yoga for the people: GLBL YOGA co-opts crowd funding & “collective spirit,” receives collective criticism

The GLBL YOGA campaign video, in which numerous multi-millionaires ask for your money!

Since GLBL YOGA launched their Indiegogo campaign to turn Central Park’s Grand Lawn into “the world’s largest studio,” the blogosphere has been blazing with commentary – and the campaign has received more criticism, and less dollars, than the organizers may have expected.

GLBL YOGA, a partnership and for-profit business venture between NYC media/marketing companies Flavorpill and Matter Unlimited, is set to happen on August 16 and organizers are attempting to crowd fund the $675,000 needed to pull off the 1.5 hour outdoor yoga class led by Seane Corn, Elena Brower, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman.

The Indiegogo page promises “a deep sense of community,” “inner peace”– and the opportunity to be part of a world record breaking, largest crowd funded event in history. The organizers also claim that the event is “a global movement that’s truly of, by and for the people.”

The Narrative Arc of the GLBL YOGA Dialogue

Yoga enthusiasts on the Great Lawn in 2010 – before it was rained out.

YogaDork was the first to report on the event, pointing out that “it’s just weird to us that we are all asked to donate our money to a free event at a free park where we can go do yoga for free any day of the week.” What has followed is an interesting dialogue about financing large-scale yoga events, celebrity endorsements, corporate sponsorship, and the meaning of community.

Shortly after YogaDork’s post, the incisive Chelsea Roff at tore into the event, giving other examples of how $675K could be used to benefit the people.

“Where is the sustainability in this event?” she asked. “It’s $675,000 for a one-time yoga class in Central Park. Let’s be realistic, how much community and unity are you going to create in a 4-hr event that’s probably going to be largely attended by people who already practice yoga? What lasting impact is that $675,000 going to have, besides boosting the brands of the people and companies involved?”

Chelsea’s response garnered a counter response from GLBL YOGA founders Sasha Lewis and Rob Holzer on elephant journal.

“There is power in tribes and there is power in gathering in numbers,” said Holzer. “To feel the energy of 15,000 people moving as one in yoga meditation is something we believe cannot help but resonate tremendously in a very new way. This will be something different from a music festival, a concert, or a mass religious ceremony…all very worthy pursuits. I certainly wouldn’t want to miss it.

“Plus, if by throwing an event like GLBL YOGA, we spark just a handful of newcomers to begin a serious journey towards spiritual awakening through yoga, we believe the project has done its job.

Fair enough. The founders’ response was balanced and illuminated their “consciously-oriented business model.” They responded to most of the criticism and were apparently transparent about their intentions.

This response, nevertheless, provoked a rebuttal from The Babarazzi, who slammed GLBL YOGA’s understanding of the “crowd funding revolution,” questioned the event’s ability to turn newcomers on to yoga, and denounced the media event as a “fabrication of culture.”

An actual movement in the streets of Montreal, May 22, 2012 – no souvenir t-shirt.

As The Babarazzi points out, “all a community needs to grow is an experience that touches people in a profound and deep way, a piece of paper, a marker, some tape, and a space to gather to experience the Love. If it costs you close to a million dollars, *paid* celebrity endorsements, give-aways, and enticements of being in the front row to make such a thing happen, perhaps what you’re offering just ain’t that great.”

Resisting Manufactured Community & Contrived Collectivism

I’m leaning towards the critical/questioning camp on this one, as I find the budget and ambition of GLBL YOGA (the vision isn’t just the August 16 – the brand aims to mass produce similar events in other cities) to be excessive and just unnecessary.

I’ve had two recent experiences which have affirmed that communities and movements don’t need to be manufactured by media companies: co-organizing Yoga Festival Montreal, which brought together the Montreal yoga community for weekend on a $7,000 budget and developed lasting community connections; and the ongoing student protests in Montreal, an actual movement fueled by a desire for change – it’s an amazing feeling be part of 20,000 people in the streets, with no projection screens, vendors or branded t-shirts.

The GLBL YOGA promotional material has an overarching savior tone, as though the organizers seem to feel that this event is what the world needs. They predict the people are ready for a “shift” and this event is the conduit that will help make that happen.

However, as one of the founders said in the elephant interview, “If people want something to happen, they will fund it. If not, it doesn’t get funded, or they subject themselves to the corporate sponsorship that traditionally comes with the cost of large-scale events.”

And it appears “the people” may not want GLBL YOGA to happen. The Indiegogo campaign has raised just over $10,000 to date – less than 2% of the goal. In order for the campaign to reach it’s $675K goal by the July 21 deadline, it’ll have to bring in $20,000 per day.

So either “the people” aren’t ready for the mindblowing futuristic potential of crowd funding or they’re quietly saying they’ve had enough of inflated, celebrity-endorsed, VIP yoga events. We’ll see.

The Real Meaning of Yoga for the People

If you believe in yoga “of, by and for the people,” consider one of the following options:

1) Make a direct donation to one of the GLBL YOGA yoga-related charity partners: Off the Mat Into the World, Lineage Project, Urban Zen (or another awesome yoga non-profit of your choice).
2) Round up some friends and practice yoga in a park. For free! No production expenses!
3) Next time you find yourself in mass gathering of human beings (on a subway, at a conference, in a shopping mall), practice a metta meditation, light visualization or some other personal practice that changes your vibrational frequency and generates compassion towards others. Real change happens on a small scale. Embrace it.

  1. It’s a little ironic how Elephant Journal has become the apologist for the corporatization of yoga in the yoga blogosphere. John Friend, the festivals, yoga talent agents, and now this.

    • I don’t know why you feel it’s ironic regarding Elephant since it sold out its soul years ago when Waylon’s only goal was to pimp the site for traffic to support his own income despite claiming he was going to pay the writers which he never did and never will.

  2. I agree with you Roseanne, lovely alternative options btw.

    Also- if the goal is to create community and change for one yoga class in the park- I don’t see why these uber yogi celebrity instructors couldn’t announce the class and teach for free. it’s called volunteering.
    Oh wait- if the goal is to make money and advertise, then I get the price tag.

    Yep that is an obscene amount of money to perhaps encourage change in a ‘few new yogis’ who could have had the shift at a small karma class in the park or community center.

  3. Great post Roseanne and spot on with your perspective … the sooner this type of yoga marketing/commercialism leaves the yoga field the better!

Trackbacks for this post

  1. According to Elena Brower, Some People Critique GLBL YOGA to “literally gain eyeballs” /// GLBL YOGA Apologists Get Weird « The Babarazzi
  2. GLBL YOGA admits defeat, "postpones" event until 2013