I like Corepower, and I cannot lie.
The biggest mistake we can make is to rue the days of small beginnings. If you had told me 20 years ago that someday I would practice yoga, and I would like it, I would have said you were high.When I first started practicing, I was exhausted, overweight and overworked. As a software executive in California, yoga felt woo-woo and weird.But still, this was California, and Bryan Kest rented a second floor room just a block from my office. He spoke my language. If something was effed up, he said it without apology. I could relate.I tried yoga, but it did not take. Then I forgot about it in the chaos of life until one day when I hurt my back and needed to strengthen my core. That’s all it was going to be, a little physical therapy to get me on my feet. I went to the nearest studio in my zip code. It was a Corepower.Finally it took. I didn’t just like it, as Kest would have said, I F*CKING LOVED IT. It was the first time in my life I found peace in my body, mind and spirit.Goodwill HuntingIt’s been a good ride. After practicing at Corepower for 12 years and teaching there for nearly 10, I recently resigned to become the first ‘Global Goodwill Ambassador.’ The title reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. My mission is to change the world’s view of Corepower and perhaps of chain yoga studios in general. I’m very generous that way.You see, here’s the thing: It’s easy to blame all the world’s evils on a chain of any kind. But the truth is that’s probably unfair. Corepower is not going to be for everyone. It is not an advanced yoga studio. Some of us will outgrow it. Some of us cannot take heat. Some of us cannot take young people practicing in a bikini. However, it is not the Satan in a studio that has been portrayed.I once had an executive at Gaiam tell me that they could not take me seriously, or sell my yoga books, or use me for videos, or support my campaigns of yoga for older people, because I worked at Corepower. Right? Well, I’m tired of hiding and lying. I’m badass that way.I like Corepower and I cannot lie. My new role is to tell you why.Can we talk?I know the rap, so I want to get this out of the way. It’s a franchise, replicated, duplicated operation that employs thousands of teachers, some of whom are very good, but like anything else, some of which are not. It offers synchronized, formatted classes. It churns out teachers by the dozens flooding the market. If you don’t know what you are doing, you may get hurt. It offers aerobics not yoga. Blah, blah, blah.I’m sure you get the picture.However, it’s all about perspective. For example, yes it’s a franchise, which means that wherever you go you are likely able to practice. It employs thousands of teachers. Well, thank goodness yoga teachers are able to earn a paycheck. Furthermore, there are many so you are sure to find some you like.The classes follow a format, which I appreciate. I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to yoga and exercise. I cannot tell you how many times I go to another studio and the class involves the teacher talking for 20 minutes, and then 20 minutes of child’s pose. You cannot count on much in life, but you can count on a sweat at Corepower.The classes are athletic, if not aerobic in nature, and therefore not for everyone. This is so true! I don’t even know how much longer I will be able to practice in the heat and with this pace. However, have you tried Ashtanga? Or Budokon? Or Baptiste? Or Outlaw? There is a lot of athletic yoga in the world, Corepower’s style is certainly not the first. It may be athletic in nature, but it is still yoga. Asana will always be one of the Eight Limbs of Patanjali.Lastly, if you don’t know what you are doing at a Corepower you can get hurt. That is completely true, and I may add that 4,500 people a year are killed by crossing the street. Life, like yoga, is a risk. My motto is be fearless and dare greatly, therefore do not be afraid and try yoga.Churn, churn, churnLastly to consider is the churn and burn effect of the large yoga studios, which happens at every chain such as Corepower, Yogaworks, Moksha and Yogapod.Whether a studio is large or small, most survive on their workshops and teacher trainings. The students who take these trainings have the expectation of getting a job. And then this happens: the newest teachers get hired (at an entry rate) and the older, more experienced teachers (who are paid more) are moved aside to make room.I know this for a fact because I just resigned my teaching schedule. However, I am okay with it. The truth is I probably stayed too long because I loved my students so much.If you had told me that I would have the best job of my life, make lasting friendships, and fall totally in love with yoga, but that at the end I would move aside so a younger teacher could have the same experience, I would still take the job. No question.Everything has term limits.Global Goodwill I wanted to be a Goodwill Ambassador because I am tired of living a half-truth, and I wanted my fellow teachers to have the respect they deserve. Practicing at Corepower is something like enjoying a pork rind: you do not cop to it in the yoga world.Other yogis say the same thing: “Don’t tell, but I practice there too.”One of the Yogaglo teachers and a regular in Yoga Journal, once called me to ask which Corepower he should go to. He said, “Swear to me you will never tell.” My lips are sealed.Even my immediate teachers have been to a Corepower, one of whom said this, “So much yoga is really awful. At least there you can practice.” Another said, “It was fun!”Advanced yogis go for the same reasons that I do: it’s convenient, clean, predictable, and often quite good. The classes are large enough that you can hide in a back row and do your own variations. There is not a lot of talk. A little less conversation and a little more action is how some of us like our yoga. It doesn’t mean we are bad yogis.If We’re Honest Let’s be honest; Corepower was the humble beginning for many of us. The yoga chains introduce thousands, if not millions of people to yoga each year. I know more than a dozen world famous teachers who got their start at a Corepower. Even if they don’t claim it on their bios, I know they were here. I knew them then.Of course it sounds much better to say, “I learned yoga from my teacher at an ashram in India.” But not everyone started in India. Most walked into a studio nearer to home that offered a free week. Then they moved on to something more sophisticated. That free week gets them every time.Here’s the thing: Corepower introduces millions to yoga, and perhaps 10% move on to something with more substance at an independent studio. That is 10% more than perhaps would otherwise have become seekers. That is 10% more studentship for the independent studios that offer a smarter, more refined practice. That is just 10% more.In my time at Corepower I had many gifted students. I am so proud of the students who went on to study with master teachers, as I did. They outgrew the Corepower offering. You can learn some things in a big room, but you cannot learn your individual alignment. For that, you must seek out a more personalized training in a smaller studio.The same holds true for teachers. There will always be some who go through the initial 200 hour training, take the entry level job at their first studio, and stay forever. One and done. They offer “inhale-exhale” or “breath, posture, cue” yoga. They lack the curiosity to explore the philosophy, alignment, or physiology of yoga. They probably won’t develop their own practice. They may even be promoted to manager where they’ll ask their experienced teachers to teach “breath, posture, cue.”And that’s okay! Why? Because the majority of students want that experience. You have to give students what they want, before you give them what they need. Growing up, or growing in, is hard. It’s uncomfortable. Not everyone wants to be enlightened. It is much easier to live unconsciously than to be present in the messiness of human experience. Buddha may have been happy to suffer, but the rest of us can’t wait to get back to home, hearth and Zoloft.Then there are the teachers who go through the initial 200 hour training and realize it’s just the beginning. The first training simply opens the door wide to a world that is vast and mysterious. One and never done. That would be me.After my first training I embarked on multiple certifications, teacher trainings, workshops, immersions and followed my alignment yoga teacher around like a puppy. But it all started that day in a hot and sweaty class.I stayed at Corepower because it was my local studio and my yoga family. Neither was I alone. There are very good teachers at Corepower and they shouldn’t be overlooked just because they work at a franchise operation. However, the onus is on you to weed through the pack to find them.Not Everyone Can Go to India, or even Downtown.These days I go to the many independent studios in my area and seek out the master teachers at least once a week. They keep my brain alive, but it’s a schlep. And a crapshoot. I might get an hour on something I should not do – like headstand (broken neck). Once a teacher told me that unless I could do a handstand I wasn’t a real yogi. Thank you, which is the new you-know-what.David Swenson once told me that the fourth and fifth series of Ashtanga is “just for show.” The work is in the primary series. Mr. Iyengar calls this the “donkey work.” From age and injury I am now immersed in the donkey work. I don’t need to travel to get it done.So I go to Corepower. I know the teachers who are skilled, who know alignment, and who studied philosophy. They mix these cues in to the class like sprinkles on a sundae and brighten my day. They inspire me. I move slowly in the back to the beat of my older drum.Not every teacher is right for you. That is true everywhere you go. But if you persist, you can find a teacher in any studio that is a fit.There is one more reason why I practice at what is commonly referred to as a beginner’s studio; because in my heart, I will always be a beginner. As I get older, and my capacities start to fade, I feel this to be true more so than ever. Rather than rue the days of small beginnings, I am re-visiting them. I can feel the tide of my strength and agility start to ebb on the mat. I am not necessarily looking for the most advanced class anymore. Today I am happy with finding much less.There are some yogis who pretend they were born with magickal (groovy yoga spelling) powers. Not me.I am ordinary. I am a mother, writer and householder. I celebrate the tiniest success on the mat as a freaking miracle. Sometimes progress happens with master teachers, but often it is in the donkey work at home or at my nearby Corepower. I like it, but actually that’s not true. I F*CKING LOVE IT, and I cannot lie.Michelle Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s the first Global Goodwill Ambassador for Corepower. She is the 'real deal,' an E-500 RYT and the author of two books. You can find her writing anywhere where people take yoga seriously, and themselves lightly, but probably not at Gaiam.