‘I want to take over the whole yoga world,’ and other tales from yoga coverage

I know not every one of our readers is a fan of my occasional quick-hit, here’s-what’s-happening, link-heavy posts. I bet even fewer of you are fans of my tendency to over-hyphenate.

But two stories just landed in my inbox that I feel absolutely compelled to pass on to you, for three reasons:

  1. I’m swamped busy, so I don’t have time for the exploration of the core of the Yoga Sutras I’ve been planning
  2. I’m hoping we can get away from the music posts (which are, of course, my own fault)
  3. These both are the types of stories that drive me crazy with two EEs (and perhaps also fill me with dark delight, with two EEs if you want)

So… here’s your next yoga messiah:

While his teaching style may appear laissez-faire, the 32-year-old party boy-turned-national champ is a man on a larger mission. Sitting on a bench in the lobby after the class has ended, almost naked save for mini-shorts and two white towels draped over his impeccably sculpted torso, Mr. [Jared] McCann elaborates on his plans to liberate yoga from the autocrats and the scolds. “I want to take over the whole yoga world,” he says.

That from a piece in the New York Observer, through which, I think, all new yoga messiahs have to pass. McCann is a two-time yoga national champ and the NYO caught up with him teaching a super secret special class at Yoga to the People, aka the folks who were in the copyright lawsuit with Bikram. (Not to be confused with the folks who are in a lawsuit with Bikram over sexual harassment.)

Obviously, the bravado of the above quote is one that raises my eyebrows. But in keeping with the democratic nature of YTTP, McCann does seem to have some redeemable desires:

While Mr. McCann advocates for a less cliquish and more democratic yoga environment—one that replaces the dictatorial demands of a healthy lifestyle with the directive of listening to your body—he is also passionate about improving the quality of teaching in a system that he feels has become ragged with incompetence. In this way, Mr. McCann could be the poster child for a more enlightened yoga practice. “I just want the quality to be better,” he says.

McCann, coincidentally enough, is about to open his own New York yoga studio. But what I love about this piece is how it weaves in more yoga cliches than 14 issues of Yoga Journal. Here’s a sample (all direct quotes):

  • Mr. McCann comes to yoga from an unusual perspective, to say the least. He spent most of his early twenties indulging feverishly in food, booze and drugs with his Wall Street boyfriend. (Yeah, no other yogis took that path!)
  • So, like many New Yorkers, he sought spiritual refuge at the sanctuary most geographically proximate to his house: in this case, a hot yoga studio. (The writer passed Econ 101.)
  • As he began to increase his focus on yoga, gradually, Jared began to party less and turn his gaze inward. (Hey, it can be a cliche and sadly true, right?)
  • He doesn’t believe in one-size-fits-all yoga; he believes that the first commandment should always be to listen to yourself. (Is that yoga 101?)
  • Mr. McCann, on the other hand, is what you might call a Renaissance yogi. He has trained with an eclectic roster of teachers in a variety of styles, blending them to create his own unique form.

Navigating through such descriptions is part of the hazard of mainstream media getting on a yoga story. (You can insert any specific topic in that sentence and it is true for those who follow that topic closely: train collecting, gardening, home brewing, etc.)

The key to McCann’s planned takeover of the yoga world (I don’t see anything in the piece that hints to the irony of someone breaking off from Bikram to do this) is his eclectic history, apparently.

“I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m just creating my own style of yoga based on a lot of lineages that are already out there,” he says. While Mr. McCann currently teaches these hybrid classes to his friends, he plans to offer them widely at the upcoming studio. “We’re going to bring the best together in one place,” says Mr. McCann, who is in the process of shopping around for a location.

I love that he doesn’t have a location yet for the studio, although he does have a name and a big piece in NYO. Oh, and a bit of backing:

He hopes that by opening his own center, he’ll be able to make space for his friends who have been shuttled through the system from studio to studio, and to raise the bar when it comes to teaching and training. And while his studio is being enabled via a generous investment from a venture capitalist friend, he doesn’t mince words about the financial straits of his profession. “I would like to actually make yoga teaching a serious job and not this thing where you have to be part yoga teacher, part prostitute to pay the rent,” he says.

I know I’m being a bit hard on McCann. A lot of what he says about teacher training and the spread of yoga — basically that anyone in 10 days can become a yoga teacher and that is leading to more potential for injuries under undertrained guidance — strikes me as spot on. But the bravado of creating one’s own system rubs me the wrong way. And I so want to connect it to the same well from which springs his participation in yoga competitions.

The second story out there is one I especially want our bartender yogi friends to pay attention to:

Yoga instructor Reagan Wilson wakes up Sunday’s post-party sufferers at Cobra Club bar with a set of soothing twists, stretches, Bloody Marys and mimosas.

“Hangover yoga,” which she’s been teaching since January, offers a chance to “let go of the embarrassing photos you took last night,” to detoxify, and to numb your pain with a new round of free booze.

Yes, “hangover yoga.” Wilson, it turns out, not only teaches yoga but bartends on the side. And the class comes with a free drink. Apparently, she recommends imbibing after. (Amateurs!) The class focuses on detox poses such as twists and ones to ease that morning-after headache.

Strangely, I may feel a headache coming on now… for which I’d recommend Tim Miller’s latest.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

8 thoughts on “‘I want to take over the whole yoga world,’ and other tales from yoga coverage”

  1. Steve, there is also a yoga fight club class somewhere near Union Square. Too lazy to look it up in my archives. I think you provided “synergy” for Mr McCann, Ms, Wilson, and whoever it is who leads the yoga fight club class. I wish I could find the image. I remember it was an Om symbol on top of two red boxing gloves…

    1. I hate to say this, but: OMG!

      I particular love:

      “Mr. Yoga is a holistic lifestyle company that focuses on eco friendly solutions for self transformation and global renewal.
      Our hope is that we inspire you in realizing a healthier, more rewarding and fulfilling life that also promotes environmental sustainability. We offer the resources you need.”

      How can a Mr. be a company? Oh, wait: Corporations are people, my friend.


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