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Archive for the ‘Yoga Scandal’ Category

I’ve been bothered by something that has been buzzing online and in the media.  There is a video that went viral recently showing a woman named Lena Fokina swinging around an infant and calling it “baby yoga.”  I’ve been seeing it all week and debating whether or not to post it here. I have decided that I’m not going to post the video here, because I think it is disturbing, but I’d like to invite discussion about it. The photo above is one of the least disturbing images.  Initially, there was some question as to whether or not it was real or fake.  Apparently, it has been determined to be genuine.  TIME magazine’s blog posted the video in its entirety and you can watch it there.  You can read an interview with Lena over at DadWagon. Lena’s argument is that her practice strengthens the bodies of the infants and makes them more courageous…?

Check it out and decide what you think.  If you watch it, post your comments here.  Let me know what you think.

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A Yogi Faux Pas?  VOTE BELOW!!

Yesterday, I posted this little news item on Elephant Journal, and it got a huge response.  So I thought I’d share it here:

Picture yourself traveling home for the holidays.

You’ve no doubt trudged through horrible weather to get to the airport, and braved the long lines at airport security. You finally settle into your seat and peer out the window to see that a blizzard has arrived.  The pilot gets on the intercom and tells you that, unfortunately, you’ll be stranded on the tarmac for several hours until  conditions clear for take-off.

You wish you could just concentrate on reading your book, but another passenger decides that now would be the perfect time to practice yoga…Now…In the aisles…Of the stranded airplane.

This scenario was not just a figment of my imagination…this was reality for several hundred people aboard Virgin Atlantic from London to New York City this week.

The perpetrator of this bizarre performance?

Madonna.

Yes, the Material Girl decided that there was no better place and no better time for her to get in a little asana practice than on the tarmac, in the blizzard, and in the aisle of that airplane.

The other passengers of the flight were none too thrilled. Said one passenger:  “It was bad enough having to wait, but then she started doing her yoga in the aisles.”

Luckily the unwanted in-flight entertainment ceased when a bus came to collect Madonna and her entourage.  The other passengers? They had to wait an additional 2 hours for a bus to arrive to transport them out of the plane.

The comments so far have run the gamut, but mostly in Madge’s favor.  Here is just an idea of what readers at Elephant have been saying:

Team Madonna!

Linda-Sama: On a 17, 18 or 20 hr flight to India you bet your asana I’m doing yoga. For one thing, it’s dangerous to sit that long without moving around (Deep Vein Thrombosis.) While I’m not doing sun sals in the aisles, I am definitely moving and stretching and doing what is called tadasana vinyasa. Usually I go in the back where the attendants are, where there is more room, and do some lunges, Warr 1s, whatever my body needs. On more than one occasion, the flight attendants have joined in! As for disturbing other passengers, most are passed out asleep, watching a movie, or on their computers…I think yoga in the aisles is far less distracting than a screaming child kicking the back of your seat!

Dawna: Amen, sister, to Linda-Sama; I totally agree that on a long international flight, it is far better for people to feel free to stretch and move than worry about what others think about their asana practice. Not all yogis are as dramatic as Madonna, nor do we have entourages or private transportation. Since we’ve got to stick it out, we better be practicing yoga wherever we can for our health and safety. I had a pulmonary embolism at age 33 and was in the best shape of my life, never smoked and was uber healthy. Or so I thought. So I know first hand that we all must do our best to be compassionate to ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow passengers in these situations, and I support passengers who for their own health and safety are getting into the aisles and doing yoga!

Manohar: Are you serious? Who’s bothered by YOGA? Maybe if she was blocking the way to the bathroom (or booze cart) that would cause a stir, but then surely it wouldn’t matter what she was doing in the aisle but just that she was blocking it!

Kimberley Rome: Birdie, I always do yoga on a long flight. I usually go back into the area where the attendants hang out, but I have done it in the isle if there’s too much congestion back there because of the restroom line. What’s the big deal about moving the lymph, blood, oxygen and muscles around in a cramped, not too healthy environment. Personally, my hit is that if it was such a big deal, it was probably more the fact that it was Madonna, than the fact that she was doing yoga. People love to snipe about celebrity. I’ve never gotten anything but a smile from folks, and it’s way less intrusive than some uncomfortable seat mate slumping asleep into my chair space. Quietly doing yoga, being present, and breathing — sounds like practice to me. Stranded on the tarmac? I think we would have a much happier and more compassionate planet if people whipped out a few asanas in every stressful situation. Think about if those folks complaining had focused on their breath, instead.

Lauren: i always encourage my students to practice yoga on a plane, and i myself practice during flights as well. it’s so important to move and get the circulation going. as long as you aren’t in anyone’s way, i’m 100% on board for yoga on a plane!!!

Tobye: Used to do the 12 hrs from London to Arizona a lot. Defo did yoga in the back of the 747. The laneway between the toilets is just right for squeezing into Prasarita padottanasana…A lot of the exercises they give you in the little handbook on those long-haul flights are all yoga poses…Most yogin would seek a private practice somehow…or at least be discreet. That said, peeps do strange things when they get stressed. Madonna was probably trying to control her anxiety at being delayed…

Kris R: Give me Madonna doing yoga over a screaming, kicking child or obnoxious drunk anyday.

Sarah Jessica: I routinely do yoga during long flights, but I usually go back by the loo and the emergency exit. Last time, on a flight from London to the US in September, the flight attendant chatted me up the whole time and we compared notes on our respective home studios and practices. I’m pretty sure I didn’t bother anyone. The aisles seem a bit tight to me, but meh, I don’t see why it would be a big deal. If you are stuck on a plane, its much more difficult to listen to a child scream or cry (for the child and the passengers) than to watch (or ignore) a yogi or two.

Beth: Seriously, people pay good money for that kind of show!

Team Birdie:

Allyson B: public masturbation…

yogadarla: def a faux pas! people are already close enough. i really dont want people sweating and exhaling all over. it’s travel. do your yoga in your seat. sheesh! (i am a yoga teacher i LIVE for sweat and breath but if you need to stretch on a plane- walk to the bathroom)

So, what do you guys think? Let’s put it to a vote:

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There are a lot of very, very, very serious issues afoot in the American yoga community these days. Please allow me to refresh your memory. First, there was the brouhaha boiling between yoga and christianity. Then there was all the hubbub about sexy yoga ads. Not to mention, the hullabaloo over the commercialization of yoga by “rockstar” yogi, John Friend, and “slim, calm, sexy” yogini Tara Stiles. Heck, just last week, The Boston Globe featured a piece called “What has happened to yoga?” which discussed a recent summit of some pretty famous yogis who convened to discuss their concerns over the future of yoga in America.

All of this has caused a royal ruckus in the yoga blogosphere and in yoga studios across the globe.  Many of these debates have raged right here in virtual pages of our beloved Elephant Journal. There are those who say that these issues are just the natural growing pains of a tradition that is still relatively new to this country. There are others who are ready to exit yoga stage left altogether.

I say, now is the time – now more than ever – for a little kumbaya. And what better way to do it than by throwing your own yoga-themed Halloween party?!

Read the rest at Elephant Journal…It’s pretty funny.

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Remember the scandal and media frenzy surrounding Dahn Yoga in late 2009 early 2010?  For those of you who do not recall, yogi blogger  extraordinaire, YogaDork, was following the story, and you can read all about it here.   Apparently, it looks like two lawsuits filed against the organization were very recently dismissed!  The following is from a press release, which was obviously generated by the Dahn Yoga organization:

Facing multiple charges in lawsuits by former employees, Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc. recently secured two important victories in Arizona and Virginia cases. The court rulings are victories for Dahn Yoga and the company’s founder, Mr. Ilchi Lee, as they dismiss key elements of the lawsuits against them.

On August 25, 2010, in the case Barba et al. v. Lee (Case No. CV09-1115-PHX-SRB), the United States District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed Jessica ‘Jade’ Harrelson’s claims of alleged sexual assault by Mr. Lee, as she provided information to the Court which discredited her earlier statements. The dismissal of her claims reflects previous assertions by Mr. Lee and Dahn Yoga that Ms. Harrelson’s allegations were fabrications.

In addition, the plaintiffs in the Arizona suit had attempted to argue “undue influence,” one of their key theories underlying charges of brain washing and cult manipulation against Dahn Yoga. However, Judge Bolton rejected those arguments, dismissing all Arizona claims related to undue influence.

Dahn Yoga and its affiliates have also filed counterclaims against the plaintiffs in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona for conspiracy and interference with existing and prospective business relationships.

In a second case, Myers v. Lee (Case No. 1:10-cv-00131-AJT-JFA), on September 21, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, ruled to dismiss Andrew Myer’s claims against Dahn Yoga, Mr. Lee and other defendants for RICO, fraud, Virginia Consumer Protection Act violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Judge found insufficient support for elements of some claims and lack of jurisdiction to uphold others. As Dahn Yoga has asserted in the past, the weakness of the claims has been revealed in court.

Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc. (www.dahnyoga.com) provides personalized service and exceptional facilities that teach a stylized practice of yoga based on Korean traditions. The word “dahn”, meaning “energy”, emphasizes the mind body connection as the key to health and well-being. Ilchi Lee founded the practice in Seoul before opening the first U.S. Dahn Yoga center in 1991. Throughout his three-decade career, Ilchi Lee has continuously strived to develop new ways to share his practice and experiences. Acclaimed for health and wellness innovations and the integration of ancient and modern, Dahn Yoga has an extensive network of highly-respected facilities and instructors in seventeen states, and numerous affiliates around the world.”

I haven’t been able to very to any degree of certainty the grounds for dismissal of these two claims, and I haven’t been able to find any news on this, but I will definitely keep you posted.

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The blyogasphere is yet again abuzz with the issue of the sexualization/commercialization/westernization of yoga.  Last month, it was this very issue that got me to start thinking about blogging again when Judith Hanson Lasater issued her response to the ToeSox advertisement published in Yoga Journal featuring a buck-nekkid — well, okay, she was wearing a pair of socks — Kathryn Budig striking a series of various and sundry asanas.

The Toe Sox ad begged a lot of questions amongst readers of Yoga Journal and the readers and writers of yogacentric blogs (what I like to call the blyogasphere).  While we’ve gotten used to seeing half-naked chicks in advertisements for alcohol, perfume, and jewelry, why does the Toe Sox ad strike such a dissonant chord?  Is it unwise to advertise a yoga product with a young, nude woman?  Are we denigrating the value of yoga?  Does it make yoga and yogis seem shallow, superficial, frivolous? Or, are we being puritanical?  After all, isn’t the ad simply a celebration of the human form?  On the other hand, if it were a celebration of the human form, why not use model who is older, and more pleasantly plump?

Another rumpus has been raised over the ad for Tara Stiles’ new book, ‘Calm, Slim, Sexy’.  The cover of the book (see below) somehow isn’t as as bad as the full marketing campaign, in which Tara, while wearing more than a pair of socks, doesn’t seem to be sending a good message about body image.  Moreover, given the subtitle of the book “The 15-minute yoga solution for feeling and Looking your best from head to toe”, it doesn’t seem to be sending the right message about yoga.  What, you mean, you weren’t satisfied that the publishers put the “feeling” before the “looking” in the subtitle?

It is an interesting controversy, and one that stirs up a lot of emotions.  I, for one, can’t help but feel frustrated and saddened seeing these advertisements.  It somehow wouldn’t be such an affront if yoga were just a form of physical exercise.  But it is not.  And that’s the issue which seems to get most people ready to throw down.  I haven’t read it, but apparently, Tara’s book is quite substantive and in it she shares her personal stories of struggling with body image as a young model.  If her book is at all aimed at helping others through theirs, she certainly lost touch with her message on her way to the printing press.

What say you, yogi friends?

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