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The great nude yoga advertising conversation continues, and it’s evolved in some interesting directions…

The Feminist Analysis Direction

The Ms. Magazine blog provided an interesting and informed synopsis of last month’s conversation. I really appreciated seeing an “outsider” (meaning non-yoga blogger/writer) perspective on things, as well as the detail of analysis. Somebody was paying attention! Since I spend so much time in the trenches of the online yoga community and repeatedly hear many of the same voices over and over (even though I love these voices), I can forget how things appear to people who are not yoga bloggers, writers or practitioners.

Not only did the Ms. blogger analyze the yoga blogger posts and responses, but she read the comments: “The resulting cycle will be a predictable one for most feminists: Women raise concerns about exploitation, defenders accuse those women of being prudish or jealous and conclude that the whole topic is a non-issue. Only this time, there’s a nasty twist: Some blog posts and comments asserted that criticizing advertising is in itself unyogic. Now practitioners with a bone to pick aren’t just bitter and sexphobic—they’re also bad yogis.”

The title of the blog post, Yoga’s Feminist Awakening, has provoked some interesting discussion on Facebook. Does this conversation reflect a “feminist awakening” in the yoga community? As Carol Horton pointed out, “So what does feminism have to do with it anymore? The divide [in the online yoga community] seems more like between those who have a socially critical perspective, and connect their practice to that, and those who don’t.” Interesting… my feeling is that there is an awakening and refreshing dialogue happening within the community. Whether or not it’s feminist is hard to say, but it’s political, it’s cultural, it’s critical. And it’s exciting to watch and be a part of.

The Vague New Age Defensive Direction

One of the most challenging things about last month’s conversation was watching the focus shift from the use of nudity in yoga advertising to the Toesox ad and Kathryn Budig. It was frustrating to watch, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Kathryn (even though, from what I saw, many of the comments were supportive of her and the “beauty” of the ad). She had refrained from commenting during the heat of the debate, but has started to make little peeps. Read the rest of this entry »

Photo by James Fallows, via theatlantic.com

The above photo (taken outside of a San Francisco yoga studio) has turned up on Boing Boing, Gawker and HuffPo today ~ and sensitive yogis, do not read the comment sections! Most of the mainstream buzz is loaded with mockery and derision, as the general public takes on the misguided intentions of yogis who might want to help out Haitians by donating their old yoga mats.

It’s just a photo and we don’t know the whole story… perhaps the studio is hooked up with Yoga 4 Trauma‘s Project Haiti initiative, which has a cohesive and long-term plan to offer therapeutic yoga to survivors and responders. Perhaps somebody has come up with a way to transform bacteria-ridden old yoga mats into inflatable hospitals.

But at first glance, I’m reminded of an excellent blog post by La Gitane over at Yoga Gypsy in response to a recent article about “disaster do-gooders” sometimes doing more harm than good. As she points out, “As yogis and yoginis, we are particularly likely to want to reach out in tragic situations, to be proactive, to DO something that we feel can alleviate the suffering we see.”

Is shipping yoga mats to Haiti a thoughtful response to suffering? Or is it simply a self-serving act to get rid of unwanted items in our yoga rooms? As we’ve all been told countless times, the most effective way to support the efforts in Haiti is to send cold hard cash to reputed aid organizations (Red Cross, Partners in Health, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity). How much impact could a used yoga mat campaign have on a country in need of rebuilding and healing?

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Last year, I was telling a friend about a yoga workshop I had taken with an instructor from the west coast. He was a 40-year-old guy who had been practicing for 10 or so years, studied with somebody in Hawaii, and had gone on to create his own style of yoga (which includes, of course, international workshops, DVDs and teacher trainings). “What gives him the right?” she asked, not so much judgmental but inquisitive.

And she had a point. What did give him the right? Sure, he was passionate, enthusiastic and knew his yoga, but he was a 40-year-old Canadian guy with an indeterminate background and training, who after less than 10 years of teaching professionally, was offering trainings and instructing others in his method.

However, according to this Huffington Post article, he does have a right to be doing what he’s doing. In the article, “rising yoga star” Sadie Nardini breaks down the common misconception that yoga poses are ancient, sacred and should not be tampered with by modern yogis. Her argument is pretty good and factual, although it seems that the purpose of putting it forward is to explain why she thinks “it’s perfectly fine to do with [the postures] as I wish.”

This includes adding “dancelike, wavelike or martial-arts-based movements to (and between) poses” and teaching “poses and sequences that I created and named, ranging from Charlie’s Angel’s Mudra to Fists of Fire Lunges, Shakti Kicks to Fierce Lion.” Read the rest of this entry »

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