Nearly 10 percent of Americans practice yoga. (And a staggering 44% more say they should.)
- Exactly what are they doing?
- Pinning their hopes for physical transformation on an ancient spiritual practice?
- Doing their part in the Western plunder of India?
- Falling in line with the machinations of a $10 billion a year industry?
In this first-ever play in which virtuosic yoga actually drives the plot, that’s what Meera Manoj, a sharp, if naive, Indian-American junior executive, is about to find out when she travels to Bangalore, India in 2002 to strike an outsourcing deal for clothing manufacturer Athleisure, Inc. Her match at Pooja Textiles is Vijay Subramanyam, a shrewd manager her own age with a strong social conscience and a Western education.
Back in the U.S., Josh Wager—a saxophone-playing, bartending New Orleans yogi—has dreamt up Microcosm Yoga, a virtuosic yoga method that heals joints, looks amazing, and, by the way, has a spiritual dimension aligned with social justice. Josh’s brandable idea hits the ground just in time for the yoga boom in America in the early 2000s. Josh attracts scores of American yoga students to train with him. Among them are two real stars, Meera, who has both design and managerial gifts, and Lucia Seymour, one of the most remarkable physical practitioners anyone has ever laid eyes on. One of Josh’s rapt followers is an enterprising Indian yoga teacher in Bangalore.
The guru scandal to come in 2012 would be like many others were it not for the power of the Internet and the novel phenomenon of the globetrotting rock star yoga teacher. When an anonymous website goes public, demonstrating in graphic images Josh’s questionable sexual and business practices, the worldwide M.Y. community is catapulted into rage and panic: Within minutes, yoga studios around the U.S. face catastrophic student cancellations and possible financial ruin as the buzz surrounding Josh’s behavior instantaneously devalues the M.Y. brand. Worldwide, wired yoga students demand immediate answers: Did their local teachers know about and collude in M.Y.’s hypocrisy? Was M.Y. a sham from the get-go? What about the physical benefits they know they’ve experienced?
At the top of the second act, corporate vultures swoop in to profit from the carnage. Dirk Abernathy, Athleisure’s eccentric, body-conscious Conjurer of New Products, proposes that Josh become the head of a scandal-driven flash campaign for its new “Monobutt” yoga pants—a product designed to bank on a fashion trend that Microcosm Yoga’s physical technique actually spawned. Pooja Textiles’ Vijay invites Josh to India to lease himself out, while he’s still hot, as a corporate apologist to Indian corporations riven by scandal. Josh also has ideas about how to use his fall to his own advantage. The timely arrival of the earnest yoga teacher from Bangalore allows Josh to solidify a multilevel marketing plan to spread and profit from his yoga in India.
Left to their own devices, Meera and Lucia must figure out how to save the Microcosm Yoga brand, the community they value, and their own careers.
With a cast of 8 principals and at least 10 ensemble members playing both Indian and American characters, American Yogi offers scope for a yoga choreographer to further the story through virtuosic group movement.