Toni Mar’s yoga classes seem to create a subculture of the Cal student body. A culture perhaps stemming from the irritating label of “tonistas” (given by Toni herself), but mostly the unbelievably consistent return rate of her students. I’ve taken her class four times, some of my friends have made it a priority for every semester – making 7 returns. The class itself is challenging, more challenging than any other yoga practice offered in reasonable foot or wheel vicinity.  Even with progression, Toni keeps the class difficult and keeps us waiting. Waiting in strenuous poses, keeps us watching her every move, dependent on her every word and breath. Her control is dictated by this control and her knowledge. We keep coming back for more because we feel the difference in our practice, mindset, strength, and other things that I should be more aware of (as yoga is all about awareness).

More recently I’ve recognized the undercurrent of competition within the 30 person, 50 minute class. Toni points out the best students, those with the most experience or strength, asking them to serve as examples for particular sequences or poses. There is no doubt that these students are more skilled, but it highlights a side of yoga that other classes – those that are perhaps less challenging surrounding Berkeley’s campus – intentionally dismiss. Competition in any activity is an obvious and major component, but yoga aims to be a solitary practice that expires comparison and/or rivalry. Ironically, the subculture of tonistas are yet to thoroughly adopt this mindset. I feel eyes shooting around the room, if I step or fall out of a pose for a moment I can rest assured it’s been noted by 5 pairs of eyes. We have evolved to assess the intensity of our neighbors pose from our peripherals. It keeps us pushing as it keeps us stressed.


5 thoughts on “sub[cult]ure

  1. Interesting…quite interesting. While I am somewhat unfamiliar with the yoga subculture, reading about the differences in Toni Mar’s class turned out to be a bit surprising for me. This incorporation of competition is not only unique for the individual, but also has the potential to breed a very different group dynamic from what is typically expected. Personally, I would be interested in learning more about this aspect, and what its implications are on both individual practitioners and the society of this subculture.

  2. I think this is a very interesting topic. While I have never been to this particular class, I have had similar experiences elsewhere. Power dynamics and competition are found in all aspects of society, so while it is very specific to a yoga class, I feel like it is very easy to relate with even for those of us who have never done yoga. Good job, I look forward to seeing this paper develop

  3. Focusing on the yoga culture created by a specific instructor is an intriguing idea, and the “undercurrent of competition” within the class is a nice observation and a good topic to explore. (I didn’t know yoga could have such a competitive aspect, I’ve always pictured people stretching all care-free and zen-like, haha.) Considering the hidden competitive nature of this subculture, you might want to think about how willing people will be to talk to you. In addition, it seems that someone else will be doing fieldwork on yoga, as well, so you’ll also be in a sort of competition with another fieldworker for the time and thoughts of other yoginis.

    Good luck on your fieldwork and research, Katherine!

  4. You have a very interesting approach towards this yoga class that I am looking forward to reading more about. After reading this blog post I’ve realized that I have experienced what you called an “undercurrent of competition”. I think it is a great idea how you chose a subculture that you are just starting to integrate yourself in. I feel that it’ll give you a fresh outlook on the interactions in your subculture.

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