no more free lunch

chettinad food
typical lunch in Tamil Nadu, India — YUM!

“Emotional labor.”

What does that mean to you?

On her Facebook page in August Layla Saad said that a “complete stranger just PayPal-ed me a generous amount of money as a way of saying thank you for the emotional labor I put in to writing my open letter to spiritual white women. I’m in shock. And in tears. I did not write the letter with that expectation in mind, but I am so grateful for this unexpected gift.”

That got me thinking.  In a dozen years I’ve received two payments from readers.   Years ago I received $100 from an anonymous person who merely said “thank you.”

I’ve written this blog since 2005, a good 12 years, and over the years people have sent me countless emails telling me how much my writing meant to them.  They thought they were the only ones who felt the same way I did about shit in the Modern Yoga World.  When I have thought about completely shutting down this blog and never writing again, I get an email from someone telling me how much my words meant to them.   So I continue albeit not as prolifically because, let’s be honest: people just don’t read blogs anymore.  I have been fortunate to meet people in India in my trainings who have read my blog, one woman from Kuala Lumpur telling me that she was at the Krishanamacharya Yoga Mandiram because of me.  A few readers have told me that they consider me one of their yoga teachers even though we’ve never met and who knows if we ever will.

Today Facebook reminded me:

“If you have never visited Linda’s Yoga Journey, it’s worth every minute you can spend on it. I met Linda in India and she’s one of the most loving, sassy and funny people I’ve ever come across. She keeps it real with serious topics that the yoga community often prefers to ignore, but refuses to sensationalize them and more often than not gives you food for thought that tastes a whole lot different than the stuff we get elsewhere. She is also not one to pass up the opportunity for a good laugh. She has a solid following of educated readers from all walks of life who offer some really interesting and varied points of view on the things Linda reports on so the comments are definitely worth a read.”

I have always said that I have the best readers!  Thank you dear readers for continuing to read me for 12 years!

And to think I’ve never been podcast by J. Brown.  Or asked to give any public talks.  Or sit on any panel discussions.  Go figure!

I wrote about topics such as ageism and diversity in the Modern Yoga World long before yoga blogs like YogaDork and It’s All Yoga, Baby, and before yoga writers whose names I won’t mention because you know who they are.  Because I was considered a “fierce voice in the yoga blogosphere” by the author of this book, he put me in it.  Drove all the way from California with his dog to interview me. 🙂

As Kelly Diels says in this article: “I, as a woman, am not a community resource.”  Beginning in January 2018 I am transitioning the best of my blog posts to Patreon, a website that will allow me to get paid for my writing, i.e., my emotional and intellectual labor.  If my writing about yoga has helped you or made you see things differently, you can become a monthly supporter or pay me per piece on that site.  The posts that I transfer will no longer be available for free here and I will use Patreon as my writing outlet, no more blogging for free.

The same goes for my India travel advice.  I have received many questions over the years about how to travel in India, where to go, etc. so I am now charging $50/hr for trip planning, how to handle India, etc.  Please do not expect to pick my brain for free unless you come on one of my trips.  I have 12 yrs of India travel experience and my info can not be found in guide books.  As a solo woman traveler to India since 2005 and learning about India as much as a foreigner can, you will be paying for my emotional and intellectual India travel labor.  To curate a boutique trip to India for those who ask, I start planning it one year in advance starting with a ton of emails to the providers in India that I use.  I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had worrying about things so they are just right.  Some of you may say that it’s my “cost of doing business” but if I really charged for every hour of time that I use in planning a trip for people, the price would be exorbitant and no one could afford it.

I receive no upgrades or freebies since I am not a travel blogger with a “brand” to promote.  I pay my own way to India.   You can get some questionable advice for free online or go to a bookstore and PAY for a guide book.  Well, I am that same guidebook.

I get questions about how to start a travel blog, where to go in India, and yoga questions from strangers who ask “I have X, what yoga can help me?”  Mind blown on that one!

After all these years (how fucking stupid was I?!) I am tired of playing the role of teacher or advisor or consultant without getting paid and without even receiving acknowledgement for the time and energy I have spent in doing so.  Free advice has no value.  People value what they pay for.

No more free lunches.  To that end, I can be paid via Square Cash or if you want my Papal ID, message me.

Thank you for your future support!

in review, the personal is still political

original upload by BAM’s Blog

Unless you’ve been in yoga nidra for a week, then you know that Judith Lasater’s letter to Yoga Journal about how she felt about nudity in yoga advertising set the yoga blogosphere on fire. In case you missed her letter, here it is:

“Yoga Journal was born in my living room in Berkeley in 1975, where I was one of five yoga practitioner-teachers who gathered to create the magazine. I have loved the magazine ever since. But I’m concerned about ads that have stimulated both confusion and sadness in me about where the magazine is now and where it is headed.

I am confused because I do not understand how photos of naked or half-naked women are connected with the sale of practice products for asana, an important part of yoga. These pictures do not teach the viewer about yoga practice or themselves. They aren’t even about the celebration of the beauty of the human body or the beauty of the poses, which I support. These ads are just about selling a product. This approach is something I though belonged (unfortunately) to the larger culture, but not in Yoga Journal.

Finally, I feel sad because it seems that Yoga Journal has become just another voice for the status quo and not for elevating us to the higher values of yoga: spiritual integration, compassion and selfless service. My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run ads with photos that exploit the sexuality of young women in order to sell products or more magazines. Thank you for your attention and willingness to hear another point of view.

Judith Hanson Lasater
San Francisco, CA”

The comments both pro and con about Lasater’s letter flew fast and furious in Roseanne’s blog (cited above) and in elephant journal. There was overwhelming support for Lasater on her Facebook page where she said that it was not her intention to harm Yoga Journal: “It is my intention to open the dialogue and be clear about what my values are.”

Indeed she did.

Both Brooks Hall and Carol Horton wrote eloquently about the maelstrom. But Nikki Chau said on her Facebook page that Lasater’s letter to Yoga Journal “was *not* about the Toesox ads with Kathryn Budig.”

Whew. And now it’s my turn.

Brooks said that how we react to seeing nudity is personal. Of course it is, and to that I say, the personal is political. I am not a feminist scholar but I am a feminist, a word that many women nowadays shy away from.

“The personal is political” was a mantra of the ’70s feminist movement. The saying comes directly from an essay written by radical feminist Carol Hanisch in 1969, and was a way to convey to women who were suffering in silence that their individual experiences were, in fact, instances of cultural sexism.

The sentence indicates that many of our personal problems, and specifically women’s personal problems throughout history, have been political — sometimes created by, definitely supported by, and ultimately addressed by politics. In this case, the politics of advertising.

“Sex, Lies, and Advertising,” was an article written by Gloria Steinem for Ms. Magazine in 1990. She discussed the aspects of feminism and how advertising venues such as magazines use women to sell products. Advertisers have been using women to sell products since the late 1800’s, but according to Steinem, using women became the natural way to advertise and sell products, but is it right to do so?

Advertisers use women to sell anything and everything. Madison Avenue knows that beautiful women are the tools that draw in consumers to buy the products that they supposedly need and ultimately want to buy. That’s Advertising 101. Using a naked woman in yoga product advertising is no different from a using a naked woman to sell a car. Just because it’s yoga, that makes the ad more “artistic”? A naked body is a naked body whether it’s used to sell a yoga mat or tires. Why are some in denial that in the advertising game a naked body = sex or at least sexiness? Advertising is about selling fantasy. At least the ads for porn are honest, they know what they are selling.

So whether or not Lasater was writing about the ToeSox ad in particular doesn’t matter. What would the reaction be if a naked male yogi was only wearing socks? The fact is that a naked man would never be used to sell those socks. Ever.

That’s the whole point.

I have no idea who Kathryn Budig is and I am sure no one forced her to take off her clothes. She probably was paid good money to pose naked and ToeSox probably sold a lot of socks. She has the right to take off her clothes for commercial purposes and ToeSox has the right to make a profit.

But I can tell you that every time I saw her ad in Yoga Journal I rolled my eyes and said “again?” The ad does not make me want to run out to buy something I don’t need and it does not make me aspire to be her as some commenters at elephant journal have suggested.

So when I read Lasater’s letter I yelled “right on” just like I did when I marched for women’s rights back in the day. Then I started reading the comments directed toward Lasater’s supporters and that’s when the personal once again became political for me.

Not to get into my life story, but I’m no prude. I’m not an anti-pornography feminist like Andrea Dworkin was and I’ve sat naked in the communal hot tubs of Esalen. But what was more offensive to me than seeing a naked woman used to sell a yoga product YET AGAIN, were the comments that if we disagree with ads using nudity, then we must:

1. hate nudity;
2. hate the female form;
3. hate sex
4. have a problem with our own sexuality;
5. be repressed;
6. be close minded
7. etc., etc. etc.

From elephant journal, posting its Facebook comments:

“In my opinion “it takes one to know one” and if anyone sees anything perverse about a girl with no clothes on, then the perversion is in their head in the first place….I would hazard a guess that the Ladies…probably wish deep down that they could be in that pic as well!”

[this guy doesn’t even know how sexist that statement is — so much for sensitive yoga guys.]

“Those offended may need to seriously consider gaining a deeper relationship with that oNe in the mirror there.”

we all need to get a little more comfortable with sex and the nude body (our own or otherwise)”

“It’s sad when our culture looks at beautiful photos like these and automatically switches into auto pilot and think – SEX. Are we really that much out of tune with our bodies and self.”

One female commenter told me that my “tone is full of rage not compassion. Relax. It’s an ad. 30 seconds from now another will take its place and it will be forgotten.”

Yes, and that’s the problem.

As for the armchair diagnosis of “rage”….what?  Say again? I’m getting a flashback of being told that we were a bunch of angry bitches.  I’m waiting for the “and you all need to get laid” comment.

My oh my….the more things change, the more they stay the same. Still. Even after almost 40 years.

To those comments I say: BULLSHIT.

I’m not as eloquent a writer as Judith Lasater, but I cut to the chase.

Those are the same types of comments I heard as a young feminist back in the early ’70s…that just because one is offended by a naked woman selling cars, perfume, clothes, or yoga crap that we don’t need, there must be something “wrong” with our outlook, there is something “wrong” with us. We were patted on the head with the comment “lighten up, honey, it’s no big deal.”

Yes, it IS a big deal in the larger context.

The larger context is not that nudity is used to sell a yoga product (and a half-naked woman is used in the latest issue to sell a Yoga Journal conference) — the problem is that naked women are STILL used to sell everything. As Cyndi Lee said at Roseanne’s blog: “It is NEVER okay to use women’s bodies to sell ANYTHING EVER. Not in Yoga Journal or any other medium. If you don’t get this, then learn about the awful things that are being done to women all over the world right now because people view them as objects.”

Lasater’s letter started a powerful discussion on the commodification and values implicit in yoga ads. What is interesting to me is how so many of the commenters on elephant journal and Facebook got caught up in the nudity issue and thereby missed the essential point: that Lasater’s letter was a question on “where the magazine is now and where it is headed.” If she attacked anything, it was the status quo. To those people who can’t see that, I say take off your blinders.

We’ve become blind to the use of women’s bodies in advertising, whether it is “artistic” or not, and our blindness is avidya, i.e., “not seeing.” Yoga is supposed to be the means by which our blinders are removed so that we can awaken from our avidya.

As Gloria Steinem asked in 1990, can’t we do better than this?

Anne Cushman asked the same question in 2003 with her article in the Shambhala Sun, “Yoga Chic and the First Noble Truth.” Anne says that yoga and meditation are ultimately about turning our eyes away from the airbrushed images of the outside world and looking deep within our own hearts.

“It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these yoga pin ups, in and of themselves…The problem comes when we start to compare ourselves with these glossy images and imagine how utterly happy and fulfilled we would be if we looked like that….

 

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.

 

All of us would be reflected in this book’s pages.”

Why are we satisfied with the status quo?

For me, yoga is a vehicle for transformation and that value is lost when we settle for the old, stale paradigms repackaged as “progressive” or “enlightened.”

In an effort to market their cigarettes to women in the late 1960s Virginia Slims used the ad slogan “you’ve come a long way, baby.”

Have we?

yoga whores* for the corporate dollar

Oh my.

“Yoga” and “whore” in the same sentence. That’s a jolt to the manomayi kosha.

Sometimes strong language is needed to get people to sit up and take notice. What can I say? When I was a young hippie chick I looked up to strong-talking women like Angela Davis and Germaine Greer.

No, I’m not dissing any working girls. In fact, I have a lot more respect for a woman who has to make her living on the street than I do for some of the *corporate* yoga antics out there right now. I’m using this definition of “whore”: A *person* considered as having compromised principles for personal gain.

To clarify, be advised (and that language comes from my working for lawyers for 20 years) that I am writing about CORPORATIONS, NOT about any specific yoga person who is a spokesperson/model for a yoga mat company, yoga clothes, etc. I would not mind being in an ad for the eco-mat that I use because I love the brand (and no, it is not Manduka.) For your ** reference, see the U.S. Supreme Court’s “corporate personhood” debate.

My phrasing is comparable to the way one of my city representatives used it when she said that my town was whoring itself for the local sales tax revenue if the powers that be allowed Walmart (one of the 10 worst companies on the planet according to betterworldshopper.org) to build next to a marsh/bird sanctuary. Long story short: they didn’t. A citizens’ group that I started stopped them from doing that.

A grass roots group. I made my own flyers and walked door to door. No corporate sponsors. Power to the people.

Roseanne is on fire with her post on the rained out “yoga gathering” in New York City. She says:

“I wonder, do we have to do this dance? We all know it’s a dance. You really can’t convince me that, other then sponsoring an event with a guaranteed captive audience of 10,000, do these companies embody yogic values? JetBlue would like to co-opt the openness and transparency associated with yoga by guaranteeing “no blackout dates, no seat restrictions” on its frequent-flier program. It’s nice of adidas to sponsor a high-profile yoga teacher, offer free yoga classes around the world and develop a line of sustainable yoga wear ~ but its other business practices include endorsing the slaughter of kangaroos (an endangered species) in Australia and sweatshops in Asia. Can we separate these actions from its endorsement of yoga?”

Max Strom posted this response on his Facebook page about it:

“…exciting that 9000 people gathered in Central Park to practice yoga and I have been waiting for an event like this for some time. But it my opinion the event was sadly squandered. All the media was there, CNN, the NY Times, everybody – the cameras were pointing. For the first time in history the world put the …microphone at the mouth of the larger yoga community in America. But what was the message given? We are celebrating the Solstice. We want more people to practice yoga. That’s it? We have nothing more to say to the world but that in 2010? With the oil gusher reminding us all that solar power is desperately needed, 9000 people doing salutations to the sun could have brought the world an unforgettable visual and call to invest in a nonpolluting technology. And with hurricane season kicking up in the Gulf, we could have bought attention back to the people of Haiti. Let us come together again in mass. Soon. But next time let’s show what we stand for. And yes we can do it without corporate sponsors. Martin Luther King did.”

Instead, everyone walked away with swag bags.

I loved Max’s last two sentences, especially since I watched Martin Luther King march through my Chicago neighborhood in the late ’60s. I also saw a crazy throw a brick at Dr. King’s head and saw him stumble and then march on. I became politicized, radically, at an early age.

YogaDork asks whether we want to smell like Eat Pray Love….

““Pray” journeys to India’s sultry incense and spice history with jasmine, pink pepper, patchouli, amber, juniper berry, cardamom, and musk for a woodsy scent laced in exoticism.”

…and alerting the advertisers’ new dream, the yoga moms, that they should get ready to take out their wallets for the Home Shopping Network:

“Well, thank goodness for the candle set. What if you want smell like exotic praying patchouli, but want the room to emit love and mangoes??”

Funny.

I kinda remember India smelling a bit differently….

Yeah, something stinks. And it’s not the new Eat Pray Love perfume.

Of course corporate sponsorship is the way of the modern world. Sports teams started it a long time ago. People even get corporate names tattooed on their foreheads (hey, I like tats but you couldn’t pay me enough) and name their kid after their favorite soda or car.

Just because it’s the way it is nowadays, does that make it “good”? Really?

Have we really become that numb that no one asks the question anymore, “when is enough, enough?”

 

more questions than answers


The New York Times article A Yoga Manifesto has really made the rounds of the yoga blogs with each blogger approaching the story a bit differently.

As I wrote here there is a new movement in yoga — moving away from the rock star yogi mentality to donation-based classes. Yoga to the People in New York City is riding the crest of this new wave.

On the surface I think it’s a great idea and I give YTTP founder Greg Gumucio mucho credit for what he has accomplished. I’ve always thought that yoga should be accessible for everyone and even more so for people in the lower-income bracket. But Roseanne raises an interesting question in her post about YTTP. Roseanne tried a YTTP class and has this to say about it:

“Their “manifesto” sounds good in theory ~ but my understanding of it changed when I actually experienced one of their classes in NYC last month. As I noted, the final effect was “discount” yoga, complete with fluorescent lighting and classic rock radio, rather than the DIY proletariat experience I had expected. After reading this article, I now know where the problem lies: ‘High volume is the key to [YTTP founder Greg Gumucio’s] business model — he says up to 900 people may go to a Yoga to the People studio in a single day….’

Sure, more people doing yoga is a good thing, but herding hundreds of them through a rotation of anonymous teachers in crowded studio classes… how does that improve the world? Especially when the spirituality, teacher-student relationship and, in my experience, quality are sacrificed in the name of economy.”

As I read her post some thoughts popped into my head: how many of the people going to the inexpensive classes can easily afford to pay the standard prices at a yoga studio, such as $15 or $17 a class? Are these inexpensive classes taking away from a small, independent, non-franchised studio that can not afford to price their classes at $8 or another lower rate? And if that small studio closes because of the cheaper competition and yoga teachers lose their jobs because cheap yoga put the studio out of business, how is that a good thing? Should we just chalk that up to good ol’ American marketplace economics? Cheaper will always bring in more people but is it really better?

I would rather see people doing donation-based yoga who truly can not afford standard yoga studio prices than the ones who only want a deal.

Living in my suburban area where it is difficult for a yoga studio to survive raised these questions for me. People live in $500,000+ houses (which in my area is a “starter home”) and drive Hummers, but many go to health clubs or gyms or park districts for yoga because it’s “free” (i.e., part of the membership) or the price is less than $10 a class. I’ve been teaching a long time and I’ve heard the rationalization of “why go to a studio when the gym yoga is free?” That attitude is one of the reasons that has kept me from opening a yoga studio — because there’s lots of cheap yoga around. A yoga studio is a business just like any other business and that would not be a good business decision.

Just throwin’ the questions out there…talk amongst yourselves.

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