The Founders of Yoga Is Dead On How Money Killed Yoga

The women behind the Yoga Is Dead podcast, which launched on June 8th, are about to revolutionize the industry. 

Tejal Patel and Jesal Parikh left the corporate world years ago to devote their lives to yoga. But after becoming instructors, the two increasingly became disenchanted with the industry. When they met at a yoga teacher training in New York, it was like fate: the two describe feeling relieved to find another woman with similar experiences and background working in the industry.

The two have since started a podcast called Yoga Is Dead, which explores cultural appropriation, racism, exploitation, and other issues in the yoga industry. Their second episode launches Monday and covers the influence of money and capitalism on the practice of yoga. What follows is a conversation with the two.
(editor’s note: the interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

Can you share a bit about what folks can expect to hear and learn in your upcoming episode?
T: Our next podcast episode is called Karma Capitalism Killed Yoga. One of the big issues we’re talking about is employment for yoga instructors.
J: We’re talking about lack of contracts in the space. I was teaching on staff somewhere and I didn’t have an employment contract. The studio presented me with a really unreasonable video release to sign. They wanted to use my image in any way they could. I didn’t sign it, and they let me go.
T: The flip side of that is that I did have a contract that was far-reaching and too broad. I ended up being sued. That’s obviously an outlandish scenario.
J: An independent contract having a non-compete doesn’t make sense. But it’s common, lots of studios ask people to sign noncompetes.

T: Both of us come from corporate backgrounds. We’ve had 9-5 jobs. In the yoga industry, there’s an unwillingness to engage in the professional process. There’s no discussion on what employment entails. There’s no negotiation, there’s no opportunity to ask questions.
J: We take an opinion in our episode about business owners that operate like this, we just say not to open the studio. If you can’t communicate clearly, you don't have a business plan in place, and you can’t sustain your staff, don’t open the studio.
T: If the studio was super clear about that up front and said what the money would get you, that’s a different story. Studios are not super clear about what they’re offering. This is coming from an abuse of power. The establishment of the institution, of the trainers, everyone within the studios, is abusing the power.
J: Not just on a capitalistic level, but they’re using spirituality as manipulation. In the world of spirituality, where there are for-profit businesses being run, there’s confusion about what is the spiritual part and what is the capitalist part. There’s a denial that you’re in it to make money. If you weren’t, you’d open a nonprofit, an Ashram, something else. It wouldn’t be a for-profit business. There’s nothing wrong with that, but again you need to call a spade a spade.

T: It’s been flying under the radar too long. We talked about labor unions and movements around what employees can do. If the collective of teachers feels that there is something going wrong, they have the power to come together and organize.
J: A lot of these people trying to start these businesses come at it with the idea that they enjoyed yoga. It’s almost the wrong place to come to a business. You may have zero experience in managing a business. One of the comparisons we make is if you’re a professor at a university, are you going to open a university?

What about karma programs, or taking shifts in exchange for free classes, at yoga studios? Where do they fall into this system?
J: I don’t think it’s super clear that there’s an unequal exchange happening. I think studios are offering these work exchange programs but not considering the person is not going to have time to take them up on the class exchange part of it. The term they use - a karma yoga service - the exchange program is neither of those things. Karma means selfless service. The selfless service implies that it’s a choice and that there’s no expectation of an outcome. Of course, there’s an expectation of an outcome. To use the word karma is a misuse of the word.

How did the podcast start? What are you hoping to achieve with it?
J: I think honestly it started with Tejal and I bitching. We were the first people for each other that we felt like we could talk to about certain stories and topics that understood where we were coming from. We became each other’s confidante. There were a lot of similarities between us but we’d end up on different sides of a debate. So we said, we should do a podcast.
T: People who disagree need to sit together and still talk.
J: We started putting together an episode. We did a good amount of work in a year, we started doing a script and we didn’t like it. We took a little break and came back to it. We realized we couldn’t just share our stories. We need to back up what we’re saying.
T: For being yogis, you don’t just leave that negativity out there. We talk about research and tools. We want to build community.
J: We called the first episode White Women Killed Yoga, so we decided to go back and process what we were saying and do some research on it. In the process of researching for our episodes, what happened is that we came to much more of a middle ground than we thought we would. Having a deeper understanding of each topic helped us to get to a place where we agree enough that we can put out some shared statements.

What has the feedback been like so far?
J: Ninety-nine percent of it has been positive. We expected way more negativity and shutting down of our experiences than we received. Of course, those comments are still out there and that’s fine. We didn’t expect it to have the traction that it has.
T: We didn’t expect people to reach out individually and share. They realized that we could relate. The long stories of their journeys coming into our inbox have been amazing.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
J: One other money thing is that I’m not the best at sales. We realized though that we need to ask people directly for donations. When people make direct contact with us, we ask them to support us right away. That’s something a lot of people in the industry have trouble with. We’ve found that people do, you just have to ask.

I had this conversation with another person who has a podcast in our industry, and the same thing, she wasn’t asking for contributions for it. I told her that the work and time it takes, the value it provides is so big, that even if you just ask for $5, I would give it to you.

Amanda Frankel on Her Campaign To Primary Jerry Nadler

Amanda Frankel, a Democrat from Kensington, New York, recently announced that she’s running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler in the primary in New York District 10. 

She’s a bit of a wunderkind: at age 25, she’s the youngest woman to ever file to run for office federally. She’s worked on Wall Street and in cryptocurrency and has had a robust political life so far, organizing get out the vote initiatives and teaching folks financial literacy.She also has an adorable rescue dog, a terrier mix, who she regularly shares with her followers online. 

Frankel sat down with She Spends to discuss her campaign, which includes fighting for equal pay and equal work. Read on to learn more. 

(editor’s note: this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

What made you decide to run for office? 
I have no background in politics. I am not wealthy, I am not part of the New York City elite. I live in an apartment in Kensington. The campaign came out of this growing gut feeling that I wasn’t being represented. I grew up as one of four kids with a single mom, now one of seven with my step-sisters. I was always acutely aware of money. I started working was 12 years old.

Inequality is growing, not shrinking. We’re looking at potentially devastating climate change happening in our lifetimes. The politicians out there now are not fighting for you and me, they’re fighting for the corporations that finance them. If I don’t feel represented, my community probably doesn’t either. After speaking with people in the community, I felt like it was time to run. 

What were you doing before you decided to run for office? 
I worked for Stoic Capital. The things about crypto and blockchain that always excited me were how you could use them to solve big problems like creating sovereign identity, or using blockchain for microgrids. I was attracted to that space very early on. The things that came out of the crypto space for me was this idea that we were living in the 21st century and we need to address our 21st-century problems. In the industry, there’s an ethos of being open and transparent.

Was the decision not to take corporate PAC money easy? How did you know it made sense for you?
The idea of not taking corporate money was an easy decision. There’s a wave of people in my district and in the country believe that the government is not working for them. It’s an intimidating decision. Your campaign is run entirely differently. We focus more on community centers, volunteers and engaging folks on the ground level. People have to buy into your mission and be aligned with it. 

Your opponent is Jerry Nadler, who has been in Congress for quite some time, and seems to be getting a lot of press because of his role on the Judiciary Committee. Why are you a better candidate for New York 10 than he is?
This is my district. This is my home. If I’m going to run, I’m not going to move districts to challenge someone easier. That’s not why I’m doing this. Jerry Nadler has been in Congress since 1993. That’s coming up on 26 years. He has been in office longer than I’ve been alive. The way that these political dynasties come into place and rule over everyone is wrong. While he is progressive, he has only really had one real primary challenger. A healthy primary ensures that the interests of the government are aligned with people. 

I think about things like climate. To be honest, the final decision that pushed me to run wasn’t a professional thing. It was that I sat down with my partner, and talked about how I’m afraid to have children in the world we’ve created. The permafrost has melted, the political vitriol we face is huge. That’s a scary thing to contemplate. When you think of what you need to take on those battles, you don’t need good, you need great. You need people who will make change, not people who are cosigning change. With Trump, for example, Nadler has tabled impeachment proceedings twice. Our district deserves someone who is fighting for them every minute of every day. They need a regular person who gets stuck on the F train and is dealing with mice big enough that they can eat my dog. 

Why is equal pay one of your major campaign planks?
Equal pay for equal work for me is interesting. It’s just common sense. When I think about my policy platforms, I don’t think a lot of it is radical. How do we treat people fairly? There’s a pretty black and white answer to that. When we think that women of color are paid something like 62 cents on the dollar. That doesn’t make sense. Compensating people fairly makes sense. Having different people in the boardroom has better financial returns. It’s the right decision to make people’s lives better. 

We’re running with three key focuses in mind: an open and honest government. It’s this crazy and revolutionary idea that our government works for us. Things like creating voter registration systems that are automatic. The second platform is the climate. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we have an equal and fair existence if we don’t exist. We are firm supporters of the Green New Deal. I want to turn part of Rikers Island into part of a solar farm. I want to retrain workers. Anything that gets us to a world that still exists. The final platform is a safe and successful America for all. It’s a basic human right: access to housing, education, equal pay, equal protection under the law. This crazy radical idea that people should be treated fairly is key to what I’m building. 

How do you manage to get everything done? Do you have specific tools that help you? Are there online resources or books that have inspired you?
The first is for better or for worse, I use my calendar to do everything. I use the free version of Headspace. I think about making mental and physical health a conscious choice something that’s active. Running a campaign takes physical and mental health. I get up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. and I don’t go to sleep around 11 p.m. I try to make time in my life for the things that matter and the people that matter. Any type of meditation is great. When I think of management tools, just using my calendar is important. Scheduling time to call friends. We’re so focused on proving ourselves, there’s a view that you can’t have your relationships to be successful. But they’re important. I called my mom for five minutes this morning, which I had scheduled into my day on my calendar. 

What advice can you share with readers?
The first piece of advice is if you want to do something and someone tells you that you can’t, screw it. I’ve been told to drop out at least two dozen times to drop out. Specific to running for office, I encourage everyone to look into groups like Emily’s List, Run to Win, Vote Run Lead. I’m a big believer that if you can take a risk without worrying about getting evicted from your apartment, it’s worth the risk. Anything that uplifts yourself and other people is going to be hard work. 

How can readers who are interested support your campaign? 
The single easiest place to go is my campaign website. Through there you can view my biography and platform. Donate, sign up to volunteer, and there’s an Ask Amanda Anything. That goes to my inbox and I reply to those emails.

Charlie Javice on How You Can Negotiate To Lower Your College Tuition Costs

Charlie Javice founded her company, Frank, when she realized that there was a gaping hole in the student loan market. Frank is a tech tool that operates similarly to TurboTax, but is instead used to file FAFSA forms, which are what students use to apply for financial aid. 

The site also shares information on the real costs of college (including books, dorm fees and more), and offers a loan program for students waiting on their schools to pay out their financial aid. 

I interviewed Charlie about her company, how you can negotiate for better financial aid at school and what she thinks about Elizabeth Warren’s financial aid plan. 

(Editor’s note: the following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)

Who is Frank designed to help, and how do you do it? 
While many people have resources in high school, there are a lot of forgotten students who are a bit older. That’s where Frank comes in. We work with typically lower income folks, and we help them from the beginning of the process. We found an exciting way to solve a policy issue using technology. FAFSA completion has always been a target for me, because ensuring that it gets completed boosts enrollment outcomes. After about a year and one full financial aid season, we have close to 500,000 clients and $10 billion in aid via grants, student loans and scholarships.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you got involved in this work.
I’m 27. In terms of my own background, I went to college, I got financial aid myself and did a lot of research on jobs and the future of work. People would be taking their first possible job, even if they didn’t want it. The American dream is more or less dead, in my view. 

I started wondering: How do you address financial wellness in the same way you would address healthcare? Why is there no company that’s assisting Americans in the biggest investment decision in their life? All of the data was pointing to an issue with the point of sale of college. Colleges have a huge dropout rate.

Tell me a bit about the Frank Membership program.
When students were filing FAFSA, we were starting to see patterns of support tickets. One of the things would be a question about when you would get your aid. As soon as you enroll is supposed to be the answer. But students weren’t getting the aid. What was wrong is the Higher Education Act makes it take forever for students to get their aid disbursement. 

The program is a short-term cash advance for students who are waiting on their aid packages. We’ve had that in pilot with 1,000 students in the past six months and we’ve been so proud of the students we serve.  Because they pay a flat fee of $20 per month, the product is self-sufficient, we built that into pricing. There’s no payment risk on our end. Because we raised money, it’s equity. We have no acquisition costs. It’s been a great pilot. 

How can you negotiate when it comes to your college tuition?
Schools have an all-time low enrollment rate. If you’re not going to a tier-one top thirty school, you’re in a position to appeal and negotiation your aid. Schools keep 20% of aid off the table for appeals. They try to keep it quiet, but it’s out there. Some schools will bury the link to the appeal forms, while with others, you need to call in. 

You can likely have one school compete against another like a job offer. Tell your school of choice that they are and then ask if they can match your aid package. 

The other ways have to do with if you have a change in your economic situation, which can be anything from having a lower-than-expected bonus to a change in family status, like a birth or a divorce. 

The Hail Mary of it all is just saying “I can’t pay for it, I really want to go, but my cost of living is so high, but if there’s anything you can do, even just a small specific amount of money.”

Now is the best time to do it because you have the best leverage. The best advice I have is to put a file together, don’t be emotional about it and ask for help if you need it. 

What are your thoughts on Elizabeth Warren’s plan to cancel student loan debt? 
It’s really important for people to understand the impact of free college. People are missing the core issue, which is what does the future look like when it comes to our higher education system? Free college can only work when our colleges are not failing students. Less than 50% of college students are graduating. That is a broken system. We should not be pumping money into them. The more money that subsidizes failing institutions is not a good plan. We need to establish what financial need means, and make it easy for aid to be available. We need to fix the structural issues of applying for aid and managing aid.

Similar to Australia, you could take a student loan payment pre-tax out of a paycheck. Structurally, bankruptcy would help a lot. Pre-tax benefits to student loan payments without doing something as aggressive as complete loan forgiveness. I believe everyone should contribute something.

One area that hasn’t been discussed is risk sharing with schools for student outcomes. You should, as a government, only fund successful programs to make successful programs bigger and make unsuccessful programs die.

Cally Ingebritson on founding her own LGBTQ-focused financial advisory firm

This week, I sat down with Cally Ingebritson, the mastermind behind Chillax Financial, a new financial advisory firm based in San Diego dedicated to serving queer folks. She started the firm after spending nearly 10 years in personal finance.

Tell me a bit about yourself.
My pronouns are she/her. I’m originally from Minneapolis. I studied Spanish in college, and I knew that I wanted to help people in some way. I lived in Spain, Mexico and Columbia before settling back in the Midwest.

Once there, I worked in personal finance in the Midwest for roughly 10 years. I realized that a lot of financial places can be very square and very serious.

I recently founded my own business, which is called Chillax Finance. It started when I saw how much of a need there was in a queer community for people to offer realistic financial advice at a low cost. Additionally, I work at the Women’s Business Center as a business adviser. I’m helping women start businesses in my role there. I also work at a local salon to support myself.

How do you stay on top of things when you have three jobs?
It’s very challenging, but it’s also on purpose. I took all the coursework to become a CFP and I have two financial coach certifications. I don’t want to look for financial advising jobs at traditional firms. I would just die in one of those environments. I want to create a new financial space for young people who are queer, identify as nonbinary or just generally are looking for something new.

What do you focus on at Chillax Financial?
Some of the common issues that the folks I work with want to address include cash flow. A lot of people struggle to understand how to divvy up their paycheck or to know where their money is going. A lot of people are working on creating a rainy day savings buffer. A lot of people want to open a retirement account or purchase a home. In the short term, it’s cash flow and building savings or paying off debt.

I really help them open different accounts. We create multiple checking and savings accounts, which can be really helpful for folks. After working in personal finance for ten years, I have come to realize that for folks with one checking account, their finances can be a hot mess.

When everything is coming in and out of one account, it’s really stressful. At Chillax, we use the rough guidelines of a 50/30/20 budget. We set up direct deposit. We include automation with that. I have found that that is super successful.

What are your plans for the future?
In one year I hope to be serving many more clients than I am now. I hope to be able to connect people to the tools we just talked about. I am hoping to do some national work, I hope to attend some women and queer events here to spread the word so that people know I exist. With the clients I’m already serving, I want them to feel relaxed, not judged about money. In all, I hope to be serving my full threshold.

What resources have helped you in starting your own business?
For me and starting my own business, it has been really helpful to get connected to the Women’s Business Center in San Diego. I found it using www.SBA.gov. There are a lot of different resources for readers who are entrepreneurs. It’s paid for by our federal taxes, so you should take advantage of it.

I really like Jenna Kutcher. She’s super rad. She has a podcast called Goal Digger. She gives lots of awesome advice and resources for people who are running their own businesses. I love listening to the Queerly podcast with Cameron Esposito. I also like the podcast called 2050 Trailblazers. It’s more like an industry podcast that’s specifically for financial advisers that are doing innovative things with people of color.

Any final words?
I would just like to encourage people that improving your personal finance is possible. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the stuff that is out there. You’re not bad with money, you just weren’t given the tools to handle it. You most likely weren’t taught it in school. I just want people to not feel overwhelmed.

Liv Gagnon On Building Her PR Business From the Ground Up

Liv Gagnon and I met serendipitously at a barre studio in Brooklyn nearly two years ago. We were both studio regulars, so one day after class we started talking about our careers. I learned that she worked in public relations in the financial services sector. Given that I was a business journalist, we made a networking connection immediately. 

Catching up with Alicia, Amanda and Jemma

Welcome to November! Big things are happening for She Spends, and we want you to be a part of them. What follows is a list of some of the changes and new things you can expect to see from us in the coming months

  • Newsletter: You will continue to receive a newsletter every Friday at 8:30 a.m. This newsletter will include a round up of the week's financial news and a money diary. It also will likely contain some personal finance or career content, however, it will be shorter than previous newsletters. We're doing this to accommodate staffing changes we made over the summer.  
     

  • Website: We are in the process of UX testing design changes for our website. Our end goal is to make the content more accessible. This means it will be easier to find what you need (hell yeah, search bar!), and readers with vision impairments will be able to access the content (bye bye difficult-to-see content!). 
     

  • Webinars: We are launching webinars as of Jan. 1! Our first round will include four live workshops taught by a member of the She Spends team. They will include topics such as freelancing as a career, negotiating for a raise, managing your career with a mental or physical illness and how to start investing. We'll work with webinar participants to determine a date for each of these, but they will take place in January.

    Once the webinars launch, they will cost $50 apiece (with a sliding scale option). However, if you become a Patreon at the $10 level prior to Jan. 1, you'll have access to all four webinars. Interested? Check out our Patreon page to get started.
     

  • Potluck: We have partnered up with Abigail from This Needs Hot Sauce to bring our New York readers a potluck on Nov. 29. At 6:30 p.m., meet us at Greenwich Treehouse. Bring a dish and buy a drink to support Greenwich Treehouse before settling in and celebrating our community. RSVP to our Facebook event here.
     

  • Tote Bags: We are making totes! And they're beautiful! Pictured below, the totes cost $20 without shipping. Any profits we make on them go right back into building She Spends, aka creating awesome content and hosting events for you. Fill out our pre-order form now

Book Recommendation: "Money Diaries" by Lindsey Stanberry

We did not invent money diaries. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise to most of you. While our diaries are designed to get a holistic view of a person’s spending, we have to credit Refinery29 for being our inspiration for the column in each newsletter. 

This week, I had the chance (thanks Emma!) to pick up the new “Money Diaries” book by Refinery29’s work and money director, Lindsey Stanberry, after seeing Stanberry speak at an event. 

The book is good. Very good, in fact. It, essentially, is a guide to tackling your finances with money diaries and “money challenges” peppered throughout. 

Stanberry takes a welcoming attitude as a writer, and even shares some of her personal experiences, including a money diary from herself and her husband, in the book. She also interviews money celebs like Sallie Krawcheck for topics like asking for a raise. 

“Money Diaries” includes a number of illustrations, which break up a somewhat monotonous topic. 

What makes it different, though, and a strong point of the book, is that it’s written specifically for women and non-binary folks. There’s a section on having children as a queer couple, for instance. These very real money issues are rarely discussed in mainstream financial media. 

Given these necessary conversations, “Money Diaries” is an important book, especially for those who are marginalized. We definitely recommend checking it out from the library, or, if you have a few extra bucks on hand, paying for a copy is certainly a good idea!

Michaela Guzy on Building Her Travel Business

Michaela Guzy knows a thing or two about travel. The former vice president of global travel and strategic development at American Express Publishing departed from corporate America to start Oh The People You Meet (OTPYM), a website focused on forging authentic local connections all over the globe.
 
The adjunct professor at New York University who is also a self-taught videographer and entrepreneur spoke with She Spends about the power of education, networking and following your passion.

Wendy Liebowitz on Performing a Financial Checkup

Wendy Liebowitz grew up at financial services firm Fidelity. She began her career as a 19-year-old intern at the firm, working her way up through the ranks, eventually landing the role of vice president branch manager of the firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, location. 

“I just saw what value working at an investment company had,” Liebowitz said by phone Thursday. “I was personally able to learn the value of a dollar and how investing early helps you build your wealth long term.”

Liebowitz, who is a certified financial planner, shared advice on performing a financial checkup with She Spends. What follows are some of her tips!

Susan Goldberg on How To Build Leadership Skills

Susan Goldberg didn’t expect to get into leadership consulting. She started her career with a degree in French literature, worked in marketing and for an executive search firm for awhile before opening her own consulting business, only to move to leadership consulting after noticing a hole in the market.

She spoke to She Spends about her experiences with sexism in the workplace, going solo and how to boost your own leadership skills. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Rachel Dougherty on Launching Their Community Engagement Consultancy Business

Rachel Dougherty’s community work started at a young age. While growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, they got involved in social justice work through their synagogue that set the tone for the rest of their career. After hustling in multiple non-profit jobs, Rachel is working to strike out on their own. They launched a community engagement consultancy business this spring, with the hopes of helping both nonprofits and companies like She Spends build communities in intelligent ways.

Rachel talked with She Spends about launching their new business, staying organized and being a non-binary person in the workplace. Stay tuned to the end of the interview, where Rachel shares their favorite resources for community building.

Angel Onuoha and Drew Tucker on Changing the Color of the Hedge Fund Industry

Two Harvard sophomores are working hard to change how the hedge fund industry looks.

Angel Onuoha and Drew Tucker, two black men who want to eventually work in finance, started BLK Capital Management, a nonprofit that operates as a hedge fund, this year. The group allows black students across Ivy League schools in the United States to get experience investing before ever leaving school. 

Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa on Launching a Luxury, Eco-Friendly Clothing Line

Without any prior design experience, former fashion editors Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa have a fashion crowd-approved hit on their hands: sleepwear line Sleeper.

The clothing line, which produces pajama-like clothing made for outdoors in natural, eco-friendly fibers like cotton and silk, is made-to-order — meaning there isn’t any excessive production. Each garment is hand sewn by a seamstress and can take between eight and 12 hours to finish.

The Ukrainian founders spoke with She Spends about how they launched the brand with just $2,000 in six months, why they love Man Repeller and how they hired nearly all women to head up their operations.