On Yoga Journal and The Business of Yoga

As the founder of a company that focuses on providing software for yoga studios, I had always assumed that Yoga Journal would be a natural place for our company to advertise, as well as participate at their conferences. We viewed them as an industry leader that helps spot new trends in the world of yoga, and an organization we could work with to spread the word about our product.

As it turns out, we were wrong.

Tula Software has recently been informed that we will not be allowed to participate at the New York yoga journal conference because MINDBODY, an existing corporate sponsor currently valued at $450 million - fresh off a $50 million fundraising round - has been able to create a blockade from any other software company presenting at their shows.

When I questioned why a mutual competitor of ours was able to participate at the San Francisco trade show, (a show I went to in order to prepare for the New York show that I thought we'd be able to go to) I was informed that this was a mistake for which someone within Yoga Journal organization had been reprimanded.

Is this what Yoga Journal has become? Beholden to the sponsors that can throw the most cash at them? And if so, does this really bode well for the yoga community at large?

Where should it stop? Should celebrity yogis be able to keep new, upcoming yogis from gracing the Yoga Journal stages for fear of competition? Should world renowned retreat centers be able to elbow out smaller, more intimate retreat locales by throwing in tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorships? Should Teeki pants be kept out of the show because Tara Stiles will be on stage in New York and she sponsors for Reebok?

Where does it end? How fair is this to the people who pay upwards of $1,000 for an event ticket, presumably because they think they're getting access to the best that yoga industry has to offer. 

And by the way, why can our ads show up on the Yoga Journal website but our table cannot appear at their conference?

Now, I understand business and appreciate the concept of exclusive partnerships. But this is not McDonalds having a deal to only sell Coca Cola. Yoga Journal is a news outlet of sorts. What they DO, supposedly, is share information about the yoga community, with the yoga community.

Well, apparently as long as you're not competing with one of their platinum sponsors anyway.

This is an anti-competitive practice and is akin to Yoga Journal allowing only Lululemon to sell yoga pants at their conferences. 

On Yoga Journal's website they say:

20.4 million people in the United States now practice yoga, while practitioner spending has grown to $10.3 billion a year. And while more people are practicing yoga than ever before, the real reason for Yoga Journal's continued success is remaining true to its original mission: give readers thoughtful, well-researched articles on yoga, filled with the most current scientific information available, while honoring the 5,000-year-old tradition on which it is based.

May I ask a few questions? Is computer science not science? Is software not transforming the yoga industry like it is transforming every other industry? Does Yoga Journal really believe that a TEN BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY can be served by one single software maker?


Because if they don't, then they are actively doing something that they know not to be in the best interest of the community they serve.

Is actively preventing new organizations from sharing their latest technology with the Yoga Journal community not in direct opposition to their stated mission?

I think it's fair to ask: Is Yoga Journal, as an organization, practicing the values they preach? Are these values not openness, fairness and accessibility to everything that the yoga community offers?

Our company has helped independent yoga studios around the world grow their businesses.

We were born when my wife opened her yoga studio, and our small team has made a software product that now helps countless studios run their businesses, stay in business and spread the love of yoga.

We're the only software on the market made exclusively for yoga studios and we've done this through organic growth without raising a single dime of outside funding.

And yet apparently, for Yoga Journal, none of this is enough to make us worthy of participating at their shows.

We had hoped Yoga Journal might be the great equalizer that would allow us to go head to head in the same place with industry titans. We thought they would welcome us, and all of our competitors too, because technology has so much to offer the yoga community.

But we were wrong. They've turned out to be an industry gatekeeper, not an industry conduit.

And it's certainly worth asking the question, if they're doing this to us, who else are they doing this to?

NOTE: If you or someone you know runs a yoga publication or event looking for sponsors, please get in touch.