learn in the studio culture that I left. I love my job again. I don’t expect everybody to see it like I do and that is fine. Thanks for your input, smallfuzzzy.

  70. I know a teacher with YA training/certification who never finished the hours at all. The system is a joke and it endangers the people taking their classes.

  71. This is expresses a common and no doubt important complaint. However, without specific arguments about what should be included in a canon for modern yoga, it just sounds like self-serving venting.

    1. This wasn’t meant to be a charter for a better way. However, I do have a better system. Look at my course content. I don’t think that my content should be the standard so I am not offering it up as such. But it is more like what I would like to see schools teaching, and I think there are plenty of others that are.

  72. the practice of yoga, whether done nominally or esoterically, will always lead to a personal crisis of integrity and a breakthrough to deeper levels of understanding and consciousness. It’s not a bad thing to go through this, and one shouldn’t blame the world around one for it. They are doing their part also.

    1. Thanks for your support. I didn’t blame anybody else for my crisis. I was explaining how the crisis led me to change my life and why.

      1. Not to be quarrelsome, but even the title of your article is highly critical of the “colossal failure” of western yoga. And the story you tell gives the strong impression that you feel very much let down by much of the western yogic community. I don’t mean to make you defensive, but jeez, own it. It’s not a crime to blame others, if they genuinely deserve it. Although in this case, I’m not sure they are actually to blame.

        1. I am ok with blaming others. Just wasn’t doing it in the article. I blamed yoga alliance two years ago ( but now I am asking the sheep who silently exist in their paradigm to say something out loud like I have.

  73. I am grateful for your willingness to write this. I’ve taught yoga for almost 20 years now and have to dubious postition of inviting guest yoga instructors to our facility to share their approach. To express my misgivings simply, the average student who attends my classes displays and unbelievably shallow understanding of the poses they have been doing for years. Certainly not their fault. I think their teachers, as you have said, have barely a cursory understanding of what they’re teaching. If I hear one more instructor say “breath in the universe” I might have to go postal. I too spend more time unwinding physical ignorance and misguided approaches to asana than doing any furthering of depth. And, unquestionably, most students clarity on what yoga is as an internal practice is as deep as their stretchy pant collection.
    I can certainly see my own reflection in these students as I too had no sense of the gift of practice even as far as 5 years into my practice. So I can empathize with their sense of things.
    That said, I had the gift of deeply invested teachers of the Iyengar tradition and their decades of practice helped pull me through my ignorance. The common teacher of today have little if any depth of practice as you have noted. Blind leading the blind. A troubling state of affairs.

    1. THANK YOU! You are a great writer!!! Thanks for sharing. Write more please.

  74. Unsure of why this is needed to be said so load, except for that it is refreshing with OPINIONS a little apart from the main stream:) I am thinking this is “great with a really true and good teacher” in the jungle of teachers wanting to be “yoga superstars”. I am sure you provide great yoga for your students:) keep teaching the good stuff and stay critical! Best wishes from Norway, Ves

    1. Thank you from the USA! I really appreciate your support. I will stay loud I promise.

  75. So what is it that you want from yoga teachers who were trained by yoga alliance? I don’t understand your article. Why did you quit being a yoga Instructor?


    1. Hi there, Wendy! Thanks for reading my stuff and for your question. I decided to stop teaching in the yoga studio system because I was spending so much time unteaching that I wasn’t able to actually get much teaching done. I teach now through a series of online courses that people from all over take. I am online and interact with them all day. And I teach 4-week intensives. But all of that is outside of the yoga studio system.
      I am not calling out Yoga Alliance-registered teachers in the article. I was Yoga Alliance-registered for a very long time. Lots of good teachers are. The article is a call to action for skilled yoga teachers who know that what’s happening in mainstream yoga is starting to erode their ability to teach effectively. Very few of them have spoken out against this madness. I want them to join me and create a new paradigm where asana teachers are educated enough to teach actual yoga in a safe and effective way. The good news is that, since writing the piece last week, hundreds of them have connected with me and I am very hopeful that things will get better.
      I hope that helps answer your question. If I can help you with anything, please reach out to me. I am available for live chat on this site from 9 AM to 9 PM EST every day. Thank you again for contributing to the conversation.

      1. Hi there James. I am from the UK and resonated with all that you say, being a ‘senior’ yoga teacher who has recently quit for the same reasons.. I no longer teach any open classes – and have withdrawn from the teacher training game, apart from some specialised courses in my field.. I never thought I would stop teaching yoga, but I have and for all the reasons you outline..

        hope we can connect and share more thoughts.

        best wishes
        Abby Hoffmann

  76. I’ve only recently become a yoga teacher at 65 years of age. I am 500 hours trained and a couple of other minor courses to focus on mental health awareness. My teacher trainingemphasized The eight limbs and the sutras and my own meditation leads me to know this is what I need to communicate with my students. I think from where I sit, the emphasis on yoga for fitness, the beautiful body and the trendiness of it all have all contributed to a misunderstanding of yoga as a tool to prepare our body and mind for living our yoga practice. I understand your sense of loss and disillisionment even though I’m only new in the ‘business’ of modern yoga. But the knowledge and skills you’ve built and developed are helping you find a way through and revuild. A provocative and worthwhile article I feel. Chris

  77. Also curious what you think of Mark Singleton’s “Yoga Body” book on the origins of western yoga. If he’s correct – and he makes a very good case for it – modern yoga owes as much to western postural exercise and calisthenics as it does to eastern yogic traditions. It’s a hybrid of many colors. In that respect, even doing it as “mere” exercise, devoid of Hindu notions derived from the yogic traditions, is simply one of the many options available. One thing is clear, the entire modern asana yoga movement is not “traditional”, even within India. So it’s all a fairly new and modern creative blend of exercise and spiritual practice, that doesn’t even have to be “Hindu” in orientation.

    1. The content of my philosophy course addresses the issue in depth. I am pro-exercise and pro-asana. I know there are theories that the exercise aspect that has become popular may come from the British. I am not concerned about where it came from. My course follows the sutras only, not the whole of yoga philosophy. In the sutras, it’s stated that anything uplifting can be the focal point in an authentic practice. Lots of people want to exercise and that is great. So, I teach teachers how to guide a physical practice as a practice of Patanjali’s yoga. I am not trying to get you to take my course but I can’t rewrite the whole course here in the comments. Maybe you could read what is here on the site and save yourself some time and energy countering things that we actually probably agree on. Thank you very much for giving this thought and contributing to the conversation.

    2. There is a very good refutation of that book and its claims in this podcast:

  78. Thank you so very much for your willingness to write this piece. I concur with so much of what you are saying and your experience. I have been studying and teaching yoga for 30 years. I have never been “certified” so I cannot teach students who want to be teachers. What I do have is extensive education in anatomy, biomechanics, functional movement, understanding planes and axis of movement, etc. I am currently obtaining a masters degree in Kinesiology and trying desperately to find evidence based studies on yoga and its effects. I am changing my teaching, my expectations, my classes to encourage an understanding and learning of how to move the body safely in and out of the asana. It is with some courage that I am moving this direction because I fear that I am seen (by the other yoga teachers and our yoga community) as a rebel who isn’t really teaching “yoga”. I no longer can teach the way i used to and the way yoga asana has and is being taught by many who have no knowledge of the human body and the way it functions. I am tired of overhearing my fellow studio yoga teachers giving advice on diet and nutrition,prescribing herbs and potions, telling people in the hallway outside of class that if “they open their groins” their SI problems will heal, and other things that we have no training in or just aren’t true.

    Just recently I found myself saying to a group of yoga teachers I practice with once a month that another yoga teacher, someone who is a bit of a superstar locally, had a “perfect” life. I have spent the last month untangling that bit of poppycock and taking responsibility for what that really means to me. I am teaching against the popular grain and I needed to come to terms with that. That is really what was underlying the “perfect” comment I made. It has been an interesting month of coming to terms with accepting that I am not going to be a superstar in the yoga world and that is just perfect.The humble number of students who attend my classes are getting the absolute best from me, a student, a teacher, someone who is working assiduously to educate herself on how to teach asana from a place of functional biomechanics rather than ego driven “look what I can do with my body!” (even after 30 years!). If I am not a constant student, then how can I be a responsible teacher – and this includes disagreeing with much of what is currently being taught in asana classes. One of the best things the practice of yoga has taught me is to step back and observe comments like the one I made and take responsibility for the answer.

    So, I am grappling with many of the same things you have expressed, James. I am trying to figure out day by day, pose by pose, how to teach yoga from a place of responsible understanding. For me, it’s about accepting that what I am doing is “right” for now and will continue to morph as I continue to learn and apply. Learn is the key word… not copy, not decide that someone else is right because they are a superstar or whatever, but learn, study, understand, and apply. I may never be a “superstar” but I know I am being as responsible to my students as one can be in the moment. And, I am being responsible to myself – what a freakin’ relief that is.

    I am so grateful to have been directed to this piece you wrote. I am so looking forward to continuing to hear from you and perhaps study with you. Thank you for being wiling to say the obvious and in a way that takes personal responsibility. And… thank you for the reference to your dogs. My dogs have taught me more about life, empathy, forgiveness, and unconditional love than any other being on the planet.

    I wish I could take you out to lunch and just talk, talk, talk! Thank you so much, James.


    1. Potions!
      Thank you so much for sharing such a thoughtful comment. I have great respect for you. I experienced a lot of what you have experienced. I am totally available for a lunch date whenever I am in LA which should be in a few weeks. I have to get my stuff out of storage and bring it here! THen I will be back in August to teach a 4-week intensive, which you are invited to take! Or we can just do lunch. I don’t eat a lot and I do talk (and listen) a lot so I think it would be fun and easy.

      1. What a lovely response, James. Thank you!

        LA is probably a stretch for me right now since I am in Santa Cruz and tied to a community college teaching semester (where I teach in the kinesiology department). That being said, I really am interested in staying in touch with you and continuing a dialogue. I am finding myself drawn to those of us who are beginning to question with deep thought, education, and great respect the way yoga is being taught in the US.

        I am planning on staying in touch with you and taking one of your courses. My expertise is the human body and movement. The idea of learning more about philosophy/sutras is very exciting. Look for me… I will be online with you at some point in the near future.

        As to August… well, a huge adventure is coming for me. My husband and I are thru hiking the John Muir Trail and the High Sierra Trail in the Sierras in July and August so I will be out in the wild.

        Again, thank you for your willingness to respond to me and to all who have made comments.

        Laurie Broderick-Burr

  79. Yes. Yes. and Yes! Can totally relate.

  80. Thank you for this James. I am so relieved to find someone speaking the truth about what is happening in American yoga today. As a NYC studio co-owner since 1992, I have been through both sides of this (needing to keep clients filling my classes in order to pay criminally high rents and desperately seeking and then training decent teachers).
    Meanwhile, I am a yogi who is constantly exploring the evolution of consciousness and it’s relationship with the container of the body. Needless to say, my classes do not draw a large crowd but, my students are nothing if not fiercely loyal.
    Long story short, I am ‘retiring’ from NYC and studio ownership, declaring bankruptcy and moving to the mountains where I will teach online and travel for workshops. I’ve also just completed a book so, as you see, we will not go quietly into that good night.
    I applaud your creative solutions and I love your course offerings. I wish you great success and happiness and, if you’re ever in the NY or Catskill Mtn. area, I, too, would love to take you to lunch or cook you a fine meal.

    1. I’ll fly out to have lunch with the two of you!

      Good luck, Elizabeth, in your new direction. I applaud all of us who are questioning what is currently happening in American yoga classes. Just today I had some students attend my class because their teacher was gone today. An older woman, maybe 75(?), told me that her left shoulder had a rotator cuff injury (not diagnosed by a medical professional or X-ray or MRI). I had a few moments to speak with her and she told me that the arm position for Garudasana really hurt her shoulder but her yoga teacher “wanted her to keep doing it.” What does one say??????!!!!! Without stepping on the integrity of this teacher, who happens to own the studio where I teach, I said to her, “if something physically hurts you might consider stopping what you are doing.” I then gave a “short course” in how to engage the scapula via serratus action and moving the arm via the scapula and what upward rotation joint force coupling really is in terms of the muscular actions to the entire class… blablablabla and so it goes. It flabbergasts me that teachers are still telling students to “stay the course” even during pain or discomfort and that these students are listening. It makes me, once again, realize what a huge responsibility those of us who are willing to “change the course” have. And, it is a burden to “unteach”. I may be joining you in the mountains, Elizabeth.

      1. Thank you for teaching upward rotation and humeroscapular rhythm! You may have saved a lot of shoulders that day! Keep it up!

  81. Wow James, what a tricky and contentious subject you have raised.

    I was surprised when I began my teacher training (after 15 years of diligent practice and study of the sutras and Sanskrit) feeling still not experienced enough, to learn that the school took on very young and inexperienced yoga practitioners. 2 years of attending a weekly class was all that was needed. Then out into the world and teaching, and entering the world of social media, posting photos of themselves in a headstand at sunset…you know the story.
    It became apparent to me that while it is difficult to etch a living out of teaching yoga, if you are business savvy, you can do quite nicely teaching teachers. My teachers were business minded, one of them having been a lawyer and discovering there was more money to be made from teacher training, not to mention a clearer conscience. It’s no surprise then that more and more schools are opening up, and getting bums on seats is the ultimate goal at the expense of quality outcomes. The sutras were touched upon, but we definitely spent more time sitting in a huge circle talking about “our yoga journey” and passing around a box of tissues. Don’t get me wrong, my teachers knew a lot about yoga, but I could see that it had become business for them and about the numbers more than the people.

    For me, yoga teaching is not my living. I am fortunate enough to have another source of income, and teaching yoga and yoga therapy are my passion, but not my sole income source. So the pressure is off to have huge classes. This has allowed me to see just how different each body is and how there cannot ever be a blanket approach to teaching yoga. No matter how clever a teacher is, they could never be able to manage 20 or more forward bends safely and effectively. In tadasana, some need to adjust the pelvis anteriorly, posteriorly and not at all. How can you get around to all of them?

    I teach a very small group of students (5 is a huge class and I feel uncomfortable with that many bodies in my care) at my home studio. I completed a yoga therapy course last year as well which I consider to be the beginning of a huge learning journey that will never end.
    The approach I take with students is to err on the side of caution when it comes to asana. I tell them that they are not auditioning for the cover of Yoga Australia, and that they are not adolescent Indian boys whom yoga asana was originally taught to. They are in the main, middle aged women and men (call me sexist, but male/female pelvises are very different and require a different approach in my experience) who have grown up sitting on a chair and spend 7hours a day in front of a computer/in a car/in front of a tele. For them, a forward bend with straight knees is downright dangerous and not allowed in my studio, just for example. I teach them, with humour, that ego is a truly marvellous thing, but has no place in the yoga studio. So what if you can’t do a hand stand? Will the world stop turning if your heels aren’t on the floor in downward dog? No lotus=no meditation? I don’t think so. I teach them that pushing the groin down toward the floor in a lunge( so often taught) will do nothing but make the orthopoedic surgeon rich when all the poorly taught yogis go off for their hip replacements in a few years time.

    At the end of the day, for me personally yoga is about cultivating Sattva, stilling the citta vrtti so that the buddhi can discriminate sattya from mittya. You can cultivate Sattya dancing naked around a fire on the beach and howling at the moon…and it’s all good as long as you don’t fall into the fire or catch a cold.
    What to do about the dwindling standards of yoga teaching and endorsement of those standards by associations like Yoga Alliance? Nothing James. It’s out of your hands. All you can do is teach what you believe in and with all the competition about, the public will in time become more discerning. Take a deep breath and let go. Be you and nothing more.

  82. I appreciate your artcle and call to action. I’ve practiced yoga over 20 years but never took a teacher training until now because I always felt the yoga taught in studios was superficial, too focused on asana, more about ego than anything else. I’ve been mostly a sole practitioner with classes only enough to learn and maintain correct posture. However, I wad finally inspired to take a teacher training which I’ve just begun. Why now? I met a yoga teacher who teaches ALL of yoga. It is primarily her spiritual practice. She devotees her whole life to the whole path, and most of her profits to the ashram/school of her teacher in India. She teaches some yoga classes with a lot of asana. But on a weekly basis she also leads kirtan, holds satsanga, offers fire puja. She is giving her first teacher training and I feel very formate to be part of it. So…they are out there. The real teachers. Some are even training more real teachers. I hope you will take some time to heal. But then, considering your background and leadership, I hope you will come find us, and help us work together to reestablish authentic traditional yoga. Asana yoga that lacks much spiritual basis isn’t gong away, but wouldn’t it be lovely if we could also proliferate traditional yoga, perhaps on a smaller scale? Perhaps it is time for a traditional yoga movement.

    1. Thank you, Kelly. I am happy to tell you that the things you suggest I do are indeed the things I am doing. Stay tuned!

  83. I see the corporatization of yoga practice as responsible for the trends you are illustrating. At Yoga Works, for example, a class that is not completely packed is considered a liability and will often disappear. Yoga Retreats are more about beautiful and expensive venues, meal plans and wine options than study.
    Keeping the customer satisfied and providing more of what sells more means making yoga a product to sell, rather than an earnest endeavor to learn.
    I have always believed that a student must have a combination of instruction and self practice in order to cultivate discipline and focus. But students are encouraged to take a class everyday- multiple offerings all day and all night encourage anything at any time, and beyond the obvious distractions of sexy clothing (price tag of “yoga pants” more than a teacher is paid for a class) there is the distraction that each class should be an awesome, over the top, entertaining and stupendous happening, like a mini rave or a tv show. There is toxicity in both attraction and repulsion- they are both intoxicating in excess – and it is hard to sell the freedom and contentment that real discipline offers.. Success in Advertising is the result of the refined targeting of these two Kleshas: attachment/aversion to use for commercial leverage, and so contemporary yoga is leveraged heavily.
    As far as I can tell, my Iyengar teachers are the ones that as a group have best avoided this feeding frenzy of commodity yoga.

  84. Dear James,
    You may have touched a very valid point when you” that modern Yoga has failed because of the various options and approaches schoolhouse available to the Morden student who is completely unaware of what yoga is. He may have come with a lot of curiosity to learn or hear say impressionist inclination toward been able to be catching the Yoga teachers band wagon.

    But I found your approach very defeatist as you may not have completely reflected on your students the strength and belief of your own practice. If your are an achieved Yogi the disruption should not matter your will to teach and you should not get emotionally carried away to an extent that the Sthirtta of the asana has not emerged in your mind.

    I am always of the belief that when one does an asana with.complete detachment not wanting to reflect the state of mind of expectation the goal of the asana is fulfilled by the asana it self.
    The result will satisfy you thoroughly. Our scripture has taught us one specific way and yoga been a way of life, it says,”keep doing your karma and don’t wait for any fruit” so my friend my sincere request to you would be go back top your basic practice and let your students learn from your practice rather than your teachings.
    As you would not have realised the magic of the asana but it does keep on doing its magic and that to very silently just like the universe is going on in silence.

  85. I’ve been going to yoga classes on and off for 35 years or so. Started to reduce pain from sciatic nerve and SI issues. After surviving open-heart surgery 10 years ago I returned. Now at 67 I go to maintain great health and to sort out the real from the not real. When some 30-year-old “teacher” says “I can do it” or “I can hold on for another breath” I slip back into child’s pose and wait for sanity to return. ? Most of my young beautiful yoga teachers have no concept of what old age will bring them. Tore a muscle off my rotor cuff falling down stairs. Got therapy then two weeks later returned to yoga to hear how twisting will release the “toxins” …slipped back into child’s pose ?

    1. Good lord, the things they say about toxins! Thank so much for taking part in the discussion.

    2. Dismissing a teacher’s knowledge and experience based on age may very well be a detriment to your practice. One never knows what a young person has gone through in their body, mind, and soul. But yes, I see your point – skillful attention to another person’s body can be hard without experience and more knowledge than your average 200. Child’s pose is always the default for “I don’t know what else to tell you to do if this hurts”, too.

  86. […] Brown, ein sehr bekannter Yogalehrer, hat gerade den Artikel „The Colossal Failure of modern yoga“ veröffentlicht, in dem er darüber berichtet, wie schrecklich er plötzlich seinen Job fand. Yoga […]

  87. Having practised yoga for more than 40 years, I have never been a yoga asana practice teacher. I have observed the introduction of yoga into western culture from the 1970´s, when I went to live in India specifically to learn yoga. I have helped yoga centres and schools establish and watched them grow and fail. The main failure was misunderstanding that yoga isn´t about yoga classes and power over students and everything else, it is about finding fulfilment within yourself. I understood in India that yoga asanas were a tangible way for people to experience changes in their well being and observe, through experience, what occurs in their consciousness through awakening the awareness (similar to what is now called mindfulness) of the physical body by doing asanas. Asanas give a great sense of well being when done with awareness of your capabilities and limitations. Yoga asanas though were only considered a preliminary step to understanding that awareness gives so many benefits. This understanding that awareness improved the physical well being was meant to be followed on with awareness of breath with its benefits and awareness of the mind patterns through meditation techniques in order to allow a person to learn how to develop their own capacity to find a sense of well being on the physical, energetic and mind levels. So it is just the start of learning yoga. Once a person had their equilibrium under their control through learning the techniques, they could start to practice living in life with awareness of their full potential to maintain their own well being in all circumstances while living life to the full. Once life experiences were fulfilled and having learned to control themselves in their manner of living, the next step was to retire from life experiences and develop the ability to truly meditate on the essence of life and experience the amazing potential of the conscious mind to generate the appreciation of our existence and the beauty of life to such an extent that life is fulfilled simply through awareness. You become aware of the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. Yoga is a way to develop understanding in and of life through greater awareness on all levels. Just doing asanas only gives the benefits of the physical level and may not help so much with the control of the energetic and mind abilities. It was never meant to be an obsession but rather a tool in the ability to understand the totality of life being fulfilled so in my opinion it is very important but no more than pranayama and meditation and all three need to find their place as tools for improving awareness so we can live a better life. To me yoga means joining or connecting life with awareness. All the problems of life are due to us not being aware of solutions to the multitude of difficulties life presents, its not because of lack of opportunities. Awareness is the key, yoga asanas are practices to find the key.

  88. Agreed. I’m on pause, practicing not teaching. My experience is that studios feel they will loose “numbers” if they teach, so they mostly lead (often with loud music).

  89. Yes! You are not alone. It is absolutely frustrating to teach yoga these days!!! Everything you have said are words, thoughts, emotions, sentiments of mine. It could be me writing!
    So, how can we stop or prevent people from showing up in classes taught by the ignorant? Being steered into ‘yoga’ teacher training courses after 2 to 4 weeks? & being charged $3000 & some for this course to then graduate to instruct rubbish?! Yoga instructor courses run by those who are also ignorant, where there is absolutely no instruction. Then they plaguerize when they think they can add to the course they teach. Ha! Is this yoga? How about living the Yamas & Niyamas? Not just theory. ‘Yoga Journal’ ? Don’t make me laugh, cry?! What a load of crap! Same for Yoga Alliance. I did have it out with Yoga Alliance. Don’t think it even made a dent! What is one to do when the majority are so ignorant & willing to shell out money for even more ignorance? It is worth it though to teach yoga to those few who really appreciate authenticity & safety. As per Swami Satyananda the day will come when the chaf is separated from the grain.

  90. Dear James Brown (as well as Abby Hoffman, & any & all experienced yoga teachers who are passionate about sharing this precious, ancient practice authentically, but who feel discouraged from doing so, due to the many ways in which our perhaps well-meaning but grossly ignorant contemporary culture has bastardized it through monetary greed, enormous egos, commercialism, social & printed media, catering to current trends, & preying upon people’s dangerous beliefs in their percieved inadequacies…) PLEASE DON’T STOP TEACHING YOGA! I, too, am daily faced with the many challenges presented by the seemingly out of control, accelerated multiplication of “yoga teachers” which are mass produced through the cash cow of teacher trainings- herded through in 10 days, or a month, or even one year, and who believe they are ready and qualified to teach something they have yet to really understand, when they are new to yoga themselves! A much better way,in my opinion, was the way yoga was passed down originally- from the same teacher, over a lifetime, who continually nurtured students over many years, and who, at the end of their lives, entrusted the knowledge to those faithful students, to continue to pass to their own students- over a lifetime. I know this idea seems archaic now to many, & certainly won’t make one rich, but it seems to worth revisiting, in the name of reassessing what we are doing here. Concerning my plea to please CONTINUE YOUR GOOD WORK in this field… please consider the cumulative effect of passionate, experienced teachers like ourselves giving up, while inexperienced, enthusiastic but massively underprepared brand new teachers multiply… it could get worse. I think several elements are important as we seek a positive solution. #1) educating the public, in the best way we can, as to what yoga actually is, & how students can find a higher quality teacher for themselves… #2) stay the course in our own efforts at sharing yoga compassionately & authentically… #3) find ways to connect with & encourage one another, so we don’t get burnt out & give up… #4) collectively rethink our whole yoga educational system & perhaps together we can find creative, effective ways to turn this around. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR BRINGING THIS TO LIGHT!!! This beautiful, ancient practice deserves every effort each of us is willing to make toward preserving it, authentically, for future generations. <3

    1. Thank you so much for your support and for adding your voice to the discussion. I have not quit teaching- I have quit teaching in the yoga studio system. I still teach students in my online school (not asana practice), and I teach live four-week intensives in spaces that exist outside the established yoga industry. Thank you again. I hope you keep in touch. And no problem with the long sentence at the beginning … It works!

  91. P.S. my apologies for the loquacious nature of my reply, as well as the long run-on sentence at the beginning.

  92. Namaste,

    Thanks for this post.

    I agree with these concerns. It’s way too easy to call oneself a yoga teacher. The 200 hour training format has cheapened the whole thing. It reminds me of what happened with karate – students getting blackbelts in a year or so. It means nothing. For me, a 200 hour course simply means I can say I’m a committed student. To be a teacher should require a lot more.

    The reason the 200 hour system exists is because it’s a great way to make money – it’s a doable amount of time, for an affordable price that gives the maximum result; consumers can say they’re a teacher – hence high demand. We need to be critical and open about the economic imperative that has shaped this phenomena. People are making a lot of money out of it because it strikes a balance in terms of the Law of Supply and Demand. I would like to see more of the most experienced teachers openly and honestly talking about and question this.

    It would be great if you could write a more analytical and less subjective post about this and cite examples and specifics showing your concerns. What you’ve written above is a great start, but I suspect it won’t be taken as seriously as it should be because it’s subjective and emotive.

    Best wishes,

  93. Hello James,

    I hear you.

    I confess to being a stubborn old bird, in that I refused to go the Yoga Alliance route, instead offering my credentials of education and experience in a portfolio. For the business gigs, the insurance and ya registry were required. And I stuck it even as I too noticed how unsatisfying in so many ways the studio model had become. From frantic driving all over the metro area, as my options dwindled, I ceased to try to scramble for another gig. I was never a studio moneymaker, and I had my own health crisis.

    And now I teach math and science in a high school for at-risk kids, where my yoga practice informs us all, but not overtly.

    And now I teach only the yoga class that I have taught for 9 years, with my occasional class or retreat with horses. No poses on horseback, quiet time in relationship exploration, listening with subtlety. Not flashy enough for instagram, and that is just fine.

    Learning wise, some vedic chant and sanskrit, blessed to have teachers local to me.

  94. Hi James!

    Where do I begin. I came to your website through your essay on Yoga Alliance is Ruining Yoga. I’ve been having many thoughts on that matter, but never before found someone who had such a critical voice on the current Yoga scenario.

    I can relate to you because I began practicing Yoga in 1992, when in my country Yoga was something unheard of. I started practicing meditation, not even Hatha Yoga. Later on I started learning about asanas by myself, because there was no one to teach me. At the Yoga school they had a very basic Hatha Yoga system, but very limited and they never encouraged people to practice asanas too much, because for many Jnana Yoga schools too much attention to the body leads to attachment (absolutely debatable).

    After 21 years been part of that school I decided to part ways due to “irreconcilable differences” and spread my wings. Coming out of that spiritual bubble I started to see the modern yogic culture up close and personal for the first time. And what I’m seeing sometimes can be heartbreaking.

    In my personal opinion the main problem began a long time ago, when Yoga and money got married. When Yoga in the West became a source for certain teachers to have a lucrative business on spirituality. People learned from those models and they began to study to become Yoga Instructors, to be Yogalebrities, as a way of living, as a profession, as an income.That’s why Yoga Alliance came into the map, because Yoga shifted from its roots and people can be a teacher as long as they pay for the fees and courses. The culprit: Yoga Teacher Trainings for everyone. And sorry to say this, you are also a big part of this mess (you are honest, I’m honest too). And Yoga Alliance was born stemming from that.

    Yoga has never been intended to be like that. Yoga was not developed to be a mass teaching. Yoga is self awareness, is a path to teach ourselves how to transform our deepest behavioral patterns in order to live a life of balance, consciousness and deep self knowledge. And let me tell you, I also feel sadness because there’s people out there who really are looking for something meaningful, but all that they find are Yoga Instructors who teach vinyasas over and over again.

    Last year I opened a very small space to teach from the tradition I come from. And I had to make huge changes in my initial idea because no one was interested in the tradition or in meditation. And here I am, using asanas as a tool to immerse people inside the tradition, using asanas as a tool to prepare the ground for two or three students who really want to learn something more than that. Because of the commercialization of Yoga as a health tool people come to classes just to feel good, to improve their health and to release stress. But, they don’t get that all of those issues a rooted in their own perceptions of life and their own lifestyle choices.

    I’m a Yoga rebel and I know that. I’m a rebel period. Thanks to the yogic system I’m less rebellious. Maybe because I had to learn way too many things by myself and I’m aware of the Yoga downfall. Maybe because I deeply respect the tradition. I feel there are other voices like yours that are trying to keep a balance and shouting out their opinions on this delicate matters.

    I deeply encourage you to keep on teaching from a honest and sincere spot inside yourself. The Yoga system is already done, we don’t have to add anything more to the tradition. The path is clear, the teachings are there for those who want to learn. We need to be an example of our deepest truths, for the things we stand for. Thanks a lot for opening such a forum for discussion and wish you the best in your new way of living your yogic life. Many blessings to come for you…

    PS. I live and teach in Puerto Rico. I’m Puerto Rican, sorry if there are spelling mistakes, Spanish is my mother tongue…

    1. Well ? written and obviously very sincere.Personally I started with Swami Vishnu Devananda in 1970s Oki Sensei in Japan in1980s so have gone through periods of giving up sharing /teaching .Thankyou and as an ESL teacher your spelling is good.

    2. I have to disagree that yoga wasn’t meant for mass teachings. It absolutely is. It’s this so called “modern yoga” and the yoga studio structure it uses isn’t suitable for mass teachings. And nothing is wrong with rebelliousness in the yogic system. It’s all a matter of knowing your intent.

  95. Absolutely in agreement about the impact of YA on Yoga, not just in America, but worldwide. It is only a registry. It does nothing to certify and yet people act as if registration with them is some kind of certification. The organizations tacit participation in they fiction is a seriously ethical problem (stay). Am part of an effort by many of the traditional lineages of yoga to form an international organization that can certify and perhaps add a bit of rigor to yoga credentials. It is called the Council on Yoga Accreditation International (CYAI). At the moment our efforts have become tangled in the efforts of the Indian government to do the same thing but we are hoping to work our way through that labyrinth in the next year. Accreditation standards for certifying organizations are in place and we have examinations in preparation. More information at

    1. Great work ! This is so necessary .

  96. It’s a rainy day here in Vancouver, BC and I just read your article and want to cry along with the rain. This hit home and it hurts! I was introduced to yoga over 40 years ago and have been teaching for over 20 years now and lately it’s been a struggle to continue, a struggle to care. I’m depressed by my cynicism and negativity about what I see around me and think for the first time in 3 decades maybe it’s time to get a “straight job.” I’m an old school yogini and yes, had to jump through the Yoga Alliance hoops to keep teaching. After over 3000 hours of teaching I was grand-mothered into their club. What a game, such a sad shift in the paradigm. I could go on and on…just to let you know you’re article has given me pause, not sure if this pause means to stop or to re-focus. I know who I am as a person and as an instructor, simply I try to keep it real, that yoga is life and life is yoga. Thank-you for provoking such thought.

  97. The main failure of modern yoga is that a) it is being presented mainly as a kind of bodily super gymnastics b) everyone is required to do the same bodily positions (the more complicated, the better) irrespective of his constitution. Iyengar, Krishnamacharya and their followers are the foremost exponents of this style that should not be called yoga at all, but rather some Indian acrobatic gymnastics. Yoga is basically NOT about bodily postures but about something quite different

    1. John, BKS Iyengar was taught for his constitution. The iyengars are very conscious of this when teaching, and in training you also learn about the differences, so not sure what gives you the impression that his teachings are super gymnastics. Have a look at his book path to holistic health, or any of the writings by Iyengar, ie: Light on Life, etc… Yes he was an extraordinary yogi, who explored the outer limits of his being, the thought processes and the dwelling in is what brings us closer to samadhi, or a sense of this.

      1. You rock Suzi!!! ?

  98. Thank you for this very honest and true writing. Everything you say resonates with me. I find myself always trying to defend real teaching from the weekly comments ‘ oh you’re a yoga teacher!’ Because, yes I am, but that means something so different to what they’re thinking.
    I don’t do Lycra, I don’t try to placate students. I understand if they don’t come back, because there’s no music, and I am fine with that. Teaching now for 20 years, and a practitioner for over 35 years, I’m making the adjustments physical, spiritually and mentally, and the practice is the greatest tool for that. Trying to project that onto the young 200 hr training Lycra mob, is heard like a lecture from their mothers. But I think, in time they might stumble across the real deal, tell all their friends, then real yoga, like slow cooking, will have its day again, and shine even brighter. This is my hope. X

  99. Thank you for this wonderful point of view that you bring to the media. Specially after taking a 200 hours teacher training this last October in Daramshala, India. Everything was exactly as you describe. Money machines, not well prepare and educated teachers, unnecessary anatomy and Biomechanic education, no meditation at all during the 200hours, young and not that young students trying to find their ways in life, some of them coming from an unbalanced situation, probably drinking too much, many drugs, big chaos in life, practice for a few months in class, most of them getting injured, as well as the teachers (knees, necks, low backs … And now, they are already teachers! Sorry, 200 certificated teachers!!?
    And this is what I was expectig. I knew I would find this!!
    I am a physical therapist, osteopath, Pilates instructor and Wastu practitioner, I had danced ballet and contemporary for 25 years since I am 14 years old, 39 at he moment, and I have being practicing yoga for the last 10 years! And what I concerns to me about the anatomy, Biomecànic, injures or nutrition subjects I am so desapointed about the big ignorance that people has in this matter. No respect for animals, people are not vegetarian, which I can’t understand if you are a yogini. People do not practice everyday, they don’t meditate… I just wanted to come back to Spain and keep taking care of my patients and tell them not to do Yoga. I do not feel ready to teach Yoga. Maybe anatomy and biomechanics … I would love that! But YOGA is too much for us, I would never teach something that I am not an expert with…!
    I believe in the power of Yoga though! Will keep learning and practicing and applying little tips from yoga to my patients, those are the ones I care for, they are the reason why I have been studying for more than 20 years about the body and the human being from every point of view!! Study study study! Education education education!! Thank you James for you iniciative!

  100. Oh, wow, boy, do I concur. We’ve lost our way, we’ve commodified and colonized a beautiful spiritual practice and made it into a product. Ugh. It’s not Yoga any more – who can blame you for your disillusionment, James?

    There are several culprits.

    -The Yoga Alliance*, ostensibly an organization created to build a coalition of highly trained and well-intentioned yoga teachers – and to ensure the quality of those teachers and what they teach – has become nothing more than a big bureaucracy. They should take a big part of the blame for the disintegration of Western Yoga that you’ve outlined eloquently here.

    -Teachers or studios who turn to social media to further their “outreach” to potential students via a spectacular asana photo or video. (Sorry, but it’s a big part of the problem, and we all know it.) But who can blame them? After all, it’s hard to make a picture of a person doing meditation or pranayama look as intriguing as natarajasana or a handstand padmasana. So, that’s capitalism. Taking something beautiful and spiritual that helps us heal our souls…and manipulating it and packaging it – even sanitizing it by taking out the Hinduism so it’s more “palatable” for the US mass market – and sell it, sell ourselves, online.

    -Yoga Alliance accredited YTTs, which have become, in most cases, a means for yoga studios to make enough money keep their doors open. Because, frankly, as there is so much competition, it’s become almost impossible to make enough money to keep your doors open otherwise. You have to have another means of income if you do not run a YTT. Created less true copies of the original beautiful “thing” in order to maximize profits.

    -Blame also falls with studios that based their yoga class schedules, not on the quality of the teaching or experience of the teacher (who is generally older, greyer and therefore less attractive), but rather, on the attractiveness/youth of the teacher AND number of students the teacher can bring in. A popularity/beauty contest vs. actual quality instruction is no way to create integrity in an industry.

    -But the biggest culprit is the capitalist idea of maximizing “resource extraction.” It’s safe to say Yoga was never meant to be taught the way it is now, to large masses of anonymous students in great heated rooms with music blasting, as a routine memorized and regurgitated like a fitness regimen. But, resource extraction is the capitalist way. The resource is people: maximizing yoga students because Students = Dollar Signs, for some. Most yoga studios in our country, maybe in our world, are now based on this resource extraction model.

    Because to teach it as it has always been taught – direct from a teacher to one or just a few students – is not lucrative.

    But all is not lost! There are teachers out there, working hard and holding space with little fanfare and nary a social media post, teachers who every day share, out of love, and not so much for money, what their teachers have taught them, in an unselfish, sensible and compassionate way. There are teachers who teach yoga without trying to maximize the number of people in the room. There are teachers whose purpose is to foster student development over maximizing profits, and who treat students as people, not dollar signs walking into the room.

    That kind of quality and integrity lasts a lot longer than people who may, perhaps unbeknownst to them, are really in it for the income, or for a sense of self esteem.

    Part of me, too, feels this discouraging trend of “Commodified Yoga” we are experiencing now will fade out, eventually – just like Jazzercize, Jane Fonda Aerobics, and Tae Bo!

    This too shall pass. Peace.

    *One more thing: for the folks reading this: Do you know, they Yoga Instructors Insurance the YA peddles is easily obtainable, and without paying them a finders fee? You can go direct to the same insurer they use (Philadelphia Insurance Company) without paying the YA fee (I think it’s $50 or $75 the YA charges for this “Service.”)

    1. Sure its true. So the world appears to be a bit nuts, and free to attribute meaning to stuff. This article to me is about people giving meaning to yoga themselves, re-appropriating traditions and practices in their own self absorbed, authentic, distorted, deep-felt, traditional, modern, shallow, fun, serious, nonsense ways. No one excluded from that freedom, no doors closed because of it. No fundamentalism life jackets, although plenty-full, needed for me.

      I’m new to this, starting next week with a teacher training. Surrounded by old traditional books and new hip colorful books, different types of teachers, different backgrounds. I was confused about which viewpoint one would hold ‘the truth’. None of them. Life is meaningless, yoga is meaningless, without me. No one has yet colored in my blank slate of it. What a gift

  101. I wholeheartedly agree with your opinion, this article, and the degradation of what yoga really is BUT I would also like to shine a light on what continues to inspire me, my teaching, and helps with judgement… ANY exposure to a practice that encourages awareness, self-inquiry, internal exploration, personal responsibility, and emphasizes peace, love, connection, and truth IS so necessary in our society right now! The reason yoga has morphed and grown to the exponential place that is has – and with it promotion, marketing, greed, self-interest – is because we need these teachings more than ever and however anyone gets to them is fine by me! The practice will continue to evolve adapting to our society, as it always has, and it takes the brave and educated to continue to define the important aspects such as this.

  102. So. for those of us just starting on the path, where should we go?
    what should we look for in a yoga teacher?
    how will we know if they are not trained correctly?
    if we find ourselves wanting to teach, how do we know how to choose the right instructor?

  103. I definitely agree about Yoga Alliance being the downfall of yoga but that comes in the wake of yoga teachers teaching asana rather than yoga. Looking at your website, I see the same problem of focussing on asana at the expense of the whole body of yoga. The focus on anatomy and Iyengar style alignment doesn’t come from traditional yoga. The main emphasis of traditional yoga has always been meditation. The rot started long before Yoga Alliance with the advent of modern postural yoga from the Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois lineages which then led to the various Westernised Power Yogas.

    1. The focus of our content is on the philosophy. Please look more closely.

  104. Carmel
    Everything you have written resonates with me. In Australia we are experiencing all of the same concerns. It seems that almost anyone, with very little knowledge, can become a registered Yoga Teacher Trainer. This is most distressing & does damage to all within the yoga community. I did extensive research on different yoga teacher training courses before undertaking my 350hr Diploma in 2013. There was only one school I found that was consistent in delivering high quality yoga education. The International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA) has been established for 50 years & in a non profit organisation that is run by a dedicated group of yoga professionals. The have a large faculty of lecturers that are all highly regarded in their own fields. The IYTA is lumped into the same category as all others teacher training courses, many of these have sleek marketing campaigns & pictures of people that look like models, they are usually conducted by one or two people & the $ all go directly to these individuals. I don’t know how student teachers can be trained at a high standard from just a couple of people, who may or may not be well trained, as there are no mechanisms in place to check on all these new teacher training courses that have now emerged. This is a sad time for yoga & we all need to be much more vigilant about our own abilities as teachers & the training we seek out to further our own education. In Australia there are two governing bodies, Yoga Alliance & Yoga Australia. They have very similar criteria regarding standards & training courses they accredit, but there doesn’t seem to be any real checks that are carried out to really find out if they training that is offered is good. I love being a Yoga Teacher & have been practising for many years, my hope is that this crisis in learning will pass & we can return to teaching Yoga as the holistic practise it should be, without it all being based on quick fix & the mighty dollar. 🙂

    1. As a Yoga practitioner, I have also experienced the kind of feeling that you have described… to see the rise of innumerable yoga teachers and classes that aren’t truthful to the essence of yoga, has also impacted on my own inner call to share, practice and teach, or even talk about Yoga. I think that Yoga in the West is contaminated because the West doesn’t live from the pillars on which this science is based. The West has avoided connection with de Inner Self, choosing just to focus on every external means it finds to project the ego. I think that the only way to experience the true meaning of yoga will be accomplish if we make changes, individually, from the inside, if we as practitioners or teachers live according to what a live of Dharma requires.

    2. I’ve just started my journey into teaching yoga, after 10 years of practice. People frequently asked me why I didn’t teach if I’d already practiced so long. The fact it, it was 8.5 years of practice before I felt I had something worthwhile to teach in the yoga world, and another year and a half to figure out a program that felt right. And honestly, the state of the modern American yoga world did made me wonder what I was getting into.

      I was not interested in the monthlong 200-hour intensives. I teach college-level writing. There’s no way I could have done that with 200 hours of training crammed into 30 days.

      I am pretty sure at this point that I’ll never teach yoga full-time. I love it. I’m doing this teacher training to deepen my own knowledge as much as to teach others. But I don’t see our current American environment as something sustainable. So part-time it is.

    3. Ummm yes. I’m half way through a 350 hour teacher training here in a Australia and I’ve been shocked at the lack of experience and understanding that the other teacher trainees have. I’ve been practicing for 14 years, mostly at home in a country area as there were no classes around at the time. None that looked like real yoga to me anyway. I began with Iyengar and studied yoga at home right from the start. I’ve thought about this a lot and I think the other teacher trainees began yoga in this commercial environment so they don’t know any different.

      I’m extra annoyed with all this because I’ve been to so many yoga classes where the teachers don’t provide advanced options or do adjustments. I’ve paid for these classes and I’ve left disappointed so many times. I’ve realised that they mustn’t be able to provide more advanced options or adjustments? I want to keep going deeper with yoga, but, I’ve reached a point where it’s a massive struggle to find experienced, truly comfortable and knowledgeable yoga teachers. And now I’ll be graduating as a yoga teacher along with a whole heap of people who I know are really only just beginning on their yoga journey. It’s so disappointing. They’ve paid for the course so they will graduate, but, why are they doing it in the first place?

  105. […] is where, in those last years, I lived in a constant state of high-key stress, literally nauseated by the artifice  permeating the professional culture that I worked in. As a result of not wanting to give my […]

  106. Hi everyone. I am practicing ashtanga for 1.5 years as a student. Being involved in different “spiritual” or not paths in my past, I have build this ability to recognize “bullshit” relatively fast. In my honest opinion yoga is yet another place where something that seems to have a point and leads to tangible results, is been overwhelmed with b.shit.
    From my point Yoga does good (at least Ashtanga)

    The reason b..sit happens? Monies and the lack of patience of modern society. In twitter-like mind, people want fast results without to cope for them or actually change their minds. Same stands for diets, elections, fitness and all kinds of things where effort and mindset need to align.

    Yet, is this bad?

    Well it is bad for those who are serious about their teaching (whatever that means eventually) and at the same time see that their seriousness doesn’t bring food at the table. Yes, Karma/Dharma is fine but doesn’t fill the stomach.
    This kind of persons see in terror that superficial prevails these days. Well, it started quite some time ago with many things related to consumerism.

    For ages, those who look for something more “serious” are few. The majority is happy with superficial, fancy and expensive clothing and “get results fast” concept.

    This is the “American” concept that is also found in many more “American” style markets/countries/continents (UK, Australia, etc).

    But that is not a bad thing but “work in progress”.

    For example, in Greece where I reside and practice, this is the case too in most of the schools (thankfully not to the one I go, so far). People come to “stretch” and “relax” and “find the light” and all that mambo jumbo meaning-nothing-to-a-novice buzz words.

    A couple of days ago I was discussing online with a patabhi certified teacher who was messing up yoga, gnostic teachings, etc without even knowing the subject, except preaching about “light” in general. Of course when confronted with questions, hell broke loose against me 🙂

    Another one couple of weeks ago reacted with “undercovered” hate to my questions on the real meaning of his “facebook spiritual postings” about yoga.

    People are eager to find happiness and they dare enough to support their “godly change” just because they… do yoga.

    So the mess is big out there and is not just with “students”. It is with teachers too. It takes a fool to make another.

    I am sure this happens all over the world as I read in the well-known “yoga lifestyle” emags. Asanas are presented as abs makers, weight losers, fitness magic poses.

    These emags are well-known because there is a demand from the audience. Supply meets demand. Supply is cultivated to have a specific form and thus it also generates a specific style of demand.

    Nowadays people do not look for something that goes down to their roots. They are too troubled, too fast, too superficial with so little time. They need their “yoga happiness pill” as prozac. A yoga prozac.

    Yet, this was always the case my friends… Not something new.
    Humans are like that. Bring me happiness and bring it now. This is the moto that prevails.

    So, you, as trainers… need to find a way to cope with that way of thinking.
    Try not to judge but attract as many students as you can. The ones who will go deep enough will do anyway, if you too know what you are talking about.

    As in all matters of life people participate to something up to the level(s) they can understand.

    Have a level for each. After all you never know who will jump from level A to B and in what point.

    Hope this helps.

    This is teaching. Actual teaching is seeing and give what one is needed. Otherwise is just “training”.

    Have courage.

  107. Asana is one part of eight parts of yoga. Asana is very popular because it makes the body feel good. It is often the gateway to a deeper knowing and self understanding. Some people do not get the call to delve deeper into advancing asana practice and some people do not want to delve beyond asana. As a teacher I wanted my students to advance in both physical and intellectual and meditation practices so that I could teach new things, I wanted to advance my teaching. However, people come to this thing, yoga, as they are. We live in a society that is sexist, racist, misogynistic, ageist, homophobic, capitalistic along with many other -isms and issues. Yes there is a lot of fluff in yoga, much less serious study than perhaps there could be and should be. But who has time for that? People want an escape from issues and problems and find some simple solutions for managing their life. I completely agree with all yr points James and I have sat with these questions and I have moved away from teaching yoga and now I am doing other things. But yoga in America and how it is presented is a product of what we have created and made. Yoga now is something I practice for myself and rarely teach. It has become personal and private. For me that seems like the natural evolution of the practice.

  108. Thank you for this article. Yes the yoga industry has lost it’s way. I saw a documentary “Yoga Inc” .. which echoed some of this. But you are right there is more. There is a tendency now to call anything yoga. I tend to seek teachers who are very experience, knowlegable, many of whom are well known in the yoga community at large. I have found though the most important thing is to learn your body. To essentially find your practice. I used to go to studios all the time and have abandon that lately. I am still searching for teachers. To learn more of the traditions and philosophy.

  109. Seems your self was breaking down because you have outgrown this stage of the self and what you could provide as a yoga teacher to the modern yoga movement.
    Having experienced the same, to come to finish line of teaching yoga, I know that after death, new life start again.
    Every system and every stage in life will outgrow itself at some point and be replaced by another one. Our role we want to play inside the system and in our life is our dharma and we have to find ourself with the help of others (from an absolute perspective of course the same).
    Like in the global system crisis, also the yoga system crisis calls for an evolutionary leap, which we are witnessing now. And of course they are connected. What I feel is that our human (global) mind is reaching a limit of growth. The SELF.
    So about time to outgrow this stage. Ha ha ha.
    My take on the yoga movement crisis:
    Yoga is a way to explore the self. Of course when it reaches mainstream, then the mainstream self will explore the self, never the less the self gets explored. To go beyond the self the watcher has to look back at himself. Waking up is when awareness becomes aware of itself and this view is stabilized in daily life. Then living from awareness, the ground of being, happens effortlessly. You become a Dzogchen yogi, which is fearless, because he/she does not need to fear the illusions and dying of the self anymore. From the ground of being qualites like compassion, gratitude, humbleness, loving-kindness, will arise effortlessly. Waking up is not something difficult, there are easy practices (check for example the author: Loch Kelly), it needs just some time to stabilize, but with a good yoga & meditation practice it may unfold easily.
    Mainstream yoga is maybe like kindergarden of spiritual development, where – like in all human development – the ego has to grow at some point. But this step will be outgrown like any step in human development. All the young and coming yogis will eventually look for awareness teachers. There are many, rooted in buddhist tradition or advaita-vedanta. As well as integral teachers. Waking up on a planetary scale is a possible reality and once it is here, we will look back with more appreciation at the yoga movement and our times where it all started.
    E ma ho. What a revelation.
    In the words of Dogen:
    “To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one’s self and others”

    1. Thank you for this egoless comment. The truth and the way. Seek it in all.

    2. Yoga includes meditation.

  110. Dear James. Thank you for your succinct appraisal of the modern pulp fiction the world calls yoga. I am so sorry you have had to endure such extremes on account of yoga. But as you can see from the response you are not alone. The truth is born out in the overwhelming array of support.

    Yoga as we know it is a beautiful diversion. A lovely journey. But as in all our journeys there is a beginning and an end. A destination. What is the destination of yoga? While all the journeys keep changing in and through all the journeys the one making the journey remains exactly the same. The destination too is exactly the same. Whatever form our journey takes we are the journey and the destination is always ourselves. The question then is obvious. Who is the journeyer?

    The world is being taken on a lovely journey (and in some cases being taken for a huge ride!) Call it yoga call it spirituality call it whatever we like, whatever form our journey takes the destination always being one and the same; ones Self, what if the self is missing? In modern yoga Self is all thats missing. (Or rather knowledge of Self) Thinking yoga is all about our bodies, about meditation about breathing without you what breathing? What mediation? What body? Wanting to acknowledging the Self in the journey is useless because we don’t know the self. Unable to complete the journey Ignorance keeps getting in our way.

    Knowledge of the one making the journey is crucial. Like all journeys Yoga has always been about the one making the journey. If you don’t know the journeyer, if knowledge is missing, then you never reach the destination and the whole thing is a waste of time, Missed in all teacher trainings and yoga classes retreat and meditation workshops around the world without Self Knowledge how can anyone be a yogi? Trying to ignore this ‘I’ our ignorance keeps getting in the way of oneness and yogam doesn’t happen. Success (mokhsa) eludes us.
    Since time immemorial the knowledge of Self आत्मविद्याAtma Vidya, आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam or परा विद्या Para vidya has always been taught. Known as knowledge of the knower, because the knower is supreme in all fields of knowledge, (Self being that in whom all knowledge takes place) Self Knowledge आत्मविद्या Atma Vidya has always been regarded as superior knowledge. (Or supreme knowledge परा विद्या Para vidya.) Just as without the knower all knowledge is incomplete, so without knowledge of the Self the whole journey of life is incomplete.

    My suggestion is therefore if you and other yogis in whatever form have never heard of Self Knowledge before, better wise up and find a Self Knowledge teacher. (not easy to find!)

    Before yoga can be complete ignorance surrounds us. All around this ‘I’ or OM our blindness has to disappear. Once you get to clear the windscreen TADA DRASTUH SVARUPE AVASTHANAM – the seer- you – can abide in your Self, the yoga itself wherever and whenever and everything is always NIRODHA.

    You mention the lack of support in the teaching community. An article published November 2015 in Sutra Journal deals with this exact topic and garnered a lot of attention and empathy. (

    1. Thank you John !!! True + clear words .

  111. I stopped reading at “yoga’s mecca is LA”. yoga is from India, I don’t know why all Americans I know think USA is the center of the world (if not is the only land in the universe)

    1. If you stop reading at the first sentence that displease you you won’t get to read many interesting books…

    2. Me too! Then I gave it an hour or so and went back and read it all the way through. In my opinion, you didn’t miss anything by not reading it.

      I am more than happy to stay at home in India and continue my practice.

      This article was sent to me by a friend. I don’t follow any of these “sources” about Yoga.

      As far as I am concerned, for me, there’s only one source.

  112. I also removed myself from “studio” teaching for many of the reasons you cite here, after 12 years. One of my yogi friends, Danny Paradise, advised me to teach only those who seek me. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past year in my home practice room and I’m much happier. Over the weekend I attended an open house for a yoga studio where they are now offering aerial yoga. This is not yoga. It is circus performance. Bottom line for studios is to offer anything and everything and call it yoga.

  113. So good.. The same happens in Brazil. But we need to step forward to create a strong net to keep the traditional alive.

    1. I am posting this more as a contemplation rather than an opinion. I have a slightly different perspective for you to consider. I understand the frustrations of the yoga purist but I think rather than looking at it as the failure of modern yoga I see it as the evolution of yoga to adapt to modern culture.

      I started my practice 15 years ago for the sole purpose of fixing my back, I was fortunate that I stumbled on to an experience teacher but I still had no idea what yoga was, but what I was starting to slowly learn is what yoga was doing for my quality of life. A seed was planted in me that has been slowly growing inside of me ever since. I studied, travelled and lived yoga for years and as I have evolved so has my understanding of yoga.

      We are living in the age of “Red Bull and Smart Phones” peoples minds are not only operating at an unprecedented uncontrollable speed but there also operating at a very shallow level. There minds just aren’t ready for a deep practice and the purification effects would floor them. They need mirrors, music and gimmicks to get them entertained but what will slowly happen with practice is that they will begin to feel better, they will become better friends, better family members and better people, there body will slowly purify and that seed of consciousness will slowly develop and like me if there are lucky they will seek out a deeper practice.

      So for all those advanced teachers with experience and knowledge that can consciously lead a class, don’t loose faith in the yoga system and please don’t try to regulate it for fear of turning yoga into a religiousness institution. Let it evolve to cater to those who need it the most because as they develop they will come looking for you..

  114. hi, yes we need quality, but what that is (quality) we can´t discuss… we need to answer it for our self in the practise. the yogamarket is there to keep us busy with the outer world and jet we can change it, do we need a nother new name to make sure to contain qulity in yog?
    so what is it concrete that you want to do against the low qualities of for example yoga aliance?

  115. Thank you for this article. I had this very conversation in an interview yesterday. I have never taught in a yoga studio other than the 1 I opened in 1995. I closed that studio to group classes in June of 2016. I trained yoga teachers too, only my course required a minimum of 5 years documented practice (most of them were my own students) I was lucky enough to be trained by Desikachar, and learned early on that as a Teacher of Yoga, there was a lot more to learn that Asana. As a philosopher the Wisdom of yoga is what I was drawn too, the experiences that I had/have as a result of Principled Practices, have and will always keep me grounded in a deep faith in my Self, and belief that Yoga is one pathway to a life free of suffering.
    I became disillusioned with the “dumbing down” of yoga and the reduction of Yoga to asana, and chose to focus solely on teaching Yoga to each individual in the way that they will benefit. This of course is the Viniyoga emphasis. As such I have discovered a resurgence in my enthusiasm for sharing this great wisdom tradition.
    I chose to take the path less traveled and focus on teaching principled practices either through individual classes, or in workshops oriented to teaching some basic principles.
    I know their are those out their seeking the gifts yoga has to offer us in our lives, but without the principles they are left with nothing more than physical exercise misrepresented as Yoga.
    I see the development of this industry, void of the spiritual aspect and the patience required to develop that type of personal growth and Knowing, as an expression of all that can go wrong with pulling out one small small small part of this vast philosophical wisdom, explained quite clearly in the 4th Chapter of Patanjali’s yoga sutra’s.
    Is it a failure? I hope it is a momentary and immature stage in the growth of Yoga in our Western culture. I will forever be hopeful that all those who are truly seeking something more than the physical will find their way, their teacher, their inspiration through those of us who have not been blinded by the commercialization of Yoga. So I will keep on teaching and sharing the wisdom of yoga through principled practices, shared study, direct connection with each and every student who happens to find me. I am and shall be forever content in reaching those I know I can serve the best. That is all that I can do.
    James I thank you for putting voice to this disillusionment and hope others find comfort in knowing they are not alone and the MASSES don’t usually show the path to Truth.
    Ohm Shanti Perri

  116. Thank you for this article. Same here in the Netherlands where a teacher told me to have compassion for a student with alcohol smell. She wordy said: “No alcohol during Yoga-class is just an unevolved rule from the ancient past”. I am still confused.

  117. Excellent work James. Resonates, restores faith. I almost never teach group classes now and am beyond fortunate to teach kids, and believe me, the labels don’t help. Thank God for kids! And for you! Thanks for the article, fabulous stuff.

  118. When are we collaborating? Hard to find teachers cut from the same cloth. Thank you for this. We have these discussions all the time with our students!

  119. Sounds like a giant bitch feast to me. Sorry you broke down and decided to suck at your job, because you couldn’t change with the times. Sorry you had a mid life crosses and caused damage to the teachers you changed at the end of your career, some probably paid lots of money to get half a training. Shame on you for giving up. Yoga is constantly growing and changing. Do I agree about poor teachers or Instagram yoga celebs. Sure. But what makes you think you’re any better? Because you’ve been teaching a long time, please. Stop this self indulgent garbage. You make all male yoga teachers look bad. What a shame.

    1. made my day 🙂

    2. whoa. compassion much? ever bust out of your own aham? *most* (as in the vast majority) yoga teaching whingers I know are women.

      that said, i don’t hear yer man there whingeing, i hear him diagnosing his own problem and beginning to reach for a solution. And he’s not wrong. There’s a lot that’s rotten in our Denmark, but I don’t see what can be done about it. In the mean time, I teach. All of it. I spent too many years beating down the doors of self-awareness to do any less.

      and btw, if you don’t get my reference from the second question, I suggest you have a go at reading the Ramayana. Rama himself (who would later incarnate as Krishna) declared that he had much to learn from even his greatest enemy.

      – ta

  120. I see a lot of what this article talks about. I have met many teachers who have no self-practice whatsoever, which I find quite distressing.
    I think I have a slightly different ‘big picture’ view though:
    Yoga has traditionally been limited to India and to a relatively select few within that subcontinent. These days Yoga is available to everyone in some form. And there seems to me to be a funnel of sorts.
    I myself started Yoga for flexibility, as many of us do, and progressed through levels of seeing it heal my body, calm my mind and change my interactions with the world around me.
    Somewhere within that I became a teacher and as my perspective changed my teaching followed a few months behind. So I moved from very much teaching asana as a practice to leading people deeper into their own awareness as my perspective on what Yoga is and can be changed.
    And some students responded to me more as an asana junky than as someone walking a more spiritual path.
    My point is that people come to Yoga from different places. And they don’t often come for an experience of the self. It’s usually more a case of ‘Come for the stretching, stay for the enlightenment.’ (Which will definitely be the title of my next blog post. #partoftheproblem)
    So, if more people than ever have Yoga in some form available to them, is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. And if what they want now is to be more flexible, have a nicer body and get a workout, can we judge that as ‘wrong’? And even if many (most) Yoga classes are devoid of any substantial connection to the path of self-realisation, there is still a connection. There is still a gateway there for people to get interested in and to kick of a journey to something beautiful.
    I will probably never teach a class that is purely physical to background music in a gym again (I do make a point of saying probably though), but that is where I started and it took me down a road I had no idea was there.
    If we as teachers teach what we know to be true then it doesn’t matter what the average Yoga class is like. People will come to the teacher they need when they are ready for that teacher. In the meantime I’m glad that the door is open and the word Yoga is in their vocabulary. If nothing else their misidentification of Yoga in conversation (as I perceive it) is another way to start the conversation which you say the average teacher isn’t capable of: ‘What actually is Yoga?’

    1. Exactly how I see it as well. Thanks Sam for this.

    2. Thanks Sam for this 🙂
      About 6 years ago I actually discovered yoga by watching Youtube videos (talk about mainstream). All I knew at that time was celebrities like Madonna did it to have flexible slender/bodies and flaunting them all in their instagram feeds.

      I finally joined a class (a neighborhood shala owned by Ananda Marga yogic monks), and concepts like proper breathing, chakras, alignment, tension, release, meditation, vegetarianism, so many things! started presenting themselves. Many of these concepts – I was not ready for, but they eased into me the more I practiced.

      I realize it’s a long path towards enlightenment, which appears to be like a beacon, somewhat exclusive, like the summit of a mountain. I think I’m very far from it, I may never reach the ultimate top, but I am trying and on the path. And yes, it all started with watching that Youtube video and a cheap 10$ foam mat I found lying around the house.

      The cheap/soulless youtube video is what got it all started. I do agree that students should explore and not be complacent – dig deeper, so to speak, because it is so much more than soulless stretching.

    3. Thank you Sam for your response. I’m a new yoga teacher (going on my second year). I’ve been practicing for 9. I struggle with some of the concepts raised in the article. Your thoughtful response has given me additional insight which is very useful. Have a great day.

  121. “Yogis” should know better not to hang in Malls… Sorry but it was all self inflicted… If the problem was Yoga Alliance you should just point it to that instead of “crying” about how good you had it and how you simply lost your “shit”. Maybe your Dog can cover the classes for you :). Yoga is not a Job, it is a life style… tough it up bra!!!!

    1. So I’m new to yoga. Why I have started to make this part of my lifestyle is because it fits my intentions of a healthier lifestyle of both body and spirit
      There are not only teachers who do not do right to their students but a clear transparency of attidtudes towards others that quite oddly are hypirciatical. I mean the core of it spiritually is to respect the other? Your soul honors mine ? When I see bs adolesnct comments about how they disagree with someone it hits home. You not only have to be qualified to respect yoga but more importantly you have to Life the life of respect Seems like your missing that part. If you disagree that’s fine but do it with a mature respectful intention

  122. Real yogi realises everything is yoga. And not let something trivial as these things get the better of them.
    A good teacher will rise up

    1. This is a statement I have heard from those who know nothing of which they speak. Yoga (union) is everything, but yogash (the practice) is not everything. It is clearly defined. I am a real yogi and a good teacher and I have risen up.

      1. Great article. We have the same problem in Tai Chi. Few people understand the essence of the artform.I call it MacDonalds Tai Chi !!! Franchises everywhere with little or no substance. Generally it is not the fault of the people whom have a real interest in the practice just circumstance that have not exposed them to the right path. I recently joined a Moksha studio and it informs my Tai Chi practive very well. Lucky that they have great teachers whom have practiced for many years!!!

      2. I can feel your pain… I am older… have practised yoga for almost 40 years. have lived in India and studied with all sorts of gurus who never made the “famous” cut…. and that’s exactly how I wanted my path to go. I still go to the “odd” class and am constantly amazed at how watered down this discipline is becoming. The other day a young new instructor that was filling in showed us a pose called ‘the Superman’…and when she said to hold your hand like a stopsign in another pose I looked around to see if any of the bright eager faces had a quizzical look…..Nothing… No one noticed… The gnostics are the first sect to really talk about “a lttle learning can be a dangerous thing”. From them we get the word “knowledge”… they had a strict form of membership initiation because they did not feel that everyone was capable of receiving or teaching the “teachings” that they had. They believed that one should be selective about knowledge or it would be “watered down” by the masses….I am using this as a very close example with the 8 limbed path of YOGA….sadly… this is what I see. This has nothing to do with the New age sharing that is going on that is everywhere….Unfortunately, If you do ever meet a real Guru they will tell you to go away… Once you start on the path you cannot turn around. I fear that you have learned this quite well. It sounds like you experienced what is called a spiritual emergency. Good for you that that you made it thru. Mental institutes are full of people who don’t, carry on. Love your Posts and may this find you well….Namaste”

  123. I seriously couldn’t agree more with your article. Beautifully stated. I just wrote an article about this myself and searched Google to see if I could find anyone else writing about this topic. It’s truly devastating what this industry has turned into and the vast amount of people who are either completely oblivious and uneducated about yoga or simply don’t care to know. Thank you for putting this out there, it’s a message that needs to be heard.

  124. I don’t do yoga (and I don’t teach). I am perhaps the average inflexible gentleman now in my early 40’s who wants to keep healthy. I do other sports and avoid yoga.

    I have never enjoyed yoga, I have tried it a few times over the years and find that instructors just try to get me into poses which seem to be designed for people which already have a fair amount of flexibility.

    However, in the last few years, I have had a girlfriend who is passionate about Ashtanga yoga, she has gone from being an average yoga teacher to a good one. This, due to 3 years of full time teaching in various Gyms and studios, following a path of constant education and mostly due to experience.

    Recently she started trying to get me into yoga again, but with a different style. She talks to me, asking me how the poses feel, what I should be feeling. She adjusts with light pressure and corrective technique. She is flexible in her expectations of me and the poses I achieve. She no longer follows the standard path taught by all the other teachers I have had, including herself which only focus on trying to attain the pose … but now she thinks about what my level of flexibility will allow me to do, what my problems are and how she can help and tailors her teaching accordingly.

    For the first time I am enjoying Yoga! So I retract my first statement, I am now interested in doing yoga with a skilled yoga teacher, along with my other sports.

  125. I just started practicing yoga, like a month ago. Even I, a rookie, noticed the problems you mentioned in your post. Since I don’t belong to any yoga studio, I have been to a lot of studios and classes (5 days a weeks). I notice some teachers don’t seem to have understanding in body, mind, and life. They said a few new age things at the start or end of practice but I knew it was lip service. Some treated teaching yoga like teaching calisthenics, moving from one asana to another too fast or too scattered (not following body’s natural bio structure). I don’t say these because I am an expert in body and mind. It is simply being old and paying attention. I could not believe that it only takes 200 hours to be certified in yoga teaching, I am new but I know that it’d take me years to even call myself a yogi, needless to do any teaching.

    I grew up reading fictional books with Chinese wushu (martial arts) as a big element. Wushu masters don’t just take anyone who wants to learn. They test the would be students to see if the art would fit them and vice versa. The apprentices spend a life time learning under the master, getting better with age and practice, often more about the philosophy than being a champion wushu artist. By the time one of them is anointed being the master to be, he is often old in the tooth, too. I see yoga in the same light. It is a relationship with a teacher, a life long learning, and more about belief, life style, and attitude than showing perfect asanas.

    As for the current situation in studios and yoga teachers, I think nature will take care of it. People who take studio classes as an exercise may not stay practicing once they move to the next fad. People who get really intriqued or hooked would most likely seeking a path to more enlightenment the longer they practice (8 limbs of yoga than simply perfecting asanas). Although every other person living in Los Angeles seems to do some yoga, the ones who have been practicing for decades mostly exhibit similar aura. They are mostly peaceful and youthful. They may still battle demons (we all do) but they are helped tremendously by yoga practice. I look for such aura as encouragement to be patient in my practice. I will eventually identify teachers I want to take practices with. I have already seen and felt benefit from my 5 days a week practice. After so many years of seeing yoga as blah and fake (hate anything new age), I finally am mature enough to grasp what yoga is truly about.

  126. I just returned home from a Hatha class. It’s hard to find a Hatha class these days since most studios are teaching only power yoga. Sadly, my Hatha class was no such thing–it was a powered down vinyasa class using all the same moves as power yoga, must slightly slower.

    It occurred to me that all the teachers are coming out of the power yoga franchise schools so no wonder yoga classes have turned into aerobic workout classes–where the teachers do their aerobic workout along side of one instead of actually helping students with alignment, etc.

    Although I’ve noticed lately the “teachers” are no longer calling themselves teachers, but rather “guides”. They are there to guide my practice, not teach me what to do, how to do it.

    Many years ago any yoga class I took involved a teacher who spent the entire class time making adjustments and paying attention to how students were moving. They didn’t get their yoga session in along with mine. I’m feeling like an old fogey–criticizing the younger generation of yoga classes—but I’m also mourning the loss of teachers who were OK with teaching and didn’t need to use my classtime to get their aerobic workout.

  127. As much as we like to think that yoga has ancient origins, (which it does) what is going on now has little to do with that… People walk our of class with a white belt (Like karaté) and begin to teach, it’s hillarious…
    But most, and this included many who can be considered “experienced” don’t dive deep enough into it to grasp the essence of the traditions and how to interpret them so others can do the same…
    Sorry, but to say your dog is your most profound yoga teacher is interpreted by me that you have little ties to traditional yoga. Certainly in your heart there were great lessons from this relationship, pertinent to you, but how that translates to yoga, and a process of transformation through teaching others… this develops over the course of generations of yogis who have gone through trials and errors and also came to the understanding as to what works in the end…
    I totally agree with you, yoga nowadays is a farce, I’ve been in the same boat, but left the studio teaching 10 years ago… but I still teach yoga.. and find a way to share about the yoga tradition, without needing to deal with the silliness…
    Sometimes we need to break away from our delusions, it’s a good and necessary thing, believe me, I’ve been through that more than once… but as for the outgoing vocalisation of my opinion of the yoga world, it’s beyond me that it has come to this point and I feel that so many people are touching yoga, and this is only possible because it’s accessible… it’s this way because this is where the people are at… and whether yoga survives the next 10 years is something we see… those of us who know better will continue to do our best, but anger and frustration is never a good way to communicate anything, to other yoga teachers, to children, to a dog…
    Connect to something that works, and not something you think works, but something that has proven to work repeatedly… hence a traditional teaching, and go from there…
    Good luck

  128. Thank you. Nice to know I’m not alone, or losing my mind, or a bad person for not having the desire to teach anymore at local spaces that claim to offer yoga.

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