further thoughts on depression, yoga and capitalism

So on Friday I wrote a personal blog post and then bolted out of town for the weekend. Comments and emails poured in but I had limited internet access or time for responding. But I read every single one and I appreciate that people took the time to reach out to me, to share their own stories. This is very and powerful and healing in itself.

Much of my depression can be attributed to my lack of cash, and the feeling that I’ve been working and working and busy and tired, but have no money to show for my work. As Carol Horton pointed out to me by email: “…there is something depressing about the fact that you’ve accomplished so much when it comes to contributing to a more progressive, non-commercial yoga discourse – and yet here you are at the end of the year, broke.”

Yeah, I know.

But of course there is no money to be made in furthering a progressive, non-commercial yoga discourse. How could I expect to make money criticizing commercial yoga culture?

And yet commercial yoga culture is in need of criticism. As yoga journal announced last week, billions of Americans (and other citizens of the world) are doing yoga and it’s making billions of dollars. As someone whose work situates myself on the margins of mainstream yoga culture, I’m not making a cut of that money. I mean, how could I?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Desperate times also fuel creativity. As an absolute last resort, I decided to use what I got to make some cash: books. About yoga. To cash in on the commercial frenzy of the holiday season, I have set up a tour of “pop-up book shops” to hustle 21st Century Yoga in yoga studios around Montreal.

It’s better than job hunting. And I think it’s even going to be fun. Check out my fb event for the itinerary and if you’re in town, stop by. Buy a book. Take a class.

Thank you everyone for the comments, email, fb messages. Here is a video for you. How can we be depressed and self-absorbed in a world like this?


  1. Hear hear!

    You are awesome.

  2. i can totally relate. i kind of think that because there is so much awareness about how great yoga is now, there are going to be more people actually looking for down to earth, very experienced & traditional teachers. i think we need to just be patient. in the mean time, i’m thinking of going back to waitressing.

  3. Singing my song. (Hey Bindi, I also thought about waitressing.:) Go Roseanne go. If you can’t beat him, sell books to him. By the way, I blame capitalism too and….. Carol, who referred to me as a yoga professional years ago, which I thought was a riot, has had the same empathetic ear for me. Thank goodness for friends like her, eh? But there they are.

  4. Very astute. I see nothing wrong with making money off of yoga if that is not your main purpose (as they say in the Bible, it is not money that is evil; it is the love of money). But we all have to live, pay bills, deserve some extras once in a while, etc. Granted, I teach yoga at a donation-based studio, and I have a day job that pays the bills, so I can go the non-commercial route more for yoga and teach out of the love of teaching. Having said that though, I don’t think there is anything wrong with making money from something you truly love and are passionate about. Looking forward to hearing more about your book… I believe you’ll be gracing the studio I work at (Bodhi) in January.

  5. It almost makes me want to move to Canada! What an inspiring video. I found myself wanting to hear the beat on the pots and pans…and then again, not. Best to you on your tour. I thought the book was well worth the read and bought it for two others.

  6. hi roseanne,
    just a quick comment about yoga and money. in the ‘yoga’ world, we tend to have a negative view of money. it does not look good to be into yoga AND to be making money, even if it is to pay our rent, to pay our bills, to make a living. we have to be ‘poor’. i have learned that it is not the case. money is important. we need it to live in this society. that is a fact of life. what we have to do is change the way we value it, our relationship to it. if we think money to be bad, dirty, if we believe that we must be poor, etc., things will not work in our favor. we have to value money as an exchange of energy, as a positive thing. we must believe that we are worthy of that money. i truly believe that one can make a very good living out of yoga without selling out on one’s values. it may take a little bit longer, but at least we can feel better about ourselves, we can sleep better, maybe not right away, but with time.
    sometimes our struggles are there to help us take a different way, to be more creative, to be more daring, to take chances in order to really do what we want to do in our lives.
    i still have issues with money, but i am slowly but surely working towards being able to make a very comfortable living with yoga, while at the same time doing things that i enjoy and contributing to society. i would not want it any other way!

    ”What if money was no object?”

  7. j’aime sitan c’te vidéo là!! La musique pis la voix me touche chaque fois 🙂

    re: money and emotional state.

    I’ve been saying to many of my friends recently that it would appear that there’s just a general sense of stress, unease and anxiety even when you do have a job. Our entire generation is reeling from a reality check that university and college does not in fact equal a job.

    I love your plan and if I were in Montréal I would definitely be popping in… perhaps you’ll be going to Halifax?? (teehee!) In the off chance that maybe you might, I’m totally checking out your itinerary!

  8. Thanks again for sharing your process. I completely get where you’re coming from. A few years ago, in my 24th year of teaching yoga, I had to get a job. After 11 years of being able to make ends meet on my yoga income, I was broke and going down fast. In the previous few years, a half dozen yoga studios had popped up in my city. Not only did they have the usual advantages of a studio—high visibility and a full schedule of classes all day long so that anyone could pop into any class that fits their schedule—but they were offering the fast-paced, calorie-burning yoga that the mainstream wanted. It became very difficult for me, as an independent teacher offering a more meditative approach, to attract new students. My core of students is very committed, but new students were not finding me. It was extremely depressing, after so many years of dedicated practice and teaching, to feel as if I had failed. Like you, lots of people knew my name, but it didn’t translate into what I needed to make my mortgage payments.

    I did eventually find supplementary work, and I have to say it’s a relief to know that there’s a set amount of money coming in every month so that at least I know my bills are being paid. I also found that I’d been way too attached to the identity of “being a yoga teacher.” That was what one of the major factors that was making me depressed—the thought that I could no longer identify myself as a person who actually made a living doing the thing I’m most passionate about. This doesn’t mean that what I’m offering is not worthwhile, however. It’s just not something that’s highly valued in the current marketplace, or in current yoga culture. I’m at peace with this now, and am truly grateful for the incredible people who make time to schedule my classes into their week. The numbers really don’t matter to me anymore. It’s the community that’s important.

    All this is to say, what you are doing is immeasurably worthwhile. It may not translate into a lot of money, and that’s truly a bummer. What you do makes a difference to a lot of people. I agree that yoga culture does need checks and balances. I’m really glad you are here to give your insights.

    • Charlotte,
      I just have to selfishly reply to this. I could have signed my name to your post except that I did not yet find a ‘straight’ job. I find it uncanny and comforting to be in the company of another who has shared a similar experience in the same time frame. Thank you for sharing that here. Hilary

      • Hi Hilary, I’ve spoken to a number of colleagues who have found themselves in the same boat, people who have been committed to yoga practice for decades and offer deep and insightful teaching but whose ability to support themselves evaporated when yoga became trendy. This is an issue that has gotten zero ink as far as I know. At a time when you and I and many other longtime teachers are offering probably our most profound work, the whole scene values what’s trendy. Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean about being comforted to be in the company of others with a similar experience.

  9. I just hope Jenifer of New Zealand Healium reads this post and comments. I have spent years online, posting comments to blogs about the abuses of commercialized yoga against us unsuspecting students looking for solace in the east coast of the United States. And I’m tired. I am glad it was commercialized yoga that made you depressed. (No, that didn’t come out right … ) Let’s just put it this way. As they say at NASA, “Houston, we have a problem….”

  10. Exasperated, I stopped teaching regular classes and got an AA degree to perform physical therapist assisting. How many times have I heard “you’re the best yoga teacher I’ve ever had” “you should have your own show” you should have your own studio” “I never knew yoga was not just stretching” I’m not interested in anything but I am a reflective of everything. I love yoga. It doesn’t matter how diluted and material yoga’s reflection becomes. There is only truth. This body needs to eat and have shelter. I will care for my body and work at a J O B so that I may practice, study and share my love for the freedom yoga’s philosophy offers the socialized mind.

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