Tag Archives: Yoga Journal

An open letter to Yoga Journal regarding booze ad

Before I have posted on the disturbing trend of combining booze with yoga, but now Yoga Journal has taken it to a new low. They are posting an ad for Ty Ku Sake (Japanese rice wine). It shows New York (Tribeca) studio owner Bethany Lyons living the fabricated “yoga dream” by doing her practice, having a vogue-style photo shoot, and then boozing it up with friends. Another ad (linked below) shows yoga studio owner Paige Held actually saying that the yoga sutras link her to drinking booze to put her in a “zen feeling throughout the evening.”

My initial reaction was pure rage. But then I realized that Yoga Journal is not about promoting yoga as any kind of spiritual practice or even health practice for that matter. It is about making money. So here is my open letter:

Dear Yoga Journal,

Bad month in revenues? Who at the board meeting said you should start selling booze to promote sales? Do they practice?  Are times so bad that you have to do whatever it takes to move more magazines?

I understand the majority of your readers are women. So why are you trying to off them by having them be lured into booze after yoga class? Did you not consult the facts? 26,000 women die annually in the US from alcohol-related causes and it is the fourth most preventable cause of death in the US. Fewer women means fewer sales.

Not to mention that a common healing modality in substance abuse treatment centers is yoga. What message is this for the recovery community who is looking for another way out of their suffering?

Yet you promote booze.

The disconnect is obvious for any rational person. Your Facebook page is screaming with comments, none good. In fact I notice your moderators are working full time to delete any “negative” comments from the beloved news feed. From my media background, I get that one strategy to gain viewership is to generate controversy. But like the proverbial shark jumping scene, it is a sign that your publication is more closer to its end than its beginning.

I think that most of your magazine’s viewership does not practice yoga with any seriousness. Because those who are serious about yoga quickly see through the veil of vapidity and commercialism. But that is what makes your marketing strategy ever more sinister. It preys on those who don’t know any better, and who lack the capacity for discernment.

I have come to realize that as long as yoga is tied to the body, it will be tied to commercialism. The yoga I practice views the body in its proper context: as a vehicle for the soul to do its real work–even well after my body’s destiny is exhausted.

Your publication just seems to be making it month to month. So I give you permission to hawk all the booze you want. Why stop there? There are plenty of other drugs big pharma wants to deal to vulnerable ladies who are unsure about themselves. Just don’t be surprised when people start leaving in droves for the next big fad publication.

All that will be remembered was how you sold out to the lowest common denominator. I am therefore imploring all of your readers to cancel their subscriptions and unlike your FB page.

Mahalo,

Michael

video link: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fyogajournal%2Fvideos%2F10153507341575946%2F&show_text=0&width=560

 

Update: Yoga Journal’s FB page has an “addiction, yoga + recovery” video just a few scrolls down from the Ty Ku ad. It is like they don’t even realize that drinking also is an addiction. Live Be Yoga Tour

Disturbing trend: booze and Yoga classes

There are plenty of yoga “blends” out there now that the practice is becoming mainstreamed in Western culture. There is Stand Up Paddle Yoga, Yoga with weights, spinning class yoga, the list is tireless. At least these yoga strains are working toward a healthy end. But now things have taken a turn for the worse: the proliferation of combining alcohol with yoga practice.

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Ty Ku Sake has a new campaign #ApresYoga which is a spinoff on the Apres Ski where after a nice day of skiing, there is an unwinding which involves a hot tub and alcohol. They make it sound “fun”: do yoga and drink up. The only problem is that Yoga is supposed to be a practice of awareness and not to be combined with substance use (yes alcohol is considered a substance). They have even brought in a yoga celebrity, Erin Motz, to spearhead their campaign. I suppose everyone has their price.

As I have been blogging for a while, I am aware that there is a sizable segment of the yoga community who is in recovery from substance abuse. Many have come to yoga as a solace from mainstream culture. Now Big Alcohol has identified yoga as an untapped marketing mecca and is wasting no time in exploiting the practice to increase alcohol sales.

The Facebook page for DoYouYoga.com is pushing this product, interlacing it with articles about yoga practice. This isn’t the only mainstream yoga outlet pushing drinking…

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Yes, everyone’s darling Lululemon is even producing its own line of beer. Granted this was for a limited event which involved running, it shows how a company who tells you how committed they are to certain yogic principles quickly take to low road for a quick buck.

A studio in New Mexico, a state which has one of the highest DUI and drinking and driving related fatality rates in the US, recently started this event which actually has people drinking beer during Yoga practice.

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And it doesn’t help that celebrities like Nick Lachey are using yoga to to promote alcohol, as he is here drinking beer after a hot yoga class. That sounds like a nice recipe for severe dehydration.

Lastly, the new editor of Yoga Journal Carin Gorrell endorsed “brewery yoga” during her interview on Elephant Journal last year. Calling yoga in a brewery “perfect.” You can see the interview at the 6:40 mark. What is a yoga community to do when even the editor of one of the largest yoga publications endorses drinking and yoga?

I am not here to preach abstinence or be a tee totaler. My point is that yoga is sacred to me and that combining yoga with alcohol goes against many concepts of Patanjali’s teachings: namely ahimsa (non harming), saucha (cleanliness), and sutra II.16. Heyaim dukham anagram “The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.”

If you don’t think consuming alcohol is potentially life threatening, here is what the Centers for Disease Control have to say about it:

Drinking too much can harm your health. Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion, or $1.90 a drink.

I hope this blog post generates awareness and discussion on the topic. My views come from my “mental health counselor” lens in which I see the devastating effects of alcohol dependence daily in my work. It seems as though this trend of drinking and doing yoga has taken the evolution of Yoga back a few steps.

Can advertisers stop marketing Yoga as soft porn?

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Lululemon’s Facebook marquee

 

Someone in the blogosphere wisely stated that Yoga in the West can be compared to a “sassy teenager.” I can understand where that statement comes from seeing how Yoga has become more of an Instagram event rather than a practice to deeply understand one’s self. Advertisers of commercialized Yoga seem to be picking up on the “teenage mentality” demographic and are exploiting it to it’s fullest. All you see in Yoga magazines like Yoga Journal and websites like Elephant Journal are nonstop images of suggestive young women who are not even doing asana, but just leering at you in suggestive positions (see below). The odd paradox is that Yoga is seen as a primarily women’s only exercise in the US, but the way Yoga is being marketed looks like it would attract the male Hustler crowd.

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I shouldn’t mind, I’m a typical male, right?! Well I do mind because I am a serious Yoga practitioner and think that the practice is sacred. As I wrote in my last post, Yoga is marketed in a way that makes men feel unwelcome. Many male practitioners feel stepping into a Yoga class at a boutique studio is not too different than stepping into an illicit peep show in the seedy part of town.

I have my undergraduate degree in media studies and my masters in psychology. I know exactly what the mainstream Yoga marketers are doing. They are doing to Yoga what they have done to everything else in West…sexualize it to sell it. I am surprised at the lack of outrage by female practitioners when they see what is being promoted as “Yoga.” Last month Yoga Journal even tried to rectify the situation by showing a “plus sized model” on the cover. But this is all they could come up with:

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Yoga does not need to be marketed this way. In fact, it should not be marketed at all in my opinion. Yoga practitioners in the West need to stop with the paradigm that Yoga is something that needs to be proselytized. Yoga is a discipline and should be treated as such. The problem is that now people feel they are entitled to make a living doing Yoga after they spend 200 hours and $3000 USD to get “registered” as a Yoga teacher. This has made Yoga into more of a commercial enterprise than a practice to conquer one’s ego. Until that paradigm changes, Yoga Journal will become the new Maxim, and Yoga will continue to be dominated by the #namasteeverydamnday Instagram crowd.

Yoga is beyond body issues

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There is a great deal of talk about body issues in Western yoga. This discussion is by fed an industry called LOHAS (Lifestyle Of Health and Sustainability) which is making millions off of yoga fashion and dietary products. The latest issue of Yoga Journal has a woman who is considered “full figured” on the cover and a full article about body issues. There is another article that talks about diet. We are fed these ideas that all a practitioner needs to do is get a xyz brand yoga mat, do xyz style of yoga, eat an xyz type of diet, and viola! you fit into xyz brand of sized 5 yoga clothing, or shouldn’t worry about being sized five because you read Yoga Journal that tells you it’s okay to be full figured and practice yoga.

But yoga, when done classically, instructs you right from the beginning that your own body is not who you truly are. That may sound strange. “Of course my body is who I am…” (then ego kicks in with lengthy explanation). In classical yoga there are the concepts of Purusha and Prakrti. Prakrti means “nature” in a loose translation. Like weather, it is ever-changing and never constant. Purusha is that part of you that cannot be changed and is your “true” self. That is the part of you that witnesses all the madness your physical body puts you through. Your physical body is Prakrti. It changes every day, cells die and new cells form. Hair gets grey. Muscles get firm, then they atrophy. We age, then die.

The true aim of yoga is to cut through all the Prakrti to find the diamond that is residing inside of you. Yoga Sutra 1.4, vrtti sarupyam itaratra, means that sometimes the aspirant identifies more with the ego than the reality of his/her true splendor. By focusing on your body perception, you are caught up in the delusion of something that is ever-changing like a wild river.

In my work in the mental health field, I have encountered many clients with eating disorders and body dysmorphic issues. It is a tough mountain to overcome. In unpacking a lot of the problems these people face, it usually stems from not accepting that part of themselves that does not change. That is when they compensate by limiting their dietary intake to “fit” into what they feel should be their right size. The problem is that size is never good enough. And that perception is reinforced by the LOHAS industry.

Sometimes to get perspective, we have to look at the great masters. Ramana Maharsi. His later years were spent in a cave and he became ill and unable to ambulate. He developed tumors in his arms and refused medical treatment. His followers urged him to get medical attention to which he replied “Why are you so attached to this body? Let it go.” This is not to say one should do the same, it just show that Maharsi was not concerned about his body as it did not have much bearing on his soul.

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We should practice yoga no matter what. If you are feeling that your local studio is judging you by how you look or what you wear, chances are your local studio does not practice yoga, they practice avidya (ignorance). If this is the case, I encourage you to study the yoga texts to find out how to liberate yourself. You cannot attain liberation in a yoga class, it has to be done individually.

 

On missing the obvious cover story: welcome to the new Yoga Journal

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I have to admit I haven’t picked up an issue of Yoga Journal since the early 2000s. Those were the days when it was still as semi-serious publication for those interested in furthering their yogic knowledge. My how times have changed…

Yoga Journal recently switched to a new Editor-in-chief from Self magazine. And it has become what one would expect: a yoga-themed Self magazine. The first issue had Hilaria Baldwin on the cover in a corrupted variation of Eka Pada Rajakapotasna. The yoga blogs and social media took the magazine to task about everything from body issues, to over-glorification of yoga celebrities.

This is the latest issue’s cover which shows a fuller-figured practitioner in a oddly timed Vrksasana, like the photo was taken during an earthquake. So now it seems that the new YJ is pandering to its critics and showing what people are saying they would rather see. Except for one obvious misstep…the biggest news story out of the yoga world in several years went completely unnoticed. B.K.S. Iyengar’s passing is not even mentioned on the cover!

I have a background in both print and broadcast journalism. I can remember being in the newsroom and news crews were sent to cover breaking news of a fire or a scandal. The news crew would go to the site, cover something else while all the other media got the good story. That same type of disgust was my first feeling when I saw the latest issue’s cover.

I wouldn’t mind as much, except that many people’s first impression of yoga is through these types of magazines. And if all that is represented is Lululemonized models and people with body issue problems, what does that say about yoga as whole? There is a huge disconnect from the discipline and inner work of yoga in this slicker version of Yoga Journal that is desperate to gain respect in the wrong yoga circles, much like the awkward kid trying to hang out with the cool kids in middle school. Most of us who have survived middle school remember how fruitful that endeavor was. There is a story on this month’s cover entitled “why failing is the best thing that could happen to you.” YJ may want to rethink that story after this fiasco.

So now I cannot spitefully say “I am canceling my subscription” in a huff. I did that years ago. Now I can say please read other material if you want to be serious about yoga. And please don’t patronize the sponsors of these publications that do a disservice to the art, science, philosophy, and practice of yoga.