When he arrived in New York in 2006, Greg Gumucio was a convicted felon, accused rapist, and former follower of the infamous yogi Bikram Choudhury. He was also a man with an idea: that yoga should be cheap and accessible. The concept would become the inspiration behind Yoga to the People, a collection of studios featuring donation-based classes and hot yoga offerings. Over the following years, the organization would prove to be a raging success, rapidly expanding into something resembling an empire as Gumucio and his associates opened studios across New York City, as well as in Seattle, the Bay Area, Colorado, and Arizona.
Core to Yoga to the People was Gumucio himself, and the people who knew and worked for him say that Gumucio’s powerful mystique was undeniable—that he had a gift for seeing through people, or at least making them think he could. But just as core to the organization, they say, was a toxic culture of total obedience and manipulation created by Gumucio, who gained the trust of his workers, many of them young, vulnerable women, and used it for his personal gain and satisfaction. For years, the pain faced by the people who worked at his studios lay below the surface.
Then, on July 3 of this year, an Instagram account called YttPShadowWork began publishing anonymized accounts of sexual misconduct, toxic management, racial discrimination, unfair labor practices, and abuse of power at Yoga to the People. Within a week of the first Instagram post, the studios, already closed temporarily for COVID-19, were shuttered for good. Gumucio wrote, in an email to students, “Where I can say that the representation being put out there feels malicious to me, I also want to say, that if people felt wronged by their experience at YTTP or myself, it never happened intentionally. We don’t accept or tolerate any form of abuse. Intention does not always equate to impact. Good intentions can cause harm because we have are [sic] own lenses to life.”
Gumucio, 59, trained for years under the now disgraced Choudhury, and over the years has attempted to draw a bright line between his former mentor—a Rolls Royce-driving, ego-driven womanizer whom former students have accused of sexual harassment, discrimination, and rape—and himself, a selfless everyman making yoga accessible to all. In 2010, the New York Times helped burnish this reputation in a profile that presented Gumucio—“propped on the ledge on a round pillow, his wavy, shoulder-length hair framed by the urban jungle backdrop of tar-covered roofs”—as ushering in a new wave of yoga.
“I truly believe if more people were doing yoga,” Gumucio told the Times, “the world would be a better place.”
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