It’s Over Now: Lessons Learned from Yoga Activism Gone Awry in the Cody/Alo Drama by Kino MacGregor
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’” ~Romans 15:1-2 (MSG)
It’s been nearly two months since I published my initial blog about my dispute with Alo/Cody, and a few weeks since I stopped posting about it. I feel like I’ve been through a war. To some I have emerged as a hero, but to many I am a villain. I am struggling to accept this. I’ve gone through cycles of doubt, depression, anger, remorse, disillusionment and fear. Never once have I felt elation or happiness about all that has happened. If there’s one thing that’s clear from all this, it’s that there are no winners in any type of war.
I’ve learned a lot, and I want to be transparent with you about that, even though admitting fault is always challenging and, in some ways, embarrassing.
Thankfully, today, I can say definitively that my own dispute with Alo/Cody is over. For now, here are the facts:
We have reached a resolution to our business dispute.
My dispute with Alo/Cody was, at its core, a business dispute.
When Cody was acquired by Alo, I wanted them to take my content down from their new platform. It upset me that Alo had the right to use my image and my content. There were a few other teachers who felt the same.
I also had discussions with Alo about doing a bigger business deal where I would be a top-tier teacher on the new Alo/Cody venture and they would acquire the rights to my Omstars content. When the talks ultimately reached a dead end, my goal was to at least get the videos taken down from the new Alo venture or to possibly acquire the rights to the content I had filmed with Cody. I participated in an online chat group where a small group of yoga teachers discussed our concerns, and talked about ways to address them. I suggested we create a #notagoddess hashtag publicly to rally with others who were unhappy with Alo having rights to use our image. My goal with this group was to generate support for our cause.
In hindsight, I wish I had been more measured and thoughtful in my words and my actions. I’m not sorry that I stood up for what I believed was right, but I made many mistakes and have many regrets. I believe that modern day yoga practitioners (myself included) are not perfect, enlightened beings living in a state of Samadhi. Instead, we are human and make all-too-human mistakes. The thing that I, as a yogi, am committed to is learning from my mistakes and getting back up again from each stumble a little bit stronger and wiser.
To be clear, I always cared about Dana and wanted what was best for her, but I also enlisted #freeDana to gain support in my own business dispute with Alo and Cody.I wanted Alo and Cody to drop the lawsuits against Dana, and I wanted to help her raise money to fight her lawsuit. I was relieved when Alo/Cody settled with Dana. But it is also true that I also got involved in order to further my own business interests.
It has been hard for me to reconcile my true motivation for bringing this dispute into the public sphere. It is absolutely true that I made this dispute public as a negotiating tactic. It is also true that at the time I felt justified in my actions.
In the year leading up to this dispute, I went through a really difficult time. While I don’t present this as an excuse for my actions, it does help me understand and explain where some of the intense emotions that I felt truly stemmed from. Before all this drama exploded, I’m not sure if I would have realized how much anger I had inside of me. But this very public war has made me clear about one thing—I’ve been hurting, angry and filled with outrage for at least the past year.
You may wonder what I have to be so mad about. Not only am I regularly upset about the state of the world (just reading the news can be triggering), but I have been through a trifecta of personal loss this year. Within the short span of a few months, a close personal friendship deteriorated and both my Dad and my cat died. If there is one thing I can be certain of is that I have been grieving. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains that grief is a heightened state of emotional arousal. Into this emotional stew, entered the Alo/Cody drama. I have spent long hours thinking about why I decided to take my business dispute public. It’s not that my impetus to make the world a more just place is invalid, or that my sense of identification with the yoga community is off. But while I can look back and see the worthiness of my intentions, the results of my actions were not so clean or clear. I have spent weeks wondering where it all went wrong. As for myself, I can say for sure that hate was in my heart like a spiritual chain choking out goodness, love and light. It was like I wanted to project all of my anger into this one fight to right all the wrongs in the universe, but nothing just comes out of hate so the entire paradigm of action was skewed right from the beginning. So I am now writing this blog, in part, to better understand my own motivations and share my learning process with you.
In trying to further my cause, I grossly overgeneralized Alo and the ambassadors. Recently, I have spent more time connecting with some of the Alo ambassadors and I can see that they really are my brothers and sisters in yoga. I have also spent more time talking with the owners of Cody and Alo in a constructive manner, and I believe they are good people. They are not the company that I initially framed them as—I realized there are sides to Alo which I didn’t see at first. For example, they have set aside $500,000 through Alo Gives, their non-profit foundation, to bring yoga to schools in the U.S. and to benefit women and children in underserved communities.
In late 2017, Dana Falsetti posted on IG stories about the confidential Alo acquisition and wanting to be released from her cntract with Cody; she was sued within days after she posted. I knew that Dana would probably need money to fight her lawsuit, and I asked her if I could help her raise money. She appreciated my help. While I wanted to help Dana, I also knew that framing my original article to “Free Dana” would be the most effective way to rally public support against Alo/Cody, which would also be to my benefit, as a negotiation tactic.
My second Elephant Journal article may have led some people to believe that Alo was suing other yoga teachers. That was not true. Neither Alo nor Cody ever filed a lawsuit against anyone other than Dana. Furthermore, when people thought that Alo was suing multiple yogis after reading my blog, I didn’t correct them. I let it stand in the public domain because it furthered my cause. I regret not immediately stating the truth to correct people’s flawed assumptions based on my posts. There was also a non-public document that I shared with Waylon Lewis and a few other bloggers that showed Alo was reserving its right to call other yogis as witnesses in Dana’s case. However, I framed this as though those yogis were actually being called as witnesses in Dana’s lawsuit. This was not true – Alo just had the right to call them as witnesses. I did this because I wanted the yoga community to believe that no one was safe; I honestly thought that this was the truth and the right thing to do at the time. Alo did subpoena me for a deposition in connection with this lawsuit. That deposition never occurred because Dana’s case settled. Those are the facts.
Some statements I made were interpreted incorrectly. Other statements led to bullying and online hate by others. This was never my intention, and I’ve since taken steps in an effort to halt these terrible acts. I cannot control others, but I can control my own actions and words, and I will continue to strive to do so with a heart always full of love.
As a result of my Elephant Journal blog, online bullying and hate speech was directed at other yoga teachers who had nothing to do with my business dispute. Because I did not want to take my issues to court, I decided to take my issues to the court of public opinion. Within that blog, I allowed my editor, Waylon Lewis, to include the names of all the yoga ambassadors of Alo. Looking back, I regret this. I didn’t realize the vast impact that this decision would carve into the yoga world. Had I known what would arise, I would have spent much more time laying the groundwork for a respectful protest filled with the language of love and kindness. I see now that my actions and my words were used by some as a means to harm and bully people affiliated with Alo and Cody who had nothing to do with my dispute, and that was never my intent.
In the months following the publication of my blog, I participated in a newly formed online chat group with a few other online yogis (some of whom you could call bloggers or influencers and others who were just yoga practitioners with small social media accounts). In this group we all regularly encouraged each other to find ways to speak out against Alo on various channels such as to send emails to Alo’s business partners. When members of the group shared their ideas about how to keep the pressure on Alo, I encouraged them to do so frequently and publicly. Unfortunately, some members of the group took things too far, and they bullied people online. The Alo ambassadors were some of the most prominent victims.
Let me be clear about this — I never once directed anyone to attack any of the Alo ambassadors. I did, however, encourage people to share their negative opinions about Alo/Cody on various online forums and to do things that I thought would hurt Alo’s business. Yet, while I didn’t say it straight out, the reality is that I was angry and my own anger normalized other people’s anger and hate. I did not model kind, responsible communication. I just published my blog and turned
it over to the sphere of public opinion. I did not think through all the potentialities of my actions. I thought that we as yogis would have been able to engage in nonviolent, loving communication, even when we disagree. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I feel like I failed.
What started out as a business dispute became a Pandora’s box that got opened and now we have all seen things that we can’t unsee and have done things that we can’t undo. First and foremost, I realized that I acted from hurt, with rage in my heart, in a way that runs contrary to what I believe and what I preach. This was neither productive nor the absolute truth. And in doing so, I violated one of the key tenets of Patanjali’s yoga philosophy. In Yoga Sutra 1.33, Patanjali says that we should take no action, “upeksanam,” against those whom we deem as “apunya” or without virtue/evil. Not only did I act when I designated Alo/Cody as evil-doers, but I inadvertently gave permission for a whole doorway to online hate to open up against anyone affiliated with Alo/Cody. Instead of peaceful dialogue and open-hearted empathic listening, the yoga world became a sea of angry comments, blocked users, and yoga robots. I did nothing to bring about peace. In fact, I stoked the flames.
I used to be this person who loved everyone and saw the good in everyone. Then, I let the seed of hate grow in my heart and I was blinded by it. Hate is unproductive and only leads to destruction. It is only a heart filled with love that gives voice to any hope of positive change. A heart filled with hate is often harmful to everyone: to the person who harbors the hate, to anyone else involved, and to the issue that is being discussed. Anytime you feel absolutely justified and righteous in your anger and your worldview normalizes hatred, something is off. If actions you take cause others significant harm and offer no path to healing, it’s a sign that you’re out of alignment as a yogi. While I cannot wipe the slate clean and give everyone (including myself) a free pass for the wrongful actions of the past, I can work towards forgiveness and healing for all. While I cannot control the actions of others, I can control my own. Again, I do not condone hateful speech or unjust behavior, and I am truly sorry for any of my words or actions that may have suggested otherwise.
The past few months illustrate clearly the deleterious impacts of actions grounded in hate. Any chance for dialogue got drowned out by hate speech and verbal abuse coming from both sides and many people were hurt. Of course, I don’t believe that all yogis will always agree on everything. Yogis are human beings. Many people, including myself, come to the practice with deep mental, physical and emotional wounds. We are deeply broken people in search of healing. Many people, including myself, look to yoga as a safe haven community. What yoga can be at its best is a sanctuary of the soul. But yoga is not heaven, where everyone and everything is perfect all the time. I don’t necessarily believe in a yoga world that is only positive. Constructive criticism that comes from love can be essential, progressive, and healing. We need to take care of this sacred gift of yoga, or else it could get destroyed. My actions sewed the seeds of division, not of unity, in what should be a safe space and exacerbated a divide in the yoga community. There has been so much hurt and suffering in a community centered on love. I wish I did not create such a divide between myself and anyone else in the yoga community, as this could only lead to hate instead of love.
I felt and still very much feel a sense of ownership about the global yoga community. Not only have I personally devoted years of my life to teaching and practicing yoga, but the yoga community was the first place I ever felt like I belonged. But I do not own or posses yoga— everyone who practices yoga gets to define what yoga is to them. Yogis are as diverse as humanity itself.
I take ownership of my mistakes and will work to do better for myself, for others, and for the entire yoga community in the future. As a yogi, I must learn how to have a difference of opinion and not let it turn into hate. I need to learn how to accept someone else’s truth as their own and not take it personally, especially when I am triggered or when I disagree. I need to elevate my level of self-awareness, so that I know when I am acting impulsively or reacting out of anger. I need to be mindful of my triggers. Mindful of my biases. Mindful of my faults. I need to practice, even more, holding love in my heart for my enemies and communicating from love. As a public figure, I need to choose my words carefully and speak with integrity. To the best of my ability, I need to develop the skill of foresight, anticipating all of the possible interpretations and reactions to my words. I need to challenge myself to make sure my words are not just peaceful platitudes or shields, but carry actual meaning. In all circumstances, including the most challenging, I need to learn how best to mediate my differences with others in order to find resolution— be it a dispute with a loved one, a dispute with an enemy, or a business dispute. As a yogi, I need to bring peace into the world by demonstrating peaceful mediation and resolution of differences.
I don’t have the answers to what’s next for us as a community, but I have eternal faith in the practice. We as yogis will never be perfect, but we have the chance to make our world a better place. When our hearts get cracked open we can choose to let a little more light shine through. We can develop more empathy and awareness among all yogis. I cannot promise that I will not speak out for another cause. I can, however, promise that I won’t speak out about something until I can come from a place of love about it and all of the people involved.
You have been here with me through this entire journey and I thank you. I felt alone but I was never alone because you were with me every step of the way. May we never lose our vigilance about the heart of yoga. May we strive to be better, may we act in love, not hate, and direct our minds and hearts to truly changing our world.