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EDITOR'S PICK

If Alo/Cody wants to be a leader in the Yoga world. ~ Kino MacGregor

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Editor’s note: we have published articles from Alo/Cody, Kino, and yogis with views from both sides of the fence. Why? Because it is our role to try (and thus far, mostly fail) to bring community together. Union. It is better to talk, and listen, than hate on one another. Let us all be respectful in our communications and passion around this situation. It is my personal hope, which feels like a lonely one right about now, that we can find peace and provide an inspiring ending to this chapter in yoga history. I say that without hyperbole: when yoga came to the West, and capitalism came to Yoga—well, this chapter can demonstrate harmony in resolution…or sadness in conflict. ~  ed.

Note: I have offered to Marco, Paul, and the good folks at Alo/Cody to reply and encouraged both sides to work this out, if possible. It is possible, if we work together to make it so.

When I first started teaching yoga I barely knew who I was.

I was 23 and I didn’t have a voice, a message.

I hardly believed in myself.

Not only was I the weakest person in the room, but my body was not the “ideal” yoga body.

My short stature and thick thighs never fit into leggings made for tall people. If they fit my legs, the waist was baggy. I wore my old gym shorts and my bikini tops.

But I practiced. And when I found Ashtanga Yoga, I realized that it wasn’t about what size or shape you were—it was simply about putting in the work over many years.

I still remember the first day someone asked me to make a video for YouTube. I was so happy that someone thought of me as an “expert teacher.” Over nearly 20 years of practice and teaching, I have crafted a voice and a message built on heart-centered integrity, spiritual strength and perseverance against any odds. I have made yearly trips to India to continue my journey as a student, and all the while as I have slowly grown as a teacher. In one of the sacred mantras that my teacher used to have us chant, there is a refrain that is loosely translated as, “Namaste to the keepers of the way of the knowledge of the Highest Truth.”

I see myself, however flawed and imperfect I may be, as a keeper of the sacred knowledge of yoga.

But I’m not the only one holding this torch.

Anyone who has devoted themselves to daily practice and given their hearts and souls to yoga is carrying this sacred torch forward.

~

But what happens when someone attempts to steal, buy or co-opt the spiritual heart of yoga? Then, it is my belief that those who are charged with upholding the principles of yoga have a moral obligation to do whatever is within their power to reclaim the spiritual lineage that they represent. To, at the least, speak up with fierce caring.

It is in this light that I dare to speak up about this somewhat unpopular topic of a billion dollar corporation suing a 24 year old yoga teacher. Alo/Cody has not released me from the unilateral confidentiality clause binding me from speaking.

Yet I cannot sit silently by while they slander my good name. If ordinary citizens have the courage to stand up to our President, I have to be brave enough to speak up to the owners of Alo/Cody, Marco De George and Danny Harris.

The main issue here is that a corporation that uses the core teachings of yoga as a marketing tool (which many companies do) is being called out by the international community of yogis (its customers) for acting out of alignment with the values it espouses. Yoga is, of course, more than a marketing tool.

If Alo/Cody wants to be a leader in the yoga world, it starts with modeling an ethical line of behavior.

They could end this so easily by dropping their lawsuits, giving every teacher who doesn’t want to be a part of the Alo/Cody venture an opt-out or a reasonable buy-back option and issuing a public statement contextualizing their actions. If they do so, I have said before, on Elephant, that I and many will commend them. Peace will have been accomplished—no small thing.

But they haven’t, yet, so the saga continues, still.

To everyone who has spoken out, please keep speaking, emailing, commenting and standing up for yoga. If you do not, this peaceful fight is over. Please speak up with dignity, not anger.

The community of yogis is stronger than any corporation. If we speak with kindness and persistence, they will have to eventually listen.

Everyone has their own time, so we must be patient and persistent—but not turn the page. This matters.

We must believe through great difficulty that our voice, no matter how small, has the power to make a difference.

We must be strong enough to believe in yoga and never give up.

Now, let’s set the scene for a part of the battle that is currently being waged. When Paul Javid at the Cody App first asked me to make a video series of my Ashtanga teachings, I didn’t know who they were. I remember having a phone call with Paul Javid, the former owner, and he sounded like a nice person, so I said yes. At first it was all mutually beneficial and friendly. I invited them into my house and my yoga center to film. And it was a success. Thousands of people bought my course! I gave Cody my most valuable asset—my teaching and my message—me, and my path—and I trusted them to stay true, as Paul promised me he would.

But a few concerns started to arise. The first red flag appeared when students that I sent over to Cody complained to me about getting emails trying to upsell them on all sorts of content that has nothing to do with my teaching, everything from Olympic weightlifting to Pilates. There is nothing wrong with either weight-lifting or Pilates, but my students said they signed on to practice with me and their complaint was the hard-sell marketing that followed their purchase of my teachings. I contacted Cody, voiced my concerns and asked for access to my students’ emails. They declined.

As Cody App grew it started to leverage its success onto the biggest Instagram yogis. It seemed like their measurement for whether someone would be invited to their channel was based on how large their social media following was. If their intention was to collect emails from large social media accounts and then upsell those yoga students more and more content, it makes business sense to focus on the most popular teachers.

But somewhere along the way I started to feel that Cody’s message about yoga was dimmed. And yet I was one of their most popular teachers. So when Paul asked me to join Cody and film exclusively with them, I knew it was my chance to offer my voice and guidance to their yoga message.

Whereas Paul wrote in his article that I asked for money to join Cody exclusively, what I really asked Cody for was a seat at the table, an ownership stake in the company and a chance to build my dream of a yoga TV network. I asked to be a member of the board and be included in the decision-making of the company. I wanted to help craft the yoga programming and steer the direction of how Cody presented yoga to the world. I did not ask for an upfront payment, but did ask for an ownership stake in the company and to maintain some version of the revenue share of our existing agreement. I also asked for funds to develop the yoga programming I am creating now at OmStars.

The only thing we agreed on was the revenue share that was the foundation of how Cody worked with all their teachers. They turned me down on a seat on the board. They rejected my request to come help craft programming. While they did offer me stock in the company, I had asked for 5% and they offered me less than 1%. I felt let down. It was like all I was good for was a quick profit and to be used as model, a face and a body, but not valued as a decision-maker.

Despite my personal affinity for Paul, I was given no choice but to walk away and create something with integrity that I and my students, and students everywhere, could trust.

Cody built their business in a revenue share model. That means that they would split the proceeds with the teacher who made videos. So while Paul disclosed how much money Cody paid me, he conveniently failed to disclose how much money Cody made off of my content. There are most likely teachers who have been paid even more than I have, yet Paul declined to mention their names. In their first year of business, before I was affiliated with Cody, it was reported that they grossed over $1 million. I can only imagine how much more they grossed with their team of popular teachers pushing their large social media followings to buy a la carte courses and the hard upsell that was done via email once they collected all the student emails.

I take issue with Paul throwing the dollar amount that Cody paid me as some sort of “proof” that I am an evil person out to get them. Yes, I earned money from that business agreement (as one would expect in any business arrangement), but I did so because they benefited immensely. Don’t let them fool you into making it sound like they were the losers in that arrangement. They got to upsell my community on all their other content. They kept all the emails. They got to use my name and reputation to drive people to their channel. Countless people have told me that they only found Cody because of me or Dana Falsetti (the 24 year old yoga teacher they and Alo Yoga are suing). There was a point when Cody used my name and likeness so much that some people assumed it was my business venture! How can they even begin to quantify the financial benefit they reaped from being associated with my work?

Yes I earned a lot, and so did they and all the other teachers who were a part of Cody. I haven’t seen Cody’s gross yearly revenue, but I imagine that it grew much higher than the $1 million that was reported for their first year. If a business that grossed many millions of dollars a year is not financially sustainable, blaming the teachers on whose backs the entire business was built seems irresponsible.

As for me, I channeled every cent I earned from Cody into my own online channel, OMstars. OMstars did not rip off Cody’s business or try to poach any teachers from them. More the opposite, actually.

When I first invited teachers to OMstars, I searched for the best teachers, regardless of the size of their social media following.

Some had filmed with Cody, but many had not. Some were close friends of mine. The strange thing that I noticed is that a few months after we posted a behind-the-scenes story filming with one of these lesser known teachers, Cody would suddenly be filming with them. Some of the teachers told me that Paul reached out to them after they filmed with us. It’s a free world—teachers have a right to spread their voices to as large an audience as possible. But for Paul to say I tried to poach their teachers when it is something they seemed to have done deliberately is merely the pot calling the kettle black.

Paul Javid’s Elephant Journal response article posted a picture showing similarities between Cody’s FAQs page and the now defunct yogachallenge.com FAQs page. When my former business partner and I released some videos on this site using VHX, we searched for the industry standard in guiding these questions. We looked at Cody, but we also looked at so many other sites. Are there similarities in these two? Yes. For sure.

But the comparison is an irrelevant distraction to real issue at stake.  The core of Cody’s business was not some FAQs, which as others have said are similar across the industry. It was based on leveraging popular yogis on social media into bringing their students over to Cody. Paul, do you think your business is threatened by some similar FAQs? And besides, yoga challenge is not my online channel, OMStars.com. If you want to do a fair compare-contrast, let’s hold up these two sites and see how they fare.

I also have to ask why Paul never mentioned his FAQ issue with me in the numerous times we spoke over the years. The fact that he chose to speak to his lawyer about his issues and not even reach out to me to voice his concerns mirrors the course of action they took in suing Dana.

Instead of dialogue, they go to court. That’s not yoga, to me!

I have my own history with Alo that I’ve already written about. For my own reasons I wanted and still want nothing to do with their company. When Alo bought Cody, I was informed months after the deal was closed. I was never offered a buy-out or an opt-out. I asked them to take my content down (something they have done for other teachers). In this model everyone who purchased my plans on the old Cody keeps lifetime access but my videos just don’t get included in the new Alo/Cody subscription offering. Then, in December last year, they unilaterally changed the subscriber payment terms in violation of my contract.

I don’t want to sue them. A lawsuit is, in my opinion, the last (not first) resort. I’ve tried to work it out, but right now it is Cody who is in breach of our contract. Without mutually agreed-upon payment terms, we should just let the content die and not have it rolled up in their new Alo/Cody subscription channel. Instead, they continue to use my videos without my consent, outside the terms of a valid contract.

Marco and Danny, the owners of Alo/Cody, had their lawyer send me a cease and desist letter in response to a blog I wrote. Their lawyer then requested that I pay $450,000 in exchange for them taking my content down. They wanted a refund for every cent they ever paid me and they wanted to keep their percentage of what my teaching generated!  In their preferred option they would have earned in excess of $1 million off of my work and I would have earned…nothing. I entered into a series of heated negotiations, one where I left crying and upset for hours. My final offer was to pay them $100,000 to buy back some of my content or $10,000 to take it down.

They responded with silence. I’ve tried and tried to settle this dispute with Alo, to no avail.  And Alo may be gearing up to sue me, next. Ramping up the aggression, instead of looking for mutual peace.

Let us work together to find real peace.

In response to a massive public outcry begging and beseeching Alo/Cody to drop the lawsuit against Dana Falsetti and let us go, they have thus far doubled down. Alo/Cody has subpoenaed Instagram for private DMs and communications. Alo/Cody has named other yogis as witnesses to call against Dana (oddly including some of the biggest yoga accounts on IG that are not sponsored by their company).

Alo/Cody is attempting to add an unfair competition claim to Dana’s lawsuit, alleging a conspiracy to take their business down. No one wants to take Alo or Cody down. We want to take this aggression down a notch.

They’ve asked for my private content on Instagram, and they’ve provided notice that they want to serve me with a subpoena for a deposition set for a court date in April. Alo/Cody is blocking, deleting and reporting all voices of dissent, even those that speak kindly or just leave #freedana as a comment. There is a rumor being circulated by Alo/Cody employees and other representatives that Dana was provided an “out for no money” and “all she had to do was sign a paper to say she’ll stop and they’ll drop it, but she won’t.”

Paul Javid made a similar claim in his Elephant Journal essay. If that is true, let them offer it publicly, and we can find peace.

The party that sued Dana is now spreading rumors about us both. Dana did not bring these lawsuits. She does not want this attention. Alo and Cody do not need Dana’s permission to drop the lawsuits. There is nothing she must sign to allow them to withdraw their own lawsuits. They can do it at any time.

Meanwhile, the only response from Alo has been made by their head of PR, Amanda Porter, where she says that Alo/Cody is a place of inspiration and good via direct message.

What is good or inspirational about a billion dollar corporation suing a 24-year-old yoga teacher? Instead of letting this thing go, so far, they are digging deeper and deeper.

We can do better. Alo, Cody, Paul…let’s back away from the lawsuit.

~

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About Kino MacGregor

Kino MacGregor is an international yoga teacher, author of four books, producer of six Ashtanga Yoga DVDs, writer, vlogger, world traveler, co-founder of Miami Life Center, co-fouder of Yoga Challenge and OmStars. Kino’s dharma is to help people experience the limitless potential of the human spirit through the inner tradition of yoga. She is one of the few people in the world of yoga to embrace both the traditional teaching of India’s historic past and the popular contemporary social media channels. You can find her teaching classes and workshops all over the world and on Kino Yoga Instagram with over one million followers and on Kino Yoga YouTube channel with over 100 million views. With more than 17 years of experience in Ashtanga Yoga, she is one of a select group of people to receive the Certification to teach Ashtanga yoga by its founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India and practice into the Fifth Series of Ashtanga Yoga. Practice with Kino online at OmStars.

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