Tuesday, May 15, 2012


No, not CPK.  CPY, as in Core Power Yoga.  It's time for a bit of a rant and today's topic of frustration lies with CPY.  As with many things that I choose to rant about, the negative emotions arise from the positives.  If I did not care, I would not be annoyed.  So, I'm going to start with what I like about CPY.  Because I really do care, and yet I know I have no influence, I know my opinion, however representative or non-representative of other opinions, will carry no weight, it will create no change.  Still, it's good to release it, lest it take any firmer root in me than it already has.

I've seen and experienced so much of life's beauty in the past 2 years because of CPY that I feel compelled to highlight some of all that, even while I see the downward slide of corporate growth trending in what I believe is the wrong direction.

I've met so many wonderful friends because of CPY.  I've experienced life's ups and downs, frequently inside the studio, and often because of all of our shared passions for yoga which CPY fully supports by having a schedule packed full of all sorts of classes.  With the first class at 6am and the last class at 8pm, the schedule matches my work-heavy weekday schedule better than any other studio possibly could.  The pricing is very accommodating and reasonable with multiple options for barter/trade of services for free yoga.  The proximity to my house coupled with the multitude of alternate locations makes the value proposition all but impossible to beat, especially with the new Honolulu studio open.  CPY, you have a lot of the positives of 24 hour fitness without many of the negatives.  Accessibility to the beginner and classes to challenge the obsessive indulgent, check.  Fun, excited, vibrant, motivated instructors and fellow students, check.  Clean and comfortable studios with great locker rooms and free, filtered, chilled water, check.  The teacher training programs are similarly accessible and reasonable schedule-wise as they do not require either giving up one's job or one's life.  I am very grateful to have a CPY next door to me, and I've taken extensive advantage of that and also given a fair bit of my money to the company over the past year.

But this isn't a fluff piece, so let's get right into my gripe.

CPY, as a company, at least within the context of the studios I've seen, you are a hypocrite.

This stems from the top down, and it's the flavor of the kool-aid itself, not really the fact that various individuals within the company drink too much or too little of the kool aid.

So, to be clear, this is not personal.  I'm in awe of the many brilliant and wonderful people in leadership positions within the company, working for peanuts, and doing their best on a daily basis.  These are my peeps, I empathize with them, I admire them, but I simultaneously take issue with the framework within which they are asked to operate.

CPY, you are hypocritical because you can't be pleased by someone who follows your requests, only by someone who ignores what you say and follows their own heart.  You seem to want consistency, uniformity, and a brand that is recognizeable across the country.  Yet your best teachers, the markers of excellence, are the ones who routinely inch towards your limits and sometimes even cross boundaries.  Your teacher training program requests an adherence to this monotonous, drawn-out, process-intensive, soul-sucking method to gaining a position on staff.  Your incessant focus on breath-posture-cue and the whole C1 beginner flow which lacks some of the most basic postures and yet has an inversion that many of you admit took months to incorporate into your own practice.  On top of all that is the foolishness of a flow which more than half of the instructors fail to complete due to time, almost everyone throws out camel and bridge but nobody ever skips crow even though in a group of new yogi's, less than half the class feels comfortable attempting it.

More notably, CPY, you took me, a relatively inexperienced yogi, and turned me into a hypercritical beast who notices every mistake, every misplaced word, every narration and every moment an instructor forgets to collect on an inhale, cue breath, or instruct the class to flow on their own while assisting someone.  You set the bar so ridiculously high that many if not the vast majority of the instructors already on staff fail to meet it.  I find myself nit-picking master teachers now and I hate myself because of this and yes, I'm sticking the blame on you, CPY.  I wasn't like this before.  I used to just appreciate the beauty as beauty, the simplicity as simplicity, and the coherency as coherency.  Now I pick apart, I dissect, I distill and titrate and it all makes me want to run away from you to forget everything I learned.

OK, so far, not yet completely hypocritical just ridiculous and silly.  It's OK to shoot for the moon, it's good to aim high, it's great to want technical and anatomic accuracy, consistency, and coherency.  These are all things to encourage and support in all of the staff on an ongoing basis.  We're at the definition of continuing education here, encouraging improvement, creating commitment, offering a path towards excellence.

Here's where it gets hypocritical.

CPY, you don't really want technical accuracy.  You just say you do as an excuse, as a means of weeding out whoever you want to weed out because we are all imperfect, we all have room to improve.  You pretend like it's all about correctness, but really it's all about this subjective impression of "who's class would you want to take".  That's what I thought yoga was 8 months ago, before it was beaten out of me in teacher training, and I have news for you, CPY, this boils down to a popularity contest just like running for class President.  You really want the money, the packed classes, the hype, public acceptance.  You set rules like each instructor has to teach a minimum of 3 classes to ensure accessibility, but yet you have a massive disparity between some classes like Tabu's which sell out 15 minutes before the scheduled start time and others like many of the 6am classes in Encinitas which are lucky to have more than 4 people.  You go to great lengths to request uniformity and yet when asked for an example of "what is quality" almost everyone mentions the standout instructors, the outliers, those who are pushing the limits of what you as a company allow.  You really want individuals and leaders, yet you cultivate generic nothingness with your teacher training and you even subtly discourage creative garnishes along the way.

CPY, you're like an immature teenager, you think because of your success that you've tapped into a special formula.  You are emboldened by your strength and you think the world is at your feet.  From the outside looking in, I see it all as a bit of a rubber band that is stretching and will either snap or rebound but surely cannot keep stretching without changing shape, much like the Ironman and Rock and Roll marathon brands.  You are heading off towards 24 hour fitness land, a land of corporate mockery and financial success, and if that's where you want to go, have a great time with that.

Now here's the thing that bothers me.  It doesn't have to be that way.  CPY, you have great leaders on staff already.  You have creative and ambitious individuals who could inspire and create unique and wonderful blends of personality.  You could inject authenticity and you could nurture your TT's to find their voice, much like a rookie NFL quarterback is often developed for a year or two before being thrown to the wolves.  You don't do that, but you could.  Tabu could lead a sculpt-on-steroids training that you can bet your two glutes that I'd be signing up for in a heartbeat, but yet you don't allow him to do this, and you don't even encourage him to teach in the manner in which he wants to teach, the manner in which he is successful teaching, and the manner which fills the room with like minded individuals.  You could have Michelle take the B team of almost-there-but-not-quite and put them through a 2 or 4 week extension program to get them over whatever you think is keeping them from passing your bar, but you don't.  Your extension program should be an invite-only and it should be personalized to each individual, but instead it's just another way to create cashflow.  You could have each teacher training be unique and different based on the group and you could encourage creativity from the start in your new trainees instead of beating everyone down from day 1 and setting up hoop after hoop to jump through with no real measure of progress or means of determining timeline before meeting the standard required to be allowed to audition in front of the studio managers.

Brilliant managers play the hands they are dealt, much like a great poker player.  Brilliant coaches find ways for their players to be successful by setting them up for success, by putting them in positions where they are likely to succeed, rather than asking a defensive lineman to play corner in a cover 2 system.  Brilliant management is 100% about the exceptions, the personalization, and the judgement calls, not about standards, rules, metrics, spreadsheets, and bottom lines.

For the time being, I'm just really unimpressed with your secret sauce, CPY.  I wish you the best, and I'll continue to be a vigorously enthusiastic participant in your classes for the reasons above, but unless you get your s together, I will remain frustrated with your methods.


  1. Thanks for that nice description of the view from the bottom of the yoga abyss. This is everything I've been thinking but didn't have the courage to say.

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    1. I don't disagree with any of your sentiments, but I read that post and don't think young Dave is decrying the profit seeking nature of corporate yoga. Rather, it's the glaring systemic errors that are totally unnecessary and correctable. They credit their success to areas of their operations which actually suck, while remaining oblivious to their actual strengths. As a result they needlessly jeopardize their long term corporate health and underserve their clients in the process. Everybody loses when everyone could win. So what to do about it? Write a pissy blog post and exhale I guess. Wait, why am I commenting on a yoga post anyway? Less yoga, more yog.

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  4. Kelly - I find it annoying that you clearly missed the point!

    The hypocrisy is taking a a yogi's investment and yet not investing in them.

    MCD - Thank you for saying it like it is. "Immature teenager" is classic!

  5. In the end, it's always about the money and the classes. And I am not surprised that a chain yoga studio has this TT hypocrisy going on. They chose to create a uniform TT program across the country, but the reality is those types of deals don't really produce the teachers they want (unless it's Bikram where it's all about the 26 poses).

    I definitely think that independent single-studio TT are the way to go.