upon further reflection on the yoga noise

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.

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.

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510’;

you’re too fat and not sexy — so buy my book!

Do you want to be slim, calm, and sexy in just 15 minutes a day? Get rid of your “bra fat” and go from size 8 to a size 00 IN JUST 15 MINUTES A DAY?

“Bra fat”? What a loser you are to have BRA FAT!

Click here for full marketing piece.

I don’t care if Tara Stiles is nice person. I don’t care if she has done legitimate yoga videos in the past. This is a complete sell out for the almighty dollar. Don’t even try to sell me on the “yoga for the masses” excuse. It’s pathetic, and frankly, she should be ashamed for allowing herself to be talked into shilling for this trash. That is, if any convincing was really necessary — somehow I doubt it. But if asked about it, I am sure we would hear the typical higher-lighter-brighter-peace-love-dove-I’m-just-bringing-yoga-to-the-people crap.

We’ve come such a long way since yoga was brought to America.

Watch this video. And then decide which images you want your daughters to see.