observational yoga: software entrepreneur & murder suspect john mcafee’s contribution to yoga

Nov 20, 2012 by

The bizarre and complicated story of John McAfee has captured the attention of the popular media. It has all the elements of a movie: an eccentric millionaire living in exile, guns, girls, technology, murder… and yoga. The software pioneer – best known for the antivirus software, McAfee – is currently living on the lam (and blogging about it) while police search for him for question in relation to the murder of his neighbour in Belize. It’s a long story and you should really just read this Daily Beast article if you want to know more.

Anyway, the news stories repeatedly call McAfee a yoga aficionado, but provide little detail about what this means. It turns out he doesn’t just practice yoga – he’s created his own style called “observational yoga.”

He explains all in this Denver Westword interview, published in the summer of 2012:

WW: What is observational yoga?

JM: You can pay $200 a month to sit in an easy chair and watch people do yoga up on a stage. There is a scientific basis for this, that through osmosis, as you watch others be active, the observation of something impacts yourself. If you watch someone move in a certain way, you start to mimic that later in the day. A good example is if you watch a scary movie, you become scared. You are not being attacked, but somehow you feel the fear.

WW:What do the actual yoga practitioners do?

JM: It’s mostly hatha yoga in static poses — like Iyengar yoga. People find it more interesting to watch. We are trying to do the same thing with weight training, where you sit in an easy chair, they serve coffee or juice, and you watch people lift weights. There is a scientific basis that it will affect your actions throughout the day — that you may lift a chair later rather than just scooting it across the floor — and there will be an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in body fat. We have discovered that activities with large-scale movements (involving the whole body, for example) lend themselves more readily to observational techniques. Small-scale movements, such as typing, provide limited results. This is why we had no success in teaching people to play the piano by having them watch concert pianists at work.

WW: Who do you picture as your target audience?

JM: Anyone who would like to watch yoga to improve flexibility, increase muscle mass and decrease fat. Actually, it’s the younger people who take it; the older people tend to think it’s hogwash. About 80 percent of our clients are between 18 and 25.

WW: How many clients do you have?

JM: Eight hundred as of last week. We are opening studios across the mainland as we speak.

WW: What does an observational yoga studio look like?

JM: The largest is a converted warehouse where we have an elevated stage, soft lighting and easy chairs so you can lay back and put your feet up, and we have four servers who serve juice, water and coffee. No food — although we are thinking of adding food. [via Denver Westword]

Before he was running from the law, McAfee planned on franchising observational yoga. He might just have to turn to regular old do-it-yourself yoga in his underground lair or yacht or wherever it is he’s hiding. Being on the run has to be stressful! McAfee might want to try some relaxing pranayama, or at least some restorative yoga.

The rest of us, however, can just keep on practicing observational yoga the way we usually do – via YouTube. Put on your gold lamé catsuit, watch this and improve your yoga prowess:

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7 Comments

  1. Tina

    Gee … too bad he couldn’t perfect observational yoga …

    I sort of did a lot of it (the amateur, YouTube and YogaEarth variety), and months after I left that style of studio, I was finally able to get into crow pose .. Of course, my new, preferred studio did not have that pose on its mild, old-school menu …

    Now, I also invented my own style of yoga, but it involves a lot of activity … guess the world will never know the wonders of this new passive learning technology … which, by the way, was first posited by Uri Geller …

    • i’m going to do observational yoga until i can get my foot behind my head!

      • Tina

        Well, with my own, invented style of yoga–it’s active, and a little goes a long way.

        With the observational style (my amateur interpretation of it), given my nature, I become addicted … and the hard stuff (to watch, not to do, as in keeping with the observational style’s modus operandi) seems to be available on the pay sites …

        Hours and hours .. it goes on and on …

  2. I don’t think anyones body will change by watching someone do something. I can see perhaps the possibility of beginning to imitate what you are observing but without the imitation it doesn’t sound like they are expecting any results. Which to me essentially means taking the actions yourself is still the main component. What might be more interesting is if you gain any spiritual mental or emotional benefits from watching others practice yoga? I wonder for instance if they could study how much stress depression ect people are reporting before and after a few weeks or months of daily observation.

  3. Tina

    Uri Geller had popularized this study and incorporated it into his teachings as a mentalist: “Psychologists from Harvard have proved that housework is fantastic exercise — if you believe it’s doing your body good. Alia Crum and Ellen Langer interviewed 86 hotel maids, all of them overweight, who were cleaning an average of 15 rooms a day. They gave half the women a scientific slideshow, explaining what a great workout they were getting when they changed the bedding and vacuumed the floors.

    “The other women were left to get on with it, and a month later they were no fitter than before. But the lucky ones, who knew how healthy their work could be, shed pounds of fat, especially from their hips, and saw their blood pressure fall.

    “Like I always say… you’ll see it when you believe it!”

    I wish I could say that my aerobic BOSU work and my stretching had turned into crow pose, JUST by watching Shana Meyerson and Patrick Reynolds do it … repeatedly for hours by video, but it just didn’t happen that way at all. Reiterating that going to yoga studio had nothing to do with it, because current studio is old school.

    So I would tend to agree with Hot Yoga Ithaca

  4. David

    You guys probably want to check out the interview with McCaffee on the Joe Rogan Experience where he explains this whole observational yoga thing was simply a prank that got out of hand. Then again, why believe a prankster when he says something was a prank!?

  5. max

    mcafee told a retarded journalist about this as a JOKE and she believed him and wrote articles on it. IT ISNT REAL!!!!!!!!

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