Our friend Paul Zipes recently shared with us a post from his blogger friend Auntie N over at Icy Exhale: Defrosting the Human Condition. We left compelled to share her post as it tells a story about what yoga is, what it isn’t, and unfortunately what it is often perceived as being. Thank you to Auntie N for allowing us to share this post!
An online journal I read as often as they post new articles recently took a vacation. They posted a nice little piece about how they were taking two weeks off and promptly took two weeks off.
So this website is all yoga all the time, but they’re the back alley sort that makes me happy and I’ll tell you why. They’re the bell ringers and the bullshit callers regarding all things Yoga-lebrity.
I’ve used this word in articles both here and abroad, but I’ll break it down for you.
There are people who grow up and move to LA because they want to be movie stars. There are people who move to New York because that’s where you go when you want to be a writer. There are people who want to be famous athletes when they grow up and they pursue that. Then there are people who decide that they want to become a yoga teacher when they grow up because a person can become famous from this and this alone. Once a Yoga-lebrity becomes famous, usually they become too expensive for the peasants to train with and so move on to Lady Gaga and Madonna.
What’s interesting is that I’ve been in the presence of a Yoga-lebrity and the yoga practice they deliver is no better than the high quality loving instruction I receive at my local yoga studio – or participating in a Pilates class for that matter. I’m just saying.
My favorite website’s motto is “Giving the contemporary yoga culture the star treatment.”
As soon as they went on hiatus all hell broke loose and I watched with woeful eyes that these watchdogs were nowhere to be seen. A prominent yoga teacher is sued for sexual harassment while another member of the elite yoga stars resurfaces with a new revamped style and ethic after returning to the world of instruction not seven months after several allegations of sexual assault and misconduct are reported by female students. That makes three heavy hitters in the upper echelon of the yoga community hit with a scandal.
In addition, there was a tasteless “April fools” joke perpetrated by Lululemon that I don’t have the stomach to revisit here. Let it be enough that there were yoga mats made out of cow hide. With your purchase, they’ll tell you the name of the cow on which you’re bending and shaping yourself.
Perhaps my favorite is a write up on Marilyn Monroe’s yoga prowess and how she was an ardent practitioner with several centerfold shots of her in various “leg in the air” poses. Let’s not forget what a great role model she is for young women, but add that she does yoga to the mix and there you have a recipe for admiration that the new Pope would do well to try.
I’d like to add that there is a video on another online yoga journal that features a completely nude Play Mate practicing all manner of yoga poses. I can imagine the liberation she feels in Warrior II without the cumbersome experience of panties. This video is the most viewed video this site has and the numbers keep rising.
I like to know what’s going on. There was a time when I subscribed to Yoga Journal because I thought I was learning new things, but eventually I realized they were reusing sequences with new, prettier and skinnier models in more serene settings. There wasn’t anything new to be learned from these glossy pages.
Apropos of nothing, today when I arrive to teach my 3:30 class I realize pretty quickly that I have at least two sick students, maybe more. The two I’m sure aren’t well are recovering from variations of the flu. Though they’re on the road to recovery, both are a little wane looking but need to move around a bit to feel more normal.
One lady says, “I’m better but still not at a hundred percent. I’m just gonna do what I can, if I fall into child’s pose just keep going.”
This is a perfect opportunity to give a little demonstration of the healing aspects of yoga practice. People with congestion and especially those recovering from a cough, sometimes it’s nice to do gentle chest opening poses and to spend time in extended variations of forward folds. I can’t say the three teenagers who came to my class had the best time, but they were champs and didn’t mount a resistance to the slightly longer relaxation period at the end of class and they certainly didn’t besmirch my choice of ambient and soothing music for the occasion.
It was an excellent tool, having two people in class “not one hundred percent” because yoga practice is something you should be able to do all the time and is available to everyone. It’s not a thousand dollar mat or hundred and fifty dollar transparent pants that makes a yoga practice. In fact, yoga postures make up one eighth of what yoga practice actually is.
Fundamentally, the cash cow that the yoga industry has become with the naked yoga videos and industry leading celebrities, turns as many people off of yoga than it attracts them to yoga. If I’d never known a thing about yoga and saw The Real Housewives getting their dog on, yoga would be the last thing I’d want to practice.
Luckily I got into yoga before it became cosmopolitan and cliquish, or maybe I just didn’t see it until I began trying to follow the trends in the business side of things. As it turns out, the world turns with or without the flash of cosmopolitan yoga-lebrities. I think that the world of yoga is inside a person, in their congested chest and burning heart and aching mind and that’s where the focus needs to be.
My most solid teachers in the Mind Body scene have been practicing quietly and in earnest since the eighties at least, before there was so much of a scene and simply work to be done to remain aware, strong and self-possessed. These are the people I want to emulate, whether I’m running a class full of mantra work and flying crab crow pose or I’m practicing quietly and in earnest in the back of the room on my own mat.
This week in yoga culture was a great example of reasons to unplug and tune in. There is nothing new under the sun, only discoveries to me made. For the love of God, get thee to a mat my friend, or your local studio.