October 22, 2010

The Naked Truth: Yoga Journal Speaks Out.

Many yoga teachers are asking: where is yoga heading? According to the article, “What happened to yoga?” by Linda Matchen in the Boston Globe, several nationally known Boston-based yoga teachers, including Patricia Walden, were part of the recent summit “Balancing Acts: Poses, Products, and the Future of Yoga in America.”

“Everyone is afraid to talk about the white elephant in the yoga room,’’ said Justine Wiltshire Cohen, founder of Down Under Yoga in Newton, to the Boston Globe.

The white elephant in the yoga room refers to the many yoga teachers who feel yoga has lost touch with its original purpose—peace, wellbeing and enlightenment. Instead, yoga has primarily become a commercial venture serving more materialistic and ego-driven needs.

The yoga studios, according to Boston yoga teacher Natasha Razopoulos, have become places where people behave like “lunatics.” That is to say, just as compulsive and materialistic as they behave outside the studio.

She gave an example of some students texting in the studio during a three hour practice that included meditation.

Linda Matchen’s article states: “There is yoga for every taste, energy level, and aspirant — hip-hop yoga, hot yoga, rock pop yoga, weight loss yoga, Christian yoga, even “Yoga Booty Ballet,’’ which bills itself as a dynamic fusion of yoga, booty sculpting, and cardio-dance. If there is any doubt that yoga has left the ashram and joined the mainstream, consider that yoga was part of this year’s Easter Egg Roll festivities on the White House lawn.

The article further states: “Practiced by celebrities, fitness buffs, and fashionistas, yoga is a $6 billion industry with some 16 million American followers. Many of those millions are pouring into the trendy lululemon yogawear stores — purveyor of $90 yoga mats, $25 yoga water bottles, $40 yoga towels, and other nonessential yoga accessories such as yoga thong underwear and an $88 “yoga mat carry system’’ with a “Helmet friendly design.’’ [So you won’t hit your head with your mat while riding your bike.]”

Kaitlin Quistgaard, editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal—which had recently been criticized by Judith Hanson Lasater for running too many sexy ads in the magazine‚—does not seem to think this development is a problem, however.

She tells the Boston Globe: “[W]e also need to run a commercial venture…We are Americans and one thing Americans do is shop and like nice things. And one of the ways we identify ourselves is having a certain look. The yoga industry does support our desire to create self-identity through what we wear or what we purchase.’’

So, that’s what yoga has become according to Yoga Journal? Just another way to create self-identity through shopping? Just another way to support our desires to accumulate more stuff? Just another way to have a certain look?

My kind of yoga is about trying to develop pretty much the opposite: simplicity, non-attachment, self-acceptance from within…It turns out many of the most well known yoga teachers in the country agree.

But not Yoga Journal. If I understood the editor’s comments correctly, yoga is, let’s face it, an industry, a self-help industry supporting people’s desire to have a certain—shall we say, sexy yoga—look.

Not so sure Patanjali would agree. That old sage was hardly into sexy ads for ToeSox and shopping for $40 yoga bottles, was he? Nor was T. Krishnamacharya.

What about you?

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