Reality TV for Yoga Fans

Gurus bring yoga off the mountaintops and into the streets


| September / October 2005


Los Angeles yoga gurus Jeff Bader and Bill Donnelly are standing in a mucky lot next to an auto body shop teaching the warrior pose to a half-circle of car mechanics.

'Now, take a deep breath through the nose . . . and exhale,' Donnelly instructs. There are no mats or trickling water fountains, but the students are rapt -- their hands and clothes grubby with grease, right arms thrust forward, left arms pulled back and bent stiffly at the elbow. On cue, they take a long, deep breath and their muscles relax beneath their blue work shirts.

This total-body makeover is courtesy of a yoga-themed reality show on FitTV called Guru2Go. Instructors Bader and Donnelly, creators of the hour-long show, are the perfect hosts precisely because they lack that stereotypical Zen-master aura. As they enthusiastically explain at the beginning of each episode, the two are simply 'modern-day yogis on a mission to bring yoga off the mountaintops and into the streets.'

Guru2Go follows Bader and Donnelly as they teach yoga to car washers, jockeys, cooks, surfers, and anyone else who crosses their path to enlightenment. They teach two types of lessons: personalized yoga routines (called 'awake-overs') and five-minute yoga lessons to unsuspecting pedestrians ('yoga minis').

Since they first became romantically involved more than six years ago, kundalini yoga has been the lifeblood of Bader and Donnelly's relationship. Centered on a philosophy of compassion and kindness, kundalini was introduced to the West in 1969 by the late Sikh guru Yogi Bhajan. Bader, who discovered the style in 1995, calls it 'the mother of all yogas,' and meditation, quiet walks, and yoga retreats are a priority for him and Donnelly both.

Though the philosophical principles of kundalini are a major part of their lives, they don't talk about them much on the show. In part this is because people don't look to FitTV for their spiritual needs. It's also because Bader and Donnelly, like some other kundalini practitioners, believe that the Age of Aquarius will kick off in the year 2012, and that humanity will need 'yoga technology' to survive the period, which will be characterized by overwork and information overload. An interesting view, to be sure, but not one that's apt to get first-timers off their couches and onto a yoga mat.