This is me after my head exploded over the latest furor about the way yoga is advertised in America.
OK, not really, but after the requisite three days all things pass and we move on, right? Wrong.
Once again an advertisement for a yoga book created a firestorm in the yoga blogosphere. Maybe the fire was not as widespread as was created by the Judith Lasater letter to Yoga Journal or the naked ToeSox ad, but it did generate many comments here and at Svasti’s place. So let’s just move on. Wrong.
Just for the heck of it I looked at Tara Stiles’ twitter feed to see if there were any more comments about her book other than for yours truly, Svasti, and Blisschick. Over 90% of the tweets are consistently hugely complimentary. Obviously detractors are in the minority. But then I found this one lonely tweet amongst the cacophony of Stiles’ cheerleaders:
“I feel you sold out Yoga to Honda. If you want to model for products, fine. Just keep yoga out of it. Just my 2 cents.”
You see, I thought maybe my last post about her appearance on the morning show in New York was over the top, that I was picking on her too much. But you have to admit that the Dunkin Donuts commercial before her fry the fat yoga show was a priceless piece of irony. There could not have been a better juxtaposition of two images to make a point and that’s the essence of satire.
Then I read what a well-known yoga teacher said about comments on yoga blogs being divisive and not in the spirit of being a yogi (I don’t know if the comment was about the TS discussion, but it made me wonder.) Also, some commenters feel that whatever brings people to yoga is fine and that ultimately they will learn that yoga is so much more than a way to burn blubber and fry fat on the mat.
So am I just a big ol’ meanie?
Last night this foggy menopausal brain thought about all this in the context of being “yogic.”
In the first place, this has nothing to do with Tara Stiles as a person. I haven’t called her any names and I am sure she is a good person in her daily relationships. She must be a good yoga teacher (whatever “good” means to some people) because if she wasn’t she would not have reached the level she has, she would just be another unknown yoga teacher. Or maybe she just got some lucky breaks. Her karma.
But what is true (and it’s not only my opinion but that of others, read the 20+ comments here) is that she sold out yoga for her own purposes just to make a buck. Because what other reason would there be to so blatantly cater to women’s insecurities about their bodies in her atrocious marketing campaign? To use advertising language that is no better than what a cheap diet aid uses for marketing. To further perpetuate the notion that screams at us from every cover of every woman’s magazine at the supermarket checkout line that there is something wrong with us, that we need fixing, that we are always lacking. As it said in the above tweet, keep yoga out of it. If you put yourself out there in the way you advertise your product, then you’d better be willing to take the heat.
Go ahead and call me unyogic, but that’s not yoga. Which leads me to my second point.
I am so tired, saddened actually, that in this Americanized yoga business anything can be called “yoga” and that makes it yoga. No, your morning stretches using yoga poses are not yoga and just because you call them yoga doesn’t make it so. Calling a dog a cat doesn’t make it a cat. I consider myself fortunate to have been exposed to yoga and meditation back in the prehistoric times of my college days when yoga and those who did it were considered weird — there was a reason they called us Freaks.
I started reading books about the Eastern wisdom traditions when I was in high school. I am passionate about all the teachings (if you are also reading the Avadhuta Gita raise your hand) and do my best when I teach to honor the Krishnamacharya lineage. Yoga is very precious to me — I am grateful and blessed that I have opportunity and freedom to travel to India to study in the heart of yoga. So pardon me for feeling protective and angry when people bastardize yoga for their own purposes.
Being “yogic” doesn’t mean being peace-love-dove all the time. The ancient yogis, the sramanas, were rebels, they were spiritual warriors against the status quo. Buddha was a radical — he went against the stream and said to look at reality as it is, not as what you want it to be.
Accusing someone of not being a “yogi” or of not being “yogic” is a cop-out. I will always remember what Jack Kornfield said in our first retreat for my training at Spirit Rock — that anyone who thinks that someone on the spiritual path should not still get angry has a kindergarten view of spirituality.
Chogyam Trungpa taught the way of the spiritual warrior. He said, “Warrior-ship here does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word “warrior” is taken from the Tibetan “pawo,” which literally means, “one who is brave.” … “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
That cave in India is looking pretty good right now.