by Beth Connolly on March 7, 2012
Sonia Jones, the wife of billionaire hedge fund manager John Tudor Jones, has a new project underway–and it’s ruffling a few feathers in the Ashtanga yoga community, according to an article in the April issue of Vanity Fair.
Sonia’s huge new project is to bring Ashtanga yoga to the masses, specifically the version practiced and preached by the late and renowned Ashtanga teacher, Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, whose students called him Gurji.
But some yogis feel the project is too commercial and resent her high visibility in the yoga community.
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
Sonia feels that yoga has given her not just her health, but her life. “I got married so young and didn’t have my own life,” she says. “Now I’m coming into my own.”
‘Guruji used to say, ‘Look at a wall and see God,’ ” says Zoe Slatoff, a teacher in Manhattan, “which to me means we need to look with compassion at what’s happening.” But there’s a lack of clarity about Sonia’s goals and about how Pattabhi Jois’s daughter and grandson, who are also founders, fit in. Maybe there is jealousy. “A lot of old-school teachers resent Sonia because they perceive that she’s getting in the way of their special relationship with the Jois family,” says Russell Case, a teacher who is now working for Jois Yoga. And there’s also a feeling that Jois Yoga founders haven’t always acted in a very respectful way.
But Sonia’s involvement with Guruji’s heirs and their attempt to codify his teachings into something called Jois Yoga has created a current of unease and distress in the close-knit community of Ashtanga teachers, although few are expressing this openly, whether out of loyalty to Guruji’s memory, fear of the future, or hope that it will just go away. “People are talking about it quietly, but quietly loudly,” as one teacher puts it. Many Ashtanga teachers have not just their livelihoods but their very existence tied up in the practice, and Jois Yoga, which from the outside can seem like one part Lululemon (the hugely successful line of high-end yoga clothing) and one part Yogaworks (the California-based chain of yoga studios), is a challenge to all of that. It feels like a commercial enterprise—or worse. “I believe it’s about power, and I don’t want to be part of it,” says Lino Miele, a senior teacher, about Jois.