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It’s All Yoga, Baby is Roseanne Harvey’s blog about yoga and other things, with a mission to spark investigation into the relationship between yoga, the body and popular culture.
Attendees and faculty for the Yoga Journal San Francisco Conference will be crossing hotel worker picket lines to get their yoga on this weekend. This week’s action is the latest in a long series of protests against the Hyatt, demanding fair treatment of hotel workers, higher wages, better benefits, safer workloads, and the right to unionize freely. Unite Here, a union body which represents workers in the hotel, gaming, food service, and other industries in the US and Canada, has made specific efforts to inform Yoga Journal of the issue since a national boycott was launched in June 2010.
In August 2012, IAYB reported hotel workers’ union organizers efforts to pressure Yoga Journal to support the global Hyatt boycott – and Yoga Journal’s complete lack of interest or response. Nothing has changed since that news broke, and this weekend’s yoga conference will go ahead in the hotel as planned. Yoga Journal has no apparent interest in supporting the boycott, despite Unite Here’s repeated efforts to reach out to the magazine. Unite Here continues to pressure Yoga Journal to boycott Hyatt and seek support in the San Francisco yoga community. One of these workers is Delia Medina, who worked at the Hyatt Regency for 38 years before stopping in 2009 because of an injury. Hyatt is also leading the way in raising room quotas for housekeepers, which has a devastating toll on the body, and outsourcing jobs.
Delia Medina, who is 84 but hardly looks a day over 50, lit up when she talked about her yoga practice: “I’ve been doing yoga for five years at the senior’s centre. To give a sense of how the Hyatt regards women, DeGange told the story of the Reyes sisters at the San Jose Hyatt.
We need to wake up and realize that the American social fabric is being ripped to shreds as the country polarizes between rich and poor. The yoga community needs to think seriously about what this practice is about, particularly as the US and world move more and more into crisis. I hope your post generates a healthy dialog and makes us reflect on what we can and should do when our yoga practice so directly intersects with an important social cause. I will no longer purchase YJ at my newsstand until the people at YJ come out into the open on this issue. How come such a popular publication as Yoga Journal is not interested in stepping out of its mat and into the world?!? Yoga Journal will hold its annual San Francisco Conference January 17-21, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero. The workers at the Hyatt are not on strike, but UniteHere has reached out to many organizations holding events at the hotel and urged them to change their plans.
Yoga Journal fully supports the negotiations between the Hyatt and its unions and hopes that the remaining issues are resolved fairly and quickly.
I hope that YJ will release your comment as a press release and make an official public statement on where the company stands on this issue.
I agree with Roseanne and Gen that this dialogue should be fostered, and I urge YJ to release an official public statement that includes addressing the question of why there hasn’t been an official public statement so far. I don’t mean to be negative here, just honest, when I say that it seems disingenuous to me to, on the one hand, profess to support the ongoing labor negotiations, while, on the other hand, consider and then intentionally choose to prioritize conference commitments made long after YJ was approached by labor representatives over those prior labor movement requests. Details like these are very important, as they reveal the truth, and in bringing the truth out into the open, we can all make conscious choices moving forward that reflect our core principles.
And thus, I stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are voicing their disappointment in Yoga Journal for deciding to hold their conference at the San Francisco Hyatt. But I do so in the name of this opinionated and imperfect character Eric Walrabenstein—not in the name of yoga. To voice our outrage about Yoga Journal’s decision to on the basis of yoga—or their affiliation with it—is to, frankly, not understand the purpose, or practice, of yoga. This war against reality is the ego’s game, not yoga’s—and certainly not your truest self’s. So, by all means stand up for the causes that you believe in: Rail against injustice, fight for the disenfranchised, champion the good and assault the bad. This is so incongruous with the message of yoga that I fear Yoga Journal is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Yeah, the bodhisattva takes the vow to save all sentient beings, knowing there are no sentient beings.
Of course, dragging god into it is a non-sequiter if you don’t believe in some make-beleive friend.

May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
As far as I understand, yoga, which does not simply consist of the physical practices that are currently popular but distinct paths of enlightenment, is about not only stillness but the development of compassion and lovingkindness (a translation from Sanskrit thus not new-agey). If the seva celebrities participate in a conference that disrespects the people making their beds and cleaning their toilets so be it. I found an example of an organization faced with the same issue that decided not to break their contract because it would be so expensive. I just want to say that I totally agree with Eric – we all can really transcend human rights. This is a great post – thanks to itsallyogababy for this important news, and well written story!
Sharing Seane Corn’s statement with you here so that this mindful community can get her perspective, not just her Facebook community, which apparently gets first dibs (!). Yesterday members of Off the Mat met with union organizers to learn more about the labor dispute and boycott. After listening and learning I want to publicly acknowledge my ongoing support to the workers and believe fully in this boycott.
Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. IAYB questions, provokes thought and shines a critical light on yoga culture ~ while celebrating community, service, creativity, the independent spirit and good ol’ fun. After several years of actions, in July 2012 a growing movement of hotel workers organized a global boycott of the Hyatt – and they urged the yoga community to pressure Yoga Journal to not hold their conferences in the high-end hotel.
One of four annual national Yoga Journal conferences, the San Francisco event has been held at the Hyatt Regency since 2004.
Medina spent a good part of her room cleaning career standing up for herself and her co-workers. While cleaning 14 rooms per day may sound difficult, DeGange said that in non-unionized hotels, workers clean up to 30 rooms per day. One of the most drastic examples happened in 2009, when Hyatt fired 100 housekeepers in three Boston-area hotels to sub-contract out room cleaning services.
The sisters were both fired after they spoke out against sexist photoshopped pictures of hotel housekeepers. Get in touch with faculty in the 2013 San Francisco conference and encourage them to pressure Yoga Journal to join the global boycott against Hyatt.
Unions are far from perfect and have lots of problems – but the fact is that they have historically been vital to the creation of the (now disappearing) middle class, basic health and safety protections, and affording workers some reasonable degree of representation in the face of a much more powerful management cadre, and so on. It yoga about sticking your head in the sand, ostrich-like, so that you can feel better and keep the world at bay?
I direct the Flagstaff Yoga Festival – and even though our attendance is close to a national scale yoga journal conference, we hold our event in a sweet waldorf school because I refuse to support this kind of thing. We have thought carefully about it and have decided to honor our longstanding contract and the commitments we’ve made to our conference presenters and attendees, as well as the workers at this specific hotel who depend on business for their livelihood. Would also be interesting to hear why YJ continues to work with the Hyatt, despite knowing about this labor dispute for the past few years. While YJ’s prompt reply is encouraging, I am disappointed that it fails to substantially address the concerns expressed by boycotting workers, or their supporters. It is your right, and some would argue your responsibility, to make this world a better place in which to live.
I have no doubt that this idea will ruffle a great many feathers; particularly those of the spiritualized, feel-good crowd who confuse temporarily satiated egos for some sort of spiritual progress. Yoga has been commodified by corps like Yoga Journal such that many people fail to realize it predates contemporary culture altogether.
If yoga teachers preach dharma to yoga students who come to find the best of themselves while workers struggle to be heard outside the door so be it. Though a yoga conference has the power of a rapt audience and it would be a powerful thing to have a large group make a statement by walking away, one must realize that it is then his or her decision alone and no organization can tell you what is right or wrong. BUT they did issue a clear and detailed statement as to what they were doing and why, AND use the situation as an opportunity for education, learning, discussion, and growth. I am a regular yogi and have done solidarity work with UNITE HERE in Toronto – it hurts me that fellow yogis could be so tone deaf to ignore the struggle for freedom of people (often) far less privileged than they. If YJ was really about yoga, one would expect to see a certain level of adherence to key principles like, yamas, niyamas, abhyasa, vairagya.

I was with her last night when she and others met with a longtime employee and rep of the Hyatt Boycott. Although I have elected, at my own expense, to stay at a different hotel, my contract obligates me to teach at the Hyatt. I recognize that they are in a very tough position and I appreciate the support they have shown me and their willingness to be open to exploring a further dialogue around this issue. On their way to teach workshops, high-profile yoga teachers including Seane Corn, Deepak Chopra and MC Yogi will walk past workers in a struggle for better working conditions. This is a long-term business relationship, DeGange noted; Yoga Journal is a prized and repeat customer for the Hyatt. Some people view their life and practice of yoga in a spiritual sense, beyond the physical aspects, and I feel those folks have heard us out and shown sympathy and compassion for the workers. Outsourcing, high workloads and attacks on workers’ abilities to organize are all common practices for the Hyatt. This is symbolic of how this company treats its workers and abuses its workers, DeGange said. Or is about building the strength to heal yourself and the world, recognizing that our fates are all linked?
My sister partner directors are pulling off the Sedona Yoga Festival next month – which is a great alternative to this corporate yoga stuff as well. The hotel and its workers have reached agreements on wages and benefits but other issues including union membership voting rules across the Hyatt hotel chain remain unresolved.
I cannot, in good conscience, support an organisation that willfully ignores the very real material, financial power structure in which it is operating all while encouraging its readers to reach for their full potential, and empower themselves in the world. And if I were in charge of the Yoga Journal conference, I would very likely change venues in support of those who are seeking a fair shake from the global giant Hyatt.
No compassionate person in pursuit of enlightenment chooses to ignore the suffering of others for their own material or egotistical gain. When the occupiers forget the fight because they have the chance to be the one percent let it ride. This is the personal truth if you want to call it that, that might or might not be realized through a yoga practice. If you want to practice yoga all you need is to find a good yoga teacher, that teaches you a holistic yoga practice that aims for you to be as independently as possible, and the motivation to practice on yourself as well.
Tough situation, best handled with clarity, integrity and an intention of supporting legitimate concerns, creating peace and understanding. I also feel a deep responsibility and heartfelt respect to the students who have traveled far and spent their hard earned money to spend time with me.
But it’s also about the non-union workers in cities like San Antonio, Indianopolis, Scottsdale, Long Beach, where Hyatt workers don’t have union rights. We have too many years working as a housekeeper, to keep the body working for the whole day. When companies like Yoga Journal keep doing business with them the corporation has no incentive to listen to the Delia, or the Nelia, or the Cynthia, or listen to Rose, who are all workers at the Hyatt Regency. Yet, it seems that the YJ Board have made a fundamental error here, and I truly hope they will acknowledge it, and then begin to make reparations. I get pissed at things too, whilst trying to remind myself that this too is part of the inherent perfection of what is. To be able to do that it needs to sell advertisements from other companies that want to sell their products. It’s going to be a real stretch if what comes out of this is that YJ rationalizes its response to this labor dispute in a way that comes off as being self-serving. These (mainly) women can act self-righteous because they can bend and twist, they can create magazines, fashion lines, jewelry, accessories and other accoutrements while paying lip service to compassion and capitalizing on the suffering of others. Fancy clothes, mats, food supplements, jewelry, weight loss programs, new age talk about creating an abundant lifestyle and YJ will not help you one bit. This magazine is NOT about yoga, it’s about consumerism or (at best) spiritual materialism. Canceling the event or relocate it will cost them money and since that is straight against their objective they won’t.

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