seva is sexy

“Yoga is about GIVING. Not taking. That’s how I get my calm and my sexy. I don’t need no special book and unrealistic promises to deliver that.”

Those words are from Svasti’s great blog “Body image issues, yoga & Tara Stiles is a sell-out” that was in response to Stiles’ atrocious ad for her new book (I am loathe to give it any more publicity.) The amazing and heart-felt comments from readers on my blog about it make me think that a yoga revolution is in the air. At least I hope so.

What I found so appalling in Stiles’ ad was the language: “banish belly fat, FAST”; “a YOGA-SLIM body in just 15 MINUTES A DAY!”; “size 8 to a size double 00!”; “combat bra fat with one easy move.” This one was the kicker: “Reshape your body. Learn a fabulous new way to balance WIDER-THAN-DESIRED HIPS.”

Uh, Tara, don’t you think a little thing called BONE STRUCTURE might have something to do with that? How is feeding into women’s insecurities about their hips in any way “yogic”? How about preaching acceptance about those “wider than desired” hips instead of trying to change something that is impossible to change because of BONE STRUCTURE?

I am still reeling from the possibility of bra fat. With homeless children on the street, genocide, floods in Pakistan, and starving people all over the world, now I have to worry about my back fat. Holy Shiva, what’s a grrl to do?

The ad has nothing to do with yoga and has everything to do with what is wrong with with, well, everything that is wrong in this culture. Everything has to work fast — “15 minutes” — and if it doesn’t we move on to the next best thing because our brains are no longer wired to stay with anything longer. We have the attention spans of flies, just look at some children.

I remember what Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote in Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. He said that ADD and ADHD are not the problems of children where the only solution is to medicate them with potentially harmful drugs; he believes that ADD and ADHD are signs of a dysfunctional family unit. In other words, YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE-STYLE.

And that is what weight loss is all about. It’s not about “210 proven yoga moves” you can do in 15 minutes. I should know because I used to weigh about 200 pounds in the late 1970s. It was a life-style change. And because I used to weigh that much is why I can comment on bullshit ads that promise the impossible.

Personally I think that every dime Tara Stiles makes off the book should be donated to a place that helps young women with eating disorders.

“You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.” — Jessica Mitford

How does a “yoga” book that promises results in just 15 minutes a day speak to the fact that yoga is a life-long process of transformation, 24/7? A process where the results are seen in months and years and not minutes. You operate on faith because there are no guarantees.

As I said in my previous blog, I am so over the excuse of how all these so-called “yoga” books or DVDs are just about “bringing yoga to the people, it’s all good, so don’t be a hater.” If you want to bring yoga to the people then teach in a prison or a homeless or domestic violence shelter year after year, don’t write a book about how to get rid of your bra fat. Now I am back to my post title.

Like Svasti, I get my calm and sexy from seva which is karma yoga in a domestic violence shelter. It’s true the women ask me about losing their belly fat from their pregnancies — there is nothing wrong with wanting to look good and feeling healthy and sexy. But I can assure you that they care more about ridding themselves of emotional demons and nightmares. The classes are pure joy and joy is big-time sexy. I’ll be getting a double dose of sexy because after about 10 years I’ve been asked to teach twice a month.

Every class is wonderful but last week was more so than usual. I did not teach a traditional yoga class but used movement in general as a stress reliever — we jumped and gyrated and shook those wider than desired hips. I had them do Lion’s Breath which they really got into after I told them how lionesses hunt and feed and defend their children while the lion sleeps all day. They could identify with that….and you’ve never heard louder roars.

I tell them that they are my teachers, these poor Hispanic women who own no yoga mats, no Lululemon pants, and come to my class after standing all day at factory jobs. Many of them do not have the luxury of even 15 minutes a day for themselves. My 90 minute class once a month may be the only time they have for themselves. Do you really think they care about bra fat?

After our movement I did yoga nidra with them. Some started crying afterward because of the effect it had on them. One woman was there for the first time and after class she was speechless for more than a few moments because the effect was so profound. When she could speak she asked the group leader if she could talk with me any time she felt bad. The yoga had created trust. The group leader translated and I had to tell her that while I understand Spanish, I am no longer fluent in speaking it so I could not answer her, but if she would like a private yoga therapy session with the group leader translating, I would be happy to do it for free.

Then I felt the shift. Sometimes psychic shifts are so potent that you feel them physically and suddenly everything falls into place. The verification that what I have done for almost 10 years is my true path. It was a physical confirmation. No more second guessing.

My path is no longer teaching in studios, it is about truly bringing yoga and meditation to the people. I have plans in the back of my brain and all things happen when they are ready to happen. My yoga therapy training in India next year will be the icing on the cake and my decision to pursue a masters in transpersonal psychology never felt so right. It’s all going to meld together and it will take longer than 15 minutes.

Damn, I’m sexy.

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18 thoughts on “seva is sexy

  1. 🙂

    Movement that is energetic like that and breath focused — I have NOT experienced or watched other people experience such POWER from any other kind. Really.

    And like Gabrielle Roth says, “Our hips…they have so many stories to tell.”

    You know, Linda, that I am totally “get the yoga out there.” But I could SPIT at Tara Stiles. (And I did a bit on Twitter, actually…)

    DOUBLE F'ING ZERO!?! Okay…this is still making me practically PANT with anger.

    And scowl with disgust. There is no excuse in the world for her actions. I told her “enjoy that money…”


  2. Yes, you are damn sexy – powerful, healing, generous sexy!! really great post Linda, thank you for empowering others with true yoga. bra fat – shouldn't even be in out consciousness, especially not in the same thought or sentence as yoga. Here's to you an svasti for redirecting the focus. May a boycott of Tara's products deflate the energy/money supporting her message, while endorsements of 'true' yoga teachers grow!!


  3. LOVE this! I used to work at a domestic violence center. Once I became a yoga teacher, I saw even more how powerful some quiet, space, and movement can be.

    Thanks for a lovely post!


  4. Imagine if someone decided to create a hybrid “sport”, something like a cross between tennis and ping pong. Yet they decided to market it as “Easy tennis”. Can you imagine how quickly they'd get sued?

    But yoga doesn't have that sort of corporation standing up for what it really is. Instead, we have corporations and individuals making yoga into whatever they want, because they can. Because there's no one to sue them for misrepresentation.


    And yes, wider than desired hips… do we have a measurement on what's desirable and not desirable? Should we all endevour to look like Tara (ugh, I so don't want to be that skinny looking!)? And what are people to do when they buy her book, do 15 minutes of “yoga” a day and DON'T lose all of their belly fat or bra fat? What are you going to sell them then, Tara?

    But down to the real point of this post. Yes. Seva = sexy in my books. Because sexy = compassion and a wide-open heart. Hanuman is WAY sexy as far as I'm concerned, monkey head and all.

    I love your stories about teaching at the women's shelter. I'm inspired that one of them asked you if she could talk to you whenever she feels bad. Wow!

    That is the power of yoga. Not a 15 minutes a day fat burning exercise. The ability to generate trust and love and bring light and happiness into people's lives.

    @Christine – re: “enjoy that money”, oh yeah! I hope at least we've made her think a little bit. Although I doubt it. She hasn't replied to any of these posts so far!


  5. Sexy? Yes you are! Your comments about your classes moved me and reminded me so much of the prison teaching I used to do for free. One of the best ever ever things I heard from someone on the impact of one of my classes was that a person who had not spoken to anyone since they entered the prison, started speaking again after attending one of my classes! I treasure the impact that that yoga class had on that person and damn, I think that can be classed as sexy!!!
    Good luck with your trip and your studies! I think counseling/psychology goes very well with yoga. I studied yoga first and am now studying social work as a direct result of my yoga teaching experiences – eventually I'd like to combine the two in someway particularly as mindfulness meditation is now showing such positive results for a whole variety of medical conditions and life experiences.


  6. Yoga teacher Frank Jude Boccio's comment on my Facebook page:

    “As the father of a wonderful woman, I thank you, Linda, for speaking your mind! I don't know this Stiles woman, but talk about 'bra fat' and 'wider hips than you desire' are EXACTLY why there are so many who — as Anne Cushman once wrote — cannot take yoga seriously as a spiritual
    discipline. Her example was the 1990's emphasis on 'buns of steel!' I could never understand the appeal of that!!!!

    As a man whose wife is now expecting, whether we have a boy or girl, the kind of body image shite that Stiles is propagating will NOT be condoned in our house.”

    Thanks for reading, Frank, and mucho thanks for your teachings!


  7. Hi Linda,
    That woman pumping her sexy stuff for the ladies is just a hot mess and she and her idea of how to obtain health or even what constitutes health will go the way of the pet rock and disco pants. What I really wanted to say is how excited I am you will be in Nasik! I have been away and just catching up and see you will be going to yoga point! This is fantastic and the folks there are just great! When are you leaving. Give Kate a big hig and a kiss from Shannon august 08 batch. I am so excited for you:)


  8. Great post Linda, now THIS is sexy!
    Right now I just want to hug every woman I see now and tell them to embrace their “wider-than-desired hips” (not sure how this would be received but you get the idea…)


  9. On discussing this with Himself last night and still not being really sure what “bra fat” was he suggested it meant boobs. He seemed quite concerned about the disappearance of boobs from the world 🙂

    Seriously though, I teach yoga at a cancer hospital. A vast majority of the women who come to class are in remission for breast cancer. Most of them have had masectomies and reconstructive surgery. Through yoga some of them are just beginning to find confidence in their “new” bodies. Now that's sexy…


  10. Great review! Wow, I am repulsed by some of the claims, esp. size 8 to OO. When did a size 8 become big? When did 00 become attractive? Ugh, I could go on, but you made the point very well.


  11. A great note to end on, Linda! What is it about the female body that we are so afraid of? I've been praticing yoga for 13 years now and I still don't have the figure of a prepubescent boy with boobs. Oh darn. Perhap's Tara's book finally reveals the diet secrets that I need to get rid of this woman's body:)

    And as a side note, for a bit of hope: I looked at the yoga section at Indigo bookstore the other day and I would say the majory of them where not of the slim-yoga-body type.


  12. I can see the rejoinder to Tara's book:

    “Righteous, Activist, Sexy Seva”
    by Linda-Sama

    (Get Your Abs in Gear and Reach Out)

    and the publicity blurbs:

    “Should be Titled: 'Yoga, what Tara forgot'”

    –Publishers' Reviews


    “Linda and Sexy Yoga Seva — NYC Booklist's Rising Star!!”

    –Book Journal


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