I’ve always been the square peg in the round hole and that upsets people sometimes, even in the yoga world. The yoga world can be as politically correct as the non-yoga world when the first thing out of someone’s mouth is “you’re not yogic” or “you’re a hater” when someone questions yoga’s current status quo. Believe me; in my 7 years of writing this blog I’ve been called an unyogic hater more times than I can count.
So when I read Rachel Held Evans’ post, “Blessed Are the Uncool”, I said HALLELAJAH. I am not Christian and I don’t go to any church but I I think her post is perfectly applicable to the current yoga scene: “Jesus taught us that when we throw a banquet or a party, our invitation list should include ‘the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’ So why do our church marketing teams target the young, the hip, the healthy, and the resourced?”
Look at any ad for any yoga class or any yoga product in any yoga magazine and you won’t see the likenesses of the women I taught tonight at the domestic violence shelter. They wouldn’t be considered hip, they all have aches and pains and scars and they certainly aren’t resourced. No one is marketing to them because they can’t afford the $100 yoga pants or the Swarovski crystal chakra pendants.
I’ve always loved Anne Cushman’s take on this in her Yoga Chic and the First Noble Truth written in 2003. Yes, 2003 — ask yourself if things have changed much. 2003 is almost ancient history in modern American yoga commentary.
“So lately, I’m looking for a different kind of image to inspire my practice. The book I’m shopping for would show pictures of all sorts of people doing yoga and meditating. There would be old people, fat people, scarred people, profusely hairy people, people with bad skin and big noses, people with thighs riddled with cellulite, people with droopy breasts and flabby thighs and faces etched with lines from hard living. There would be people with cerebral palsy, people gone bald from chemotherapy, people paralyzed by drive-by shootings, people who’d lost limbs in wars. Some people would do the poses perfectly. Others would do them clumsily, propped up on sandbags and bolsters, unable even to touch their fingertips to the floor.”
Evans writes, “…when the gospel story is accompanied by a fog machine and light show, I always get this creeped-out feeling like someone’s trying to sell me something. It’s as though we’re all compensating for the fact that Christianity’s not good enough to stand on its own so we’re adding snacks.”
Substitute “yoga” for “Christianity” and “weights” or “Pilates” or “pole dancing” for “snacks” and you’ll get what I’m driving at.
It is true that there are now more and more yoga classes for underserved populations, but the face of modern American yoga isn’t just the young, the hip, the healthy, and the resourced. Maybe if the marketing face wasn’t young, hip, healthy, and resourced, then yoga would truly finally become mainstream. For real.
“And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.”
Suzanne. Leonard Cohen