I tend to dance around things. I had a student years ago who called me back door yoga. She was also a student of Mary Dunne, the Iyengar teacher who would likely give her students building blocks to create a finished picture while I just paint the picture and then let you see how that happened. It’s just the way I approach things.
I’ve been dancing around Rebel Yoga. I got pissed when the New York Times described a young go getter named Tara Stiles as Rebel Yoga. Now Tara may be tiny enough to fit into Deepak Chopra’s pocket and she may be a lovely person but calling her Rebel Yoga just made me mad although it certainly was not her doing. I didn’t say exactly why I was mad. I just said that yoga as an exercise class was nothing new and it isn’t. Just ask the people in Pune. I want to say in print why that made me mad and then I’d like to say that the domain name Rebel Yoga.com is for sale. I’m done with it.
I entered a small town in the Bible Belt and knew no one except a yoga teacher I’d met on the phone through Bryan Kest. She became one of my best friends. The yoga community was tiny. The yoga elders were from the Iyengar school. They garnered respect and the next generation sat at their feet. I showed up like Kevin Bacon in the movie Footloose and brought a rock and roll, dance and power yoga based class into the local gym and from there gained the attention of the whole town and a massive following of happy shiny people and I was the topic of the news from the Nashville Scene to Newsweek.
There were only two studios at the time. They were small and run by women older than me. The women were good teachers and brought a wealth of amazing, exciting, (some mean), creative teachers to Nashville and I’m forever grateful as I learned so much from them. They all thought I was loose cannon. My favorite teacher was Rodney Yee who unlike many of the other teachers who loved to pick me out of the crowd to make an example of me as my reputation was no secret, treated me like a friend and colleague.
I had one particular group of strong willed people who were all leaders and outspoken people and completely irreverent and rebellious and would no more have enjoyed the Iyengar training that I loved any more than they would have been willing to be crate trained dogs and I created a calendar named Rebel Yogis: A Celebration of Students to honor them. The name Rebel Yoga became synonymous with me. I had shirts made with the Active Yoga logo that said “Rebel Yoga” bearing the Rumi quote that was the banner for my website:
Live Where You Fear to Live
Destroy Your Reputation
I saw that in a card store. I’d never heard of Rumi before. I sent hundreds of shirts into Nashville bearing my Active Yoga logo and “Rebel Yoga” and lines from that quote. I’m wearing one of those shirts as I write this almost a dozen years after I made it that says “Rebel Yoga – If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space”.
I had to fight to be respected by the yoga community in this town. I had the town with me but not the elders, so to speak. Not for years. I was notorious. I had to be willing to not be liked to do what I loved.
I feel like I won the title “Rebel Yoga” while maintaining my integrity as a person who studies and teaches yoga. I feel like I earned that title as someone who walked into a place where she wasn’t welcome, who sat at the feet of those who found her threatening and brought yoga out of the dusty corners of a small town into the limelight. It was good for everyone including the old school.
When Kripalu wanted me to teach “Rebel Yoga” I told them that Rebel Yoga was not a thing. It was me. It still is me but yoga has changed all around me now. I’m the old school and what I brought here is now everywhere. I’m not saying it’s the same as me. We are all unique. However if I am rebellious now it’s at the idea that yoga is so damn fashionable. It just takes all the joy out of it for me.
I own the domain name Rebel Yoga but I never used it because I felt rebel would be misunderstood as the Confederacy and later Al qaeda. Now I don’t want it linked to both me and to someone who seems to me to be disrespectful as she’s selling yoga like it’s a generic pill for everything. I was saving it for something but now it just feels like it’s time to clean house. I’ve outgrown it. I just wanted to try it on one more time.
Domain name for sale; Rebel Yoga
(Published in Elephant Journal)