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It’s catchy, eh? “Tax hot dogs, not down dogs” is a new mantra that West Coast yoga teacher Eoin Finn is rallying for, in his ongoing mission to keep yoga accessible and available to all. Eoin is speaking out against the HST (Harmonized Services Tax) in British Columbia, a new tax system that was imposed last year and is now in a referendum process. Between June 13 and August 2, BC residents will vote by mail-in ballot on whether or not they want to keep the tax, which increased taxes on services – including gym, health club and yoga studio memberships – from 5% to 12% (this is a simplified explanation: for more details on the HST, see HST in BC).

On his Blissology blog, Eoin wrote:

… this extra tax is not just in proportion to where the tax dollars mostly end up, in our health care system.

In my yoga classes and workshops after the introduction of the HST, I had to raise the rates, which I had been trying to keep affordable for people for the last 11 years. I believe that a good government will incentivise things that keep people healthy like gym memberships, yoga classes, massage, etc. But adding 7% tax is going the other way.

What really bothers me about this: Most of our tax dollars in BC go towards health care. It doesn’t seem right that things that keep people out of the health care system have an extra tax applied to it.

Eoin goes on to propose a third option: “If most of the tax income raised is going to health care, why not shift the tax burden to the things that contribute to people being unhealthy and ending up using the medical system in the first place… like fast food.” Read the rest of this entry »

maybe this is why more men aren’t doing yoga… (image via

The old “where are all the men in yoga class” conversation is making a quiet return in the popular press and the blogosphere lately. Even the most casual observer of yoga culture would notice that women outnumber men in the average yoga class, despite the fact that many of the highest profile teachers in North America (and traditionally) are men.

As an article on Yoga Modern last week noted, women make up 72.2% of the 15.8 million people who practice yoga in the US and thus the yoga community feels a need to reach out to men. The title of the article asked, Does marketing yoga to men reinforce gender stereotypes? “Surely there is a way for the yoga community to be inclusive without falling into reductive and overgeneralizing gender stereotypes. After all, are men and women so different that they can’t practice yoga together?” Staying true to the name of the website, the article gives a historical overview of women’s place in the world of yoga, and cites “the non-dualistic philosophies of Vedanta, Yoga, and Tantra.” Read the rest of this entry »

this is not my spine

Okay, so one of the biggest changes in my life in recent months: I’ve stopped practicing asana.

I have a chronic and persistent back condition. After a few years of intermittent back pain, three years ago I was diagnosed with degerative disc disease (the disc between my L5 and sacrum had degenerated and the vertebrae had started to fuse together). I’ve managed it with chiropractic treatments, strengthening exercises and a constant practice of awareness. And I continued to persist with my asana practice. After all, it was my practice, and it was essential to my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Despite my efforts, my back periodically went “out” (I still don’t really know what that means) and I couldn’t pinpoint it to a specific activity. It just seemed to happen. But a couple of months ago, I did a twist wrong and my back went out. O.U.T. I was in acute pain for two weeks and it took multiple chiro visits and intensive therapy to get myself back to normal. This was the first time that I had seen a direct connection between my practice and my pain, and it freaked me out.

Then my chiropractor gave me the ultimate prescription: no asana (well, she said “no yoga,” but you know, whatever).  Since my practice inspires my teaching, I cut back on my teaching as well, only offering one super gentle community class and working with a few private students. On my own, I admit that I cheat sometimes and get a little crazy with Tadasana (Mountain Pose). I also haven’t abandoned Savasana, and anything that involves piles of blankets, blocks and bolsters.

But in the past few months, I’ve been in a place of inquiry: What is my practice? What does asana mean to me? What is yoga? Read the rest of this entry »

Prime advertising real estate (image via

Last week’s corporate-sponsored Yoga at the Great Lawn event in NYC has been attracting quite a bit of press. Yesterday’s NYT blog article took a look at the corporate angle of the event.  “This would have never happened without corporate support,” said Sascha Lewis, a co-founder of FlavorPill, the NYC cultural guide which organized the event.

It was advertised as a free class, and as such needed corporate sponsorship. The distributed mats (which every registered person was supposed to receive) were branded with the JetBlue logo, a small gesture which in fact positions yoga mats as desirable retail space. adidas, which didn’t appear on the official literature but had a presence, since the event’s primary teacher, Elena Brower, is an adidas yoga ambassador (and is apparently making efforts to help adidas deliver their sustainability yoga wear line ~ I thought their previous ambassador accomplished that task…)

On the one hand, it’s great that this event happened and so many people, especially first-timers, were able to experience yoga in a grand setting. However, given the scope and ambition of the event, I have to question the intention behind these corporate interests in yoga. They claim they want to bring yoga to as many people as possible, but I’m not entirely convinced that’s their main interest.

The event accomplished the feat of being the largest yoga class ever recorded, even though there wasn’t much of a class. The practice was cancelled shortly after it started, due to the rain, and the disappointed practitioners lugged “their soggy JetBlue yoga mats and their SmartWater bottles and their ChicoBags filled with a few goodies” (according to the NYT blog post) out of the park.

“The yoga community is now merrily two-stepping the American way, with corporate logos,” observed the NYT blog. It then went on to ask if this was even a bad thing. Given the culture that yoga has landed in, it certainly seems inevitable. But there are ways to cross the line. At the Yoga at the Great Lawn event, Well+GoodNYC noted, “A single row of Who’s Who yoga teachers like Sadie Nardini, Sarita Lou, and Duncan Wong sat like Adidas-branded Buddhas, all in matching white tanks.” The shiny yoga elite, dressed alike in their branded uniforms… it’s kind of a creepy picture.

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?

Elena Brower indicates that “the notion that capitalism and yoga are in conflict is old-think. ‘The companies are making it possible for all these thousands of people to have this experience. This is what we need,'” she said. I’m going to step forward and say that I’m pretty old-school in being skeptical of corporate motivations for sponsoring large scale yoga events, and I’d prefer to create community from a grassroots level, and introduce people to yoga without having to woo them with free branded mats and bottled water.

In the yoga community, there has been a lot of discussion about the pay-what-you-can model for classes and studios. But why should only asana practices be available and accessible on a donation basis? timeless publishing, a yoga micropress based in the mountains of BC, is trying out an innovative experiment in sustainable publishing which will make the wisdom of yoga accessible to anyone who seeks it.

The press’ latest release, a reprint of their classic Time to be Holy, is available as a print-on-demand book and downloadable PDF. And for the next 21 days, it’s available on a pay-what-you-can basis (from June 16 until July 7). If you’re feeling generous, you can donate as much as you want, and if your budget is tight, you can chip in as little as $1.

timeless publishing is aware that yoga is a practice of choice and responsibility, whether you’re on the mat or consuming media. Their approach to printing the yogic teachings is as conscientious and compassionate as the yoga practices themselves. “Never before have our personal choices and business practices had such an enormous impact on our environmental and global connections,” they say  on their website. “‘Sustainable publishing’ for us means that on one hand we are reducing our ecological footprint by becoming a carbon neutral publisher; and on the other hand, we’re creating a sustainable financial model in today’s print industry.”

Time to be Holy is a collection of writing from Swami Sivananda Radha, a spiritual leader who dedicated her life to interpreting the ancient wisdom of yoga for Western minds. The material is drawn from satsang (a devotional service inspired by the ancient yogic tradition; also interpreted as a community gathering for yogis on the spiritual path) talks that Swami Radha gave at Yasodhara Ashram, and the tone is conversational and wise. Organized into thematic chapters, the topics covered range from the spiritual search, to self-worth, to service and beyond.  rather than being an instructional guide or yoga philosophy primer, the book invites reflection on how we can live our lives with authenticity and grace. It’s a practical and inspiring book that’s relevant to anyone on the yogic path.

Download the pay-what-you-can PDF here.

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